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General > Comparing authors or books with the inevitable "I wanted it to be like..." whine.

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message 1: by C-Cose (new)

C-Cose Daley | 34 comments Greetings all :)

I started this new thread because the constant refrains of "I read this but I expected it to be ....", "Why couldn't this have been more like ...", and "The author crucified [fill in story] so why did s/he bother with ..." have really become distracting for me lately.

Lately, this tendency has cropped up the most in works by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson but I've also seen it in relation to Anne Rice, Diana L. Paxson, the Bronte sisters, and others. Please forgive me if any examples are to works that you're unfamiliar with.

Firstly, we all have our preferences wrt genre, author, novel, movie ... the list goes on. Preferences are good and necessary to our survival. If it weren't for them, we may have died out as a result of poisoned mushrooms in the days when we were hunter-gatherers ... lol. At their most basic level, preferences are a means in which we judge what makes us feel good and what does not. The difficulty I have is when these preferences become a way in which we--erroneously--judge (prefer) something without taking the intrinsic value of that "something" into consideration.

For example, I enjoy pan fried cabbage ... many people don't. I gag whenever I come within 10m of sauerkraut ... others don't. However, I don't wish that sauerkraut was more like pan fried cabbage as they are not the same thing; they have common elements (cabbage), but are prepared differently.

The same, for me, applies to books and their authors. Isaac Asimov is not Frank Herbert is not Brian Herbert is not Robert Heinlein. Bram Stoker is not Anne Rice is not Stephanie Meyer. Similarly the works of these authors should be seen on their own merits, rather than compared to each other at more than the most basic levels. The first set of authors all wrote / write in the sci-fi genre and tackled many of the same subjects; the second group all have works in the vampire theme.

This is most troubling to me when I see reviews / discussions about authors where the commentator has had previous negative reactions to the author's work (hoped for something not there), continues to read the same author .. repeatedly, and then lambastes that author--and the full body of work--based on an expectation that could not possibly be fulfilled.

More specifically, I've recently read (in a review of BH & KJA's latest work Hellhole) both "It was another travesty based on Frank Herbert's Dune..." and "I wanted it to be more like Dune." Fine sentiment except for one thing .... this is not a Dune book!!! I've also recently read, "Twilight's vampires are better because they glitter in the sunlight..." when comparing them to Anne Rice's vampire novels. And?!?!? The only commonality between the two series is that they are about vampires!!!

These statements were made by people that were familiar with more than one book in the series of works under discussion. I have to ask, "Why?".

Why does one hold an author up to a standard that they have obviously not met in a previous work? Why is it necessary to compare works based on the most basic commonalities between them? Why can a single novel, or series of them, not be seen on their own merits? Why is this rarely done when praising the work of an author yet very prevalent in the opposite?

I enjoyed both De Laurentiis' Dune movie and the later mini-series--which I nickname as "Dune of the Hats". I don't do this because I enjoyed one less than the other; I do this because "hats" seemed to be one of the devices used in the latter to differentiate main characters. Each movie treated the original novel differently, they had vastly different focuses on action v. motivation, they were both enjoyable in and of themselves.

This continual "reviewing" of authors in a negative manner based on arbitrary choices that don't meet with personal expectations does nothing to advance the enjoyment of literature. It categorizes authors as commodities that must please their audience--regardless of the author's vision for their work. It demeans and denigrates authors to the level of cereal producers. It lessens our own experience of something other than the bubble gum schlock that chokes non-literary forms.

I'd be very interested in exchanging views on this. Agree? Disagree? Opinions?


message 2: by Janet (last edited Sep 20, 2012 05:32PM) (new)

Janet | 45 comments Well Goodreads is a place for personal opinions, not a serious literary reviews-only site. But I agree that it's always worth keeping in mind that any book or novel is the product of years of work -sweat,love,and tears- and should be respected as such. Plus, a book is intensely personal to one person - the author- in a way many of the other media we review aren't (movies, tv, even songs). One of the best ways to show that respect is putting time and effort into reviews even when you don't love what you read. If reviewers want to compare the book under review to other works, remember the more specific you are about what you're comparing (setting? tone? style? character?), the easier it will be for readers to know precisely what you mean to say. A general 'book x sucked compared to book y' doesn't really give any information about what your opinion is all about.


message 3: by C-Cose (new)

C-Cose Daley | 34 comments Janet wrote: "Well Goodreads is a place for personal opinions, not a serious literary review site. But I agree that it's always worth keeping in mind that any book or novel is the product of years of work -swe..."

Greetings Janet :)

I agree with much of what your say, but I wonder why / where you draw the line of a "serious literary review site" ....

I write reviews keeping in mind that my words will give the best possible reflection of my experience with the work. I do that regardless of if it's here, a blog, or a facebook note.

I had hoped that GR was trying to promote those kinds of reviews.


message 4: by Razmatus (new)

Razmatus | 241 comments well, I think it was some reviewer who reviewed LOTR, but on their blog they also had an article on fantasy book recommendations... and the tone of it kinda disgusted me since the writer clearly sounded like "hey I know what is good in fantasy"... from how the article was written I could tell that this person prefers classics fantasy and a couple "weird" ones and holds the rest in low esteem and therefore almost calls it crap

funny was how that person kept telling there how poor Tolkien was, how uninspired and poor writing GRRM was, and such... while I wont argue that not all ppl have to like ASOIAF for example, it still speaks volumes when someone says that GRRM can barely write an average quality novel... and that particular person tried to sound like some damned literary scientist or an author who knows better than GRRM for example and is almost future salvation of fantasy, LOL

so yea, a part of those whiners sound to me like frustrated authors who vent on other authors' works... or they try to act like the ones who know better what should be in a literary work, spouting statements like "this wasnt necessary at all...", "this book could be 300 pages shorter..." and the like... as Erikson said somewhere, advice is cheap, but it mostly doesnt survive under thorough scrutiny, meaning pretty much that many ppl would try second-guessing or even advising author, but those things when considered by the author in full depth of the work, they usually dont survive, dont fit the intended purpose

and some of those also are cos ppl dont pay as much attention to some works and their aspects as they maybe should... e.g. when one flies too fast through ASOIAF, going even as far as losing too much focus at some parts or, Seven Hells forbid lol, they skim or skip some parts... then they shouldnt be surprised they dont get why some things happened in there... as GRRM himself said, demon is in the details...

one of keys here is IMO not to think that "my" opinion is a universal truth, which some ppl seem unable to do

personally I refrain from statements like that cos they would only make me look like a fool... if a book is long, then the author clearly intended it to be that way and had some purpose with all the material, it is not for me to say that this or that was unnecessary... especially with authors like Erikson that would only elicit laughs - there is barely anything that could really be considered unnecessary this or that way, if anything... cos he clearly had a purpose with those things and if one reads carefully they can see it without much difficulty :P


message 5: by C-Cose (new)

C-Cose Daley | 34 comments Razmatus wrote: "well, I think it was some reviewer who reviewed LOTR, but on their blog they also had an article on fantasy book recommendations... and the tone of it kinda disgusted me since the writer clearly so..."

Greetings Razmatus :)

GRRM is a perfect example of how the whines I spoke of are manifested :) I think it's an inevitable result of transforming the written word to something for the screen ... but please .... could they all just stop with the page-by-page notations of what was missing, what was changed, and what should have been dropped as "not integral to the story arc ..."?

I think it's safe to say that there are far more than one arc in ASOIAF.

I completely agree when you say, "one of keys here is IMO not to think that "my" opinion is a universal truth, which some ppl seem unable to do." I just wish more people--specifically here on GR--were able to make that distinction.

Happily, I understand that GR is working on possibly including a "quotes from chapter" option in their database so that "reviewers" can provide clear examples of what did and did not work for them in the work they're writing about.


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