A self-published writer sent me an email, oh maybe a year ago or so, reading, "You're a tough critic (I'd recently slaughtered a piece of absolute garbage here on Bluestalking.) Would you review my book?"
My answer: "No."
His mistake? Sending me a synopsis of his book, and a "sample," supposedly to whet my appetite. Chew on that, son. Tougher than you thought, eh?
I'm still working on the book I'm reviewing for the Feminist Review, the first attempt at fiction by a previously published nonfiction writer.
And God. The pain:
"He chanted the line a few times, then added a little extra shaving gel to his leg and, holding his breath, carefully began to draw the razor up the delicate shinbone. After the first sweep, he exhaled. So far, so good. No blood yet. No blood and – he tested with a pointed finger – slick as a whale."
You guess: cross-dresser or would-be terrorist? The fact I'm asking should tip you off.
Is "delicate" a word you'd use to describe the shinbone of a mass murderer to be? Really? And shaving gel. Oooh, that's TOUGH. Way to set up a scary scenario about the kind of nutbag who turns from mama's boy to terrorist.
You should see my margin notes, my editorial marks, the sentences I've crossed out, and the insults I've hurled. And that's just in the first couple chapters.
My personal favorite scrawled comment so far: "Monotone! Great choice!"
Don't mess with a snarky (almost) librarian with a chip on her shoulder, dude. A snark sick and tired of reading mediocre prose lauded as God's gift to writing.
No more Mrs. Nice Gal. Gloves are off. I'm tired of crap writers publishing crap books getting rave reviews from other crap writers, while the truly good writers are considered too "intellectual," or too "not on the bestseller lists," thus invisible to the general populace. The same populace who eats up James North Patterson with a spoon, though I wonder if they know he DOESN'T EVEN WRITE HIS OWN BOOKS?
Yes, there are publications employing ivory tower academics, extolling the virtues of everything squeezed from the pen of THE BIG ONES. But not all of those are worth reading, either. THE BIG ONES hit sour notes sometimes. Yet, they still get published without editors riding their butts. Why?
Because that's how publishing works.
Call me a bad librarian, but SOME BOOKS ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS. It does matter what you read. I don't believe in the adage "Reading something is better than reading nothing." I may as well hand out cereal boxes, then, something with mazes on the back for the really ambitious.
My advice: "Reading nothing is better than reading something crappy." I think I see my next tagline.
And I'm NOT against genre fiction. NOT. There are well-written books in all genres, so you can't use that tired accusation against me. That's the first argument out the mouths of those in the opposite camp, people who'll label me a snob for coming off the shelf and admitting most of the stuff I'm looking at on the New Fiction Shelf, especially those labeled "HOT!" are crap.
I wonder if I were to put a really great read on the HOT shelf, sticking on one of those fluorescent orange stickers, how people would react? Would the books increase in circulation, because suddenly there's the added value of perceived demand, or would they gather dust since Oprah didn't mention them?
That would be a great sociological experiment. Hands off! This one's mine…
I'm getting meaner the older I get – less likely to suffer fool writers gladly. Less likely to make like Gollum and think everyone who writes a book is The Presssshussss… Writers don't belong on pedestals because they write. God doesn't hand out pens and paper. I don't care how hard writers have worked, how many hours they put in, how pressed for time they were. Show me the prose, not the back-story. Unless you're writing memoir. Then show me the back-story in prose that sings like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, not something that ages like a fine whine.
Even I didn't expect to go on this long. Put that in the record books. I wanted to complain about one crap novel and wound up railing against them all. Obviously, this has been bothering me a long time.
Speaking of this renewed vigor, look for some changes around my corner of the blogosphere once I've finished school. I'm pondering many options. Too many to discuss. I have so many criss-crossing threads here I may as well be the org chart for the new health care plan.
The blog, it will be a-changin'. Hopefully for the better, but definitely more in line with the increasingly snarky me.