Saturday, 24 January 2015

The puzzle of the all-too diligent anti-fan

You pick up a book. Maybe the cover is striking. Maybe the the blurb sounds interesting. Maybe the reviews are good. Maybe your mates have raved about it. Maybe it's a set text for book club. Whatever, you read it. You don't really like it. The cover and the blurb misled you. The reviews were clearly written by mates of the author. Your own friends are all idiots. Fuelled by a not half bad rioja you give it a right kicking at book club. And when you get home you go on Goodreads and give it two stars.

That's quite a common scenario isn't it? And entirely fair enough. Then, a few weeks later, you come across another book by the same writer. Do you read it? Well, you might, I guess, give him another chance.  You're nice like that.

So you read his second book. You don't like it. No surprise really, and so you give that book a two star review on Goodreads too. Still fair enough. Still understandable. But then - and here's where it gets a bit weird - you find yourself looking at a third novel by the same writer. You thought the first book was a  2 star book. You thought the second book was a 2 star book. What do we imagine you'll think of this third book? It's not a hard guess is it? So you're not going to waste your time on this one are you? Of course not. So you pass on, pick up something else, something by a novelist whose previous works you've enjoyed. Or maybe another new writer whose book has a good cover, good reviews, another book you're mates have raved about.

Only you don't. You pick up this third book and yes - give it two stars on Goodreads.

There's something going on here isn't there?Something beyond the normal interaction between book and reader.

I don't mind people not liking my books. I almost expect it. But I'm puzzled by why someone would go to all the trouble of reading all three of my novels(and rating them) if they've disliked both the others. And let's not forget that you actually have to work quite hard to find all my books. The first one came out with a very tiny publisher and the most recent hasn't been out long and is still only available in expensive trade paperback form. (£12.99 - at least wait until the cheap £5.99 mass market paperback  is out)

So forgive me but I can't help taking it a bit personally. Can't help thinking that this particular Godsread enthusiast is someone I know. Is a friend even.  Only not really a friend because a friend wouldn't publicly diss my books.

I'm sure I do have friends who don't like all my books. Quite a lot of my friends are writers (it happened by accident I swear) and writers rarely wholeheartedly love any of the books they read, especially if they are by people they know.

Which means there's someone out there who knows me and who wishes me ill who is sticking their little pins in whenever they can. Trying to hit me where it hurts and going to some trouble to do so. And that makes me feel a bit sad and a bit paranoid.

So what's going on? Is it envy? Hard to imagine given how invisible a writer I am. I'm hardly Zadie Smith. (Except in looks obviously) Is it just someone who wants to wound me because they think I'm a knob? And if that's the case Supercosmic, then I wish you'd stop the nonsense and just tell me to my face exactly why.

And of course I know I should rise above it all. But rising above stuff isn't really my way. Rolling in the gutter, that's my way.