As someone who may or may not be getting ready to release a book to the hounds, I mean the Internet, I’ve been thinking about the way I talk about books. And I feel somewhat guilty.
Generally, I am a sensitive person, so I tend to be sensitive to other people’s feelings. I try not to be judgmental about other people’s choices. But when it comes to books, I can be pretty vicious.
True, I don’t judge other people’s reading tastes. If someone comes up to me wanting James Patterson’s latest book, I am not going to say, “I can’t believe you’re reading that garbage!” Everyone is entitled to his or her own reading choices, and everyone likes different things. We say this over and over at the library and on the podcast. When you ask me what I think, though, I’m going to tear him to shreds. I think his writing is juvenile, his chapters are too short, and if there is character development in the books, I missed it. (Of course, I do not give this spiel to library customers. I say he’s not my cup of tea. But you know what I mean.)
James Patterson seems like he’s not even a real person. He’s more like an entity. I imagine his books springing fully formed from his head. All he has to do is say, “Lo, I bestoweth upon you… Private: #1 Suspect!“ And there it is, on the library shelves to be scooped up by waiting customers. So it’s easy to imagine that he has no feelings about what readers think.
But how can I assume that James Patterson really don’t care? Maybe he’s at home reading his reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, crying for an hour every night before he goes and burns his money or whatever else he does with it. Maybe he is contributing to reading initiatives for students because he secretly wants the world to love him. Maybe all the money in the world isn’t enough to make James Patterson feel like a good person who has made a difference.
At the same time, as a reviewer, I do have an obligation to the reader. If I spent time reading a book that I didn’t really love, I have to let the world know that. But maybe I can be nicer about it. More diplomatic. Maybe, instead of saying that “the ending was horrible and didn’t make sense” I could say “the ending was disappointing.”
I’m not going to pretend every book I read is sunshine and roses, but I should probably stop assuming James Patterson don’t care. Even he is a person (I think. He may be a computer, or a group of twenty monkeys randomly typing 24/7 until something comes out). I know that when my book comes out, it will get some vicious reviews. I can only hope that some reviewers will be nice enough to leave me some constructive feedback without being mean.
I do not own the image in this post, and it is not used for profit. I made it using diylol.com and a Google Image.