Apparently, the bullying specter has raised its ugly head in the world of books and reviewing, which is difficult to reconcile. Readers are generally quiet, harmless people, more likely to shush you than verbally attack. Somehow, though, in these days where the volume is getting higher and the content is getting lower, people use the mask of anonymity to say truly dreadful things about other people, without fear of repercussion. Or more importantly, with no sense of propriety or human decency.
Goodreads is a marvelous social networking site for book lovers. Actually, it’s more than that because it allows those of us whose grey matter is shrinking to keep track of what we want to read and what we’ve read. It also allows you to write a review of anything you’ve read and rate it using a star system. By and large, I’ve found it to be a very useful site and have enjoyed being able to see what friends are reading and how our ratings may have differed etc.
Unfortunately, it appears that for a small subset of people it is also a place to release pent-up rage- either against a reviewer for not giving your book enough stars or against an author for writing a book you didn’t like. In the second case, that is the nature of reviewing. It is a critical function but is also, just ONE. PERSON’S. OPINION. On that we should all be able to agree. Apparently, though, there are readers who not only want to critique a book but they want to take on the author as well. This is not limited to Goodreads. I don’t read Amazon book reviews because, by and large, they are written by any idiot with an internet connection. Most of them are appallingly poorly written and many contain personal attacks on the author. I recently reviewed the book Klonopin Lunch by Jessica Dorfman Jones. I also follow her on Twitter because, she is quirky and creative. I didn’t love the book but thought she has talent. End of story on my part. Not so for this Amazon reviewer who says:
“What can you say about someone like Jessica Dorfman Jones? She comes across in the book as an absolutely horrible, narcissistic, reprehensible person who very much deserves to have something very bad happen to her. I was really disappointed, when the book ended, that she hadn’t gotten some rare, painful form of cancer or been hit by a bus”
Cancer, really? All right, you thought she was incredibly messed-up, stupid and selfish- I can’t completely disagree but to make your attack so horribly personal? How, in any forum, is this acceptable behavior? This is exactly why I don’t read anything other than product reviews on Amazon. Did it work- yes or no?
To see this begin to happen on Goodreads is distressing because I’ve always felt that it was a congenial site for people with something in common; a place where discourse is the norm not spewing vitriol. It would be sad to see it change and yet, change is probably necessary. At this time, there is no oversight of reviews and comments. Anyone can write or say anything, hiding behind a fluffy kitten avatar and made up name. The anonymity of the internet where everyone can say all the things they would never say if faced with the person.
To make things even more strange a group started up to “Stop GR Bullying”. They have a website and even managed to get a post on Huffington Post writing about this problem. The only problem? They’ve become somewhat bully-like in fighting back. The editorial staff from Huffington Post had to step in with their response to the situation (click to go to story).
Now, even though it is anything but, I’m beginning to find this situation funny- in a very sad way. It’s books people! You love them or hate them and if you choose, you write about them. But just THEM not the author or the author’s mother or the “idiot” who published the book. And authors, the odds one every single person who picks up your book loving it? There’s a greater chance of a unified Congress and working recovery plan for this nation. Simply put: It’s NOT going to happen.
Please, everyone go back to your laptops or armchairs. Write and read more, talk less.