Do these reviewers all read the same book?
January 5, 2015
WHEN A PERFORMER OF ANY KIND takes the stage, he or she must be ready hope for best and prepare for the worst.
Broadway productions face the critics.
A few bad reviews can chase a show right into oblivion.
A comedian face hecklers.
Hecklers to the right of them.
Hecklers to the left.
How do any of them survive for very long?
And I’ve seen many pretty good musicians through the years playing a guitar and singing in back alley tavern when there’s nobody on the dance floor, and only the bartender is listening.
Writers publish a novel and wait for the reviews.
They can make a book.
Or kill it.
And often we wonder: what kind of person is writing reviews anyway?
Are they honest?
I hope they are.
And sometimes I’m afraid they are.
Often we bask in their glory.
Occasionally we wallow in their blatant dislike for the words we carefully arrange into a story.
Take my Deadline News for example.
It’s historical fiction, a murder mystery set during the hard days of the Great Depression, back when desperate men were searching for oil and never knowing when they might be able to pay for their next meal.
For example, Holly-Wood wrote:
At the end of each workday, when I am in Berkeley, I habitually sit down in my most comfortable chair, with a vodka tonic beside me, and read something for a couple of hours. It might be an old book
I’ve been meaning to read for a long time, but more often it’s something new off the review shelves. This month, I was rewarded with Deadline News this is the kind of book you have to read slowly. I, who generally zoom through things, found myself going back and rereading individual sentences at the rate of about one per page.
This is not because the sentences are beautifully poetic (though occasionally they are), but because they are actually expressing new ideas in word combinations that are unexpected, so you have to reread them to understand exactly what they mean.
There is nothing ungrammatical or unidiomatic about this book—its English is perfect—and there is nothing blatantly “experimental” about its use of language. The book does have a plot, but any attempt to convey it would be a radical simplification.
For instance, the description of Alfred Painter, “He was simply the last checker on the board, waiting to be jumped and put out of his misery.”
You will have to read Deadline News to see what I mean, and you will be grateful to me, I know, for having recommended it.
Then Slammed came along and wrote:
Reading this novel was like watching a classic John Ford black and white western. The setting is stark and desperate and so are the characters of Deadline News.
The newsprint is black and white on the pages of the Henderson Advocate, the only newspaper in Henderson, a small town in depression era East Texas. But the paper’s sole reporter, editor and printer and the protagonist of Deadline News reveals the colorful stories written between the lines of every person in this small town. And one of them took a shotgun to much beloved Pauline Carter in the dead of night – but who did it and why? The mystery lies in the pretended simplicity of the characters that unfolds into the real complexity of this small town.
East Texas may be known as an oil empire today, but back then, nothing but dry holes dotted the landscape and the entire town of Henderson has gambled their last hopes out of poverty on just one man, an old wildcatter nicknamed “Dad,” but all he has is rotten drilling pipe, unpaid roughnecks and IOU’s to run his operation.
But is Pauline’s murder tied to oil?
The final answer is a shocker.
Personally, by now, I’m feeling pretty good.
Then I read Florcali’s one-star review about a “dismal tale.”
It was short.
It was to the point.
It was scathing.
I made me think that, perhaps, I should take up garbage collecting for a profession.
The setting the characters and the situation a downer.
Would not spend the time to finish on chapter 34.
Books are supposed to be exciting and enjoyable.
Obviously to Florcali, Deadline News wasn’t.
The review left me wondering one thing.
Did these people all read the same book?