Saturday, 30 March 2013

Is honesty the best policy?

quan·da·ry (kwon'da-re, -dre)
n. pl. quan·da·ries
A state of uncertainty or perplexity.

Yes, my friends, I do indeed find myself in a quandary.
Well, it has to do with a book that I downloaded for my Kindle yesterday...I'll keep the name of the author and the title of the book secret because...because...well, that's the basis of the quandary really.

Let me ask you this:
If a book is really, really bad, is it better to come straight out and tell the author (and the publisher) that what they've unleashed on the unsuspecting public is actually a real piece of literary shite, or should one just keep quiet about it, hit the delete button on the Kindle and move on to something else?
And, as an added complication, would criticism of another's work by someone who has themselves just laid before the world the fruits of their own labours be regarded as 'bad form', the crossing of some invisible line of solidarity amongst the ranks of up-and-coming, wannabe authors ?
I guess if my role in all of this was simply one of 'reader',then I could be as harsh as I wished - after all, I have shelled out some of my hard-earned shekels on this download and, as such, I would feel justified to comment on the poor spelling, the slipshod punctuation, the use of poor similes and the over/incorrect use of adjectives in an opening chapter that was so dire that I could not bring myself to read to the end of it, let alone endure the remainder of the book.
But much as I might try to convince myself that my harsh and judgemental literary id is an entity in its own right and free to express itself as it sees fit, I still find myself restraining it on the grounds that it is inseparably connected to that other part of me, the part that cares both about another writer's feelings (after all, they have taken the time and the effort...and had the place their work 'out there' for the scrutiny (and possibly scorn) of others) and about how the outspoken criticism of a fellow writer may be viewed by my peers.
To paraphrase Billy Shakey's Hamlet:
'To be (truthful), or not to be, that is the question.'

There are also two other complicating emotions to add to this already complex equation, and they are anger and (I admit somewhat ashamedly) hubris.
The anger comes from the fact that, in my (undoubtedly bias) eyes, here is another piece of pretty crappy writing parading as a piece of worthwhile literature that will damage the reputation of the Indie publishing scene and re-inforce the belief of many readers that spending money on unknown authors (particularly ebook authors) is simply not worth the hassle and that, instead, it is safer to download the works of 'established' authors or only plump for a new author that has come from one of the established publishing houses and whose ebook is also available in hard-copy on the shelves of Waterstones to sample whilst sitting in the in-store Costa Coffee outlet drinking a large latte with an extra shot and eating a scrumptious piece of tiffin.
You see, in my opinion, by actually publishing something where even the title of the first chapter has an obvious spelling mistake in it does immense damage not only to the reputation of the author in question, and not only to the reputation of the publisher who produced it, but also to all the other authors who are trying to get their piece of wheat noticed amidst the swirling maelstrom of literary chaff...which brings me nicely onto hubris (you see, I did say that this blog was about expressing my emotions, even if those emotions are not something to be particularly proud of!)
If I'm truly honest with myself, the hubris comes from the belief that my writing, far from being a malformed and stinking turd made up of poorly chosen words, pointless metaphors, spelling mistakes and poor plot, is instead a shining jewel of a book, created in humble beginnings, yes, but destined to rise from the mass of uninspiring and lack-lustre novels that are now being churned out across the world-wide-interweb and to take its rightful place as a work of profound importance, a 'cult classic' to rival any that have gone before.
Of course, my book may also be just another one of these many piles of literary crap...after all, as observant readers have already spotted, there are at least half a dozen spelling mistakes/syntax errors in Part 1 (though I do think that's better than six in the first few pages!)

And so, back to the quandary.
What should I do?
Stay silent, or give voice to my emotions...?

I think you will probably already have guessed what the outcome will be, especially if you really know me.
Of course I'll stay silent, biting my tongue (not literally of course - that would be stupid and vaguely masochistic) and keeping quiet about not only this particular book, but also the two or three other books I've recently downloaded which, though much lauded by my contemporaries, have sorely failed to live up to their five-star hype (which begs the question about how genuine such hype is...but that's another story) and left what one author peculiarly described as a 'repugnant stone' sat in the stomach of my reader id.
Instead, I shall save my voice for those few novels (witty, inspired, full of carefully crafted prose) that really are special, that are worth shouting about because they are more than just a story told by words on a page (or a screen), they are an alternative world of adventure and intrigue and wonder and excitement and terror, carefully and painstakingly crafted for us by those with a gift and with a belief...and a determination to produce something more than ordinary.
That's why, in spite of recent disappointments when delving into the murky depths of the 'new', and in spite of the fact that I have a bookcase (both physical and Kindle) full of all that is great and proven in the literary world, I will still continue to download the work of those of whom I have never heard in the hope that I will find not only a novel and and an author worth shouting about, but also proof that what the recent explosion in ebook publishing has achieved is the emancipation of talented writers and tremendous works of fiction for too long gagged and bound by the conservativeness and celebrity-obsession of traditional publishers...and that ebook publishing has not simply unleashed on us all an overwhelming tsunami of shit writing under which any and all work of literary merit will be drowned and left to rot.