Posted in Chit Chat

Does an Education Make You Mean?

This post is related to an earlier post I made about ‘Feeling Bad About a Bad Review’, but I’m extending some thoughts and feelings I’ve been having about bookish blogging lately.

Something happened to me that I never could have expected. I read a book, I sent my feedback to the publisher, and then I was abused.

It’s always going to be a tricky situation when the publisher listed is also the author- there’s no degree of separation. All material about their hard work and vision will be subject to ‘their eyes only’, without a filter, without a mediator.

I’ve always made some noise about the importance of honesty and sincerity when talking about a book that you’ve read- else what’s the point? Authors with integrity understand that they can’t please everyone and the odd ‘bad’ review will pop up. Sometimes these reviews take a harder line than others- but I can say from my personal reviewing policy that I’m only ever hard on a book when I can see the potential in it.. and that potential is either ignored or not realised.

I’ll hold up my hands and say that I’ve made one or two comments in the past that I’m not particularly proud of now. But that’s the nature of the beast, no? Becoming invested in a book and its characters.. to be let down.. it’s almost like a personal blow!

So what is this post really about? I was contacted by an author recently who didn’t like the feedback I’d given their book. Fair enough. But to then be called a bully AND to have my education thrown back in my face..?

It made me think.

Has furthering my studies also furthered my expectations of literature?

Yes. I think it has. Is that a bad thing though?

So many questions.

I’ve talked about authorial responsibility before- and I’m still of a standpoint that, in most cases, mindless self indulgence doesn’t produce good literature.

Have I become mean? I don’t know. Maybe I always have been, but now I have the means to articulate and communicate my feelings with wider knowledge and vocabulary. Perhaps passive acceptance is a better way forward for everyone involved.. author, reviewer, reader..

But I can’t see how.

Just because I have a degree, doesn’t mean I have to read ‘academic’ or profoundly literary titles for the rest of my life. Or, in reading something that is directly ‘genre’ fiction, am I going to expect too much from it?

I certainly don’t think so- my favourite authors are ‘genre’ writers. In the end, it comes down to the writing. Good writing will always win out. Literary, or not, if the writing is bad it’s not going to receive a glowing review from me, regardless of its motives or disclaimers.

But what do y’all think? Does it make me ‘mean’ because I have certain expectations of the books I read?

Is it better to act passive when you have strong opinions about book?



YA writer. Epic reader. Professional procrastinator.

12 thoughts on “Does an Education Make You Mean?

  1. Not at all mean. I’m a writer but I also don’t want to waste time on poorly conceived or poorly written crap. It’s even worse when you are enjoying the writing and story, then bang – they take you to an ending that makes no sense or doesnt answer the original question that was asked. Like watching Pretty Little Liars. Very frustrating

  2. I’m sure it’s not easy for an author to read a bad review but they have to be aware that you can’t please everyone. You can only review honestly, if you didn’t your readers would know.

  3. Personally, I think that honesty is the best policy. I don’t write reviews.
    I don’t know if you’re a writer, but often writers have to be careful what reviews they write. Some people can be vindictive and return the favour…
    Still, that’s no reason why you shouldn’t write honest reviews that the readers will appreciate.

  4. For someone to use a reviewer’s education as a means of attacking them smacks of an attitude problem on their part. It also suggests they have a personal prejudice about ‘educated’ people, and that they hold the belief that someone well educated is unable to enjoy the same things a less educated person does. I’m sure education in any field will change someone’s viewpoint on things relating to that subject area, but as you point out, is that a bad thing?

    It’s cool that you tried to look at this incident from another angle and ponder if your benchmark for judging writing has changed. If you have developed a stricter standard for what pleases you in the literary world, should that be regarded with contempt?

    To attempt to see things through that author’s view, would they prefer to receive passive and feigned acceptance of their work, or to receive genuine praise from someone who has the knowledge and understanding to back up their opinion? It sounds to me like they’d prefer the former, which means that rather than their work simply ‘not being for you’, it’s a case of you the reviewer not being the right one for them!

    Having read your reviews, I’ve always found you a very enthusiastic and supportive analyst. I just know this author will find other people out there who are genuinely mean in their comments, and I can only imagine how badly they will react, Vesuvius won’t have a look in!

    I genuinely believe that deep down you know the way to go – “In the end, it comes down to the writing.” – stick by that mantra and you can’t go wrong. If people want to categorise your opinion as one of an academic, then so be it, but it doesn’t make them right or their work any better.

  5. I think that studying literature and writing will always make you more critical of books. I read so much, both for study and for me, and I know my uni education has given me better ways to discuss what I read; what I like, what I don’t and why. I find I have less patience for books I don’t enjoy and I won’t sugar coat reviews if I don’t like the book.

    That being said, like you, I will always try and talk about what I liked about the book as well as what I didn’t – it’s rare that I find absolutely no redeeming qualities! No book is going to be universally loved by everyone who picks it up and there is a massive difference between giving a poor review of a book and personally attacking an author.

    Writing ‘Novel X is a poor book for these reasons’ is not the same as ‘Author Y is the worst person ever and should never ever publish again ever, what where they thinking?’, though it might feel like it when you’re Author Y. I know from experience that it’s hard (and a little soul destroying sometimes) to hear that someone didn’t like or ‘get’ something you’ve poured so much time, energy and emotion into but that doesn’t mean the reviewer should be accused of being mean or a bully.

    I think as long as your bad reviews fall into the first category and not the second you’re doing okay!

    1. Oh for sure! It doesn’t do anyone any favours to openly flame an author.. what does it prove?

      You’re right, there is no book that is loved by everyone.. not even Harry Potter. (IKR?! Heh heh)

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment here, you and the other commenters, have made me feel more confident in my original stance on reviewing etc.

  6. I think the author has no right in accusing you of being a bully. They did publish a book knowing that people will hate it or love it. I think they should just deal with it. Being passive about a book you have strong feelings for isn’t the answer either. I mean if you really loved it show it and if you really hate it show that too! I’m always interested in learning what someone didn’t like about a book I loved because it’s interesting to see it from a different perspective… unless someone just totally bashes the author and not the book. That’s not cool.

  7. Being honest is ALWAYS the way to go. No matter what, you, your readers and even authors can get something good from honesty – even in a bad review.
    To be called a bully is pretty harsh. If that happened to me, I would probably re-read the review to make sure I haven’t written anything defamatory or if I’m being unnecessarily rude. If not? Then that goes into the file of author’s behaving badly. ;/
    And education DOES NOT make you too harsh. If your education only effects the standard of writing you expect? Nope. Certainly not. I haven’t got a degree in literature, writing or journalism, but I still expect a certain standard of writing in books. No extra education needed to tick that box.
    Great post, Sarah!

    1. Thanks! I think it can be difficult sometimes to communicate your feelings about a book in a level way- and that goes for when you love or dislike something.

      But you’re so right. Honesty is always the way to go.

      Thanks for stopping by! šŸ™‚

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