In the ten or so weeks since the start of 2013, A Friend of the Family, my most recent novel, has racked up - hold on, I’m subtracting - 174 reviews on Amazon. Just to give you a sense of how many reviews that is, my previous novel, Reproduction is the Flaw of Love, has been out in the world for almost a decade and has garnered a mere 18.
Friend’s newfound popularity is due, in part, to a new e-book promotion from Algonquin, my wonderful publishers, and in part (I hope) to word of mouth. But while it’s very nice to be reviewed frequently and lovingly, it’s very queasy-making when so many of these new reviews say things like “holy crap this book was boring,” “it was so so so boring,” or “this book was free and still not worth the money.” Before the e-book promotion, Friend’s reviews were 90% positive. Now they’re much more mixed. So one thing I’m curious about is whether e-books attract readers who are looking for different things than hard-copy book readers, and another thing is whether people who read e-books are much more likely to review online. I’m a creaky old Luddite in just about every possible way, so my favorite books are the ones on paper, stacked up next to my bed. And I’ve only reviewed four or five books online in my entire life. Going online to tell the world what I think is just not my natural response to reading.
That said, one great lesson from the Amazon Review Onslaught is that I’ve stopped caring so much what other people think, because once the fifteenth person has told you your book is “so boring” and misspelled both the words “boring” and “so,” you start to realize that not everybody shares your taste or your sensibilities (or your orthography). You also realize that this is fine. I have different taste than some of the people I trust the most in the world. My husband loves difficult Latin American surrealist fiction. My son loves Captain Underpants. I love Lolita, Mr. Bridge and Mrs. Bridge, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, Kelly Braffet’s novels, especially her new one coming out, almost anything by Graham Greene, The Remains of the Day, The Stone Diaries, Love in the Time of Cholera, MFK Fisher’s essays about eating, and everything Laurie Colwin ever wrote.
But many people I love don’t love any of these books or writers, which is hard for me to understand, but is true. And many other people can tolerate these books, but what they really love is speculative science fiction, or futuristic erotica, or difficult Latin American surrealism. So fine. Some people don’t like what I’ve written, but I like what I’ve written, for the most part, and know that if I can connect with even a handful of readers then I’ve done what I’ve set out to do, times a handful.
This new and fortunate understanding has affected the way I think about other things too: my teaching, the writing of my new novel. I’m less outside my head now. I’ve stopped, for the most part, second-guessing myself or my plans. And this confidence is, in part, because of all those bad reviews. Isn’t that strange? But it turns out that even when I do the best I can do, I can’t make everyone happy. So I guess I might as well start, as they say, by pleasing myself.
I know appropriation fuckery can be exhausting
its like a never ending wheel of “goddamn it really?!”
but Urban Outfitters is a filthy rich company that will continue profiting off the cultures of the global POC diaspora if we don’t say anything
sign the petition
tweet urban outfitters and let them know cultures are not for sale
I FUCKING HATE URBAN OUTFITTERS