“Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain but it takes character and self control to be understanding and forgiving.”- Dale Carnegie
This Sunday’s WTFckery post is taking a serious note. This week there was yet another reviewer and author kerfuffle that blew up to jaw dropping proportions that has me really wondering what’s the point in reviewing anymore if people are going to get so bent out of shape about the tone of book reviews. This year alone there has been enough reviewer and bad author behavior reaction drama to last a lifetime and it’s getting very scary, so much so that I do believe there will be a face to face altercation at one point where a fan or supporter of an author will find out where a reviewer lives or works and harm them. When I first heard a Goodreads reviewer received threatening phone calls, I was shocked. But then when it happened again this week to an Amazon reviewer where she allegedly received threatening phone calls, including a few where she was told to die, really gave me chills because this could happen to any reader who posts a review about a book they read whether it is on Goodreads, Amazon or on a blog. No one is exempt, not even myself. And because of this I’ve wondered if it’s worth it to be honest reviewer anymore and just stick to posting positive reviews for books because if I continue to be honest and state an honest opinion about a book, I may be in danger of someone’s anger and they could take it out on me. Perhaps all book reviewers should be more cautious because of this.
This current situation is in regards to the WTFckery surrounding Emily Giffin and how her husband, by leaving a comment on a review for her latest book, Where We Belong at Amazon caused a major drama llama of massive WTFckery. There are two blogs who have a full report with screenshots and explanations on everything. Pocketful of Books was the first to report of this from what I know. It blew up even more based on people talking about it on Twitter and Emily herself talking about it on her Facebook. The second blog is from Corey Ann, who decided to change her review on Amazon, wherein her review, she mentions why she changed it to a lower starred review, mainly because of the actions of Mr. Giffin and Emily herself. In this review she said some personal things about Emily, not the book, and some people took exception to it so much so that some anonymous people found out Corey Ann’s phone number and left her scary and threatening messages on her phone, which in turn had her go to the police and report the incident. This has become a whole cause and effect, what I call the domino effect that started with Mr. Giffin, who though he was being ha-ha and no one would care that he told people to beware, that he was giving a “psycho alert” for the 1 star review left by someone called Avid Reader which you can view through screenshots here thanks to Pocketful of Books:
People then joined in the fray and it has become one big headache. People ended up blaming Emily for not doing more, even though she has apologized and is basically washing her hands of the entire situation. People blame Avid Reader who shouldn’t have left such a negative review for the book, and then in Corey Ann’s case how dare she change her review and make it a personal attack on Emily, that she deserved the threatening phone calls (which some believe she made up) and brought this on herself.
After the past few days of watching this nuclear reaction, I really have to wonder, why has it come to this? So much about this situation sickens me as a reader, book reviewer and author.
So what if someone posted a 1 star review on Amazon? So what if Mr. Giffin left the stupid comment? He shouldn’t have and it was a dumb move on his part, which I hope his wife Emily ripped into him because of it. I can bet you she had a nice conversation with her husband about his, “speaking before he thought” moment. Emily commented on the situation and seriously, I expected her to defend her husband, because after all, he is her husband. But then again what if this “psycho alert” review was left in regards a review in the New York Times, Washington Post, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, People, etc…? Would Mr. Giffin have left a comment on one of these publications calling the review a psycho or claiming the review was a “psycho alert”? And why would Mr. Giffin attack a reader, someone who has paid for his wife’s work when a reviewer from a mainstream publication like say the New York Times doesn’t pay for books, but gets them for free? Why would you basically slap a consumer who is helping to put money in your wife’s bank account? You would ostracize that consumer and now other readers’ who may not buy your wife’s next book, aka the product?
If a reader aka the consumer aka the customer pays for something, they have a right to share their likes and dislikes about the product they buy. For the most part we the people are very lucky to have freedom of speech. We’re allowed to say what we want and how we want, even going as far as to making it personal. Seriously, is it so horrible that Corey Ann went back on Amazon and changed her review to make it more personal against Emily because she didn’t care for Emily’s reaction to her husband’s reaction about that 1 star review on Amazon? It’s one opinion of many, which won’t hurt Emily’s book sales at all based on her making the New York Times (which means Where We Belong has sold very well) and the large amount of great reviews. Why were people in such a tizzy over Corey Ann’s review? Why would people going as far to harass Corey Ann over it? What was the point? To prove a point? If there was a point to scare Corey Ann this way, please explain it to me because I’m confused and can’t understand.
I no longer understand the whole relationship between readers, reviews and authors. There’s nothing separating them. Since the rise of the internet, people are being far too honest about themselves, giving TMI (too much information) about themselves that really makes me cringe. In the distant past, readers for the most part had no idea about the personal lives of authors. Sometimes they didn’t even know the gender of the author. The author was an enigma to readers and now that enigma has vanished.
I used to find such great joy in reviewing books because I didn’t have anyone outside of the online community to share my love of books with. But now every week there seems to be some WTFckery between a reader/reviewer and an author or someone who supports the author who takes it upon themselves to attack a reader/reviewer and come to the author’s defense. The word “bullying” is being thrown around left and right like popcorn in a movie theater. A negative review, no matter how mean and snarky is not bullying. Even if a reviewer makes it personal and puts down the author, that’s not bullying. A group of people discussing a book openly and honestly and sharing their disgust or hate of a book is not bullying. When a person, say a reader/reviewer is sent hate emails or receives threatening phone calls, that’s bullying. When a hateful blog that talks about the state of Goodreads and the so called bullying reviewing there, and highlights certain reviewers and happily joins in on ridiculing that reader/reviewer and puts that reader/reviewer down all for the sake of saying they’re a mean old bully and should be put in their place, that’s an example of bullying. One who ridicules and makes vindictive remarks and welcomes a mob mentality to join in on those attacks for the sole enjoyment of being cruel toward their victim because it makes them feel better about themselves is bullying.
I feel like we've been going around in circles about this issue time and again. No matter how much we talk about fixing it, things will not get fixed. There will always be reader/reviewers who will put down books and there will always be authors who react and say things they shouldn’t. Some of these so-called bad behavior authors will continue to reap the rewards because money talks, and even if you have an author who goes off on any reader/reviewer but has massive book sales, the publisher, essentially their employer doesn’t care because that problem author makes them money.
What’s the solution? There probably isn’t one. History continues to repeat itself and it may finally come down to something so scary where a person could be in serious danger.
William Falkner said it best: “The artist doesn't have time to listen to the critics. The ones who want to be writers read the reviews, the ones who want to write don't have the time to read reviews.”
Maybe we all should listen to Faulkner, one of the greatest writers of the 20th century.