Reviewing ethics…

Here’s a picture of someone else’s cat.

An author, unpublished or not, knows. Knows the process, knows the joy, knows the pain. We should (if we’re good), peddle in empathy, in understanding. After all, there are differences in approach, in aim, in style, in purpose. So perhaps we shouldn’t comment on the fruit of others’ toil – at least not in the negative. Maybe if we don’t like, we just don’t get it.

But what to do if you read a book so brazen in its smug shittiness, so flawed in its reach and scope, so nauseatingly shallow and undercooked that it offends the craft? And then: what if that book in all its conceited mediocrity has been heralded as the second-coming, as a great work by a new literary genius, as the voice of a till-now silent minority? What would you do then?

I’ve browsed Goodreads for user reviews and the majority are glowing, even though they seldom delve deeper than “I like the book because it had a good story” (no it didn’t). I’ve also googled journalistic reviews, and most puffed and fluffed and praised; only one cut to the core of my criticism with deft precision. In a world so skewed, isn’t it also my job to alert others this pretender, to point and laugh and sneer and yell: “she’s naked!” and bring the whole house of cards tumbling down?

But…

What if one day someone did the same to me? And what if one day, finally published and beginning the slog towards a body of work, my secret (guilty?) reviews are unearthed and my tastes, over and above my produce, are deconstructed and used to colour my books themselves? Should I be quiet now in fear of the future, or should I yell and stab and redress the balance and then simply settle back and wait for blowback that may never arrive? Also: are my views less valid by virtue of my literary aspirations or, on the contrary, are they more valid and even necessary?

Or – do I just think too much? (A distinct probability.)

On another note: what do you do when you discover that a successfully published friend has submitted glowing reviews of their own books on Goodreads under a pseudonym? OK, so the reviews and their five-star ratings are probably lost in the impenetrable maze of computational matrices – assuming that this is this is the only pseudonym used – but is that not a bit… immoral?

Or: if in an election a politician can anonymously vote for himself once, is it so wrong for the author to review his or her own book? Just because I wrote the damn thing, does that necessarily invalidate my opinion?

Who knows. Don’t mind me. Keep moving. Nothing to see here. Madman talking and all that…

Enjoy the cat.

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