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21 April 2013

The Wonderful World Of Literary Criticism

There is a website called amazon.com. It has nothing to do with the Brazilian rainforest. It sells things. Specifically, it sells anything under the sun that can be legally traded for cash or credit.

In addition to the anything under the sun that they sell, they also sell books. One can buy hardcover and/or paperback books and have them shipped within six to eight months, or one can buy what are called e-books. These are books that are not actually books, but computer files with the content of actual books. Sometimes the content of the e-book is exactly the same as the content of the real book. Sometimes the content is nothing like the real book. Sometimes the e-book is such a piece of shit that no publisher in the world would ever print it as a real book, such as “Cupids [sic] Arrow Hits The Target”.

I prefer real books. For one thing, they are real. For another, and this part might be more important, they were written, edited, proofread and published by professionals. Perhaps they are not always written by professionals, such as Cybill Shepherd’s autobiography, but a published book is usually edited by someone who understands the basic rules of spelling, grammar and punctuation. Amazon, as a publisher, will sell absolutely anything. I do not simply mean Danielle Steel versus Leo Tolstoy. If you are ten years old and illiterate, Amazon will publish and sell your Great American Novel. Some of the crap I have seen on Amazon makes Danielle Steel look like Mary Anne Evans.

This is why critics were invented. As we all know, critics are the wisest amongst us who can take us by the hand and guide us through the dreck and into the wonderful world of literature.

Once upon a time there was something called a newspaper. Every major city had one and people read them even if they had no internet connection at home. In the city of New York there was such a newspaper, called The New York Times. In addition to creating a vast liberal conspiracy, it published reviews of the latest books. Or rather, the latest books that its esteemed critics deemed worthy of our considerations.

Praise by The New York Times Book Review almost guaranteed a best seller, just as any shitcanning would almost always cause sales to plummet. For good or ill, people are sheep and will generally like what they are told to like.

This used to bother me because I believe that critics, by and large, are fundamentally a waste of space. No one on the planet can tell me what I will and will not like better than I. There is no reason to assume that I will hate something just because Pauline Kael hated it. In fact, I am more likely to like that which she hated.

I realize that Pauline Kael was a film critic, but she is an excellent example of someone whose opinions I am supposed to agree with but rarely do.

But that was the past. Now anyone can be a critic. Now everyone is a critic. People buy their real books and e-books based not on what newspaper critics tell them they should like, but based on the inane ramblings of anonymous strangers. If Alison Arngrim’s autobiography gets mostly five star reviews, it will be a bestseller. I have nothing against Ms Arngrim, and found her performances superior to Melissa Sue Anderson’s, but is her book a greater work of literature than Theodore Roosevelt’s autobiography? According to the reviews at Amazon it is.

Critics of the past may have had an inflated sense of their own importance, but at least most of them could coherently put four or five words together. The aforementioned Pauline Kael was a bit of a douchebag, but she was a capable and often witty writer. “Joseph Doerr” (see below) is simply an idiot.

One could easily argue that I am only complaining because of bad reviews of my own work. However, my latest masterpiece has received nothing but high praise to date. The fact that it only has one review and that I know the reviewer personally is irrelevant. It has 100% five star reviews. In the world of selling your crap online, this is all that matters.

My complaint is not that any idiot can write an illiterate review of my work and damage the enormous income I earn from those 70¢ royalties. My complaint is that any idiot can write illiterate reviews of absolutely anything while I can review absolutely nothing.

I do not own any electronic reading device. But I own a computer, and that computer has a program that can read e-books. I still prefer actual books, but e-books are terribly convenient and take up far less space. My computer could probably hold a thousand times as many books as the largest bookshelf I have ever had were it not already full of midget donkey porn.

Since I have a computer, and since I live in a land where books are hard to come by and mostly turn to compost in the constant oppressive heat and humidity, I have begun to download e-books. At websites like Amazon, great works of world literature are often free or very inexpensive, while the giant chunks of shit have the highest prices. This works out in my favor since I prefer great works of world literature to giant chunks of shit, and everything for sale at Amazon costs at least two or three dollars more to those of us who refuse to live in the United States. This is ostensibly because shipping items from within the United States to without is more expensive. Amazon either does not realize that downloaded digital items require no postal services or, more likely, they simply want to charge more to as many people as possible.

Amazon has websites for the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Brazil and probably somewhere else, but I do not live in any of those nations either.

I can download free e-books onto my computerized reading program and actually read them. Whenever I do, Amazon is kind enough to make recommendations on other items I might enjoy, all based on previous items downloaded.

When one downloads something from Amazon, this is considered a “purchase”, despite the absence of any money changing hands. When one makes a “purchase”, Amazon invites one to review the item. This might be done to give customers the false hope that their opinions matter. In an effort to help out aspiring young authors, I thought I would display my usual benevolence and write a nice review or two.

However, to write a review, one must have actually purchased something and not simply “purchased” it. Despite being asked by Amazon robots to write reviews every time I downloaded something for free, I could not write a review because what I downloaded was free.

This only partially bothers me. I need not actually buy the item I wish to review, which is good since most e-books cost at least two or three dollars more to those of us who do not live in the United States. I can download an MP3 song file for 99¢ and then review “Admiration On Valentine’s Day”, which is seven pages long and costs US$102 for some reason. I would like to review this book because it looks great, from the cover all the way down to the riveting synopsis.

An excerpt:

“Who is this Red Rose that just walked in the she hot stuff,”………………………………….
“Thomas told David this Rosie one Melissa best friends, your luck she single.

Look out, WH Auden. Cintilante.

Unfortunately for the unpublishable at Amazon, I cannot download a 99¢ MP3 song.

Not only does Amazon charge extra for the privilege of buying their products from outside of the United States, but they also care enough about international relations to protect us from the evils of music.

While I am not allowed to post a literate review that might encourage someone to spend money at Amazon, real Americans can post the following:

You would think that after spending twelve years in high school, this person would know how to write a better review.

The good news for Amazon is that some of these reviews are positive, such as these glowing recommendations for Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, one of the world’s great novels.


Anonymous said...

This blog is a travesty. You are using the names of real people without their permission. You must cease and desist immediately. Think about the reputation of these poor reviewers that you are slandering. I insist that you remove this post immediately. These people deserve no less. If you don't, you will see several surprises from me and my friends. When you see these surprises, your only reaction will be to say "what they hay is going on????"

Paul R. Gannaway

Anonymous said...

And also remember the karma!!

Paul R. Gannaway

美國人 said...

I agree. This blog is a travesty.

Anonymous said...

What is wrong with blog? It not update. I click refresh and not update.

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