Looks Like I’ve Done It To Myself Again

     Oh my dear, sweet, all-forgiving God. Oh most gracious ruler of the Universe, whose will brought forth the worlds and whose love enfolds them still. Why do You permit me to agree to these things?

     I’ve told myself over and over: Do not respond positively to a review request. I’ve reminded myself of the horrors that have always ensued. I’ve lamented the lost time, the bruised egos, and the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. Yet every so often I find myself saying, “Oh, sure, if you’ll read and review one of mine.” What follows has always been a season in Hell.

     It’s happened again. Correction: I’ve let myself in for it again. Yes, yes, I know: I have only myself to blame. Still, please allow me this cri de coeur. Only thus can I detoxify the urge to hunt down the requestor and murder him in his sleep.

     Why can’t I learn? Why can’t I just chuckle cynically over the solicitations, then delete them and move on as if they’d never arrived? Is it a misplaced notion about what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself?” Or is it some as-yet-unexpunged puddle of optimism about my fellow indies, after so many disappointments over so many years? The former might be excused under the “he was just having a senior moment” paradigm, but for one who styles himself a Curmudgeon Emeritus, the latter would verge on unforgivable.

     But I’m committed. I must read this steaming pile of offal all the way to the end and find something gentle to say about it. I’d rather seek out the perpetrator and force him to take four years of Remedial English. After that, I’d compel him to read five hundred well-written fantasy novels – out loud, while I listen. But that’s probably a felony in this state. Anyway, my pastor would not approve.

     Pray for me, Gentle Reader. I’m so close to doing something untoward. Faking my own death comes to mind. But it would be rather difficult to keep writing and blogging after that, so…

     Just pray for me. Great God in Heaven, what a fool I am!


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    • Steve Walton on May 26, 2022 at 6:31 PM

    For God’s sake, Francis, don’t read it all the way to the end, just skim it all the way to the end. If it’s that bad, you don’t have to savor every word! You only need a vague grasp of what’s going on. You can comment on the overall ebb and flow, you know, the low-frequency signals you’ll pick up below the Nyquist frequency even if you sample only the first sentence of every other paragraph. It’s usually pretty easy to say something like, “Starts clean, builds nicely to an ending!”, or “Didn’t put me to sleep!”, or something equally ambiguous.

    1. I wish I could bring myself to that, Steve, but I’m also ruefully glad that I can’t. I promised a review. I’m an honest reviewer; I neither praise not criticize except from what I’ve read. Anyway, it has put me to sleep. Twice. And that’s after reading only a quarter of it.

      How do you tell a perfectly nice, or at least nice-seeming, correspondent that he doesn’t seem to know how to tell a story? That it’s not enough to invoke mythical gods and monsters, or the prophesied end of the world? That heroes and villains both must be introduced with care, not simply labeled “good guy” and “bad guy?” That the point is never events, no matter how big or showy, but the people they affect and how they change in response to them?

      The source of a story’s power to grip and compel is something that eludes 99% of the people who try their hand at this — and that is a legitimate catastrophe. Not because the world of ebooks is cluttered with badly told stories, but because a story properly told has the power of a hundred-megaton bomb. There’s nothing to compare to it. Indeed, virtually the whole of human existence is propelled by narratives of some sort. Who, for example, has ever successfully sold his wares without embedding them in a story of some kind? Who has ever won the heart of his beloved without a moving personal story, whether about her or himself? Great God in heaven, who can even go on from day to day, in this world of savagery, madness, and unremitting toil, without a good sold story to move him?

      I wish I still had the energy required to teach. I can think of nothing that deserves or demands more attention.

        • Steve Walton on May 27, 2022 at 8:12 AM

        Indeed. There is a reason the Left jumps on any newsworthy event out there with the goal of “controlling the narrative”.

    • Univ of Saigon 68 on May 27, 2022 at 11:50 AM

    I’m not reviewing any books, but for general reading, my rule of thumb is if it hasn’t grabbed me by (100 minus my age) pages, I abandon it. In my experience, they hardly ever get better. As I get older, the cut-off gets shorter, because life’s too short to read bad books.

    1. Well, yes, that’s a wise policy…but when you’ve been foolish enough to promise to read the BLEEP!ing thing and provide a review of it, you’re in a different situation. My situation, today. So I have to follow through. I will. Hopefully it will earn me a few XP in the Game of Life and Coping With Bad Decisions, but that’s to the side.

    • Margaret Ball on May 27, 2022 at 5:46 PM

    My mantra is, “Know how it starts, know how it ends, and find something nice to say about the mess in between.”

    The third part isn’t always easy.

    ”You’ve definitely used words to compose this.”

    ”My, you certainly use a lot of verbs, don’t you?”

    ”Some of these strings of words are actual sentences.”

    ”It’s clear that you care about your characters (Somebody has to.)”

    “The surroundings are exceptionally thoroughly described (I think. I fell asleep after the fiftieth page of description.)

    If you want to risk being just a teensy bit critical, you could go with, “Dialogue doesn’t always have to be grammatically correct (but you might want to rethink the other 95% of your words.)”

    1. “Every one of the parts of speech is represented here!”

    • Univ of Saigon 68 on May 27, 2022 at 6:43 PM

    As my grandma used to say, “You made you bed . . .”

    • Ilana on May 28, 2022 at 5:24 PM

    You could try just describing your own personal reaction. “I personally prefer to understand more about the main characters when they’re first introduced, so I can place them in context.” “I was confused by X.” “I relate better to dialogue than to description, so in this spot, you might consider substituting dialogue for description.” “I always enjoy reading stories about X.”

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