Reviewer or Critic?

Last week I learned that someone had written a review on my book, and it made me so happy that I wanted to do the same for someone else, pay it forward so to speak. It was easy. All I did was go to Amazon.com, find her book (Getting Maisie Married by Martha Alston), and write the review. Not too long, not too short, just right. In fact, Amazon provides guidelines that are quite helpful. It was fun and rewarding so I decided to write a few more.

Where have I been???? Seems like everyone and her sister have been in on the bandwagon except for me. My elation soon turned to sadness, however, as I read so many negative comments by readers across America. By negative, I really mean hateful, cruel, cutting, stinging, caustic, and acerbic. What would prompt a person to be so brutally vindictive towards a fellow human being?

Yes, I’ve read books that were poorly written, had no plot, were “simple,” or sophomoric, and yet I never felt compelled to berate the author or his creation in front of the world. What’s the point of that? To make oneself feel superior? To gain respect? To wound the author? To me, reviewer and critic are different terms with different meanings.  

My sweet momma always told me not to say anything unless I could say something nice, and I try (with limited success) to follow her advice. Like all mortals, I slip and fall…usually quite often And doesn’t the Bible warn us repeatedly of the power of words?

So what’s up with these mean comments? Maybe I’m looking at this all wrong. If so, please straight me out. In the meantime, I’m going to put even more effort into speaking and writing kind words. Will you join me?

Author: jayne bowers

*married with children, stepchildren, grandchildren, in-laws, ex-laws, and a host of other family members and fabulous friends *semi-retired psychology instructor at two community colleges *writer

12 thoughts on “Reviewer or Critic?”

  1. I have always tried to be cognizant of my language. After I went to that retreat in March, Christine pointed out some things that we do not even realize we are saying or doing. Each day I strive to improve in the way I interact with people. I too received the message if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all.

  2. i have written a book also mariajayne, it is a 550 page autobiography called IGNOBLE ENIGMA, YOU PROBABLY KNOW THE DEFINITION OF THOSE TWO WORDS, i gave a lesson in high priests on the atonement and talked about how to overcome our ignoble or crass tendencies and was told that man generally was better than i was portraying, so be it

  3. One of the attorneys that I used to work with, wrote a book. (In fact, he was doing that much of the time we were at work.) I’ve read it, I’ve seen the cover and jacket art, seen his picture, and read the synopsis. Even his pen name is ridiculous.

    I can’t express how awful this book is. And he pinned his hopes and dreams on it. This book will make him rich and allow him to escape from practicing law. He’ll feel fulfilled and passionate about following his dream.

    I tried at first to help. He asked me to read his book and give him my opinion. So I did. (Suitably tactful.) But instead of being interested in what I had mentioned, he got defensive and started defending his book. Then I knew; he doesn’t want me to do anything but rubberstamp his book.

    When his book gets published, and posted on Amazon, he will get eviscerated.

  4. Barlow, I guess you know by now that you have to be tough-skinned to write a book because…well, you know why. Still, I think it’s better (from my perspective) for a person to keep quiet or to be as mercifully tactful as possible instead of making mean and hateful comments. I also believe that “what goes around comes around,” and that sooner or later, those who attack others so cruelly will themselves be attacked…or one of their loved ones.

  5. Hayden, great story. You’re so right…lots of people do just want you to rubberstamp their work, and yet it puts the friend, co-worker, or family member on the spot. I’ve been there and have so far managed to say things like “interesting” and get away with it.

    Evisceration sounds painful! This person asked you for your opinion, and you were honest (as tactfully honest as possible). What I’m curious about is why people give unsolicited criticism that is so overwhelmingly vindictive…not just on Amazon but everywhere.

  6. Marlajayne, I think that the key word in your question is “Unsolicited”. People who offer such vindictive criticism are just plain mean or oblivious. On the other hand, if I have a stewardship over a person such as a child, student, employee… they deserve the unrestrained truth put forth kindly. And, if solicited, truth should be spoken (again, as kindly as possible.)

  7. Janet, Great point about the stewardship. It really hit home because of a couple of issues that I need to deal with. I need to take your advice and give the unrestrained truth; what’s the point of giving a double layer of sugar coating when something truly needs to be said?

  8. people who have critized my book have told me why they do it…they can’t conceive of barlow with a book, you get no respect in “what good thing could come out of ephraim”, and they feel superior over you, and makes up for them not having written a book

  9. Hi Jayne.

    It’s been a while. 🙂 I love reading your blog when I get achance because I always know something new will be posted.

    This is a timely topic for me. I think that I have decided that criticism with a message behind it of “you could do better, here’s what I have to say that will send you in the right direction” is good criticism and everyone needs it in all aspects of their lives, whether they want it or not.

    I think that the uneccesary stuff is like Simon Cowell’s “you will never be a star, just go have fun singing in your shower”. You watch the talented people on American Idol and you know that’s a load of garbage, he’s just saying it to sound smart. SO I think that you’re right… people who do it to make themselves feel smart and built themselves up will only hurt others. People who do it with the intent to build and help someone along their way are doing it because they care and truly want to help.

    Though it is always hard to have something you have worked on and poured lots of emotion and expectation into be dissected and coldly evaluated.
    (there’s an awkward sentence if I’ve ever written one.)

  10. Sarah, So nice to see a post from you again. I KNOW how busy you must be with your new little one.

    Sounds as if we’re thinking the same way. I can take “criticism with a message” that you described, and I can surely see the point of it. For instance, in ENG 101 I remember the wise words of my professor that both helped and annoyed me. I started a sentence with “Needless to say,” and then went on to elaborate about something. Well, she struck through the entire paragraph and left me a note asking why I’d written it if it was indeed “needless to say.” I was so angry! How dare she do that??? However, she was right, and that taught me a valuable lesson.

    About Simon, I don’t watch American Idol, but my husband does, and last night I was working on the computer in the room where he was watching it. I couldn’t help but overhear this Simon character bashing people. I was astonished! Why does anyone have to be so hateful?

    Hey, I like your “awkward” sentence and concur completely. A person has to be a bit tough skinned to be a writer. As I was reading the harsh reviews of Liz Gilbert’s Eat, Love, Pray, I wondered if she cried all the way to the bank. I doubt it, don’t you?

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