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Open letter to Maggie Stiefvater

Ms Stiefvater, you may have not consciously intended to, but you most definitely belittled book bloggers with your comments–just as you have in the past belittled romance readers (many of whom read you despite your attitude towards what they read¹).

“A review is an unbiased, careful look at a book — basically it is a little academic paper. It involves an itty-bitty thesis on your opinion of the book, surrounded by tiny supporting sentences describing the strengths and weaknesses of said book.”

Says you–and I disagree with you in the most absolute, unequivocal manner possible.

Please do a bit of research and learn how some of the best known writers of the past reviewed the work of their equally well known contemporaries. Then we’ll talk some more about unbiased looks at books.

Furthermore, how on earth can a person give an unbiased opinion on a novel? Heck, people can’t give unbiased opinions on matters of science–see the ongoing debate on evolution in a school district near you. It’s pretty…let’s go with unrealistic, to expect them to be unbiased about fiction. People read fiction because they enjoy it.

“When a blogger writes a biased, hilarious, snarky rundown of a book they despised, he/ she is not writing a review. They are writing a post about a book. I’m not saying that bloggers shouldn’t write biased, hilarious, snarky rundowns of books.”

Oh reeeeeeally?

Please do check back on those well known authors from the past, Ms Stiefvaver–those are not only reviews, but most of them are exponentially snarkier and much, much harsher than pretty much anything a book blog review would think to dish out today³.

But let’s pretend for a moment that no author or professional reviewer in the last decade has ever stooped so low as to mock the object of their analysis (be this the work or its author). That would still be irrelevant to the underlying truth: reviews are not for authors–and they are definitely not for publishers. What you describe and call ‘review’ above is more like a generic blurb-like summary, useful for the publisher to push the book at retailers’ buyers.

As such, I’m sure it’s fine and dandy, and it probably serves its purpose.

A review, for a reader², is something entirely different.

For a reader, a review–such as this by book blogger Angie of Angieville for Shiver: “I loved how contained they were. … there’s a scene in a candy shop that will leave you absolutely salivating. I dare you to read that one just once.” Or how about this one: “In Lament Maggie Stiefvater artfully weaves together a heady mix of music, humor, exhiliration(sic), and desperate longing. I enjoyed this book so much it is physically painful to me that the sequel, Ballad, isn’t due out till next Fall. ” –is useful when it expresses how the reader/reviewer felt about the book.

How did s/he feel about the story, the characters, the setting, the journey, the world the author creates for the reader.  Did the reader/reviewer  lost him/herself in the world? was this something s/he couldn’t put down? Was this a story s/he thought about for days after closing the book on the last page?

Readers don’t want “an unbiased little thesis.” Readers want the reader/reviewer honest reactions and emotions–cartoons, snark et al.

And the accumulation of those honest reactions, expressed in a multitude of humble book blogs has, doubtless, sold you many a copy.

For that alone, it is shortsighted to tell potential reader/reviewers that what they do, and say, has no value to you or your publishers.

Not to mention, arrogant, condescending and insulting.

 * * *

Oh, and just so you know? I write reviews, not ‘posts about books.’

 

¹ Here’s a clue: for many of them, “romance reading” includes your work.

² Reader: those pesky creatures who buy books with the intention of actually enjoying them–yes, including yours.

³ Readers don’t want to cringe reading their own old posts any more than writers do.

5 Comments »

  • I can’t believe the gall of some writers nowadays to try to limit free speech. And as you pointed out, they’re only focusing on the possibility of someone not loving their darling.

    I swear to God, grow a set and shut up! Trying to limit what others say, how they say it and if they should be taken seriously when they say it is censorship.

    Writers promoting censorship chaps my ass.

    ReplyReply

  • […] Good responses from Jane at Dear Author and Azteclady at Karen Knows Best. […]



  • Merrian
    January 21
    2:31 am

    Wonderful post on the particular MS kerfuffle and that shows what and who reviews are really for and about. Thanks.

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  • JL
    January 22
    11:42 pm

    Not to mention anyone who claims to be able to write without bias is full of sh*t. What pissed me off to the most was that Ms. Stiefvater seems to want to lord over the silly little people with her incredible academic abilities from her BA, when it’s clear she didn’t learn much to begin with. If she did, she wouldn’t be talking about objectivity in such a broad, un-nuanced way. Many reviewers are well educated. Heck, some of us even have PhDs. And you know what? None of that matters at all when it comes to enjoying a book or not. As long as you can read and write, you have the capacity to be a reviewer.

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  • I completely missed this little MS controversy. I’m not going to address her opinions on book reviews vs. rundowns of a book–those are her opinions. However, her comments belittling romance.. I’m baffled! I’m an adult who reads primarily romance followed by YA fiction, mysteries/crime fiction, some “general” fiction and a smattering of other genres. I have read four of Maggie’s published books over the last couple of years and really enjoyed them. I even reviewed.. or should I say wrote a book rundown.. of her first full length published novel, Lament, which I must say I consider “romanticky.” Hence the bafflement. Ms. Stiefvater doesn’t think her books are “romanticky?” I find this odd, especially since I see a very small line drawn between her “romanticky” books and the romance books I read. A very small line. I wonder how many romance books she actually tried to read before she was giggling on page 2 and gave up… And what is up with her subsequent remark about also giggling while watching porn? What the hell does watching porn have to do with reading romance?? The only reason I can think why she would have made such a comment is that she must think they’re related somehow… I hate that! Needless to say, I’m very disappointed.

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