In 1944 a children’s book club sent a volume about penguins to a 10-year-old girl, enclosing a card seeking her opinion.
She wrote, “This book gives me more information about penguins than I care to have.”
American diplomat Hugh Gibson called it the finest piece of literary criticism he had ever read.
From Futility Closet
The growing question in the book blogging/Goodreader community since the New Year began has been, what’s in the water? Why all the drama? It does seem like the community is in an uproar. This has created an incredible divide amongst the differing camps. It separates book bloggers from other book bloggers and authors from other authors and it also causes friction between book bloggers and authors.
But this is nothing new for any growing community who will inevitably break off into left wing, right wing and the moderates. It’s happened in every community that’s ever existed and for proof of that look back to the many sub sects of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, then the political groups – hell even the torrid and vicious arguments in the math community over whether you’re in a camp who believes 0.999999999999 = 1 or not – and I’m not even kidding about that.
So what we’re doing, essentially, is naturally breaking up into philosophical camps that place us on either side of the line between the moderates (Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?!), which is the Be Nicers and the Assholes When We Yearn for Artistic Autonomy. Which I realize makes us the AwwYeaa acronym, but I’m strangely okay with that.
I’ve spoken before on how trying to play nicely together may be useless. Because each other’s very existence kind of gets on our nerves. Be Nicers will continue to be enraged by severely negative reviews and AWWYEAAers will continue to be enraged by severely terrible books. <– Stephanie is forcing me to include that they will be enraged at being told HOW to review. Sorry. I do not enjoy or relish knowing that my words hurt or offend people, but understand that it would be as contrary to my nature to temper my honesty, as it would be to a Be Nicer to purposely cause offense to an author.
But instead of arguing over who is right and who is wrong and thus should win the turf, the time has come to recognize that we have broken into two separate groups with our own conflicting views over what is good, what is bad, who is right, and who is wrong.
The problem comes when we violate each other’s spaces and don’t respect different territory. Just as Be Nicers need to refrain from commenting on reviews they don’t agree with, AWWYEAAers need to refrain from commenting on dissenting blog posts that they don’t agree with. We’re never going to be able to start moving forward and focusing on the importance of reading if we are continually caught up in our internal struggles. This will only make us a ridicule to outsiders and embarrass us as we were when our drama featured in both The Guardian and Publisher’s weekly.
There are vulnerable people on either side who are getting caught up in the crossfire. Not only the new reviewers who get lambasted by authors, but the new Goodreaders who don’t understand that being disrespectful on a review will get them hammered.
I received this PM the other day and I’ve been given permission to make these excerpts public:
“Back in January when I joined Goodreads, I posted on one of your reviews in defense of a book I liked and received a little backlash. I got a little defensive over comments by other users, but when I understood the bad etiquette of my doing, I apologized to you then on the thread.”
“I am not that kind of person, and I see myself as someone who is very open minded, and respectful.”
This is an intelligent, eloquent, respectful person who unwittingly stumbled unto a turf war and suffered from it. What is disturbing in its similarity is how Sophie, a relatively new Goodreader, was mostly alone and unconnected when an and her fans attacked her review en mass. What is disturbing is how often I receive emails to people similar to these two people. This should not be happening.
Let us all step back and remember that no matter what line of the divide we are on, we should all be able to agree that fostering a love of reading, and a love of book-discussion is a goal we can all agree on. This vision is going to be impeded by our infighting. Instead of making this an intimidating community, this should be a welcoming community where budding readers and reviewers are welcomed and protected as they find their place. But it is time for us to meet, not as adversaries on the battle field, but as diplomats on a mission to peace.
People such as the above Goodreader may have been put off of Goodreads by the reception they received, just as novice reviewers have been put off reviewing by author attacks. Other people may be put off by what they perceive to be a needlessly antagonistic environment.
We need a new system. One that does not make an unruly, hateful mob of us – but that insulates and supports threatened reviewers. Buzz Worthy News, a weekly segment we have here on Cuddlebuggery, serves that purpose to an extent. It’s predecessor once gave some aid to Sophia by educating people to her cause and giving her support to inoculate her against the attacks. However, it can’t serve the purpose of providing immediate relief to a reviewer. It can not mobilize aid when it is most needed. And that aid would need to be provided without the lighting of pitchforks and vicious slurs that would drive away innocent commenters or harm those who have made an innocent mistake.
Some would say it’s impossible to meet all of these conflicting needs. For other communities, maybe. But this is a book community. We are readers and dreamers, and maybe that will be the difference. Maybe if enough of us come together in a spirit of book blogging partisanship, we can create a community that we can be proud of.
But for now, the first step, is the prolific use of the x button on our internet browsers for posts and reviews that we vehemently don’t agree with.