Thursday, 23 November 2017

Lev Butts Is Not Giving Thanks

Yeah, it's that time again.

Another holiday season is upon us. Here in America, the season is ushered in on Thanksgiving. The day families all over the country come together to break bread, share turkey, and alienate each other as soon as Uncle Frank (damn you, Frank!) shows up with his MAGA hat and "Lock her Up T-shirt" and berates Cousin Mike (Jesus, Mike!) in his hemp-woven parka and Bernie 2020 button for being a godless socialist all in the name of celebrating a bunch of ill-prepared Europeans almost dying of pneumonia and dysentery before a bunch of Natives took them in, showed them how to farm, and promptly died of the common cold caught from a snot-nosed baby Puritan.

That's one solution.

It's also that time when we show our thankfulness and goodwill toward mankind by engaging in the Black Friday Hunger Games: Shoppers run the gauntlet of shopping mall crowds and limited-supply, one-day-only-sales while dodging crying children and the fists, feet, and teeth of other, equally driven contestants in their quest for one (or ten) of a woefully inadequate stock of this year's hot ticket toy*.

May the odds be ever in your favor.
It's also the time of year when the otherwise self-absorbed take time to hone their humble-brag skills as they share what they're most thankful for. This is when we learn that Karen (that shrew) is oh-so very thankful that her McMansion and new Lexus have not made her forget her roots and that Rick (with a silent "p") is grateful that his promotion and raise make it possible for him to give more generously to the local soup kitchen.

Emerson, that jackass, perfecting the humble brag since 1841.
Well, I'm not going to do it this year. This year, I'm talking about a couple of things I am decidedly NOT thankful for.

People Who Don't Understand the Difference Between the Artist and the Art

In 2012, convicted cult-leader, mass-murderer, and admittedly under-appreciated musician, Charlie Manson was denied parole for like the bazilliongillionth time, and this week, uncontent to wait until his next hearing in 2027, he decided to take the matter to a higher court.

The title here says it all.

Anyway, while many of us took the day to celebrate (and others, mostly the younger folks, took the day to mourn the wrong guy), comedian Norm MacDonald, learned the hard way that sarcasm is really hard to convey via the written word (especially when that written word is limited to 140 characters).


The replies were, shall we say, less than aware of MacDonald's verbal irony:


Here's the problem with many of today's readers: They are so accustomed to being outraged by anything that doesn't fit with their own schema that they have lost the ability to stop and think about the purpose behind a piece of writing. Did the author really mean this apparently insane thing he wrote? He must have. He wrote it.

This problem appears in book reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, too. When an author includes, say, a bad guy who is a racist and member of the Klan, some reviewers will accuse the author of himself being a racist if he allows this backwards, racist antagonist to use a racial slur.

Don't believe me? Check how often Mark Twain, William Faulkner, and Robert Penn Warren have been accused of racism because of the actions of their obviously racist characters.

Unconstructive Criticism

Look, it's not that I don't like bad reviews (I mean, I don't, but that's not the point I'm making here). If I have to get a bad review, I'd like to know more of what you don't like about my book. Who knows? Maybe I will make a change in my next effort. It's not really likely, but possible.

Here's what I mean:


Despite the insulting tone, at least this reviewer tells me something specific about the work he or she found unappealing. I mean, clearly they are wrong, and couldn't be more wrong if they studied for being wrong and snuck crib notes into the being wrong test, but they gave me something to think about.

Here's another one that kind of works:


This one even gives some positive points about the book before giving specific issues he has. Of course, his problem with there not being Volumes 3 & 4 in a book clearly marked Volumes 1 & 2 seems a bit self-explanatory, but still...

This guy, though:
Really? Well thanks for sharing that razor-sharp insight, Bob. I'll get right on that for you. My next novel will be 300 pages of blank pages so you can stop reading it much sooner. I mean seriously, how is anyone supposed to make an educated decision on whether or not this book is for them with this?

And this one?

This one is just mean. Don't be this person. I mean, at the end of the day, the joke's on them: Every review, good or bad, helps get my book more recognition and exposure on Amazon, but still...

My grandmother always said that if I didn't have anything good to say I needed to keep my ignorant pie-hole shut. I disagree. Tell me the bad stuff, but give me something to refute or work with.

So that's it for this Unthanksgiving post. If you live in America, I sincerely wish you a happy Thanksgiving. May your day be full of dressing and empty of bodily injuries and emotional blackmail. If you live anywhere else, happy Thursday!




* which according to Forbes is literally a mystery toy, you don't know what you have until you buy it (kind of like politics).

7 comments:

griseldaheppel said...

I wish Thanksgiving would come more often, if it means more posts like these.

Thank you, Lev, I'll be laughing every time I think of this for the rest of today. I particularly like the humble brag bit. We don't have thanksgiving here in the U.K. (yet), we just have 12 days of Christmas, giving plenty of opportunity for all the joyous behavior described above, several times over with different family configurations.

As for the mean Amazon reviews - yikes! Some people (and the internet does attract them) just love being gratuitously unpleasant, seeing no need to provide reason or justification for their bile. Funnily enough, one of the reviews did catch my interest: a western based on the knights of the round table - what a brilliant idea. Must look it up.

Jan Needle said...

Lovely. I particularly like Rick with a silent p and the snot-nosed baby who wiped out a whole community. Thanksgiving? Bring it on!

Bill Kirton said...

Jan beat me to it on the 'silent P' reference. Thanks, Lev - a very enjoyable post which, I'm sure, echoes thoughts that most of us have had (and still have) about both the hypocrisies of the season and the inanity of some reviewers. I'll no doubt be using your Rick gag, probably more than once - but I promise I'll acknowledge my source.

Dennis Hamley said...

Brilliant, Lev. Rioujtouly profound, if you see what I mean. he silent 'p' reminds me of:

Had a flu jab yesterday. Not nice.
Did you feel a prick?
Well, I wasn't very happy about it.

Sorry about that.

Reb MacRath said...

Terrific, Lev. Anyone who's published ought to give Thanks for this one. I too salute the silent P.

Umberto Tosi said...

Yeah! Thanks for nothing, Lev! (... except for lots of laughs and a palate-cleanser from all the turkey day cliches starting with the Macy's morning parade and ending with a tryptophan coma. There's no escaping another holiday season, now upon us under Santa Trump's jackboots.) Happy holidays and up with literary Grinches.

Dennis Hamley said...

in case anyone read it and wondered ' the third word in my comment is ment bto be 'Rioutously'.