Monday, August 16, 2010

Ruminations on Subjectivity and the Fetal Position

Have you ever been in a bookstore with 10 other writers?

I don't recommend it.

It's actually kind of fascinating to watch people pluck books off shelves and say, "Ugh, I hated this book." Um, really? That's one of my favorites. Or, "Omigod, that book was AMAZING." Seriously? I couldn't stand it. "Don't you just LOVE this book cover?" Uh, no, I think it's fugly. 


I guess it's true that there's really no accounting for taste. But man is it frustrating. Because the thing is, books are personal. When I love a book, I want other people to love it too. I can't even imagine what it's going to be like when LIAR SOCIETY hits the shelves. Mentally, I know that not everyone is going to love our book, but intellectually acknowledging that fact and having people rip it apart on GoodReads are two very different things.

So, have you read a book that your friends hated? Or have you hated a book that your friends loved? How do you deal with the insane levels of subjectivity in publishing? Personally, I'm considering the fetal position. Or I would be considering the fetal position if I could still bend that way.

37 comments:

Wen Baragrey said...

I know how you feel with the fetal position. It's not that easy once you're, you know, not fetal anymore. I've designed my own, where you basically curl up as tight as you can (not terribly tight in my case) and drool a bit. I call it the Flee-it-al position. It's the spirit of the thing that counts.

salarsenッ said...

Fugly, love that.

Reading is really such a personal adventure. Everyone is unique with their likes and dislikes. I guess you have to be secure in your personal preferences despite what others think or feel.

Daisy Whitney said...

Oh boy...I totally agree...it is TOUGH to hear when people don't like a book you loved and it MAKES NO SENSE! But then they'll love a book you didn't like and it just comes down to taste. But it's a hard thing to reconcile sometimes!

Matthew Rush said...

Hmm, interesting question. I very rarely HATE a book, and when I do I generally don't talk about it. I think it's bad karma to bash someone else's art like that, especially since I want to be an author.

On the other hand if I love a book, and recommend it to someone, I do feel pretty let down for some stupid reason if they don't love it also. Then I just tell myself that person is stupid and wouldn't know a good book if they had to swear to tell the whole truth on it (see what I did there?).

Christina Lee said...

I love that you turned this into a post--it WAS an interesting conversation! Being a writer makes me appreciate books and writing now, so I will never say I hated a book again (at least I don't think I will) because so much blood sweat and tears goes into one. And yeah the very evidence of your question is proven in our book club every month, isn't it? ;--)

Jared Larson said...

You're so right. Books are extremely personal. Even though it may not be the best of books, or poorly written, it doesn't mean it's horrible. So much effort and passion has gone into someone's art, and because of that, there is always something positive that can be found. And when that positive thing is focused on, hatred dwindles.

Anne said...

There are just some books I couldn't love no matter how hard I tried. Of course I will never tell anyone which ones but you get the idea.

Kerri C at CK Farm said...

Everyone has different opinions, you gotta leave it at that or you will make yourself crazy! It's just like comparing shoes, clothes and movies. No getting around it.

OR you could get a friend that agrees with everything you say *yawns*

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I haven't had that problem too often. My YA writer friends have the same great taste as me. ;)

PJ Hoover said...

I suggest wine (but wait until the baby is born). And Mario Kart is fun because you have to focus on nothing but it while playing.
Hmmm...now I know what I'm going to do today. Grocery shop? Mario Kart? Grocery shop? Mario Kart?

Heidi Willis said...

When I asked on the blog for book suggestions, I had several people tell me they absolutely LOVED a book I'd already tried and HATED. I just said, "Great! Thanks for the suggestions!"

I'm okay with people not liking my book. I mean, I haven't had anyone rip it apart in a public forum yet, so maybe that statement's premature. But still - I know the southern voice and opinionated narrator won't be everyone's cup of tea.

More important than having friends that agree with you is having friends that don't care if you disagree. :)

Laura Pauling said...

I'm sure it must be extremely hard to have your book shredded on Goodreads, but thank God, for subjectivity or everyone would like only a certain kind of book. And mine might not ever be included in that! I'm sure everyone will love Liar Society!

Natalie said...

YES!!! My best friend wouldn't even pick up one of my favorite books because another friend had hated it. I was so annoyed. But then I hate most of her favorite books so I guess it evens out.

Sara B. Larson said...

It drives me nuts! But, at the same time, it's a good thing I guess. It makes it so that a variety of books gets published because agents and editors are the same. If everyone liked the same things and hated the same things, the bookstore would get pretty boring after a while. But I'm sure everyone will love your book! (and mine, too, if it ever gets bought--right??)

Also, if you get one of those special super long maternity pillow thingies, you can still sort of curl up in the fetal-ish position. ;)

Sara B. Larson said...

Ha ha, that should have said "agents and editors AREN'T the same."

Jemi Fraser said...

There are some very popular books my friends have enjoyed that I just didn't. But, it's mostly a personality thing - I know why they liked it and why I didn't.

I definitely have to work on toughening up my skin before I get to this stage!

But you know we'll all love Liar Society! :)

Bethany Elizabeth said...

I don't know if there's a single book on the planet that my family can agree on. :) My mom and I argue constantly over Wuthering Hights (I love it, she can't stand it).
I'm sure Liar Society is FANTASTIC, and I can't wait to read it!

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Yes and yes. And you two are making it all worse. Thanks, LiLa! ;)

Dianne K. Salerni said...

A shot of whiskey helps a bad review slide down less painfully, but you can't do that either. Hmmm .... meditation? Deep breathing? Self-hypnosis?

Lisa Gail Green said...

You mean other people's opinions count? JUST KIDDING. It is very personal and subjective. That's why rejections shouldn't be taken to heart. But I LOVE hearing others perspectives, I find it fascinating.

Tere Kirkland said...

Heh, I just remember what bad taste I have and try not to hate on anyone whose taste is worse than mine. ;)

Seriously, though, I've been disappointed by too many books that were recommended by someone whose opinion I trusted and respected to worry about it.

Doesn't mean I don't stay up at night worrying about whether or not people will like my book if it makes it to the shelves. Any book that's made it that far is a success, as far as I'm concerned.

Krispy said...

I like hearing other people's views on a book but always keep in mind things are subjective. I tend to be pretty easy-going when it comes to books I like (it's another thing to make me love a book), but some of my friends are harsher. So I just roll with the punches and don't force them to read anything I didn't absolutely adore. :)

E. Elle said...

I have a very different taste from my friends' so it's a constant back and forth when we talk about books (or any form of entertainment really). A lot of my friends love classics like "Jane Eyre" or "Pride and Prejudice" while I grimaced my way through those books, and many of the others they recommend. But I appreciate their desire to share! :)

Gail said...

I don't think you'll have to worry about anyone "hating" LIAR SOCIETY. Have you noticed how supportive the writing community is of ALL it's members? Just because I don't read a certain genre, doesn't mean I wouldn't recommend it to others around me. Oh yeah, have you noticed how many followers you have??? That's over 800 people spreading the word about LIAR SOCIETY when it comes out! In fact, I'm not sure I can stand to wait until March to read it- can you scoot up the start date to....say December??? I think that's my limit. Or maybe just loan me an ARC of it... I promise to send it back! :-D

Paul Greci said...

My friends give me books that I don't connect with and visa/versa. I guess its all part of being human. I mean, most dogs will eat most bisquits, but us humans, we're a little more picky :-)

Candyland said...

Not personally, but there's some online I hear people either obsess or rant about and I sometimes feel the opposite.

Marsha Sigman said...

There are a few books that my friends loved that I was not impressed with at all. But it happens.

I also stayed in the fetal position all weekend. It was that bad.
It's much easier to get in that position than back out of it.

Trust me.

Books Dudes Will Read said...

I'm at this point with reading and reviewing that is more writerly than readerly anymore. I try to check out popular books & keep an open mind as to what people like about them. And what, despite their popularity, I might've done differently as a writer. When I review, I try to focus on what I liked. There's enough negativity in the world. Much of the negative reviews I see are poorly written, hasty, and one-sided. So, you two may get some of those, but take comfort in your zillions of fans. I'm sure the Yea's will outweigh the Nay's.

Tara McClendon said...

Respectfully agreeing to disagree. If someone loves a book that I hate, I'm just glad they connected with a book.

Katie said...

SF and I almost always DISagree. But we still just love to read and have opinions. Bring on the LIAR SOCIETY! She's gonna do just fine :)

ali said...

LOL, I totally feel ya. I *love* the Fionavar Tapestry and many of my friends are like "meh" and sometimes even "heck no!"

Then I have some friends who love Wake and Fade and I *hatethemwithapassion*

So yeah. Not looking forward to those times when people will plaster the internet with all the reasons why I suck and people should boycott not only my book(s) but me personally. As long as there's one person out there, clutching my book to their chest while they sing lullabies to it, I'm all good. ;)

Solvang Sherrie said...

I tend to keep my mouth shut if I hate a book, at least online. And there have been some bestsellers that I just hated. The more authors you get to know, the harder it will be, too, because, y' know, you don't want to diss your friends, right?! So yeah, you do have to remember that not everyone has similar taste and thank God for that!

Amy Ellerman said...

When I read What is the What (Dave Eggars) I was blown away, but then I couldn't get anyone I know to read it. So frustrating! Such an amazing book--and I still want to talk about it. . . .

Carolyn V. said...

I've learned that everyone has different tastes, even in books.

I've learned to keep my mouth shut when I don't like a book (yeah, I had a bad experience to teach me that lesson). But if I really like a book, I feel free to express it.

Little Ms J said...

I hated EAT, PRAY, LOVE and adored HER FEARFUL SYMMETRY. I think that makes me a weirdo from what I've heard.

Talli Roland said...

I will be joining you in the foetal position when my book hits the shelves. I'm terrified of people not liking it, although I know it won't appeal to everyone! I may just shut my eyes and pretend everyone loves it.

Elana Johnson said...

Oh, yes, all the time. I'll read something and think, "Really? This is what has people buzzing?" And then I'll read things and gush about them and my friends are like, "Really, Elana? You liked that?"

It's soooo subjective. And soooo scary to think that there will be people who just don't like your book. Not yours, like, yours, but yours like mine. YOURS is fabulous and I can't imagine anyone not liking it!