Imaginary Reader Mail: Writing mean posts

And now for some Imaginary Reader Mail.

Dear Jenny,

Your post about The Devil in the Dark City was meaner than your reviews usually are. What gives? The last time you were this mean was about Stephen Marche’s awful book. Do you mean to suggest that Erik Larson is as bad as Stephen Marche?

Love and kisses,
[name redacted]

Gentle Reader:

You make some excellent points. Nobody is as bad as Stephen Marche. To my inexpressible joy, everyone else now agrees with me on account of that Megan Fox profile. How I do love being vindicated! When I mentioned my dislike of Stephen Marche to Acquiescent Roommate and he asked if that was the same Stephen Marche who had written the worst thing ever, I thought he was teasing me. But no! HaHA! The universe actually said, “Correct as usual, Jenny!” to me via Thanks, universe! I am frequently correct about things!

The reasons for my uncharacteristic crankiness with Erik Larson are two in number:

1. He is famous and popular, so there is very little chance that my mean blog post will come up in the first few pages of search results for The Devil in the White City; thus very little chance that any substantial number of people will find that particular post. If my opinion were likely to be encountered frequentlyish upon googling Erik Larson, I would have spoken more moderately. However, most people who are aware of Erik Larson seem to like Erik Larson, so my small post will not make any difference. Nor is it likely that Erik Larson will ever happen upon my blog while self-Googling and have his feelings hurt. He is much too fancy for that.

By contrast, my blog is the fourth result to come up if you search “was Ted Hughes a cad?” If the blog post thus found were intemperate about Ted Hughes’s caddishness, I would consider editing it. But it isn’t. It says exactly what I feel on that topic. Yes, he was a cad, but not so much of a cad that he deserved to lose two significant others and two children to suicide.

(Gentle Reader, I will confess that I just said the last part because I wanted to brag that my blog comes up when you search “ted hughes cad”. Because that makes me happy.)

2 (and more important). I had to read The Devil in the White City for book club. I didn’t have a choice. When I wanted to stop reading it, which was at 20 page intervals throughout, I couldn’t. Because book club. Every time I wished to switch to some other, more agreeable book on my Nook, I couldn’t. I had to just grind my way through Devil in the White City no matter my level of disinclination. One thing I have learned about myself in the years of writing this blog is that I am very rebellious against reading constraints of any kind. When I try to make a reading plan for myself, I always, always rebel against it. Having to read The Devil in the White City when I didn’t want to made its faults that much starker.

Thank you, Gentle Reader, for your imaginary mail.

Love and kisses,


17 thoughts on “Imaginary Reader Mail: Writing mean posts

  1. Oh yes, how well I rememer the halycon book club days… Science fiction I always found to be particularly trying to slog though. Good on you for finishing! 🙂

      • That’s interesting. Science Fiction seemed to be the only thing we read. In fact, the only book I remember reading and enjoying for bookclub was something about sardines… I can’t even remember the title of it now. It was about a boy that felt like a sardine because he was always squished up with his massive family who hardly payed any attention to him. Arg, that’s really gonna bug me now; I just can’t remember what it’s called!!
        What do you read then, if no genre fiction? Anything good?

    • Thanks! I am okay with having written it but I would feel terrible if Erik Larson read it and had his feelings hurt. I feel terrible just imagining that. But it would never happen! (Right?)

  2. I totally concur with you. That is to say, if an author is sufficiently famous and well-compensated, I don’t think our little posts will even darken his or her radar. Plus, our posts are mainly read for friends, virtual and real. They should therefore accurately reflect *our* preferences, which is, after all, presumably what our readers would like to know. If the author would like to see a non-personalized review, the author can always consult the assorted literary guides or newspaper reviews available.

    • Right, exactly! I mean, the option wasn’t to write a nice post; it would have been to write no post at all. I really do truly prefer writing nice posts about books I loved. Since that is what I read book blogs for, to find books other bloggers loved.

  3. It is a lot easier to write a negative review of the book of a famous author. There’s this feeling that they also wouldn’t care too much if they find your words anyway. (That’s sound a bit nasty to us bloggers, but you know what I mean.) If people are searching that about Ted Hughes then your post will surely give them the info they’re looking for, which is always great!

  4. Not that I want to brag or anything (I really do) but if you Google “Diana Wynne Jones”, I come up fifth … before GoodReads. Suck it, GoodReads.
    And I am not in a book group because of #2. I hate books more than I should when I “have to” read them. Chosen on my own, I might have been simply disgruntled. But as required reading, I start grumbling and writhing and by the end I’m thoroughly miserable.

    • Whaaaaat. You are blowing my mind right now.

      I love my book groups! I really do. I have a good time talking about the books, and it’s fun getting drinks and I’m glad I do this. Just sometimes when a book’s not fun, it can be a chore.

  5. I don’t understand what makes his books so appealing. My most negative review was of a book by John Hart and it was easier to post, knowing that a bestselling author isn’t going to see, care about it, or respond to it.

  6. I don’t often look at what comes up if you search for a specific title, but I hang out with people who talk about things like whether a certain phrase is searchable or not, and so my blog is currently the only thing that comes up if you search on google for “phosphorescent coat rack.”

  7. Dear Jenny,

    You are so right about Ted Hughes. He WAS a cad, AND it is incredibly sad about his children. So many cads just get away with their caddishness, don’t you think? I try never to write negative reviews because the guilt wears away at me (and the fear of bad karma), but I could never advocate lying about the experience of a book, so sometimes they do just have to be done.

    love and kisses

  8. Good News, Jenny. I you now search “was Ted Hughes a cad?”, your blog comes up third. Great progress, huh!? I love you, Dad

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