Thursday, June 14, 2012

Save the Sundae

“How can a kid look this cute while throwing a tantrum?” 

That was the caption under a photo of Suri Cruise on the ABC News website. Apparently, Suri threw a temper tantrum at FAO Schwarz, a toy store in New York City.

It’s obviously troubling that we are such a celebrity-obsessed society that a 5-year-old’s tantrum makes the news, but what I find even more disconcerting is this comment left by one of the readers: 

Cute? LOL! She looks like exactly what she is: a spoiled brat that owns and rules the whole family. She’ll be a terror as a teen and all the Christian Science intervention won’t make up for the fact that the ‘parents’ allowed this little brat to run her own life. BTW she always DID look ridiculous in those fruitcake high heels…

I am worried about this because if a cute little 5-year-old can’t escape brutal criticism then I am totally screwed.
The fact of the matter is that some people are not going to like my book. They might even write negative reviews about it. I hope I can cope with the criticism and it won’t drive me to drink excessively. (Well, excessivelyer.)

To prepare myself emotionally, I’ve been reading negative reviews about other grammar books. Here’s one about Mignon Fogarty’s popular grammar guide Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing

I saw all the great reviews on this book and thought this book must be top-notch. Unfortunately, it's just meh. Mignon (who happens to have one of the worst author names I've ever heard) certainly knows her subject. That being said, she's not much of a teacher. 

Oh my god! Should I change my name? Is Jenny too meh?

I read this quote from Kurt Vonnegut that made me feel a little better: 

“Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae.”

(To be fair, I have attacked a hot fudge sundae, but it was an attack of passion.)

But then I read this other quote by Kurt Vonnegut, and it made me doubt his wisdom: 

“Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college.”      

Vonnegut is totally off base here. College grads rarely know when to use semicolons.


Shelly said...

I'm thinking you should already find a way to get a copy of your book to Johnny Depp. Who knows- maybe the next Pirates movie will need an English teacher wench.

Emily said...


Felt Family said...

A transvestite hermaphrodite? "Not that there's anything wrong with that."

E.J. Wesley said...

Hilarious. Big fan of Grammar Girl, and I actually think she has a pretty awesome writer-type name.

The webz allow anyone and everyone to speak their mind. In fact if you don't, it somehow makes you irrelevant. So I'd take it as a good sign if people are roasting you. It's the crickets we should fear.

Mark said...

Hey sometimes I still have trouble with semi-colons. I think I have sorted now. Maybe. I think everyone can expect some negative criticism, especially writers. There's a good chances you'll be trashed by another author under a fake name. It really happens all the time. Just know that what you're doing is correct, and you should be fine :)

Mary Aalgaard, Play off the Page said...

Don't sweat it. Your book will rock the grammar humor world.

Crystal Pistol said...

I like that you said excessivelyer.

I also attack desserts out of passion.

I addition, I graduated from college; and I can't wait to read your book. :)

Janette Dolores said...

I think you summed it up with the following: "The fact of the matter is that some people are not going to like my book."

C'est tout. Gotta take the good with the bad. Everyone gets bashed for their work and, every now and then, there is a lesson to be gleaned from it. It's the people who say mean things for the sake of being mean--i.e. the person who swiped at the name "Mignon"--who are just venting their unhappiness instead of actually reviewing anything. I'd ignore the meaner reviews.

My two cents...and there's nothing meh about Jenny!

Dylan Fitzgerald said...

I actually got my first nasty comment on my blog recently, and it was uniquely horrifying. If anybody has the gall to make any nasty comments about your book, just point him or her my way, and I'll-- ahem-- make my own views on the subject known (i.e. sit on his or her head until he or she cries uncle).

Also, I heart semicolons.

the late phoenix said...

i am liking you excessivelyer and excessivelyer, shoot me an email if you ever need a drinking buddy...

Jono said...

I always figure that perfection is impossible to criticize. The faults, mistakes, and misjudgements are therefore the problems and personality flaws of the critic. No worries!

Jo-Ann said...

Vitriolic criticism says more about the critiquer than the critiquee, in my opinion.

And quite often the nastier stuff bashes a single point taken out of context. If I wanted to criticise the commenter re Tom cruise's kid, forex, I might point out that they're not Christian Scientisits at all but Scientologists, then use that to question the commenter's right breathe air, let alone air an opinion about anythng at all. But why bother? I actually think bad stuff is obvious to all.

What's the old saying? The dogs bark but the caravan rolls on. Let 'em bark.

Terra Shield said...

I think if she had been just a local five year old who didn't have famous parents, she wouldn't have received such criticism.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Here I am in the comments and I totally forgot what your post was about. Now all I want is a hot fudge sundae.

KatieO said...

Great post! So glad to have found your blog - thanks for finding me, too!

(And I love excessivelyer - I'm going to start using that.)

But I have to agree with Vonnegut about semicolons. As an editor, I have to say the only people who use them are showing off, and even then they either use them wrong or overuse them... they're mostly useless, but I like his description much better ;-)

Theresa Milstein said...

Okay, there's a lot of competition here, but I'm going out on a limb to say this is one of your best posts.

Irksome semicolons. If Kurt doesn't like 'em then I'm no longer going to wrestle with 'em.

85 1 star reviews of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone on Amazon:

86 1 star reviews of To Kill a Mockingbird (Same 85 people + 1?):

This means:

1) You can't please everyone
2) Around 85 people have no taste

Then I found 3395 5 star reviews of Twilight:

Do with that information what you will.

Lynda R Young said...

Yep, I think you should change your name to Jenni with a heart above the i. That would make you cuter than Suri and ensure to keep the haters at bay.

Tony Van Helsing said...

Five year old's are quite happy criticising other people. They often point at me and say 'Mummy, why is that man so sad'? Therefore I have no problem with five year old's being criticised when they get out of line.

Hart Johnson said...

Who would DARE to criticize your book!? I'm sure it's fabulous! Reviews are such a funny thing. I think some people have the trick to writing them and others don't--I think I could take a bad one if it made sense or was clear why, but some reviewers just say sort of vague mean things.

Al Penwasser said...

I had a semicolonoscopy before. My HMO wouldn't foot the bill for the whole procedure.
I use semicolons in my book; I guess I must hasten to the editing room after a hot fudge sundae.
Oops, you see that? I just did it again.
See? I can't help myself.
NOTE: I do not have an editing "room." That was pure fabrication on my part. I just have a laptop next to my bed.

Sara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sara said...

omg I just literally LOL'd at your "..but it was an attack of passion." HA HA HA - I love it!!

As for the point you raise though, I must admit I have become concerned about the same thing. People can be mean--SHOCKINGLY mean. And the gut-wrenching process of writing and editing my first book has made me at once more appreciative and more gentle of other people's work. Because here's the thing: It's so easy to breezily dismiss someone else's years-long work or life-long project with a casual, "Oh yeah, I saw it/read that and it sucked." But no matter how much we may think it sucked, it still is someone else's baby (in the case of Suri - literally someone else's baby!). And as such it deserves to be respected, if only as a matter of common courtesy and human decency.

James Garcia Jr. said...

No worries, Jenny. There will be those who won't care for it. Yet, there will be so many more who will love, adore and proudly display their personally autographed copy for all to see... *grins*