Sunday, January 04, 2009

Faint Praise

Recently I received an email from a reader thanking me for my 'wonderful' book; apparently many images had stuck with her, and as if had been six months since she'd read it she thought this a good sign.

She then went on to say she had been recommended my book by a friend after she had read and praised two other books about Arctic exploration (details supplied), as well as her blog address. Of course I took a look and clicked through from her blog to take a look at her review of my book and the two others she had mentioned on the website 'Goodreads'.

These she had awarded five stars and fulsome praise; while mine she felt warranted not as many and furthermore gave a few masterful tips on where exactly it was deficient. Such a good thing she is writing a novel herself about a geologist - I do hope she makes a better job of it than I did.

While flicking through the same website this morning I notice that my other book has been labelled a 'truly terrible read'. This other reader doesn't say why she found it a 'truly terrible read' but when I see to what else she has awarded one star - books I happen to have much enjoyed - I feel oddly complimented and run downstairs to tell Hodmandod Senior in faux delight. I console myself that perhaps it is better to have a strong effect than no effect at all.

I joined 'Goodreads' several months ago and so far have visited the site just to see what's there, but this morning my finger hovers over the button that would invite one of these reviewers to be my friend. Even now feel tempted to click it.

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Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

It has its good and bad points. For me it shows up just how little I read compared to most others but I'm happy to be your friend. I've even got one of your books in my to-get-around-to-sometime-before-I-die pile. I've not put it on Goodreads yet mind.

Someone gave up on my book and I have to say I was sorely tempted to ask her why. I resisted.

Sun Jan 04, 04:23:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

I just thought it would be funny to ask someone who has just put my book on a 'truly terrible read' pile to be my friend. Actually, it's making me smile again just thinking about it...and I might just do it.

Thanks for the offer Jim, but I don't think I want to get involved in the 'Goodreads' business. I tend to just review books I really like, and if I don't like them, I just ignore them, usually.

Sun Jan 04, 04:33:00 pm  
Blogger Susanna said...

I am biased! I would like anything you wrote and get into a blog war over it. I got after a critic who said something negative about something M wrote on her blog and I got after them good! hahaahaaa M was like thats totally not nessasary.

I just think your heart really shows through and thats whats special.

Sun Jan 04, 05:24:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Thank you Susangalique - ha, a blog war - very funny!

I'm very touched that you are willing to take up my defence, that is so kind of you, but I must try to rise above it and take no notice.

Sun Jan 04, 05:40:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Plus they're all a bunch of weirdos

Sun Jan 04, 05:41:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Be quiet, Grump.

Sun Jan 04, 05:41:00 pm  
Blogger stu said...

Surely it can't be proper literature without at least one horrible review?

Sun Jan 04, 07:12:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

This is true, Stu. In that regard I think both my books are well-qualified!

Sun Jan 04, 07:26:00 pm  
Blogger Kirsty said...

I joined Good Reads a while ago at the behest of a friend who said she found all other social networking sites 'a waste of time'. Well, as someone who loves Twitter and Facebook I hesitated. Plus I use my blog to talk about books and films and tv shows. I feed Good Reads through to my blog, so I feel a bit of pressure to maintain my entries--although I haven't for a while. I think what I don't like about it is the star rating system. It turns every one into a critic and far too many interpret the work of a critic as simply being negative and pretentious. I'm still in two minds about the whole exercise. But I will object to the one star for either of your books! 5 stars, both of them!

Sun Jan 04, 10:11:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Exactly, Kirsty - it is the grading system that I dislike, and the idea that some people have that criticism has to be negative criticism.

Ah, Dr Grump is at my elbow now, demanding that I let her post her GRAND IDEA, that is a grading system for reviewers, with a special 'Jeanius Truly Terrible Section' for those readers with a particularly grumpy axe to grind.

Thank you very much for the five star vote! I retire to bed a happy woman.

Sun Jan 04, 10:51:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I had known you were on GoodReads, I would have sent you a friend request. In fact, I went to look for you now, but can't find you. Where are you?

I have trouble with the star system because I tend to really like most of what I read. If I don't like something, I stop reading.

Mon Jan 05, 04:39:00 am  
Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

I don't mind the star system but what I don't like are those - and they are in the majority - who just give x number of stars and leave no comment. If it's 5 stars then I'd like to know why. If you check out my entries every single one has a review of some sort if only a link to my blog where I go to town on the book.

Mon Jan 05, 07:19:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

I'm not sure where I am on bookreads to be honest, Mary. I have a page bookmarked and all it says on the top is 'Clare'. It's really not worth being my friend there anyway because I have no books registered at all!

The trouble with stars is that I think they can be a knee-jerk sort of reaction to a book, not considered at all, and dependent very much on which side of the bed the reader happened to fall from that morning.

Jim's philosophy seems to me to be a good one - he forces himself to give a considered judgment.

Mon Jan 05, 08:01:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

See some vaguely similar discussion:

I think it is pretty shabby, to contact an author directly in a "fan" email, then be a bit negative in a review of her book(s). There is a lot of hypocrisy about. My general comments on reviewing (as a reviewer) are at the link I provide. But if I write or speak to an author whose books I review (which actually makes me very uncomfortable on all but a few occasions) I would not say one thing and write another.

Mon Jan 05, 09:58:00 pm  
Blogger Jud said...

I freely admit I have never read any of your works save your blog. I keep meaning to pick one up and give it a try, but I think it is sort of interesting to learn about you from a personal, rather than a profesional level.

I have no doubt that you are skilled, you are publsihed and repeatedly so, which to those throngs of us who are readers and not writers (or are failed or struggling writers) seems like quite an accomplishment.

That said, de gustibus non est disputandum. Or perhaps, nill illigitimi carborundum.

Tue Jan 06, 02:55:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Well Jud, a quick google search revealed that 'There's no accounting for taste' and 'Don't let the b*ggers get you down' are rough translations (I've never done any Latin). Agreed. I've been in this game long enough to know the best thing to do is (or at least attempt to) laugh.

The point I was initially trying to make is succinctly put by Maxine in her comment above. Everyone has a right to their opinions, and as Stu points out all works of literature have bad reviews, but to email an author saying her book is wonderful having written a less than wonderful review, presumably in the hope of eliciting support for her own writing, is shabby.

Yes, I realise I am very lucky to be a published writer - but I have to tell you it has not been at all easy (and continues not to be easy - which is part of the point of this blog) and I have accomplished this through my anonymous writing winning competitions - not through who I know or who I am.

I am glad you come here just to read my thoughts - I am grateful for your visits.

Tue Jan 06, 10:59:00 am  
Blogger Barbara said...

Shabby and, er, um ... stupid? Is that the word I'm looking for? I mean, how on earth could you think this would work? Maybe it's an automated process, like offers to enlarge anatomical parts going to people who don't have them just because some people do and an even smaller subset thing they're far too small.

I use LibraryThing (similar to Good Reads, but geekier, in a good way) mainly to remember what I've been reading and what I thought of it. But I decided early on not to assign stars because that's such a lame way to talk about books. What I love, or what doesn't move me, has as much to do with me as it does the book. And it's so incredibly high schoolish to have a popularity ranking for something as diverse and meaningful as books. (Not sure what the UK equivalent for "high schoolish" is, but I trust you get my meaning.)

Tue Jan 06, 02:24:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Yes, it is bit, really, isn't it? You've reminded me of another rating scheme I came across a couple of years ago. The first comment I got about this was interesting!

Tue Jan 06, 08:35:00 pm  
Blogger Barbara said...

"There is nothing to stop you coding your own novel ..." Sheesh, he almost begged you to go rig the system. Which led to so much embarrassment when slipped up and let people see that some authors were writing their own gushing reviews. (Now they're merely written by mothers and best friends.)

Wed Jan 07, 02:08:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Exactly, Barbara! My friend Dr Grump has a little test for gushing reviews on Amazon (the 'best book what I have ever read' sort). She clicks on 'see my other reviews' - and usually there aren't any...

Wed Jan 07, 08:38:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, don't worry about any of it. Just be true to Clare, Clare, Clare and make a world of words, "vast and meaningful," where "the transient is seen in the light of the eternal." (Just read those lines in an old William Plomer book.)

Let the rest go. The ointment is full of flies these days, and they will never turn to amber.

Happy New Year--may your words make the very most of it!

Wed Jan 07, 07:22:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Grump is right--they are a bunch of weirdos!

Wed Jan 07, 07:23:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Second thoughts: But they're our dratted weirdos, and so we have to love them as best we can.

Wed Jan 07, 07:26:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Yes, Marly, we have to love these poor deluded souls that do not appreciate our true worth and talent, and our awe-inspiring contribution to the world:-)...

Thu Jan 08, 11:31:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Sorry, just had to go away and gag someone just then...

Anyway, to continue...

Thank you Marly, that is such a clever and beautiful metaphor about the amber! Quite wonderful, in my opinion.

Thu Jan 08, 11:36:00 am  
Blogger jem said...

I've been logging my reads on that site for quite a while now. I use it as a personal record, so I know what I've read and what I thought of it on finishing. Which sometimes changes a little through time.

I use the stars loosely, but always write a few comments too, about what worked or didn't for me. Probably not much help for other readers of my comments in judging the book - it probably tells them more about me and my tastes.

I'm often surprised though at how my opinions differ from others. My good book can be someone elses trash.

Sat Jan 10, 12:37:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Jem: yes, I am sure you do give some thought to your reviews and rating - it's just that some people, I feel, do not. I am quite certain that some days I would give a book 5 stars then a few days later give it maybe 4 ...and vice versa ...and so on.

Sun Jan 11, 03:11:00 pm  

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