Ed here: The wonderful Patti Abbott blogs today about Amazon reviews and their worthiness as guides to buying books.
"Apparently a lot of people don't see irony or satire or even an attempt to point up societal flaws in what they read. They read each book as if it was written by the same writer and should be held to the same standards. They choose a book using these wrong standards and then hold the book accountable for their mistake in choosing it or their inability to understand it.
"Amazon has brought about the democratization of book reviewing, but is that a good thing. Are you always sure that your perception of a book is correct. I'm not. I have only ever posted one bad review on amazon and that was out of pique that an ordinary book was getting so much hype. How about you?"
Ed here: My favorite experience here was a woman's response to one of my westerns. Now even though I don't claim to be a historian I do research my backgrounds as carefully as I can. In this case the city was Denver and what I referred to (I believe this was the 1880s) was how magnificent it was in some ways but appalling in others because of the poverty. I didn't think this was big news. What city then or now doesn't have these striking differences? I guess the poverty was particularly striking because it was so raw.
This woman climbed all over me for defaming her beautiful city. I even wrote her and made my case but she was having none of it. As I recall she was on some historical committee. Yes, everything was beautiful and wonderful in Denver from Day One. And the waters, much like Lourdes, had amazing healing powers.
When I read Amazon I look for industry reviews before reader takes. You can figure out pretty quickly if a review is worth reading. I've gotten good ones and bad ones. Sometimes--true facts--the good ones are so exultant they're as embarrassing as the bad ones (are you listening Mom?). I'm not a regular reader of the reviews anyway. I tend to put a lot more credence in certain bloggers as well as a handful of established mainstream reviewers.
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These self appointed reviewers serve their purpose and are often useful as a consensus if there's a sufficient number to offset those blurbs left by authors' relatives or the authors themselves...but as Ms. Abbott and Ed indicate, many are fools....astoundingly arrogant and self satisfied in their pronouncements, happily mean and insulting...what on earth tells them they are entitled to such behavior, just because they have a library card (many proudly declare they didn't pay a dime for the author's work in question)....professional reviewers can be full of their own meanness, envy and b.s. no mistake, but few so regularly descend to the level of so many of these opinionated amateurs....as a writer I often wish I could respond to some of them, along the lines of, 'Do I go down to the McDonald's where you work and knock the dick out of your mouth?' or however that saying goes...
Reading over amazon reviews you wonder how book readers can all be of the same species living on the same planet.
Truthfully I don't know how any writer can bear to read the reviews on amazon. The good ones you will doubt, the bad ones you will believe. If you're anything like me at least.
I don't want democracy in a book or film or art review, I want the opinion of an educated elitist. Vacuum cleaners and hair gel,---OK,tell me what you think, but when it comes to laying out money for something that goes into my brain, gimme somebody who has a clue about how art gets made.
To be fair there are some well written and cogently presented reader reviews on Amazon. Maybe more than we realize. The inept and savage ones probably make us forget competent and even-handed ones.
As I have often said---know the reviewer. If the reviewer has a body of work it is easily checked whether it is Amazon or somewhere else.
Internet book reviews, whether at Amazon or elsewhere, are a sort of graffiti; some are really quite perceptive, while most are under thought, under written, and, some even, have an underlying menace.
I think most readers can tell the difference in the first sentence or two.
You can swiftly gauge the caliber of the review. Good reviewers are familiar with the author's previous work, and other works in the field, and compare them. Good reviewers tend to find strengths and weaknesses, supply examples of these, and form balanced judgments. Good reviewers live in the real world and subject the work to reality tests, commenting on a novel's plausibility. Mostly these are skilled professionals, usually worth trusting. Only rarely are they reader reviews.
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