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ChaosTitan
10-06-2009, 10:56 PM
I love reading Nathan Bransford's blog. His posts are insightful and, often, blunt. There's always something new to be learned, and his most recent post touches on a topic that comes up A LOT here at AW. Namely, personal taste and "trash."

Making Taste Overly Personal (http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2009/09/making-taste-overly-personal.html)

Hopefully, this can be an honest and polite discussion, since many of these threads go off the rails when people let their fingers run away with their brains. So what do you think of the post?

It was nice to hear an agent's take on the issue, especially when he was talking about query letters. And his closing paragraph really nails it for me:


In other words: sure, go ahead and irrationally hate something. It's in your DNA! (Note: probably not true) But try and resist the "trash" syndrome, especially if you're a writer. Not only have you probably stopped learning, but don't forget: someone else thinks your books are trash too, and they're no more right than you are.

Thoughts?

katiemac
10-06-2009, 11:02 PM
I like Nathan.

ishtar'sgate
10-06-2009, 11:07 PM
So true. I once put my foot in my mouth by saying I loved Gerald Durrell's books but couldn't stand his brother Lawrence's books. I said it on Nathan's blog and Nathan handles Lawrence's books. Ooops.:D

Bubastes
10-06-2009, 11:09 PM
I :heart: Nathan. He's absolutely right: you can learn something from every book, even the ones you think are "trash."

Rarri
10-06-2009, 11:11 PM
A refreshing read. :)

Wayne K
10-06-2009, 11:15 PM
He's a handsome devil too.:D

CaroGirl
10-06-2009, 11:15 PM
I read Nathan every day and think he's awesome and generous for sharing his perspective as a literary agent with the rest of us. I really like his concept of making taste overly personal. Of course taste is personal, that's the definition. I like what I like, but don't necessarily like what you like. It's subjective. Although some would argue there's an objective "good" or "better", the value judgement on a piece of work still comes down to personal taste. It's when we make it overly personal (like Nathan said) that debates get heated.

Willowmound
10-06-2009, 11:29 PM
Nathan's trash. Gah. You're all crazy.

scarletpeaches
10-06-2009, 11:33 PM
I don't get it. If you hate something, it's irrational?

Are you not allowed to dislike something and give reasons for that dislike?

quickWit
10-06-2009, 11:36 PM
Pfft! The joke's on him! My books are trash, so...paradox.

:D

Williebee
10-06-2009, 11:37 PM
So very true. I've said more than once that I'm not suited for "literature". I just want to take the reader on a good ride. And not everybody likes the same rides, otherwise there'd be just one of them at Six Flags, and the line would be HUGE!

:)

Medievalist
10-06-2009, 11:41 PM
I don't get it. If you hate something, it's irrational?

Are you not allowed to dislike something and give reasons for that dislike?

That's not what he's saying; he's saying even if you can't give a reason, if you KNOW you have an inexplicable "irrational" loathing, it's OK.

In other words: sure, go ahead and irrationally hate something.

Just don't, he asks, call the thing you loathe and others love, trash.

RG570
10-06-2009, 11:48 PM
I'm not really feeling it.

Some stuff actually sucks. Its suckitude can be measured objectively. I wish this were the magical faery land Nathan Bransford sees from his office tower, but he is clearly unaware of or just plain doesn't want to acknowledge the methods for measuring this suckitude: the amount of stomping and ranting required to expend enough energy to boil 1cc of water is equal to one unit of suck. These units are called "Franzens."

Anyway.

Mr Flibble
10-06-2009, 11:49 PM
There's a difference between 'I personally don't like this because of X, Y and Z' and 'This is a pile of doggy doo doos'

Samantha's_Song
10-06-2009, 11:50 PM
Well that's complete bollocks for a start. If people like me, they like me, if they don't, I don't give a rat's arse. I don't actually want people to like the things I like either; I love to be different and not part of 'the clones'.
And when The Da Vinci code came out, every person I knew, who read books, at the time was raving about it. I wasn't here at AW then. I had no bother in spewing my bile out about that awful written and predictable book, and I soon told everyone how the best parts were taken from The holy blood and the holy grail, which I'd read some twenty years before, and was saying it was copied long before the courst case over it, where I say the judgement was wrong too.

We want people to like us, and we want people to like the things that we like. When something that we can't stand becomes very very popular some sort of survival instinct kicks in, and we want to tear that popular thing to shreds so that we are not left out of the group. And we will even turn ourselves into Crazy Raving Lunatics in order to make this happen.

Willowmound
10-07-2009, 12:09 AM
I'm not really feeling it.

Some stuff actually sucks. Its suckitude can be measured objectively. I wish this were the magical faery land Nathan Bransford sees from his office tower, but he is clearly unaware of or just plain doesn't want to acknowledge the methods for measuring this suckitude: the amount of stomping and ranting required to expend enough energy to boil 1cc of water is equal to one unit of suck. These units are called "Franzens."

Anyway.

How many Franzens on a Twilight? I ask because I haven't read it.

C.M.C.
10-07-2009, 12:15 AM
I'm afraid the distinction may be too subtle for many people. There is a very real difference between something that is hackneyed, something that has technical errors, and something that is derided as being "a steaming pile of crap". Unfortunately, a too large percentage of the writing world, as in the world at large, considers their opinion to be the gospel.

CheshireCat
10-07-2009, 01:33 AM
I'm afraid the distinction may be too subtle for many people. There is a very real difference between something that is hackneyed, something that has technical errors, and something that is derided as being "a steaming pile of crap". Unfortunately, a too large percentage of the writing world, as in the world at large, considers their opinion to be the gospel.


QFT.

mscelina
10-07-2009, 01:45 AM
Amen.

Since the cyberworld became commonplace, the last thing any new writer can afford is foot-in-mouth disease aka not thinking before you hit send.

And there's a substantial difference between pulling out logical and intellectually based reasons for disliking a work (ie-I think Romeo and Juliet is the worst of Shakespeare's plays because it was derived from an earlier work) and trash-talking a writer for no tangible reason whatsoever. ESPECIALLY when you then admit during the course of said heated discussion that you've never read the works in question, which has happened to me in more Harry Potter discussions than I care to acknowledge on other boards.

scarletpeaches
10-07-2009, 01:47 AM
I'm not a fan of R&J simply because having a romance fail with one female, then immediately glomming on another, obsessing about each other and ending up topping yourself doesn't seem all that romantic to me.

If it was marketed as a tragedy, fair enough, but 'star-crossed lovers'? Puh-lease.

Why does no-one spare a thought for Rosaline?

*mumbles like an old git*

HelloKiddo
10-07-2009, 02:08 AM
Funny you started a topic on this because I just left Nathan a comment on his blog:


Wow wow wow! I cannot believe the comments I am reading here.

Nathan, ordinarily I agree with you and I think your blog is awesome, but not today.

I'm sorry if the rest of you don't consider literary criticism legitimate and you think giving a book a bad review is "mean," but that's your opinion, not mine.

Book reviews are very important to me. I read a lot and almost every book I read is based on recommendations from other people (reviews). Those recommendations count for zero if nobody is permitted to give books negative reviews. Negative reviews are important to literature. No great reviewer I know of gave good recomendations by only giving positive reviews. You need to see both sides of the coin for it to count.

And the argument that negative reviews are mean and that reviewers are just jealous is, quite frankly, childish. Seriously, grow up. People like me enjoy and value book reviews. You want better reviews? Then write a better book! That's the way to do it, not lamely accusing negative reviewers of "jealousy."And he replied with this:


There's a pretty huge difference between writing a negative review and calling something "trash." I never said people shouldn't write negative reviews, just that writers should avoid shutting closing off their mind to the books they don't like.

I'm not quite sure I get it. It is the word trash that everybody is objecting to? Based on the comments for this entry I'm under the impression that most posters there think that bad reviews are mean and people have no right thinking it's their place to run around criticizing someone else's work.

I still maintain my early comment--reviews are important and they count for nothing if bad reviews aren't also allowed. I agree that a few people do take things too far, but if you don't want others to review your work don't publish it. Saying you want to publish your book but the rules that apply to everybody else--meaning your book goes under scrutiny for both positive and negative reviews--don't apply to you is rubbish. All our books go to the same place, everybody deals with the grind. That's the way it is, it's the way we decide which books are worth reading and which aren't. Without that how would we know what to read?

mscelina
10-07-2009, 02:11 AM
I'm not a fan of R&J simply because having a romance fail with one female, then immediately glomming on another, obsessing about each other and ending up topping yourself doesn't seem all that romantic to me.

If it was marketed as a tragedy, fair enough, but 'star-crossed lovers'? Puh-lease.

Why does no-one spare a thought for Rosaline?

*mumbles like an old git*

LMAO--star-crossed lovers actually does mean tragedy. If their stars are crossed, according to contemporary astrology, their love is doomed.

But of course you knew that. ;)

scarletpeaches
10-07-2009, 02:12 AM
Ah bollocks.

I shall now rip my own guts out in shame.

(Or brush up on my Shakespeareanese...)

Nathan Bransford
10-07-2009, 02:29 AM
Funny you started a topic on this because I just left Nathan a comment on his blog:

And he replied with this:



I'm not quite sure I get it. It is the word trash that everybody is objecting to? Based on the comments for this entry I'm under the impression that most posters there think that bad reviews are mean and people have no right thinking it's their place to run around criticizing someone else's work.

I still maintain my early comment--reviews are important and they count for nothing if bad reviews aren't also allowed. I agree that a few people do take things too far, but if you don't want others to review your work don't publish it. Saying you want to publish your book but the rules that apply to everybody else--meaning your book goes under scrutiny for both positive and negative reviews--don't apply to you is rubbish. All our books go to the same place, everybody deals with the grind. That's the way it is, it's the way we decide which books are worth reading and which aren't. Without that how would we know what to read?

Thanks for the great comments, everyone.

HelloKiddo, I agree with you - bad reviews have their place (provided, in my opinion, they are constructive and respectful). It's okay to dislike some books! As others said in the comments section, if everyone agreed on everything the world would be a really boring place.

But this isn't what my post is about - my post is about how some people, when confronted with a book they don't like, especially a popular book, develop an irrational hatred toward that book and try and tear it down by calling it trash or writing needlessly scathing reviews or silently seething. Or other people just wave their hands over the bookstore and say everything in it is trash.

All I'm saying is that if writers are doing this with all the books they don't like they're not recognizing how subjective individual taste is, and more importantly they're closing themselves off from learning anything about why the book has reached the level of success it has.

scarletpeaches
10-07-2009, 02:30 AM
Oh noes! We made him appear!

*starts thread about Colin Farrell*

Rowan
10-07-2009, 02:46 AM
I love reading Nathan Bransford's blog. His posts are insightful and, often, blunt. There's always something new to be learned, and his most recent post touches on a topic that comes up A LOT here at AW. Namely, personal taste and "trash."

Making Taste Overly Personal (http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2009/09/making-taste-overly-personal.html)

Hopefully, this can be an honest and polite discussion, since many of these threads go off the rails when people let their fingers run away with their brains. So what do you think of the post?

It was nice to hear an agent's take on the issue, especially when he was talking about query letters. And his closing paragraph really nails it for me:



Thoughts?

ChaosTitan -
I agree...I subscribe to the blog via e-mail and I also find the posts very insightful. While I may not agree w/everything Nathan Bransford posts, the blog does accomplish one important thing: it makes me think. (And that's very hard to do after a l-o-n-g day at work). :)

katiemac
10-07-2009, 02:47 AM
All I'm saying is that if writers are doing this with all the books they don't like they're not recognizing how subjective individual taste is, and more importantly they're closing themselves off from learning anything about why the book has reached the level of success it has.

And this is why we get so many threads on AW: "Twilight: I don't get it?" Members spent a lot of time trying to deconstruct those novels to figure out what made them work despite strong opinions otherwise. And not just work, but to resonate to a level no one could have predicted.

I'm not out to prescribe to another author's method, but if a novel captures a wide audience I'm sure as heck going to read it. I don't have to like it. But I do want to do my best to understand why it works. And even if I don't think it's good, I have a hard time referring to something as pure trash because, obviously, that's just as subjective as the overwhelming popular opinion.

mscelina
10-07-2009, 02:47 AM
Oh noes! We made him appear!

*starts thread about Colin Farrell*

:roll:

mscelina
10-07-2009, 02:49 AM
And this is why we get so many threads on AW: "Twilight: I don't get it?" Members spent a lot of time trying to deconstruct those novels to figure out what made them work despite strong opinions otherwise. And not just work, but to resonate to a level no one could have predicted.

I'm not out to prescribe to another author's method, but if a novel captures a wide audience I'm sure as heck going to read it. I don't have to like it. But I do want to do my best to understand why it works.

Exactly. And sometimes, what works can surprise you and maybe even jar something loose in your writer's trap of a brain that can positively impact the way you write your own stories. What that successful writer did doesn't suit your taste? Fine. Improve upon it. Make that successful quirk your own and make it better.

Some of the best lessons I've learned as a writer came from writers whose work I loathed. (ie-Faulkner. Don't shoot me!)

ChristineR
10-07-2009, 02:52 AM
Do people really call other writer's works trash in a query?

And I don't see what the mystery is in Twilight. It's a fine example of what it is. Judge it by its own standards, not the standards of people who read completely different books.

Ken
10-07-2009, 03:00 AM
Do people really call other writer's works trash in a query?

... my guess is that the 'trashing' is probably indirect: "Unlike the majority of other novels in the genre my own book actually ...." Something of that nature, and come to think of it I may have written something along those lines myself when I first started out.

I couldn't really see anyone directly trashing a particular book in a query. That would make a writer look really bad, not to say the indirect approach is really any better.

Mr Flibble
10-07-2009, 03:14 AM
... my guess is that the 'trashing' is probably indirect: "Unlike the majority of other novels in the genre my own book actually ...."

Never did it in a query...did do it on a forum with an agent ( oopsie) when told I should compare myself to other current writers in my query. I'd had a bad run of books, and said I didn't actually like many current works, because the trends in the epic fantasy industry weren't to my taste ( too fecking grim for starters!). He then suggested I read X, Y , Z books cos they were 'fabulous'. And I loathed them. They were everything I hate in a fantasy. At least I know not to sub to that agent....

Were they trash? No. Were they what I wanted to read? No. Was the agent wrong - no because those books have sold loads and plenty of people like them. Do I wish that the trend would come back to what I want to read - HELL YES!

I've done reviews where I've said 'Well it's not to my taste, but I can see fans of this other book will love it'

Like I said - there's a difference between 'I don't like this because...' and 'this is trash and no one should like it.'



Just cos I don't like it, doesn't make it trash. It makes it not my thing.

ETA: I still don't see why I should compare myself to writers I don't actually like, just because they're the current 'in thing'. Seems like bollocks to me. The writers I DO like ( or the big ones anyway, there's plenty in the small presses I like) tend to write in different genres.

Medievalist
10-07-2009, 03:35 AM
I've seen numerous variations on the "trash" idea in lots of queries.

"My story/book/scholarly article is so much better than the crap you usually publish . . "

etc etc

It's one of the tropes; this is a good time to link to Teresa Nielsen Hayden's Slushkiller (http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004641.html). TNH is one of my very very favorite editors.

Medievalist
10-07-2009, 03:37 AM
I couldn't really see anyone directly trashing a particular book in a query. That would make a writer look really bad, not to say the indirect approach is really any better.

Oh, but they do. They will also specifically trash other editors and agents.

Honestly, just writing a coherent, courteous, grammatically and orthographically comprehensible query puts you in the top 10%.

I'm serious.

katiemac
10-07-2009, 03:43 AM
ETA: I still don't see why I should compare myself to writers I don't actually like, just because they're the current 'in thing'. Seems like bollocks to me. The writers I DO like ( or the big ones anyway, there's plenty in the small presses I like) tend to write in different genres.

Personally I don't see it as a straightforward comparison in the writing sense. Instead, it's learning about the industry. In marketing, for example, Twitter is become more and more important. That doesn't mean your marketing company should use or want to use Twitter. But it might be really important to understand why other companies are having success with it. As a result you might discover Twitter itself is utterly useless when it comes to your efforts but now you at least know two-way communication is really important to certain consumers. You could end up developing something entirely new and awesome thanks to understanding its functionality. Or you could deduce your current method is just fine for your consumers and you're doing exactly the right thing for them.

To bring it back to writing, I just think the more armed you are and the more knowledge you have about what's happening in your industry is always a good thing. Publishing not exempt.

Darzian
10-07-2009, 04:24 AM
...my post is about how some people, when confronted with a book they don't like, especially a popular book, develop an irrational hatred toward that book and try and tear it down by calling it trash or writing needlessly scathing reviews or silently seething. Or other people just wave their hands over the bookstore and say everything in it is trash.

All I'm saying is that if writers are doing this with all the books they don't like they're not recognizing how subjective individual taste is, and more importantly they're closing themselves off from learning anything about why the book has reached the level of success it has.


I whole heartedly agree with this.

There's a difference between "Book X sucks a$$" and "I didn't enjoy Book X because ..."




Oh noes! We made him appear!

*starts thread about Colin Farrell*


:roll::roll::roll::roll::roll::roll::roll::roll:

someone save my ribcage!

scarletpeaches
10-07-2009, 04:36 AM
Come on, people. It wasn't that funny.

Was it?

Amarie
10-07-2009, 04:38 AM
Come on, people. It wasn't that funny.

Was it?

it was!

Darzian
10-07-2009, 04:40 AM
Come on, people. It wasn't that funny.

Was it?

I'm ROFL after 10 hours of slaughter at university. Yes, it was that funny.

Mr Flibble
10-07-2009, 04:43 AM
To bring it back to writing, I just think the more armed you are and the more knowledge you have about what's happening in your industry is always a good thing. Publishing not exempt.

See I understand what you say

Still doesn't get me any further forward in liking what my genre has to offer just lately in , you know, what I actually want to read or compare myself to.
I write epic fantasy that isn't a) political and b) grim / realistic / pus and warts and all ( WTF - it's fantasy FFS! If I wanted real life political crap I read the papers). I'm screwed with quite a few agents / publishers. That's all they put out. I don't like to read it - I don't write it

Twitter doesn't matter then. Nothing matters but the story you write - if it doesn't fit with 'what the agent wants' you don't get nowhere and while frustrating I can see why they buy what they buy - they buy what currently sells - and what I don't currently buy, or in fact ever buy if I can help it.


Doesn't mean it's crap. It means I don't like it.

Perks
10-07-2009, 04:52 AM
I do have to say that without license to rant we would be deprived of the genius of the Harlan Ellison sort.

What I think more important than attempting to sweeten the mosh pit, is to just advise everyone to recognize, and play to, their strengths. Only a select few can pull off a full set of claws, and if you're not one of these, you're going to look like an ass. If you aren't Dorothy Parker, best stick to tamer, sensible sounding arguments and critique. That way, you can mostly make your point without everyone judging you for it.

ETA - Just in the interest of full disclosure, Dorothy Parker I ain't. I wish I could wear the snark like a mink stoll, but I mostly need to stick to prim cardigans.

katiemac
10-07-2009, 04:54 AM
Still doesn't get me any further forward in liking what my genre has to offer just lately in , you know, what I actually want to read or compare myself to.

Yeah, I understand that. I like collecting data though, so I try to read what's making a splash, regardless of if I'm actually going to 'do' anything with it. But I don't necessarily go outside of my genre boundaries to do that, either, unless it's something garnering really spectacular attention.

ETA: When I was interning at a literary agency, I remember this one submission. It was one of the worst things I'd read in the slush pile, which is saying something. And after it was rejected, the author wrote back to the agent all, 'You suck, my book is awesome, you just can't understand that.' So in terms of subjectivity and what's 'trash' or not, it's one of those things that from a publishing standpoint it's good for writers to know what's happening in the industry. Because you can comeback and understand, 'My book is being rejected not because it's totally awful but because this particular agent truly can't sell in this overcrowded vampire market,' vs. understanding your book will never sell because it's just bad.

Mr Flibble
10-07-2009, 05:01 AM
Yeah, I understand that. I like collecting data though, so I try to read what's making a splash, regardless of if I'm actually going to 'do' anything with it. But I don't necessarily go outside of my genre boundaries to do that, either, unless it's something garnering really spectacular attention.
I read in my genre

I sadly read in my genre and I'd rather not just lately. I just had to read about a guy eating a loaf of bread that someone just pissed on

You know what, I'd rather read a good rollicking adventure with F all realism than that. But that is what the genre seems to like these days.


Warm pissed on bread. Is the norm cos it's 'gritty'. I think I just threw up in my mouth.

You know what - fuck data - give me an enjoyable story. Preferably without pissy bread. ( is a shame cos I really enjoyed the first i the series - the second seems to be doing it 'because it's expected' rather than 'it serves the story' though. :(

Medievalist
10-07-2009, 05:04 AM
Ah bollocks.

I shall now rip my own guts out in shame.

(Or brush up on my Shakespeareanese...)

Feel free just skip R and J because it's . . .

Oops ;)

katiemac
10-07-2009, 05:06 AM
I sadly read in my genre and I'd rather not just lately. I just had to read about a guy eating a loaf of bread that someone just pissed on

Ha ha, I totally don't blame you for not liking that.

Medievalist
10-07-2009, 05:08 AM
Here's the thing, for me.

Literary criticism is tied to specific analysis, and detailed discussions, with examples. You do not typically use a catch-all term like trash. And, if you do, you back it up with specifics and detailed analysis.

That's not what NB is talking about.

And part of what he's talking about is the idea that you don't do with to an agent or an editor with whom you do not have a close relationship.

On book reviews--I've been thinking very hard of late about what David Hartwell says in this NY Review of SF piece from 2004 (http://www.nyrsf.com/2004/07/nyrsf-editorial-192-blooming-on-negative-reviwing-as-performance.html). Hartwell is an editor at Tor and a very long term fan of genre fiction.

Mr Flibble
10-07-2009, 05:12 AM
Ha ha, I totally don't blame you for not liking that.

Sadly it's the norm. I don't do pissy bread hence I'm not saleable - to anyone but me. ( except in the small presses, which print stuff I like, ie not pissy bread political sagas I throw up over. They print , you know, stories which are enjoyable) Sadly lots of people like it ( or they like what they're given?). more power to them - I wish I could write it

hey ho

Ken
10-07-2009, 05:14 AM
IRUs: I hear what you're saying. It's so easy though to switch from I don't like this book or books because ... to I think these books rot. I think the later has allure because it is somehow empowering to say I hate this or that. Makes one sound stronger. But of course it really doesn't, and when you cut through all the rhetoric, I guess one just sounds plain silly. Not that that will deter me from berating something or other in the near. I'm much better than I used to be, but still like to put on firework shows at times ;-)

Medi: There's much sense to what you say. Think part of it is the fast pace society runs at in general. If things just went a little slower and we took our time when it came to communicating half the foolishness that gets expressed would disappear.

Mr Flibble
10-07-2009, 05:19 AM
[QUOTE=Ken;4120731]IRUs: I hear what you're saying. It's so easy though to switch from I don't like this book or books because ... to I think these books rot./QUOTE]

I don't think these books rot - I think the current trend isn't for me. I'm just waiting till it comes around to stuff I like...

Ken
10-07-2009, 05:27 AM
... never mind 'waiting around till it comes about.' Take matters into your own hands and make it happen, by writing a swell book that the masses adore. One book like that is all it takes to create a trend. ps didn't mean to put words in your mouth that weren't there. Just didn't phrase my post as carefully as I should've. Know we don't talk much these days but I still .... ;-)

Medievalist
10-07-2009, 05:41 AM
The single most popular text in English before the printing press is a middle English Romance called Bevis of Hamptoun.

It's awful. Really really awful. It's . . .well, it's a Mary Sue for one thing. And it's written in a style that today would be the equivalent of writing a novel using limericks.

Bad limericks.

But there are endless versions of the story--and it was just as popular the first hundred years or so after the printing press.

Historically, it's really really interesting to see how popular it is, and why. What buttons did it push? What needs did it satisfy?

I read things I don't really enjoy that I think might, in a hundred years, be sort of like Bevis of Hamptoun is for us, now.

I think these books have something to say, even if I don't always like what, or how, they say it.

I also am very much aware that, even if I don't really like a book, even if I read it because there was pay involved, that book is some author's "child."

And I do try even in my most scathing reviews (and yes, I have been scathing of non-fiction) to remember that.

Medievalist
10-07-2009, 05:43 AM
Why does no-one spare a thought for Rosaline?



You have to read the sequel; she ditches Romeo and runs off to the Forest of Arden . . .

mscelina
10-07-2009, 05:45 AM
You have to read the sequel; she ditches Romeo and runs off to the Forest of Arden . . .

From Italy?

Adventurous girl...

Medievalist
10-07-2009, 05:53 AM
ESPECIALLY when you then admit during the course of said heated discussion that you've never read the works in question, which has happened to me in more Harry Potter discussions than I care to acknowledge on other boards.

Ohhh I hate that!

Dissing a book you haven't even read makes me livid.

It makes me so livid I created a name for the practice (http://realbook.com/news/scatosyntheton).

Amarie
10-07-2009, 05:56 AM
The single most popular text in English before the printing press is a middle English Romance called Bevis of Hamptoun.

It's awful. Really really awful. It's . . .well, it's a Mary Sue for one thing. And it's written in a style that today would be the equivalent of writing a novel using limericks.

Bad limericks.

But there are endless versions of the story--and it was just as popular the first hundred years or so after the printing press.

Historically, it's really really interesting to see how popular it is, and why. What buttons did it push? What needs did it satisfy?

I read things I don't really enjoy that I think might, in a hundred years, be sort of like Bevis of Hamptoun is for us, now.

I think these books have something to say, even if I don't always like what, or how, they say it.

I also am very much aware that, even if I don't really like a book, even if I read it because there was pay involved, that book is some author's "child."

And I do try even in my most scathing reviews (and yes, I have been scathing of non-fiction) to remember that.

I know Wikipedia is a pathetic resource in many cases, but I googled this and if the summary is correct, I can see the appeal at a time when most people never traveled more than a few miles from their birth place. It sounds as if it had life and death situations, the hero enslaved by pirates, travels to royal courts in exotic places, and lovers who couldn't be together. Wow! I bet it pushed all the dream buttons.

I grew up in a very small town in the Midwest surrounded by cornfields, and I only wanted to read about places that were as far from that reality as possible, so I can see why that story was popular.

djf881
10-07-2009, 06:00 AM
If you talk about how other books are trash in your query letter, that means the book you have written is not good and there is something wrong with your mind.

Your query letter is your very brief sliver of an agent's attention. You have 250-300 words to grab the agent's attention, and you need to do this by writing well, by talking about your book in a way that might excite somebody.

I can't understand the thought process that leads people to grind axes or whine about rejection in query letters.

Darzian
10-07-2009, 06:01 AM
Ohhh I hate that!

Dissing a book you haven't even read makes me livid.

When people diss books they haven't read, I equate it to trolling.

mscelina
10-07-2009, 06:11 AM
That's pretty much how it is, too.

The...erm...lady that was the worst about this (on another board) would go off on page-long monologues about JK Rowling's bad plotlines, characterizations, use of verbal magic et cetera et cetera. Finally, one day, we asked her why she thought this and she said, "Well, I saw the first movie."

Order of the Phoenix had already been out for a year.

So yeah--she based her entire opinion about Harry Potter off of seeing the first movie, once, on someone's TV--instead of actually reading the darn books. Needless to say, she lost all credibility after that point.

But you'd be surprised at how many people will do that and say, "I don't need to read the books to know they're bad."

Yeah. Right.

C.bronco
10-07-2009, 06:13 AM
I never called current novels "trash," but wrote a book because I wanted something I would like to read. There may have been other books out there that fit that bill, but I made a minimal effort to find them.

There's a lot of great stuff out there; then again, I don't always want to read great books. I had to read a lot of great books, and I didn't like them all.

I'd never put down other writers to elevate my own work. Mine are a whole lot of fun, but I focus on plot, spectacle, humor and ideas.

We all read for different reasons; I would never put down anyone who created something meaningful to others even if it did not appeal to my taste.

Toothpaste
10-07-2009, 06:13 AM
First of all, even Shakespeare didn't approve of what R & J did in his story, it was a cautionary tale, not an example of what true love is. That's the whole point of the Rosaline thing, that Romeo was so easily able to fall in love and then out of love and in love again. Even the friar warns them, "love moderately, long love does so." That being said, it isn't one of my favs either.

But R & J and obsessive love actually dovetails nicely into my point re: this thread. I agree. Calling something trash, having irrational hatred towards anything is absurd. But I think some might have reasons to "harp" on not liking certain books. Like me. I do not like Stephenie Meyer's books. For many reasons. But the reason I will explain very rationally my main issue with the book over and over again is that I think it is important for me to speak up. I do not like the representation of love/romance in the book (which, unlike R & J, IS idealised), nor do I approve of the main female character she has created, and how she has set up this character to exist in an abusive relationship. I know this is a common romantic trope, but this is something I will always speak out against, even with other novels, because it offends me so. And when I get the chance to talk to kids or teenagers about books, I will definitely address this huge issue, because I want to make sure girls understand the difference between the fantasy and the reality of having your boyfriend tell you what you can do, where you can go, who you can hang out with.

So yes, I understand that just saying, "This book is crap!" is unproductive. But just because someone might constantly point out why they don't like a work, it doesn't necessarily make them obsessive or jealous.

katiemac
10-07-2009, 06:25 AM
First of all, even Shakespeare didn't approve of what R & J did in his story, it was a cautionary tale, not an example of what true love is.

I'm curious to know where along the line Romeo & Juliet became the epitome of the love story. You grow up hearing about the great love that are these two characters, then I actually read it in high school and totally didn't get it because, yeah, it's obsession not love.

When this was originally performed, did the audience think it was a love story or did they get the obsession angle? Is it only in the more modern times when the language barrier might be an issue that this is heralded as a great example of the love story?

Medievalist
10-07-2009, 06:31 AM
It sounds as if it had life and death situations, the hero enslaved by pirates, travels to royal courts in exotic places, and lovers who couldn't be together. Wow! I bet it pushed all the dream buttons.

I grew up in a very small town in the Midwest surrounded by cornfields, and I only wanted to read about places that were as far from that reality as possible, so I can see why that story was popular.

It did push all the right buttons.

And honestly, I love it. I wrote my M.A. thesis on the "trash" literature of the middle ages, the metrical romances. Despite being strongly warned against them as "trash."

They were in terms of popularity and ubiquitousness a lot like category romances.

Adventure, beautiful women, dashing men, exotic places, and true love.

Chaucer sorta makes fun of Bevis, and of other metrical romances, but he does it in such a way that you know he's read an awful lot of them, and clearly knows them terribly well--which suggests he loved them too.

ChristineR
10-07-2009, 07:42 AM
There's a book called The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri. It's recommended on just about every screen or play writing site and is praised to high heaven. His central thesis is that every successful play has a premise, and that the entire play must serve that premise. His premise for R & J is Great Love defies even death. I think I threw the book across the room. A closer fit for the premise would be Death defies even Great Love. Not that I think that's the premise, or that the play has only one premise.

john barnes on toast
10-07-2009, 01:09 PM
I think the real message is if you're in anyway involved, or intending to be, within the publishing industry then don't ever publicly voice an openly attributable negative opinion on anything.
At worst, say 'it is wonderful, just not my kind of wonderful'

TrixieLox
10-07-2009, 01:40 PM
What Nathan said.

And scarletpeaches, yes, your post was that funny. So funny, I nearly chocked on the apple I was eating. For reals. You nearly killed me.