Artistic Snobbery

"Hell is the other." Jean-Paul Sartre
“Hell is the other.” Jean-Paul Sartre

When I read a post from an author I respect that I strongly disagree with I often like to sit back and think about it. I have a passionate nature, well suited to writing murder mysteries where I can cut off people’s heads when annoyed. It is better for me to contemplate the error of the article, in my opinion, than to shoot from the hip. I like that expression and I couldn’t care less that it is a cliché. I was confronted recently with this type of situation in a post bemoaning the uselessness of the Amazon review system.

I have been called a snob in my lifetime. As a trained ballet dancer, an artist, I understand the pain and work that goes into a performance that must appear effortless. Despite the work, I wasn’t good enough to pursue a professional career. The artistic mindset, however, flows across all of the acknowledged forms: music, theatre, literature, dance, painting, etc. Within each form are those who believe that there is a level of sublime superiority. Below that level, well, the world also needs ditch diggers, right?

I am not a professional reviewer. I am a blogger and a relatively new author. What I am about to say may mean a hill of beans to you. But if I want to give a book that I enjoyed reading four or five stars I have every right to do so. I couldn’t care less that there are people scamming the system. I’m not. I don’t badger people for reviews and I don’t pay for them. I have sent my book off to reviewers and reviewing sites. I will not give a review below three-stars because I understand what goes into writing a book. If the book has not achieved three-stars, I will not review it.

As one of those who labor in the trenches, I believe it is foolish of the indie literati to hold up one or two fellow authors as if they are the only writers worthy of accolades. It is wrong to chastise those who were swept away by a story of a fellow author who wish to reward said author the best way they know how — by posting a good review for all the world to see. Amazon is the world for many writers. Just because a sentence is beautifully written doesn’t mean it is the only sentence worth reading. That is New York Times snobbery.

I am confronted daily by the difficulties of the writing lifestyle. I remind myself constantly that there is no such thing as an overnight success. I write, blog, edit, research, share, and support my fellow authors whenever I get a chance. Paying it forward, as my friend Ms. Peach says, is what it is all about.

As I wrote earlier in this post I have been called a snob. I embrace the high standards I have — I earned them. But they are my standards and I will wield them the way I want. You’re not the boss of me.

Somewhere in a parallel universe there is a café where all good writers go when they die. They debate the issues we mortals confront on a daily basis. They have strong opinions on the roadblocks we must surmount. Their lives and experiences were different, their paths strewn with the corpses of those critics who said their work wasn’t good enough. The critics’ names are forgotten but the work of those who create stories we love live on.

The café is packed, every table occupied with artists and writers engaged in verbal combat. Our eye is pulled to the closest table, where Ernest Hemingway, Jean-Paul Sartre, Kurt Vonnegut, and Thomas Hardy enjoy their evening cocktails.

“You should never have let him bully you, Tom,” Ernest growls. “What he needed was a good punch in the jaw. Do you know where he lives? Let’s go to his house and beat the snot out of him.”

“Oh, it hasn’t changed much down there,” Kurt laughed. “People are still worrying about the life of the semi-colon. Useless bugger. The words are important. The story.”

“Well, I like semi-colons,” said Tom sadly. “I know I had another novel in me but I was too depressed to continue.”

“Exactly,” Ernest agreed. “A good fist-fight will make you feel better and get the creative juices flowing.”

Tom sipped his sherry. Ernest scared him a little. He was too ruggedly handsome and manly.

“I think I will write him a scathing letter,” Tom offered in compromise.

“A scathing letter is no match for a sock in the kisser,” Ernest said. He threw back the absinthe he was drinking and motioned to the waiter for a refill. “What do you think, JP?”

Sartre took a long drag of his Gauloise. The smoke slipped through his open mouth slowly, floating toward the starry night sky.

“I am more concerned with the writer’s journey,” he reflected. “I watch their struggles every day. The gatekeepers are still at it, trying to squash the voices that should be heard. Remember, mes amis, we are the sum of our actions, and as writers, of our work. Even here, we continue to grow in our ideas. I never thought this possible, but I was wrong. And if I, one of the greatest philosophers of the twentieth century can be wrong, then any opinion can be disputed.”

“Very nice,” Ernest agreed. “But sometimes philosophical thought and strongly worded letters aren’t enough. I still say we kick his butt.”

Author: L. A. Lewandowski

Lois Lewandowski graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in Political Science and French Literature. A passion for life lived well is reflected in her novels, Born to Die-The Montauk Murders, A Gourmet Demise, and My Gentleman Vampire, giving readers a glimpse into the world of the beau monde. Lois lives in Tampa, Florida. Learn more at her lifestyle blog, and her Amazon author page.

38 thoughts on “Artistic Snobbery”

  1. What a wonderful piece, Lois. The dialogue in writer’s heaven made me smile. You hit the different outlooks so well.

    My review policy is the same as yours, for much the same reasons. And, as an author, I appreciate every one I get. Nor do I pay for them.

  2. Love this, Lois! I do think Ernest would have popped him in the snoot. On the reviews, I so appreciate those who give the time to drop me one. And since I don’t cotton to people telling me how I “should” review a book I enjoyed, I agree with you there, too.

  3. Loved it! Go, Ernest!

    I love writing reviews for other authors–paying it forward is the best–and occasionally the tide returns. Yet I don’t base my life on the rising of the waters. I just push forward.

    1. Hi Kathy,
      Every day there is another challenge, and I love it. I have the best, I’ll say it again, best group of authors in my network. When I’m stressed, someone always picks me up. And I do the same for them.
      When I can read and review a fellow author’s book I do. I love all genres, so I’m fairly easy to please.
      Thanks for stopping by.

      1. Semicolons have their place; I like em dashes too, though. (See what I did there? lol)

        Yeah, miss you guys. The good news is I’m crazy busy doing something I love (editing), but I do try to read the odd post here when I get a moment.

  4. I agree 100 percent, Lois. They’re MY opinions, and I don’t need anyone to tell me what they ‘should’ be. And I’m perfectly capable of setting my own standards for what constitutes a five-star book.

    1. Hi M.P.,
      I don’t give a lot of five-stars, but I do give a four when I really enjoy the story and the creativity of the writer. An author deserves a pat on the back when they write an engaging book.
      Thanks for your comment.

  5. It’s funny. I’ve never heard anyone complain about the Amazon review system in regard to anything else other than books. The system works really well apparently for everything else from socks to puppets — with no complaints about socks and puppets. Do I really need to be an expert, connoisseur or paid reviewer to discuss my opinion about movies, music, shoes, toilet brushes or even MLB Classic Frozen Rope Baseball Necklaces? So why should it matter about books? Although the reviews for this MLB Classic Frozen Rope Baseball Necklaces were clearly written by the seller’s friends and family…

    http://www.amazon.com/Philadelphia-Phillies-Classic-Baseball-Necklace/dp/B00366MEYA/ref=sr_1_3?s=apparel&ie=UTF8&qid=1415987988&sr=1-3&keywords=baseball+cards

    1. Hey! Wow, this is the best thing ever!!! All Yankee and Red Sox fans should change their allegiance and wear this bracelet. 😉
      Thanks for the link.
      We authors do worry about having activity on our author page and that is why reviews are so important. I’m not mean enough to trample on a fellow author’s feelings.
      Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Great post Lois! One of the more entertaining articles I’ve read in awhile. So true – no one is the boss of you 😉 as writers we have a little bit of each of these great personalities. Sometimes we are philosophical and pensive, other times our fists are flying. (Yes another cliche)

    1. Thank you, Elisabeth.
      My baby sister used to yell that at me, “You’re not the boss of me!”
      I read a lot of Sartre in college. I love all these writer’s work, and they are so different from each other. I can’t imagine the idiot reviewer who panned Jude The Obscure. Hardy was brilliant. The Mayor of Casterbridge is a masterpiece. The reviewer should be beaten up for depriving the world of other great works from Hardy.

  7. Great job, Lois, and it made me wonder if you and I have been reflecting on the same post this week, because I’ve been having similar thoughts after reading something a few days ago.

    1. I wrote this post three weeks ago and beat the IU deadline for the first time ever. 😉
      Everyone is entitled to their opinion. But if it wasn’t for Kat and a few others I would have been so discouraged I wouldn’t have continued writing. I’m at the point where I know enough to be dangerous. And, more importantly, respectful of the product that is produced by my fellow writers.
      Thanks for stopping by.

  8. Lois, this piece was absolutely delightful. I’m not sure if I give a rat’s a.. if a reviewer is top of Amazon’s list. I prefer not to be reviewed along with blenders, spanx, and other assorted commodities. I felt like I was sitting at the next table in the cafe doing a bit of eavesdropping. Loved it!!!

    1. Thank you so much!
      I would love to be there, in Les Deux Magots, listening to this discussion.
      I like spandex but it constrains the anatomy the way some of the tight a** reviews do. Let’s all have some fun and read books. Both opera and Shakespeare started as entertainment for the common man. We can learn from that.

  9. -giggles- I’ll have what Tom’s having! A scathing letter is about my limit too. 🙂

    Wonderful piece, Lois. I wish you’d continue and make a novel out of it! Oh, and I agree. 🙂

  10. Bravo, Lois, bravo; an article with feeling, with panache. Hemingway has always been a particular favourite of mine, I never really knew why; I guess it should have been obvious. I really look forward to that café in the sky (Heaven, Paradise, an alternate reality of some description that I’m quite sure I will experience; that and Valhalla of course).

    I feel pretty much the same way about reviews and reviewing as you do, Lois: nice to get a good one, certainly wouldn’t pay for it; nice to give a good one, never give a really bad one, and don’t expect a bad one.

    1. Thanks, T.D.
      I try not to read an indie book that has a topic I think I won’t like.
      I do believe that there is something after this life. What it is, I don’t know. But I would love to sit with my literary heroes and drink a nice cocktail. Or in Ernest’s case, a shot and a beer.

  11. Nice piece.

    Regarding reviews, I wish one could give half stars. Personally I think 5 stars should be reserved to truly great writing: “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, “Anna Karenina” or even “The Little Drummer Girl”. Many’s the time I’d like to give a book 4 1/2 stars, but it doesn’t quite meet that standard of true excellence. So I round down, rather than cheapen what 5 stars ought to mean.

    I won’t give a one star review. That verges on vindictive. But I have on rare occasions posted a two star review for writers who have put out a mediocre piece of work, from whom I expected better.

    And the above goes for my own writing too. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why anyone would have rated my book a 5.

    1. Hi John,
      I recently read a book by Corinne Gantz, Hidden in Paris, that I rated five stars. I found myself thinking about it during the day. What was going to happen? How did the husband die and why? I was captivated by Ms. Gantz’s story and as a result rated it five stars. She deserved it.
      I agree that a half of a star would be helpful from time to time. I always round up.
      Thanks for your comment. 🙂

  12. Excellent article, thank you Lois!

    I might be a bit of a literary snob myself. Even worse: I much prefer male authors to female ones. (Comes to think of it this makes me a snob AND a sexist, oh great.) But I’m not a liar. So I made the decision not to review fellow indie authors on Amazon just in case I have nothing nice to say. But what I will do is help promote their work on my blog or via social media. It’s my way to be supportive without losing integrity. I say let readers write reviews and we writers can stay out of the fray.

  13. I’ve not come across an author complaining about the Amazon review system except in that they can’t get enough. I think your approach, regarding not posting a low-star review is fair. When I review for Books & Pals, I tell it like I saw it and let the stars fall where they should (IMO), but I don’t cross-post to Amazon and Goodreads if it’s less than ***. It hurts the author’s averages too much, and it’s only my opinion. I too loved your heavenly chat–kudos.

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