The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Thumbs Up and Down for Books

I was excited to listen to the Canada Reads debates that started Monday. I read three and a half of the books! I thought this would be a nice chance to bask in book-love. Not something I’ve been able to do in the busy rush of life these past months.

Well, by the end of the first half-hour I was depressed. These shows, where people (or books) get ‘voted off’, do tend to turn on the negative. There’s way more talk about what was wrong with all the other people’s book choices than there was about what was great. I suppose that’s the format and one has roll with it, but I just want to share that it hurt.

I almost didn’t listen to round two.

When I first found my way to Rotten Tomatoes, the giant gathering of movie reviews, I was in heaven. Here were people talking about some of my favourite things. I quickly found myself discovering the buzz kill of those little green splats. The rotten tomatoes. It’s depressing to read a bad review of something you love. You feel so alienated from your fellow man. How could somebody describe a performance I thought of as thrilling as ‘dull, lifeless’. It hints that human communication is impossible. For some reason it just digs down into the pit of me and destroys my faith in human connection. Some people actually hate the things I love. I suppose this is one of the central tenants of human nature—we are so alike, but also so different. Dung beetles, I imagine, would have pretty much the same reaction to everything (dung—thumbs up; not dung—thumbs down) but people...we can disagree.

I enjoyed all the Canada Reads books (the one I haven’t read yet, “Mercy Among the Children” is by David Adams Richards and I’ve read and loved several of his other books, so I felt I could love this one too, pre-emptively! I’ll get to it.) And to hear these perfectly nice Canadian cultural figures say mean things about them…well it wasn’t all fun. (But what's the alternative: just people saying nice things. I guess it would be dull. Is it possible to be fascinatingly passionately positive? Sure.)

However, by round two, I’d grown a thicker skin and prepped myself. Then I started to notice the wonderfully nice moments when someone would step up to sing the praises of one of their competitors’ books. That’s the thing: inside any competition there’s co-operation, and vice versa. Bring your thick skin so you’re not punctured by what you don’t want, and bring your quick ears so you can catch all the good stuff you do want.


Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Yeah, I hate it when someone says something I like sucks. Let's allow ourselves to enjoy what we enjoy no matter what anyone else thinks of it. Like Kraft Dinner, Earth Angel, and It's A Wonderful Life.

Wed Mar 04, 11:39:00 pm GMT-5  

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