I mentioned in an earlier post regarding oversharing that I wondered what this blabfest/blogging was doing to my psyche. The following post is the result of a rigorous, unscientific and unsubstantiated study about something entirely different. Sort of.
Martin Tupper disliked Walt Whitman and wrote unflattering reviews of Whitman’s work in the mid to late 1800s. They had ideological differences about politics and about writing. One was constrained, the other used language freely. Whitman was able to use the comparisons between the two for self-promotion. Both were published authors.
I deleted my Goodreads account this morning. Much like Twitter and Facebook, I quickly lost interest in the competitive nature of followers and stars and lollipops and whatever else was on offer. The marriage with Amazon sounds ideal in that it feeds on the narcissistic furies of one-upmanship. There has been some very unattractive author infighting related to both sites. It’s more noise and frankly, I like my peace and quiet.
We’ve been surveyed, starred, liked and thumbed up and down for the last decade. People even rate the actual reviews/reviewers. It’s a meta-review system gone wild. Before the internet became available for public consumption, my favorite review guide was The New York Times Book Review, which I bought as a separate supplement every Sunday. I never read any of the books that were reviewed. I just liked reading about books. And I didn’t talk to anyone about it.
I feel much the same way about movies. I love reading movie reviews (RIP Mr. Ebert), but I rarely see movies. My love of reviews started to die a couple of years ago. Everybody began reviewing everything. Nobody just reads a book, buys a product, listens to music, travels or watches a movie and keeps it to themselves. We’re all in search of the best of everything, perfect vacations, perfect entertainment…perfect lives.
Dislodging myself from social networks seems counter-intuitive. I’m working on my first novel. Eventually, I will want to sell said novel. Apparently, I’ll be hawking it on street corners as I cannot bring myself to be part of any more networks. The other side to having written my own novel, is that I’m learning how very hard it is. Every review I’d write would be like that of a mother’s: “This writer gets an A+ for effort. I’m sure you’ll do better next time, dear.” I would definitely be voted least helpful.
When Fifty Shades of Grey came out, I read it. All the middle-aged women around me were acting like it was the second coming (I like my puns straight up and dirty). I struggled to read it on Kindle. I did not enjoy the writing. I did not enjoy the characters. I did not enjoy the story line. I requested my money back from Amazon. Ebooks are not particularly cheap, so I felt like what I purchased should have at least been read by an editor.
The temptation to go online and rail on the book was there. But I couldn’t decide if it was the godawfulness of the book or the irritating popularity that riled me up. Or was it the repulsive sexual politics? Or the tired storyline? And women around me LOVED this book. Then I started to read the reviews. They ranged wildly from loathing to endearment. Reading is personal, subjective and fiercely defended. My voice would have added nothing to the cacophony of opinions. The exchanges I’ve seen on various book and product reviews on Amazon feel like a feeding frenzy, with everyone shouting louder and louder to be heard.
There is also a tone of corruption that has entered the system. We know reviews get planted as part of a marketing strategy. We know some people just like the sounds of their own voices. Apparently it is also a battleground for authors’ egos. In between, some balance might be found. But these reviews are still from strangers, with no context, no back story, no idea of how their perspective might be skewed or influenced.
It is akin to someone walking up to my table in a restaurant and telling me not to order the chicken because it is overcooked. Great – at least the person is in the same restaurant, but when I realize that they’re completely drunk or are just trying to steal my bread sticks, it changes my view of them, not the chicken. Although, I don’t order the chicken. Just in case. And maybe someone won’t order a book that they’d love just because I found it a tad pedantic or that ass-whipping by a wealthy man-child doesn’t sound all that sexy. I just don’t want that responsibility. And I am amazed that so many people are willing to shoulder the burden.
Is this the desperation of an overcrowded planet? “Hear me, I matter, I’m here, I’m unique”. Maybe the root of all this narcissism is the insecurity of being human in a sea of humans. Maybe it’s a defense against reality. We’re dust in the wind. I don’t find this thought depressing. Because I’m weird that way. It is the mentality that if nothing we do matters, then everything matters. And if everything matters, then I matter. Except in the big scheme of things, I’m a speck in the eye of the universe and I can pointlessly scatter my objections and praise all I want to the stars. All five of them.