Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Book Reviews, Blogzillas & Oscar The Grouch

As a kid, I grew up watching Sesame Street, and I have to admit that my least favorite character was always Oscar The Grouch. I just didn't understand what that little green monster had to be snarky about all the time. Especially when all those cool, friendly neighbors came around to visit him every day.

Now that I'm older, I have learned from experience that there is always at least one pessimist around, poking his head out of somewhere. With the explosion of the internet, these grouchy people are popping up more and more in unexpected places, offering their unfiltered opinions in places they're not wanted while using caffeine withdrawal as their primary excuse for their elevated level of bitchiness.

At some point in their careers, authors who have either traditionally-published or self-published their work will encounter what I like to refer to as "Blogzilla." This is a self-proclaimed book critic who does not even require a website or blog to meticulously dissect an authors work, or in some cases, completely hack it to pieces with a machete, but will instead implement popular online platforms such as Goodreads and Amazon on which to post their dirty work. However, as it would be highly uncharacteristic for Blogzilla not to have his/her own cutesy-titled blog where he/she/it can conveniently park rants at a moment's notice, most of them do have their own.

Upon closer study, one will discover that these Blogzillas are quite often wannabe authors who, after being exposed to the dog-eat-dog world of the publishing business, try to make themselves feel better about their unpublished state by stomping all over the work of others. Their take no prisoners attitude propels "snarkiness-to-strangers" to a whole new level. The technical word for this unprovoked persecution is called "trash talking." If your mother raised you correctly, you will immediately recognize this method of communication as the one that got you grounded, butt-whooped, or your phone taken away, depending on the generation in which you were raised.
In addition to creating their very own rant site book review blog, Blogzillas also haunt book-sharing sites such as Goodreads and Amazon where they can broadcast their oh-so-clever condescension to a wider audience before finally publishing it to Facebook, Twitter, and all the other social media sites. These "friend-based" platforms provide Blogzilla with the added bonus of appearing to be a literary subject matter expert to their family, neighbors, colleagues, and (of course) fellow book club members.

If at this point you still don't know what I am referring to, go to Goodreads and/or Amazon and select any book with at least 50 ratings/reviews. Reviews vary widely depending on the book, author and genre, but even on the most beloved book pages of our generation (or previous generations) you are bound to find those depressing 1-star reviews. Because these book rating sites decided to create a ranking system by which one star is the lowest possible rating, the meaning behind that one star can vary between a general dislike of the book to "this-was-the-worst-book-in-the-history-of-the-planet-and-the-author-should-be-taken-out-and-shot-to-prevent-him-from-ever-writing-again."

Let's face it -- with seven billion people on the planet, you are going to have seven billion different opinions on the necessity or obscurity of just a single book. And while each individual has the right to award one-star to a book they did not enjoy reading, there is a vast difference between the average reader who just gives it the thumbs down and Blogzilla, who turns a simple book review into their own personal vendetta against the author by escalating into name-calling and "shelving" the book under a most undesirable name with the intention of scaring off potential readers. (You know the ones I'm talking about, right?)

The good news is that most people perusing these sites can see through the negative reviews and recognize them for what they are. There is a definite line that is crossed when a book review suddenly turns into a rant seemingly written by someone from the psycho ward, and the average reader can pick this out fairly well. It is at this point that Blogzilla loses all credibility and that one star rating is taken with a grain of salt.
So what are we to do with these negative reviews?
For any writer, author, artist, or other person whose work requires them to release their blood, sweat and tears into the public domain, professionalism dictates that these perpetrators of perpetual Oscar the Grouchism simply be ignored. Which isn't easy when the author has poured his/her heart and soul onto the page in the hopes of entertaining just a few hopeless souls in desperate need of escapism. But by not responding to or engaging with these killjoys of society, the author creates the opportunity to display a level of dignity and grace not seen since before the invention of the internet, otherwise known as "taking the high road." How refreshing.
What about you? Have you ever been witness to the rants of Blogzilla? Tell me about your experiences in the comments section below.