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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What would you do?

  Use your imagination for a few minutes.  Imagine that your father is a prolific and popular novelist.  

  Since you were in kindergarten, your father has had works of fiction end up in bookstores in different parts of the world, such as the U.K. and Russia.  He's been published in a number of different genres, including horror and erotica, under numerous pen names.  (Just like your parents' sex lives, you acknowledge that your father's erotica works exist but you just don't want to think about the details.)  Your childhood includes memories of your father being interviewed on local television and in national newspapers.  When you were a kid, people would ask you, "what does your father do for a living?" and you simplify your answer by saying "he's a writer."  (My father prefers being called a wordsmith.)

  And then, those people would be so fascinated!  A writer, a novelist, what a glamorous profession!  Of course, you realize secondhand that it's not so glamorous in reality.  The advances and royalties make for inconsistent income, and your dad simply wears a terrycloth bathrobe all day while tip-tip-tapping at the keyboard.  But he was almost always home when you were a kid, and with no siblings to play with, he was always welcome company.

  By the time you turned nineteen, your parents broke up and your father moved in with his new common-law wife.  She's also a novelist, she was once tutored by your father and that's how they met.  She's a fun loving and exuberant character with lots of Leo planets in her astrological chart. You get to know her over the years and come to respect her ability and successes in wordcraft.  Like your father, she also writes effective and enjoyable prose.

  For the first time ever, your father and your stepmother collaborate on a novel, and it's the first time either of them has had fiction published under their real names, as opposed to their various pen names.

  You are so proud of them, and you're excited about how the novel with be distributed across drugstores (they call them 'chemists'), supermarkets, and bookstores across the UK.  Mass market distribution, yay!

  You Google them and the title of their new work, curious to find something.  You do!  It's an early book review!  Your dad and stepmom are getting some press, a good sign.

  And then you read the book review.  Here's an excerpt of it:

I did not enjoy this novel at all. It’s bland, poorly written, clunky and 100 per cent predictable. Events are described superficially with no attempt at realistic detail.
 Although you PERSONALLY didn't write the novel, as it is your father and stepmom the reviewer is talking about, you're personally offended.

 Okay, I'm sure you realize that the person I'm having you imagine to be is ME.

 So what would you do if you were me?

  Here's what I did. The review was on a blog,
Petrona, and the review of Michael Crawley and Laurie Clayton's The Women's Club is here. The blog allows commenting, so I posted one.

I know you're a reviewer and it's your job to review books and be honest about whether you like them or not, but I think your review was a little harsh.
That's my father and stepmother you're talking about.
My dad and 'Madeline Moore' have plenty of fans. I'm sorry you're not one of them.
  Madeline Moore is the pen name my stepmom uses most often, she uses it for her erotica.  Anyway, I was surprised by how quickly Maxine, the woman who does the reviews on Petrona, replied.  She said:

Thanks for your views, Kim. I am sure these authors have plenty of fans, and that's fine. It is not my job to review books, in the sense that nobody pays me to write them and I make no money out of it (eg you will see no advertisements or Amazon links on this site). I do it as a hobby, and yes, I do provide my honest opinion. I did not think this book very good. As a counterbalance, I provided links to the author's blog and an interview with her (as there is nothing on the publisher website about the book, or was not when I wrote my review). Therefore, readers of this review have access to a more positive view of the book so can make up their own minds. (If I had found any other independent reviews of the book, I'd have linked to them too, as is my practice, but there were none that I could find.) As you are a relative of the authors, I am sure you don't like to read a poor review, and I'm sorry if your feelings were hurt, which was not my intention. If you have any objective reason for thinking my review unfair or unprofessional, please let me know.

    No, Maxine, I don't have any objective reasoning, and I didn't think your review was unfair.  I was just a little hurt.  I'm a touchy young woman, you know!

   No, my reasoning isn't objective.  To a large extent, determining whether someone is a good novelist or not is based on subjective taste.  And my love and admiration for my father and stepmother heavily biases me.   And your review wasn't unfair.  You made no personal attacks, and you're entitled to your opinion.  You're entitled to share your opinion, too.  I was just a little hurt... but people who know me know I can get quite emotional.

  I wonder what it would be like for me if my dad and stepmom were a lot more famous.  I'm sure there would be a lot more comments in the media for me to be hurt by.  

  I probably care a lot more than my father does, anyway.  If he knew about the review (he will probably, soon) and my reaction to it, he would tell me to toughen up and grow a thicker skin.  Damn English 'stiff upper lip'!  

  So, what would YOU do?

  The Women's Club on


  1. There's a good girl, defending us. I have to admit I'm a little surprised, myself, that the book still hasn't been posted on Max Crimes, the imprint of John Blake publishing that published The Women's Club on September 6.
    Personally, I like to think that Lisbeth Salander, the woman who hates men who hate women, would approve of the club and join up right away.
    We write 'popular' stuff, and a lot of the fun of this particular book is the cast of characters, which is large and varied, so that we were able to write in a number of different styles. But there is a serious point to the novel, which is that the women's movement has forced men to allowed women into the boardrooms etc. but they continue to expect women to do everything they've traditionally done as well. As one character says, 'Haemmerhoids and heart attacks' are the rewards women receive for being 'allowed' into the workforce. Since there are more women than men on this planet, and since (surprisingly) women actually control more of the wealth than men, what would happen if we decided we'd had ENOUGH!? That's the what if of the novel, and Michael and I think it's a good premise, and a terrific read. But then, we might be biased, too.

  2. I'm very excited to read the book, and I hope MY readers are, too. I love big ideas, even in fiction. Fiction often has an element of truth, anyway.

    If The Women's Club is something Lisbeth would join, that's a great endorsement, too.

    Yes, women make most of the world's non-corporate spending decisions, but 99% of CEOs are men. It's kind of baffling, really.

    And not only do women decide how a lot of money is spent, but we're also necessary for the continuation of our species. In most of the world, it's horrible to be female. The only places where it can be good to be female are really the world's developed countries. All kinds of baby girls are disposed of in the world's two most populous countries, China and India.