No Blame

One of my books received a very negative review the other day. I took note of some of the things  upon which it has given a slant regarding the nature of my ‘style’ etc., but it has also  at least temporarily upset my confidence regarding all my creative activities. Human nature, on my part, I suppose. And I don’t intend to give the impression that I have any sour grapes or jurisdiction over what peeople say about the book.  It is an interesting quandary, though.

Having dwelt further on this matter, I must say that I am surprised that the job of reviewing the book was passed to someone who appears, from outset, significantly out of tune with the book. One could argue that it is advisable not to review a book at all if one is out of tune with it to such an extreme extent. And, personally, I would delete, ‘in media res’, any review I was writing if I found myself heading in such an extreme negative direction. But when does ordinarily negative become extremely negative?  I just don’t know.  I’m not blaming anyone.

But having decided to make public such a devastating criticism of the book, the reviewing organisation would, I hope, have also weighed in the balance (to help reach this decision) that an independent publisher considered it worthy enough to publish while the only two other independent reviews so far have been positive.  The latter evidence may well have indicated that a choice of a different reviewer may have been more appropriate or not to review it at all.  I just don’t know.

This is not a complaint, but a general thinking aloud about the pros and cons of extreme negative reviewing.  I have an open mind about it. I don’t know if the prominence of the book or the author or the reviewer is pertinent to any decisions mentioned above. Or do we just go for broke with no second thoughts?  I am torn in two or ‘blinded’ by my personal involvement as the subject of this particular review. So I’d be grateful for some objective views either here or privately.

PS: I trust the review in question was not carried out using the actual personalised copy of the book I sent as a stated gift (not a review copy) to help ease an earlier public internet altercation between co-members of the BFS.  That would have been rubbing salt in the wounds. 😉


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26 responses to “No Blame

  1. I can’t really keep this generalised as a quandary or talking point about extreme negative reviews. It has been drawn to my attention that it is obviously about:
    [or ]
    because the theakersquarterly link has now kindly back-linked to this post.

    As I say, though, no blame.


    A previous Theakers Quarterly review tagged ‘DF Lewis’.
    This review was still published despite the book being lost (it says) before getting on to considering its contents!
    I thought that was funny at the time – and perhaps it was. 🙂

    to be published in June 2011 by Chomu Press.

    Theakers Quarterly in their review about ‘Weirdtongue’:
    “I won’t be demanding a rematch.”
    The implication being that they will not be grappling with ‘Nemonymous Night’?

  4. Today, while out voting ‘yes’ for AV, I picked up fortuitously an old secondhand Penguin book outside the Stroke Centre: ‘The Art of Fiction’ by David Lodge (1992) that, according to the blurb, seems to be dealing, inter alia, with ‘the Intrusive Author’ syndrome. I shall be interested to see how my own version of the mock-Intrusive Author (highlighted by the Theakers Quarterly Review) fits in with Lodge’s own thesis.

  5. Regarding my first comment above:
    ‘Reviewed by John Greenwood’ (in large letters) has very recently been added to the overall title of the first link at
    while exactly the same review at Stephen Theaker’s blog is still not by-lined other than by that blog title:

  6. Further to Theakers Quarterly’s surprising review of the lost ZENCORE as linked above in an earlier comment, I’ve just had brought to my attention this amazing one in 2007 by Howard Phillips of my WEIRDMONGER collection:

  7. I’ve found another review on T’s Q site:
    from 2009, but I do actually recall this review. This chapbook, btw, was published in 1993.
    I am intrigued by the phrase ‘deliberately repulsive’. It raises all manner of debating-points in my mind about Horror Literature, Truism, Authorial detachment etc etc. I have written about these points for many years now, including ‘The Ominous Imagination’.

  8. So, after the above research and more, I feel Theaker’s Quarterly Reviews are all certainly stimulating, often perceptive, sometimes eccentric if not hilarious … and at least in one personal case irresistibly arguable?… Salt of the Reviewer’s Earth. 🙂
    And so be it.

  9. PS: Finally, this has been a sort of rambling exercise in real-time as a reaction to a review, not so much that type of public reaction from which all authors are warned to refrain, but more of an open-hearted re-assembling of one’s creative soul against or in the light of extreme criticism?

    Or perhaps this is just another ramble from Des Lewis’s blog (to quote T’s Q). 😉

  10. I think Stephen’s recent article completely misunderstands my blog ‘No Blame’. But I’ll allow myself to be blamed for allowing those loopholes to be exploited. I’ll let others decide, too.
    I was not talking about ordinary bad reviews, but deliberately *very very* bad reviews indeed, ones that people have written to me privately agreeing with what I was saying in this context about the John Greenwood review. And I was careful not to assign blame or come to any conclusion, hence the title. Nor have I doubted the existence of anyone. I even joined John Greenwood’s Facebook page as a Friend.

  11. I was not implying ‘malicious’ intent above, by the way, in the actual writing of the review and the findings made. I am not referring to the review itself, but the context and tone and exploiting or decontextualising things, as I feel Stephen has done in his recent article. But I’ll let others decide. I may be wrong.
    There is another article of mine in addition to ‘No Blame’, called ‘Weirdtongue Palaver’ that actually addresses some of John Greenwood’s literary points. Only my opinions, of course. (‘Palaver’ after Stephen King’s Dark Tower) 🙂

  12. Before this discussion gets out of hand – and I’m not sure where it’s going today or what it all means:

    But two comments on Stephen’s Facebook thread today:

    A.N. Other. Don’t worry too much Des….The internet is sort of meaningless. Don’t let it sabotage your real life. Do your real time review….All this stuff seems terribly important, but it isn’t. I don’t even know what the discussion is about – but if it is about books or Stephen not liking a book – well, my own wife doesn’t like half of what I write….
    5 minutes ago · Like · 1 person.

    My reply: Yes, I agree about the Internet. But Stephen’s put an article about my actions on the internet into printed book form as an major editorial.
    2 minutes ago · Like

  13. An interesting and valuable take from Peter Tennant:

    Indeed, the internet is full of cut and thrust. I think I am being witch hunted in many ways, myself, now, for certain things of mine on the internet that are being misinterpreted. I’ve really got no redress upon an editorial in a printed book however – it’s been taken into a new stratosphere.

  14. Sleeping on it has not changed my views – as I still resent being accused on Facebook yesterday of “stirring a witch hunt”. Whose work was very aggressively lambasted in an on-line review and now, personally, in a printed editorial? Now quite beyond my reach of redress. The audit trail seems clear to me from some months ago. I don’t expect people to follow that trail as it would waste their time, but if they do, I’d leave it to them to decide in the privacy of their own homes the rights and wrongs. Was I wrong in defending myself against a review of *extreme* criticism that crossed a line of tone and factual substance. I accept the opinions, though, that emerged and I have nothing personally against the reviewer or Theakers Quarterly where the review appeared. My first comment on Stephen’s Facebook yesterday was: “Stephen I’ve always admired your output and hard work in the field, and I shall not allow our not seeing eye to eye on the interpretative reality of matters concerning my works and my actions, and vice versa, to change any of that that.” I don’t really know him or John Greenwood. I was accepted as friend on the latter’s Facebook (and still am after a few months) but it seems to be a quiet Facebook so I only made one posting (on music).

    If I am at fault anywhere (as I am sure I must be), I apologise.

  15. “Your reaction to the review was to attack the reviewer’s right to give a book a bad review, and my editorial is a response to that argument.”

    That is not at all true, as I clarify above. (This ‘No Blame’ blog and the ‘Weirdtongue Palaver’ blog constituted the actual so-called ‘attack’ in question, I believe). There is, I humbly feel, also a distinction between a ‘bad review’ (that I’ve had many of) and the type of review that Theakers Quarterly published.

    Also, I shall not give even a glimpse into earlier pre-resolution private email correspondence.

    My statement, earlier today (above), still stands as my sole and discrete statement. If that is taken as an apology for the other party to accept without offering one of his own, so be it. I am happy the farrago is over.

  16. I’d be grateful for any general views on John Updike’s view on Reviewing linked above.
    This seems to underlie, felicitously, my own general view on book reviewing and in particular my real-time reviewing (2008 to date).

    If you wish to comment generally, I’ve posted his rules on a blog HERE.


  17. My reaction to posts elsewhere (the first paragraph refers to Stephen’s printed Editorial)

    It was a good general point about bad reviews. But I was taking issue with the fact that the review you were using as part of your thesis was not, in my eyes, just an ordinary bad review. And your unwarranted attack on me.

    Let’s be clear, I’ve started no new threads about this issue. I responded on this thread above* to your sudden attack following my comments to someone else. I started a defence of myself on the other threads that you began to advertise your new issue, an issue which had a leading editorial article in it called “How Could a Person Up and Call a Person Wack?!” (Crikey! That title! Is something called that in formal print worth giving the dignity to of commenting on in detail? Like I said, if people want to do so – which I doubt – they may judge this issue based on its evidence.) BTW, I did not even start a new thread on my own blog, but used the old one.

    Please look at it from my point of view, with some empathy. I respect the opinions that underpin JG’s review, I respect him (although I don’t know him and he has, perhaps sensibly, not been involved with me in private or public discussions) – but I did not respect the nature of the review. I won’t go into why again.

    I wrote a tentative blog post** ending (at that point) with my own summation of the post:

    “this has been a sort of rambling exercise in real-time as a reaction to a review, not so much that type of public reaction from which all authors are warned to refrain, but more of an open-hearted re-assembling of one’s creative soul against or in the light of extreme criticism?”

    Then, much later, I am faced with something you produce in print that escalates matters greatly. I’m sure you will agree – in eventual hindsight – that you over-reacted to my little read and tentative blog.

    I certainly feel like the victim not the aggressor, although I do accept Pete’s fair interpretative post# on the matter, in my own hindsight. But I do not accept your own series of ‘sledgehammers’ and other points most of which I don’t understand.
    * ie the thread where this appears
    ** ie this post where you’re reading this (if anyone is reading it!) and Weirdtongue Palaver on the Weirdtongue website
    # linked above in another comment

  18. To finish, Stephen did accept my apology earlier for what I may have done wrong – which would include heat of the moment clumsy wording etc. on fluid discussion forums – but I don’t think he will ever forgive me for what he sees as what I have done. He probably won’t see the need to apologise for his non-heat-of-the-moment ‘Wack’ article or for what he alleged on his Facebook to me.
    However, I did appreciate his jokes along the way with Homer Simpson etc. following my own comments about my false teeth. And even the Ha of Ha jokes were funny, I suppose. 🙂
    I’m hoping this is the last thing I need to say on the matter.

  19. After I answered Howard’s two long posts on Stephen’s thread addressed to me: Stephen wrote this:

    “I’m afraid that unless your future comments have anything new to bring to the conversation, I’m simply going to delete them. There’s no point in going over the same territory again and again.
    You’ve long since passed the point where you can presume upon my patience.”

    I replied:
    “I am answering Howard’s points. Surely you expect me to do so.”

    Which vanished after I posted it.

    So that’s that then.

    PS: Note to Self: I don’t think there is any reason to look back at that thread now beyond this point in time.

  20. I’ve purchased a copy of the Theaker’s Quarterly Book in question. I intend to ‘real-time review’ its stories at some stage in the future.

    is where you can find my review of what I found to be eight simply great stories.

  22. Beginning of a healing process? Please see today’s post here:

  23. I passworded this thread a few minutes ago plus some others germane to this issue.