Previous Entry | Next Entry

a darker shade of white

Not awake. Not even close. But I'm sitting up straight (well, a little slumped over, actually), and I'm typing, and I guess that's good enough. It'll have to do.

No work on Daughter of Hounds yesterday, even though I worked all day. One of the Other Things, instead. Hopefully, by the end of the week, I can say more.

While I'm almost always grateful for positive reviews, in an ideal world — an ideal world of my devising — books would not be reviewed. Indeed, they'd likely not even be read. They'd be written, and they'd exist as reflections of the imagination of each author, untainted by the alien perceptions of other minds. Of course, as a prisoner of this far-from-ideal world, I realize that reviewers have become a critical component in the bizarre tripartite symbiosis between Writer, Publisher, and Reader. But I reserve the right to grouse. Sometimes, it's one of those few things that keeps me from locking up. If reviewers may comment, I may comment on the comments of the reviewers, especially if they seem particularly wrongheaded. The books are mine and mine alone, and I reserve that right. Maybe I should start writing it into my contracts. Warning: May be rude to well-meaning reviewers. Ugh. "Well-meaning" is surely one of the most evil phrases in the English language. Yeah, well, what the frell is she going on about this time?

Yesterday, Bill Schafer e-mailed to say there was a new review of To Charles Fort, With Love at Green Man Review. So, I stopped what I was doing and read the rather lengthy review, and, afterwards, I wanted to bash my head against something hard and spikey. No, it wasn't a negative review. Like all but one so far, it's actually a positive review. It's not like like that post-literate hogwash that showed up on the "Agony Column" a while back. But it's still so wrong, and not just once, but repeatedly wrong...you know, what's the point in me going on about this? I'm only going to piss people off. I'm only going to alienate. But...I rankle at the following bit: One idiosyncrasy that I am glad to see her outgrow is the use of portmanteau adjectives: "silverblack," "jaggedrough," "yellowbrown," etc. This technique can be used to good effect, but only if done extremely sparingly. Overuse is irritating to the reader and, to me, indicates a dangerous tilt toward laziness of language. It is far easier to make up an adjective in this way than to search out just the right word or phrase.

And I mean, really, snitty remarks like that, remarks that assume knowledge of the author's actions and intent that are entirely beyond the ability of the reviewer to know ("laziness") have no place in a review and make me want to sit down and write a fifteen-thousand word story that's all one long goddamn word. It makes me want to write it just for this one person, who was obviously so scarred by a freshman encounter with Light in August that he still hasn't recovered. You want to talk about laziness? The reviewer could not even be bothered to read the book closely enough to notice that the events described in the preface took place in Massachusetts, not in Maine. And, elsewhere in the review, there's this snarky observation: "Not even Caitlin R. Kiernan can be perfect all the time, I guess." Duh. You think?

Like I said, ugh. I don't have time for this foolishness. I have the reviews from Locus and Publishers Weekly and Bookslut and anytime a book gets me three reviews that don't make my skin crawl, I figure I'm doing okay.

I just want to go back to bed, please.

My thanks to David Kirkpatrick, for sending me the fossils that he and his daughter collected. They were a nice surprise yesterday, a handful of water-worn Paleozoic-aged solitary ("horn") corals. I may set one at the heart of the next Monster Doodle Sculpture, as per David's suggestion.

Okay. I gotta go wallow in the frustration for the next five or six hours. You kids play nice.


( 11 comments — Have your say! )
Sep. 27th, 2005 03:19 pm (UTC)
make me want to sit down and write a fifteen-thousand word story that's all one long goddamn word.

But... then you'd be Rick Moody.
Sep. 27th, 2005 03:23 pm (UTC)
I think what strikes me is that the opinion is clearly that of the individual writing the review, but they state it as though their opinion will be that of every reader (i.e. 'Overuse is irritating to the reader'). In fact that clearly isn't the case. What the reviewer has done is a better example of laziness than anything in your writing.

Sep. 27th, 2005 03:25 pm (UTC)
I think what strikes me is that the opinion is clearly that of the individual writing the review, but they state it as though their opinion will be that of every reader (i.e. 'Overuse is irritating to the reader').

I have found this to be a common ailment among book reviewers. See my earlier comments on "self-indulgence."
Sep. 27th, 2005 03:34 pm (UTC)
I've always hated 'authoritative' reviews of an author's work. Who the hell are we to state what the author was thinking, unless they explicited stated something.

All I know is if I, heaven forbid, ever right a book and it posthumourously appears on required reading lists in college, and teachers analize my book the way they do with countless others (Re: The Great Gatsby), and say something along the lines of "She put the lead character in a yellow dress because it's the color of decay and puss and ugliness", I'll be showing the teacher decay and puss and ugliness when I crawl out of my grave and come stumbling into the classroom to rip her throat out.

Wow. Sorry, a bit of aggressiveness coming out there. What I meant to say is, I read because the book means something to me. It relates to my life, or my fantasies, in some way. While I might like to understand where a book is coming from, and may do a bit of research in that direction, it is completely wrong to authoritively state something not implicitedly stated in the work.

Right. This entry made a lot more sense in my head. I blame the Indian heat.
Sep. 27th, 2005 03:54 pm (UTC)
What is the point of even including that? "I'm relieved to see that Kiernan no longer wears those silly pink Adidas sneaks to Chili's, because they never really matched her slacks." Completely extraneous and off-topic, which is irritating to the reader, ie, me.
Sep. 27th, 2005 03:59 pm (UTC)
"I'm relieved to see that Kiernan no longer wears those silly pink Adidas sneaks to Chili's, because they never really matched her slacks."

Hey, how'd you know I'd stopped wearing the silly pink Adidas sneakers to Chili's?
Sep. 27th, 2005 04:10 pm (UTC)
I'm kind of surprised, actually. I used to review for GMR a couple of years ago, and if I pulled any of that kind of shit, I'd get called on it for sure by my editor. When I was reviewing for them, I paid a lot of attention to the other reviews people were writing, and they were almost always pretty even-handed and free of imposition. But it sounds like this guy is definitely trying to impose his own sense of how an author should write, which would be more appropriate in a blog entry than a book review.

I do notice that his bio starts with "Carter Nipper, Reviewer, is a librarian and a writer of horror and dark fiction whose talents are as yet unrecognized." Not to harp on this, but a statement like this reeks of entitlement. He's so far unpublished, but he must know what true and right literature should look like, right?

Portmanteau adjectives are not an idiosyncrasy, they are a function of style. They play with words the way that all good artists should, changing their function, making us look at the language itself, and producing images that the two adjectives by themselves -- "red" and "black," say -- just don't conjure. They might not be everyone's cup of tea, but not everyone likes Joyce's Ulysses or Beckett's Nohow On either. However, calling this technique an idiosyncrasy clearly is an attempt to marginalize a personal authorial style.

Anyway, I don't mean to be an apologist, since you certainly can defend yourself, but it bothers me when reviewers anywhere try to impose their own expectations on a work, and then blast the work when it doesn't live up to those expectations. Not that he blasted your work -- like you say, the review was positive for the most part -- but still.
Sep. 27th, 2005 04:24 pm (UTC)
Well Said
I was about to write something similar. Your reply was very well written. I am in agreement with you. I also think that language can be played with just as paints are mixed, images juxtaposed, etc.

I also agree that he is trying to marginalize a style in an effort to make himself seem superior or knowledgeable. Perhaps he doesn't think he can write a review without finding fault, or without using some kind of "analysis" to justify his paycheck for the review. But then, I woulnd't want to try and deduce his motive.

Is there a link to the full review? Perhaps, Ms. Kiernan, you should send a review of his review to him. You could always take a lesson from the pages of Harlan Ellison and mail the guy a dead gopher.

Sep. 27th, 2005 04:38 pm (UTC)
Re: Well Said
I thought it was a dead hamster. A gopher would be much more postage.

The full review is here.
Sep. 27th, 2005 04:21 pm (UTC)
Thank you for closing the italics tag.

Why isn't there a circle of sycophants walling you off from criticism, like Bush has? You need to hire yourself some buffers from dumb reviews. I picture members of the CRK Street Team going around buying up all the copies of Fangoria or Green Man Review or whatever publication is belching dumbness onto your latest book. Then they'd hand them all in for recycling. That way you don't have to see the reviews, and nobody will be swayed by them to give your books a miss. Of course, there's always Amazon.com, but that's what your crackerjack team of hackers is for.

You could dominate the world; you're just not evil enough yet.
Sep. 27th, 2005 04:39 pm (UTC)
As an occasional reviewer, and a guy who also *gets* his work reviewed, I'm seriously ambivalent about the whole situation. Basically, as a reviewer (*not* a critic -- I'm certainly no critic), I feel I should tell people whether or not I liked a given work, and give them enough context/touchstones/comparisons to allow them to determine whether or not they might like it, too. At the same time, there's an urge to proselytize -- I want to tell people why they *really should* be reading Caitlin Kiernan or Joe Hill or whomever. The same way I'd grab a friend and say "Read this!" And yet, I'm just some guy, reasonably well-read in the field but not possessed of any fantastic gifts of insight. By virtue of having my reviews appear in trade publications, my opinion is given a halo of authority that I'm often deeply uncomfortable with. I'd much rather extol the virtues of your work informally on my blog. But then I'd be reaching a limited audience, and I want to spread the word to a bigger audience, so I review for Locus or wherever. It's that urge to proselytize again.

I try not to pay much attention to reviews of my own work. (Or awards nominations, or being picked for Year's Best anthologies, or whatever, because it's all subjective, and it doesn't have much to do with me sitting down and writing every day.) But it's difficult to do, and reviews that miss the point or get things wrong upset me way more than negative reviews.
( 11 comments — Have your say! )

Latest Month

March 2023


Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow