So it goes with the writing of book commentaries online, often for an honorarium or gratis. Some, like myself, view this as a way of writing commentaries that are incisive and might mean something to readers besides those who choose to eschew Wikipedia and instead plagiarize my reviews for their papers (Yes, I'm certain this happens. No, I won't be calling out anyone). Others seem to view book reviewing as a sort of online party where they can make BFFs or discover which authors are best to take to a bar and get shitfaced with them. Not that there's anything wrong with thi....fuck that. There's quite a bit wrong with that.
I don't go out and search these things online (I prefer to read about dead people and dead languages like Sumerian than actively search for inanity), but I was linked today on Twitter to a post that was almost positively dripping treacle. I am not going to be making any blanket statements about the presumed genre(s) that attract such coziness between authors and book bloggers (a term I use in the context of these people not aiming to write anything remotely analytical; they seek to promote works and not to dissect them if necessary). What struck me about this post (and really, it's not an unusual post, only the first such one linked to me today) is that it's almost like a loveletter in the language used and the general tone of the piece. Hey! We <3 ya! You rawk!
Yeah, typing that made me feel ill. I couldn't help but think, "Why do these people keep shitting their beds?" After all, too close of an identification between a book blogger and an author (or in some cases, their publicists as well) can lead to some rather odd behavior, especially on that wretched hive of scum and villainy known as Goodreads. There are authors I converse with, including one with whom I've done some collaborations. I also don't review those authors anymore, because of conflict of interest. If I wanted to just say, over and over again like a parrot, "I liked this and you may too!," I'd start a Tumblr and post that same sentiment over and over again while alternating between showing images of a squirrel attacking a dog and a squirrel biting a snake. Perhaps such is the easiest way to make a point, because if in some quarters, one writes a negative commentary, it seems that Kumbaya Hi-Pro Glow feeling of fuzziness fades rather quickly and the knives are drawn.
Such strong and virulent reactions to a negative commentary, whether they appear on Goodreads, a review forum, or even saintly humble abodes such as this one, in many cases speaks to the too-intimate bonds that sometimes form between readers and authors. Oh, sure, I could lambast say a Robert Stanek and get at most a few sockpuppet responses. But what if I were to say that I thought a popular author (fictitious for this example) was whoring him/herself out too much by promoting constantly on his/her site reader comments that could have been the work of a barely-literate third grader? Beyond those that would (rightly) question if I should "be going there," there would be those who would take immediate offense, make some meant-to-be-disparaging comment about my blog, my career, my looks, my age, my gender, my ethnicity, my religion, my dog, squirrels, etc. While I might not be called "a cow," as one such book blogger was by an author (or was it her publicist) in a spat that led to a massive one-starring of the offending post at Goodreads (again, must I reiterate my contempt for "five star reviews" and "one star reviews?"), I could imagine some heated commentary for criticizing an author's writing and his/her blatant attempts to manipulate coverage.
But the worst thing about it? Knowing that there are numerous "book bloggers" (again, used to denote those who view themselves as fans first and critics lastly, if at all) who will engage in verbal pleasuring of their favorite authors just so they can get more attention, more perks, more hits at Goodreads, etc. Those are the ones who seem to be shitting the proverbial bed here, not those who guard against being too intimate with writers. It wouldn't bother me so much if I didn't already know that in some quarters, even those who try to write from a critical distance are lumped in with these fans whose commentaries often serve to diminish the value of online reviews for readers who can't get all yippy-skippy in their glee at reading an amateur blurb.
Others will have dissenting opinions, no doubt.