The last year or so (by my completely unscientific method of measuring time, which is to say, “It feels like a year, what, it was only a week, it wasn’t a year? It felt like a year…”), there have been increasing conversations across Romancelandia about whether writers (especially those writers who are not Nora Roberts) should review books and give them less-than-glowing reviews.
It’s coming to a head now.
Eh, I don’t really care about reviewing books from Romancelandia. There are A LOT of books and A LOT of romance readers, and so other people do that just fine. More to the point, I don’t really care to review, because some books seriously just piss me off and then my head would explode online and that’s always a mess to clean up. Actually, the only books I really want to write about are the ones that piss me off, and so that would skew my blog the other way, making me look like a recidivist toxic bitch.
Anyway, I’ve reviewed some books. I’ve pretty much stopped reviewing books, except for a notation here and there on my Reading List. I’m on the fence about the “be nice and also it could wreck your career” versus “I’m a reader too and I have a right to review honestly and fuck you if you don’t like what I say, especially if I paid money for your book and spent time I could’ve been making money to read it.” I just hate feeling taken advantage of by a bad book, in both money and time.
All that said, I do have my foot in one lit world (Mormon lit) that’s so small that if nobody reviewed anything, nobody would get reviewed at all. And that’s a shame. Because some of the stuff I’ve been reading, put out by the major Mormon publishers, is really bad. And the stuff that’s really good (i.e., brilliant, e.g., Bound on Earth by Angela Hallstrom) gets lost in the shuffle because a) people who want to read good stuff will assume it’s bad and b) people have been reading schlock so long they don’t know what’s good.
But you know, from the cradle, we’re trained to be nice. (Clearly, most of that didn’t take with me.) Our cultural heritage is Nice. And so what does Nice get you? Crap work because nobody wants to say, “This is crap work. This is why it’s crap. Everybody, take note. Don’t write like this.”
Actually, what I want to say is, “This was vetted by a Gatekeeper who asked money for it, and I spent that money and I spent the time based on the fact that it was vetted by a Gatekeeper, and now I have to wonder what the Gatekeeper thinks is good writing, because this ain’t it.” Our market is flooded with (sub)mediocre writing, and it distresses me. I’d rather have nothing than most of what passes for good in our market. Are we so starved for “clean” content that we’ll take anything we can get and call it good?*
Now, after reading Shelah Books It lit blog, I think I may have to gather all my little courages together and review the Mormon lit I read, because she has said, in language I can grok (i.e., cranky), what I’ve been thinking all along.
And I can’t be the only one.
*Please note: I did not give the name of this book because I felt so bad about about what I had to say. In the comments, an anonymous poster came after my book with the same complaints. Oh, I don’t care if she doesn’t like my book; a lot of people won’t. What I care about is that she felt she had to post anonymously. Because in our culture, when you can’t be Nice, you be Anonymous.