trust and kindness and book reviews

Today I experienced a deception from someone I thought was trustworthy. It led me to think about how some people and organisations seem to be untrustworthy in the service of their own ego, rather than fear and financial profit. I wondered if that was because we live in such an intensely competitive world now, and some want to set themselves up as superior to others because it makes them feel safer. I certainly think there's a lot of self-deception that happens with such people and organisations, making them not so much ill-intending as misguided.

I wrote about this here, and was clear that I was making a general observation, not talking about anyone in particular.

So far, so good.




But then I wrote about my trust issues as a reader. Specifically about how my expectations are sometimes not matched by what lies within the books I choose. Mostly this is about marketing - about how covers and blurbs can draw a reader in with the idea that a story is one thing, when it would be better described as being something else altogether.

I ended up deleting the post. I do think this is an interesting topic for contemplation, but I'm terrified people will think I intended a negative review about any particular book. I definitely didn't. Firstly, reviews aren't all that helpful, in my opinion. What one reader loves, another will not. For that matter, what I love one day I may not another, depending on my mood and what I need from a book at a certain time. But also, writing is a difficult and raw-hearted process. I would not want to discourage anyone from it, or make them feel bad about what they'd achieved. For these reasons, I no longer give reviews about books unless I can gush over them.

However, I felt my post might be interpreted as a review, so I deleted it.

The internet is a difficult place sometimes. Getting one's intention across without inadvertently offending anyone can be really hard to do. Does this mean we never share an opinion or thought, but go on blandly talking about the weather or our laundry? Or do we share ideas and hope that our spirit shines through? Always trying to not give offence can be just as dangerous as giving it. Political correctness can cause great harm to individuals and societies, even though its intention is good. How can we be kind while still discussing thorny issues?

Blogger friends, what do you think?




17 comments:

  1. I KNOW! What's that all about? I recently wrote a comment on a blog where the woman was basically saying, "look at this lovely house, too bad it's been for sale for over a year and no one wants to buy it" and I said...very gently, I thought..."too bad it's surrounded by houses for sale with much lower prices, that must make it hard", and "It's nice to see history preserved, in Vancouver history is being lost to new developments owing to the very high real estate prices", and got back a reply attack about calling the neighbourhood cheap, vilifying my choice to live in Vancouver and total hanging on to just about anything which could be twisted as negative. WOW! Needless to say I totally deleted that blog from my favourites list. Oh well, you get all sorts, I guess. Happily, there are millions of blogs out there for me to discover, and happily again, I can delete the living daylights out of any comment on my own blog so I tend not to worry about being politically correct in my views (although mostly the only things I tend to be up in arms about would probably send everyone up in arms too). :D So, books. Hmm, I read millions of books (marginal exaggeration), and it seems to me I tend to re read Terry Pratchett a heck of a lot to get a particularly bad book out of my head. I don't really do book reviews, but then again, I don't tend to take other people's tastes to heart either. I suppose the sorts of things which influence me in book choices are: Robert, my children, BBC or CBC reviews on the radio while I'm driving and actually listening, books under $1 or £1 at garage sales and car boots, or actually reading the plot, or part of the plot on Wiki. (I know, I'm bad...lol)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love your comment ... I only have a minute but just have to say TERRY PRATCHETT! Yes!! Just finished Thief of Time for the hundredth time and was actually going to write a post about how sad I felt realising all over again that I'd never be able to read a sequel to Lobsang and Susan's story. :-(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, I know! Robert and I just re read all the discworld as a memorial. (well, R re read them all...at the speed of lightning...he read so fast, I've only re read a portion) So sad as well, and to read T P's daughter has said that the discworld is finished now, but we're really looking forward to the last Tiffany book out in Sept. It's on offer here in E at half price pre order, but I'll be back in Vancouver by then.

      Delete
  3. Oops! Should have thought longer before I commented last time, just the way my brain was jumping this afternoon. It is an interesting and complex issue. I'll adjust my comment to say there are few authors I can trust my self to wholeheartedly love, including the classics, and I also put a funny (misguided?) trust in the feel and weight of a book in my hands, I find online book purchases frightening and disheartening all at once, but your words, in all their formats, blogs, comments, poems, e-books, printed out papers bound with ribbon, hold a dear place always in my heart and transcend my fear and distrust of this often fleeting online world of words. <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your comment was perfectly innocent and reasonable, and the fact is I should have been able to mention it by name but these days one is told to definitely not give a negative opinion of a book, especially not when one is a writer themselves. It's bad business. This really worries me, because if we can't discuss honestly the books we read, then how can the public be gatekeepers in the new open field of publishing? But I decided to be kind to myself and water down the conversation :-) And kinder to the author too, because after all my personal opinion is just that, and perhaps I'd feel quite differently next week.

      Delete
    2. Oh, and thank you so much for all your kind words about my own writing :-) You give me courage to keep writing on the days I wonder if I've lost all the words in the world.

      Delete
  4. Back in the day, blogging was about having the freedom to speak your mind on your blog usually anonymously. I loved blogging then and I still do. Whether right or wrong, censoring our writing will likely be the death of blogging as it is. Unlike Facebook, which is a "community" where you are not allowed to be anonymous ( even your grandma knows where to find you) blogs offer us a place to express ourselves without others in the "community" having something to say about it, or we can open our blogs up to comments if we want to hear what others have to say, but we have to be willing to accept their opinions, even if we don't agree. While I am careful to respect other's privacy on my blog, I can't see a time when I will stop telling it like it is, because if I do I know my blogging days will be over. I also believe that most of us help more people with our blogs than hurt or offend, so if you do happen to offend someone unintentionally, I'm going to give you a pass. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have seen so many flame wars in blogland and spilling over into social media ... I think most of us live in a charmed world, a small and quiet world, of lady blogging, (lol, what a phrase that is!) and out there are a whole different word of blogs which are filled with opinions, counter-opinions, dramas, vehement conversations.

      By the way, it's fairly easy to be anonymous on Facebook. I keep my account private and am careful how I comment on public posts there. If my grandmother ever learnt how to turn on a computer and load Facebook, she'd never be able to see my posts, even if she knew the name I used there. At least, I hope not! I don't necessarily trust FB's assurances of privacy or anything else!

      Delete
  5. I think this is a very important topic, to discuss!

    By nature, I am not as always kind, as you are. I know I am opinionated. Which is fine in itself. Every human can have personal opinions. It is when they are shared, that the problems can come.

    I use the old view, that each person's blog, is each person's blog. And they are entitled to say their own views, there. But when I do, I still add a disclaimer! That these are my views! Not meant to negate reader's right to have their views! Sort of 3 steps forward and 2 back.

    Reviews are difficult for me also. For all the usual reasons. Especially because again, each person's wants from a book, are different.

    And of course, I am saddened that you experienced a deception......

    Gentle hugs,
    Tessa

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A disclaimer is a good idea. A blogger I follow recently wrote that she was adding no more disclaimers, that she trusted her readers to cope with whatever she wrote, and trusted them to appreciate the spirit in which she wrote it. I was impressed!

      Thank you for your sympathy, that is very kind of you. <3

      Delete
  6. I agree that blogging is definitely difficult on occasion. Once or twice I have written a comment quite innocently with absolutely no malice intended and the blog owner has snapped back in an alarming fashion. I am a sensitive soul and was hurt by their reaction. Consequently I no longer comment on their posts.

    As to book reviews I find them mostly misleading and have often bought the book mentioned only to find it just didn't appeal to me at all. As you say books are a personal thing and I have more half finished books on my shelves than I would like. I read about the author Patricia McKillip on your blog and out of curiosity I ordered Winter Rose which I was totally enthralled by and could see why you recommended her - but that was a rare good happenstance.

    A thought provoking post Sarah.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ugh, I'm sorry to read about your commenting experience.

      I must laugh a little - Winter Rose is one of the Patricia McKillip books I just can not read. I've tried a couple of times now and only get halfway through before giving up in bewilderment and boredom! :-) I am in the minority of preferring her earlier works - The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, for example.

      Delete
    2. Well, seeing as it is the only book of hers I have read I can't make any comparisons but I loved the descriptive nature of her writing - the plot took me a little while to understand - it only took me just over a day to read so I must have enjoyed it. But I will definitely give her another go.

      Delete
  7. This is something I've been struggling with lately... there are issues I want to address on my blog - not bigs ones, of course - but little things I feel strongly about and want to share. My fear of offending readers, however, holds me back.
    And I agree, reviews are rarely helpful. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't it interesting (and really quite lovely, if you think about it) how we put our concern for others over our desire to share things that are important to us?

      Delete
  8. I had to go away and think some more on this before coming back to comment. Because all of these ideas have been tumbling around my head lately. I've been planning to write a post myself on reviewing and criticism in general. On the feeling, and the pleasures of reading, as opposed to critical analysis, or seeking out and picking over perceived flaws.

    Anyway. Yes - I am in wholehearted agreement with you on reviewing books. I review books I adore. And I am honest about that. I simply don't review books I don't love. Those that I do love, I am thrilled to say lots of lovely things about them. I believe in supporting beautiful writing and authors. It's all become quite "zen" for me after years working in literary criticism and teaching. I've never been a "reviewer" though. That's a different beast.

    Re blogging: as someone who is quite opinionated and holds quite strong feelings on a number of things, I have found myself, this year anyway, seeking peace. Respite from things. At times I'm aware of how I am blogging blandly, but it's been quite a conscious choice at times as part of my healing. To keep things light, (I giggled at the phrase "lady blogging", because that's pretty much what I seem to be doing...heheh). I simply don't want drama, and when I visit some of my favourite feminist bloggers, I see what gets thrown at them and I feel a little sick at the thought of dealing with all of that. Because it can get so nasty and personal. I'm better with debate when it's on an abstract and objective level.

    However, I do love that when we have our own blog space, there is a freedom to express who we are, and what we believe. And knowing that is available to me is reassuring.

    When I write, I'm not so concerned about offending others as I am hurting them. The thought of hurting someone appalls me. However, it's tricky trying to manage the whole offending thing, because some souls are easily offended. And I figure that if they are, then they can simply choose not to read.

    Having said all this, I've never personally experienced nasty trolling, (I just don't get that, however deeply troubled these souls may be), or flame wars, or other forms of insanity.

    Sigh. Long comment. Trying to gather my thoughts. Thankyou for this post though, it's got me thinking some more about these things. x

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks for such a thoughtful and interesting comment. I used to be more opinionated in the past but like you stopped doing that for my own peace. I wanted to bring calm and serenity into my life, and blogging is part of my life, so I made that choice consciously.

    I've had a couple of "troll" comments - people who had a negative opinion, which was fine, but they expressed it in hateful and personally abusive ways. Difficult to cope with, and really sad.

    ReplyDelete