I might get into trouble again for postponing a punctuation tutorial again, so think of me when I’m eating my gruel with chopsticks or through a straw. The EM can get very cross, you know…
When I posted a review on Amazon not long ago, I wondered how many readers think about the ‘bigger picture’. There’s always a bigger picture.
Take the Olympics. I found myself getting a little exasperated during the Games by some people’s I’d rather watch paint dry than watch the Olympics attitude. Indeed, sport may not be everybody’s cuppa—there’s only a handful of sports I really enjoy watching on a regular basis, if I’m honest, but I’m always fascinated by just about every sport in the Olympics. There’s more behind these athletes than their one-minute performance: years of dedication that start from a tender age, commitment, pain, injury, then sometimes long recovery. Then there’s the support and sacrifices from their families: parents who get up at silly o’clock to drive their budding champions to the training centre two hours away, and who give their time, encouragement, not to mention financial sacrifices. All this for a moment to run/sail/cycle/swim/ride for one’s country. Isn’t that just awesome? These athletes become role models and teach youngsters how to compete, how to work in a team, perseverance, and it keeps them…well, off the streets potentially. It encourages others to get off the couch and away from twiddling buttons on their electronic gizmos. There’s a story behind each competitor that’s as fascinating as watching him/her achieve. And as for the paralympians…well, don’t get me started. I cry when each and every one of them cross the finish line. Humbling and inspirational.
Now, I believe there’s a ‘bigger picture’ behind a book.
Posting my review of what I thought was an excellent book, I discovered nearly 60 reviews, most of them good. I don’t often read reviews after I’ve read a book, but I was intrigued (and surprised) by the one- and two-star reviews. I thought it was a very good book, how could it possibly get only one or two stars? I found myself wondering whether these readers had put their reviews on the wrong page. Of course, we all have different tastes, and one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but when I looked at these reviews more closely I thought they were a tad harsh and didn’t encompass that ‘outside the box’ thinking.
Every book that lands in my lap for review is to me an extraordinary achievement by another human being and one I could never accomplish. No, really. Please don’t give me that guff about there being a book in everyone; I assure you, in this old bag, there really, really isn’t. And I know it doesn’t come easily even to the most prolific writer; writing is a solitary profession and there are good and bad days. I know that there are supportive families behind the writer—ones who endure good moods, bad moods, erratic moods; there are children who have to be quiet because Mummy or Daddy is writing; garden football, teenagers’ lifts to parties that have had to have been redelegated or rescheduled because Mummy or Daddy is just at that crucial point in the story. Oh yes, that Olympic blood, sweat, and tears plague the author as well.
I find myself thinking about all this when I’m poised to write my review. The review I referred to earlier concerned a detective thriller. Amongst others, there were comments about certain issues that would never have happened in real life. Well, no, quite possibly that was true, but this is fiction. Isn’t that part of why we read? To escape from an ordinary real life? Isn’t that true of all entertainment, films, and drama shows? How many times have you said to yourself, yeah, like that really happens. But it’s drama, so we cut a little slack. Because it’s all good fun. Poetic licence is allowed.
Before smacking that one star on a book you didn’t like, it’s worth taking a moment to step back and reflect how that book got to be on your Kindle/ereader. It didn’t just happen. It may have taken years of hard work and dedication, first by the author and then a team of people doing their best to get a gold medal, both parties keen to continue to improve in their respective crafts. A little encouragement is one of the things that helps this process along.