If you can’t say anything nice…

Mother’s advice has always been, If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. After reading Martin Levin’s article in The Globe & Mail‘s book section on Saturday, You suck, and so does your writing, I considered that, really, a bad or vindictive review of an author or their work speaks so much more about the reviewer than the reviewed – volumes, in fact. Why would someone jump to review a book, or its author, that they knowingly do not like? For the chance to destroy someone’s career, get even, envy of success? It’s certainly not for the free review copy, because if their review shows they hate the book that much, they wouldn’t want to keep it on their shelf for long. And, actually, since there is no such thing as bad publicity, what they’re ultimately doing, even with a scathing review, is drawing attention to exactly what they think doesn’t deserve it. If you want to sink a book and/or its author – don’t say anything about it at all. Much, much more effective. Besides, as I said in the beginning, a bad review says more about the reviewer, about their motives, their grinding axes, what side of the bed they got out of that morning. If they think they’re being funny or clever, they usually aren’t. Nasty is never funny, or clever.

And the worst, worst, worst thing anyone can ever say in a review is, “This can’t be all that good, or the author isn’t important, because I’ve never heard of the book or author before.” I know they think that’s supposed to cast aspersions on the reviewed, but what it tells me is that the reviewer was too lazy (or felt themselves to be too important) to bother doing any research.

Two members of my email writing group replied with the following observations:

Gah. Hilarious quotes. But what a way to live, whichever side of the firing line one happens to stand on. If you all don’t mind, I’m going to let your successes and brilliance make me reach higher and deeper, so I deserve to stay in your company. ~ Darcie

Exactly. All that kvetching… What a waste of brilliant artistic energy that would be so much better placed in the writing of a novel about writers kvetching about each other… That it’s all too prevalent in reality is unsettling. Then again, maybe just a kind of sport. Literary jousting. Something to keep the blood circulating after too many hours in the company of semi-colons. ~ Carin

So I will never review a book to slam it, or its author. If I don’t like a book, you will never hear it from me, not on this blog, nor on Reading Recommendations. But you can be guaranteed that if I do review something, and say that I like and recommend it, or shout-out an author whose work should be noticed and praised, you can believe me. What’s the point of saying something that isn’t nice?


2 responses

  1. I recall speaking to a book review editor who commented that he had not liked a particular book. To be fair, he gave it to another reporter to read, who also did not enjoy the volume. At that point, he decided not to assign the title for review. As he said, there is no point in slamming a book (unless it was by a very big name, such as Danielle Steele or Stephen King). I applaud his stance: life is too short to spend time dragging others down.

  2. I suppose I should add that I’m not immune to jealousy. Or annoyance when really stupid books, badly written, sell more copies than there are trees. But… BUT! There’s a choice about whether to let a pinprick of jealousy turn into a festering sore that next infects the blood with its poison. I don’t want to live that way. So, like you, Susan, I will not print reviews of books I don’t like (which is not to say I won’t discuss them with others).


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