Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Okay, let’s get the knives out

Discuss the worst/funniest/most ridiculous review you’ve ever received on Amazon or Goodreads. This is your chance to defend yourself and blow off some steam, since we know we can’t engage with reviewers.

by Dietrich

What every writer wants to ask a critic, “How many books have you written?”

“Critics are to authors what dogs are to lamp-posts.” — Jeffrey Robinson

A two-bit comment, a one-star review, a hatchet job. Here’s my rule: if they’re nasty I ignore them; if they’re nice I appreciate them. What’s to be gained by letting my ego off its leash, imagining horrific things on someone using an alias like Bad Hass, the kind of person who straddles the line when parking, then leaves their shopping cart behind my car.

Okay, my writing isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, I can accept that. Even the greats get their share of one-star reviews. So, I’m in good company.

To feel disturbed by someone’s negative opinion, well, that’s on me. If I let it get to me, next I’ll be wondering why I can’t write a word that day. 

Let’s face it, we put ourselves out there by having a book published, and we all get criticized. They say it takes a certain amount of courage to put anything creative out there in the first place, so bravo to us for doing it. And to make us all feel better about it, here are some harsh reviews of some of the greats.

“A preliminary drawing for a wallpaper pattern is more finished than this seascape,” — Art critic Louis Leroy on Claude Monet

“The cover of Led Zeppelin, the British quartet's seismic 1969 debut, shows the Hindenburg airship, in all its phallic glory, going down in flames. The image did a pretty good job of encapsulating the music inside: sex, catastrophe and things blowing up.” — Rolling Stone

“We must turn down gifts offered since we feel it is not fair to accept as a gift a work which may be shown only infrequently.” 

— Alfred H. Barr, director of collections for Museum of Modern Art, New York, on receiving a donated work by Andy Warhol

“A novel so bad that it gives bad novels a bad name.” 

— Salman Rushdie on Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code

“The first book written for people who don't read books.”

— Eileen Battersby, chief literary critic for The Irish Times on 

Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls

“This is easily one of the worst books I’ve ever read. And bear in mind that I’ve read John Grisham.”

Susan Cohen, the Charleston City Paper, on Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

“The story is mostly a snooze: not so much The Silence of the Lambs as The Counting of the Sheep —  Ron Charles for the Washington Post, on Thomas Harris’ Cari Mora

“Reading it, I even began to suspect that parts may have genuinely been written by Don Jr. himself. The excruciatingly insecure prose wasn’t the tell — that could have come from any of the hacks who work for him. It was that some of the errors are so ludicrous they couldn’t possibly have come from anyone else.” — Ashley Feinberg, Slate, on Donald Trump Jr.’s Triggered

“The greatest mind ever to stay in prep school.” 

— Norman Mailer on J.D. Salinger

“Once you’ve put one of his books down, you simply can’t pick it up again.” — Mark Twain on Henry James

“I got a little bored after a time. I mean, the road seemed to be awfully long.” — Aldous Huxley on Jack Kerouac’s On the Road

“Leaving out politics, I regard the book as a sorry thing, clumsy, trivial, and melodramatic, with stock situations, voluptuous lawyers, unbelievable girls, and trite coincidences.” 

— Vladimir Nabokov on Boris Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago

“Don Quixote suffers from one fairly serious flaw, that of outright unreadability.” — Martin Amis, The War Against Cliché

“Fear and Loathing in America is a great doorstop of a book …” Douglas Brinkley for The Guardian, on Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in America


Paul D. Marks said...

Some really great quotes here, Dietrich. I particularly like Twain's and Huxley's. And, even though I liked On the Road, it's still funny.

I can tolerate negative reviews if they actually make sense. But the ones who say crap like "I don't like this kind of novel," well, why did you get it in the first place if all you read is coziies? And I've had some others along those lines. But you gotta take the bad with the good.

James W. Ziskin said...

I agree with Paul. Some classics. The Counting of the Sheep is my favorite.


Dietrich Kalteis said...

I agree, Paul. I try to ignore those kind of reviews and just keep on going.

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Thanks, Jim.

Susan C Shea said...

Ooh, I agreed with some of those reviews. But your point is right - we can't begin to write in fear of a future negative review. that only works for the dullest authors who self-censor any life from their writing.

Brenda Chapman said...

Your post makes writers everywhere feel a lot better about those negative reviews! It does take courage to put your work out there.

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Thanks Susan and Brenda.