Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Reviews, Opinions, and Mudwrestling

As a writer of a blog, I have an opinion on this review thing which is....

No, wait. I have a lot of opinions. Sounding a touch like Dr. Suess here, I even have opinions on opinions. I have opinions on people expressing opinions too. (Why is it that when I type "opinions" it comes out as "pononions"? Onions grown by the Pon-People? Ahem. Back to the subject at hand.)

I recently experienced a personal reaction to pictures sent to me by my beloved Mother-in-Law, and the reaction was clear enough that I was moved to write about it in my blog. A "pro-life" blogger picked up the post, and along with people who agree with her, decided that I must have had an abortion, or that I was a very very sick puppy to have had the reaction that I did. Interesting leap.

For four years I have sat on my School Board. I ran for office because I was a concerned enough parent that I became truly worried that the educational system was going to affect my children if I didn't do something about the decision-making. So I ran for a seat and (gasp) won office. Oh, the folly of that thought process. What was I thinking?

During those four years, I have had to think very carefully about opinions, priorities and reactions. I have had to frame my arguments *just so* in order to communicate them clearly. For about two years, I have had a personal blog, and I have run into this "what is a review" question over and over again. I think the reason authors, readers, and bloggers can't quite come to an agreement on this question is because the question itself is flawed. I believe that the question which underpins "the review question" and which is not being addressed, is "I have an opinion. What do I expect other people to do with it?"

If I read a book and hate it, should I express that opinion? In general, I do not think that the Romance community (whatever that is) is going to say, "No." But there is a lot of verbiage about how to temper your remarks so as not to insult the author or her readers or her booksales. I'll get back to that response in a sec.

If I see a political decision on the horizon and think it's a terrible idea, should I say so? What if a group of parents spend hours and hours on an unsolicited project and then report to me their findings? Do I have to accept their report and their findings if I think both are flawed (because to do otherwise would hurt the parents' feelings)?

When I was in the minority, there were many calls for unanimous votes, because minority opinions were "divisive." Now that I'm in the majority, the same folks who used to cry for the end of divisiveness are clamoring for "expressions of independent thinking." Interesting leap.

It all goes back to what you want OTHER people to do with your opinion.

I don't know about you, but I am a brilliant person. I am cultured, articulate, respectful, wise, modest and use polysyllabic words. Therefore, you all agree with me. If you read something here that you do not agree with, then you have not thought the issue through carefully enough. Really. If you have a certain opinion, and I express a differing opinion, then clearly I having a bad day, perhaps engaging in a hissy fit on my blog, crying out for attention and doing my very best to destroy an Innocent's reputation. You know that about me, and I'm glad to prove your thesis correct. It's always good to always be right.

Gee, Suisan, you think. That was a bit off. Well, no. I think it sums up the What Do We Do With Our Opinions conundrum quite well. If you are right, clear and just in your thinking, then no one can have a differing opinion, because logically, that person must be flawed, befuddled and unjustified in their thinking.

I see it in politics. I think that President Bush should not have gone to Iraq. Obviously you all agree with me. Every single person on this planet must, because it's the right opinion. Well, I guess President Bush doesn't agree with me. But that hardly means that I want rabid pitbulls to drag him from the Oval Office and attack his children. I'm not a mean person. I don't want him dead or maimed. I just don't agree with him.

I see it in reviews. I greatly disliked a number of books that I've written about. (I STILL get flashbacks to the rage I felt at reading a certain book about a circus. ::shudder::) Obviously you all agree with me, and those who recommended the book to me must have done so only to tweak my sensibilities to watch me writhe on the ground. Like Bull Baiting, only one step removed. Well, I guess the author doesn't agree with me. Or some of her fans. But I don't have anything against her, no bone to pick. I'm not a mean person. I just didn't like it.

I think the writing of reviews, or commentary, or recommendations, or whatever we want to call these things which show up here on blogs and are not published in trade magazines and are not published on Amazon and are not used by publishers to track sales, is not the source of the continuing "review" discussion in Romancelandia. The writing is not the thing. Even the reading of the piece is not the thing.

It's that sense of outraged injustice someone somewhere feels when they read something they do not agree with. I do it. Everyone does from time to time.

How Ridiculous!
How could she SAY such a thing?
Did she think before she typed?

But then you have to get over yourself. Calm down. If you want to respond, fine. Then do so. But to pretend that everyone has to have the same opinion, or that only the "nice" opinions should be stated is ridiculous. Even in Grade School you ARE allowed to say not nice things. No name calling. No attacks on a person's parentage. But even Kindergartners are allowed, nay ENCOURAGED, to say, "I don't like this. Can I try something else? Can I sit next to someone else today?" It's a measure of emotional intelligence, logical skills, and self-assessment to describe your own experience to others. Educators and psychologists work for years to get kids to say what they do and do not like. It reduces bullying, reduces anxiety, and increases self-value and peer relations.

I know we can all agree to that. Right?

Now. Where's that book I was going to write about? I know you'll agree with every word I write about it. Because I'm just that brilliant.


Bookwormom said...

Polysyllabic. Love that word. And yes, you are correct. We all need to grow up. :)

Suisan said...

I'm so pleased that you agree with me.

Bev (BB) said...

You are brilliant. Er, what did you say? ;p

Just wish I could figure out what circus book you were talking about . . .

Suisan said...

Bev, it starts with the word: Kiss.

Care to name that tune?

(By the way, it wasn't a completely horrible book. I just went off on a rant in which I sort of hurt myself because I dredged up a) too many circus memories and b) a level of indignation which did damage to my solar plexus. The rant's on here somewhere. Oh god. What have I done? ANOTHER round of nutcases are going to show up now to put me in my place.)