Michael Wolff of the Guardian UK, was affronted by the hiring of a book author for the New York Times Book Review, Susan Braudy, who he considers is not-shall we say-of the upper echelon of literary society. You know, those upper crust, over educated, pernicious, stick up their arses literary geniuses. It seems Michael Wolff is distraught over the death of the great writers/editors/reviewers who wielded great power and lorded over all others/comers in fiction. Is the power of a review on the precipice of a demise? What really is the New York Times saying when they sweep out the old and sneak in the new?
The dumbing down of literary fiction? The dumbing down of expectations of what reviews have evolved into? If you hadn’t noticed, the esteemed review systems have taken a huge hit in credibility in the last few years.
Authors have taken it upon themselves to attempt to circumvent this system by either buying reviews, usually 5 stars, and why would you pay for anything less, or they talk unsuspecting friends and family members into giving them a boost. What family member wouldn’t? When your son or daughter begs, ‘please mommy”, what’s a parent to do I ask you?
This idea-cheating, started small and spread like a virus. When caught, they defended themselves, like any good little author would do-they lied through their teeth. The reviewers said, “game on”.
Well, the first thought that traversed my brain was this, it was inevitable. With the Amazon review policies in place it was inevitable.
Too easy to cheat was staring them in the face and it was only a matter of time before some eager beaver figured out how to get around the system so they could make more money from sales, by boosting their 5 star ratings. Goodreads didn’t help either, I know I have been a member of each of these sites neigh on 4 years, watching, waiting for someone to blow a gasket. It would only take a small voice, that one small voice to grow into a mob.
Most well known published authors would never need to lie, cheat and steal positive reviews. So what authors does that leave us? New, self-published and Indie authors who decided they had no other way to achieve what they so desperately wanted, and everyone knows in this day and age-we all want it now!
But wait a moment. Has the quality of reviews on the more or less popular sites really brought about the dumbing down, or at least the expectations of excellent reviews? I say-yes.
When your average Tom, Dick and Harry can wield about the kind of power over an authors sales and career that once was the upper stratosphere domain of the snotty two-shoes, it was inevitable. I have read the reviews both on Amazon and Goodreads first hand. If I had to depend on reviews, I wouldn’t know which end was up from the other. The fights in the comments of each review reminds me of the UFC or cage fighting. Come to think of it, maybe that’s not such a bad idea. At least they could find some resolution.
1.) Two lines, (maybe) I liked it or disliked it.
2.) The cover sucked. 1 star
3.) I don’t usually read this crap-trap, but I tried and gave it 2 stars.
4.) I didn’t finish the book and threw it across the room 2 stars
5.) I heard that the author argues in the comments on poor reviews, so even though I didn’t read it I’m giving it 2 stars.
6.) This is the most fantastic book EVAH 5 stars
7.) I will dance around this with a bunch of $64 dollar words and say nothing really 5 stars
8.) This is so beyond obvious it’s a sock puppet 5 stars
9.) This kind is also obviously friends and family 5 stars and may I give it more stars please!
10.) And this is where reputable reviews come in-2 or 3 paragraphs describing the plot, the protagonist and secondary characters, the flow, the arc of the book/series, why they liked it or disliked it in detail, the quality of the writing.
Between the authors falsifying and biting back and the reviewers thinking I’m bigger, badder, leaner, meaner and because I can, nanner, nanner, the review systems have failed-miserably. Reviews still do not guarantee you will be satisfied with the product, as reviews are nothing more than personal taste. In the end you will have to make your own decision on whether to buy or not.
Where do you find a reputable reviewer? There are reputable reviewers in any of the genres you happen to be reading. There may be some of the top reviewers on any site by rating, or by reputation from any one of the forums on Amazon, they can recommend one for you. There are thousands of book blogs out there who write reviews on Amazon as well. If you choose a book blog reviewer they will state that in their title. Check out their blog and see if they are the right fit, in the right genre for you.
As for Susan Braudy making her first foray into the New York Times, in my opinion, is still a big deal. I think that her credentials are not all bad. She did write books which were published, she is an author, a journalist and has written for the New York Times, Newsweek, Ms. and Atlantic Monthly. Her most recent book nominated for a Pulitzer is, Family Circle: The Boudins And The Aristocracy Of The Left.
Her other novels include: Who Killed Sal Mineo, What The Movies Made Me Do, Between Marriage And Divorce A Woman’s Diary, This Crazy Thing Called Love, which is a non-fiction account of the Woodward family. She was Vice-President of Warner Bros. and blogs about Manhattan life in her blog: Manhattan Voyeur.
The least we can do is give her a chance. A younger, fresher, hipper version is not akin to throwing literature out a New York skyscraper window. Considering what’s getting published (Fifty Shades comes to mind) a fresh pair of eyes is exactly what’s needed, but at least the old humbugs are out of there.