Consider the source (rise of the cleverati)


Colleen just sent me a link to a snarky review of her latest book, and it put me in mind of a formative experience from my youth:

Charged at the tender age of 16 with the task of writing a huge term paper on the use of humor in Great Expectations, I procrastinated until the weekend before it was due, begged my big sister Diana to tell me about the book, then plied my precocious writing abilities, cranking out forty pages of double-spaced BS. When the papers were handed back a few weeks later, I'd gotten an A, which didn't surprise me because I always got an A in English. My teacher proceeded with class, something about sonnets, I think, but during his lecture, he paused and thought for a moment. He walked over to my desk, took my paper, etched over the A with an emphatic red F and wrote below it, "You are such a clever writer! You almost had me believing you read this book."

I happened upon that paper in my archives several years ago, and by cracky, it was clever. It was funny. (A whole lot funnier than Great friggin' Expectations, which I did eventually read.) It was well written. I have no idea what tipped him off. And I'm not convinced that I deserved that F. After all, I'd written forty clever pages. That's worth something...right?

The realm of book reviews has gotten agonizingly clever. (The term "snarky" basically means "shitty and meanspirited, but clever, by cracky!") You still have legit reviewers writing for the big venues, but low rent reviews are mostly written by a group I just this morning dubbed "the cleverati" who are primarily interested in showcasing their own talent for bitch-slapping authors who have no venue to talk back. There are a handful of infamous blogs dedicated to the express purpose of trashing books. Why would someone dedicate time and energy to reading and reviewing books they've decided in advance to hate? Your guess is as good as mine. The blogs aren't widely read. They basically exist to provide a format for members of the cleverati to revel in their oh-so-sassy glow stick wit.

From my pinnacle of 16-year-old wisdom, cleverness was enough. Nowadays, I'm shooting for actual insight.

Oddly enough, the snarky reviewer of Colleen's book sullenly concluded that Colleen was being shortlisted as a favorite author. In fact, the reviewer had read Colleen's last book and hated it enough to rush out and buy this one. We laughed about it. But Colleen is a seasoned pro. A first time author comes away from that sort of thing feeling utterly gut-shot. All we battle-scarred Amazons can offer by way of comfort is a shake of the head, a roll of the eyes, and a heapin' helpin' of "consider the source".

Comments

Ah, the sour stench of grudgingly-given admiration!

Thanks for the great post. Love the bunnies, too!

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