Billy Corgan, criticism, misunderstanding, observation, reviews, writing

The Right to Disagree Depends on Your Fame

Recently, someone wrote a review about one of my stories. Before they got to the story itself, they said someone sent them a blog in which I gave a rebuttal to a reviewer. (I’m guessing it was “How Reviews SHOULD Be Done.”) While the reviewer did wind up proving that he understood my story and even complimenting it quite well, there was one thing he said that stuck with me: he said that this rebuttal blog was a “red flag.”

I can only assume this statement means something like: “Uh oh, here is a super sensitive writer who can’t handle criticism, and he is going to lash out at every reviewer who says his book sucks.” On the contrary, I can take criticism quite well. However, I think there is a right and wrong way to do it. If you give my horror novella Maybe the Dream Knows What is Real two stars out of five because the main character is not someone with whom you can empathize, then you missed the entire point of the story. You AREN’T supposed to empathize with him. In fact, that is written in the synopsis.

With that said, I started to think about other artists who have responded to their negative reviews. Let’s see:

  • Billy Corgan (leader of the Smashing Pumpkins called Jim DeRogatis “that fat fuck from the Chicago Sun-Times” because DeRogatis had said of the Siamese Dream track “Hummer” that the lyrics were sophomoric and stupid.
  • When Roger Ebert gave a scathing review of The Brown Bunny, the director Vincent Gallo said that he hoped Ebert got cancer.
  • When Salon book reviewer Laura Miller wrote a brutal review of Chuck Palahnuik’s Diary, the author sent her a letter which includes the following quote: “Until you can write something that captivates people, I’d invite you to just shut up.”
  • The music magazine Hit Parader was very critical of the band Quiet Riot. In one interview, the lead singer said he loved the Hit Parader because it was good to wipe his ass with!

The thing is, I hardly ever hear anyone coming down on these people for lashing out at their critics. Okay, maybe I do with Billy Corgan because everyone thinks he is an asshole anyway, but I have never heard anyone say what a scumbag Vincent Gallo is for wishing cancer upon Roger Ebert…not even after the critic really did die from cancer. Has anyone come down on Palahnuik for his letter? If so, I never heard of it.

Then I started to think: what is the difference between these artists and myself?

There is really only one thing.

Fame.

Well, there is money too, but usually money comes with the fame.

Some people might be tempted to say, “Well, they are better writers than you,” but I don’t know how that can be judged. For everyone who thinks Fight Club sucked, you might find someone who thinks Maybe the Dream Knows What is Real is a masterpiece. So let’s discard any discussion of who is better for now.

So why are things this way? Why is okay for famous people to fire back, but some unknown writer who may very well have as much talent as the famous figures? Does this mean that, if my books were picked up by a publisher and I was suddenly famous, that I would then have the “right” to post a retort?

No, I don’t think so. And do you know why? Because I think I already have that right. We all do. Even if you wrote just one short story, and someone wound up giving you a lousy review, but in that review they prove they missed the entire point of what you were saying, you would still have the right to a rebuttal.

But hey…maybe that is just me. Maybe I stand alone in this opinion. Who knows? All I know is this: yes, I did write a rebuttal to a critical review, but I don’t see how that should count as a “red flag.”

And the sad thing?

By writing this, I’ll probably have TWO red flags under my belt.

You don’t have to be writer or musician to have an opinion on this blog. If you DO in fact have one, I’d love to hear it in the comments below!

 

criticism, life, medication, mental health, misunderstanding

I’m the Anti Anti-Pharmacy Guy (Mental Illness is Real)

The other day I was listening to an interview with a guy who I shall not name, but I will give his initials: GC. He was being interviewed because he is someone who has made his business blow up through YouTube. At any rate, he started out by giving some good advice, but then things took a turn for a worse when the interviewer went into something called “the lightning round,” where he asked some quick questions unrelated to the main topic. One of them was, “What is your favorite movie?” GC said, “Oh, man, what is that one…that meteor one…I watched it seventeen times, and I cry every time…oh yeah Armageddon!”

I actually paused the video and thought, “Wait a minute. Do I really want to take advice from someone who is THAT excited about a movie that is universally regarded as one of the worst ever made?” I decided to keep giving him a chance. After all, I’m sure I have liked movies that made people question my sanity.

Then the interviewer got around to the topic of a new book that GC had coming out, and he revealed that the proceeds of the book were going toward some cause (Drug-Free America and Drug-Free World) toward educating parents about how kids are being “overprescribed” drugs for ADHD and so on. He said, “The drugs that are coming from the ‘big pharma’ are massive, MASSIVE drugs.” He said he wanted to educate kids and tell them, “Hey, maybe there is NOTHING wrong with you. Maybe you’re a genius. It’s like Van Gogh. Everyone thought there was something wrong with him, until one day someone looked and said, ‘Wow, he’s a genius.'”

Yeah, a one-eared genius.

I’m so sick of these dime-store psychiatrists who think they know so much. Oh, so the medications from “big pharma” are heavy drugs, eh? Hmmm…maybe that’s why you have to jump through hoops to get them. It’s not like crack where you can go down to the street corner. Then again, maybe you can. I’m sure drug dealers peddle legal drugs just as much as they do the illegal ones. But if someone is going to a drug dealer to get something that they aren’t prescribed illegally, that’s not something that rests on “big pharma’s” shoulders.

All I can say is this: from MY own experience, the life before and after being on medication is like night and day. My self-esteem is better, my outlook on life is 1000 times more positive, and I am happier than ever. Oh, and for those of you who are wondering if medication has dulled my creativity, here’s your answer:

IT HASN’T DULLED IT ONE BIT.

In other words, for those of you who think Van Gogh wouldn’t have been able to create all those wonderful paintings, you are wrong. The other difference? He would have still had both ears.

criticism, intelligence, misunderstanding, reviews, writing

How Reviews SHOULD Be Done

Not too long ago I got a 2-star review about my novella Maybe the Dream Knows What is Real. It wasn’t the 2 stars that angered me; it was the reasoning behind it. Here is what the review said:

“REVIEW TITLE: You can’t blame everyone for everything…

Every so often I come across a story that I find hard to review, and this was one of them. The main character wasn’t likable, and I found it hard to empathize with his plight. He was written as an awkward kid short on friends who grows up to be cocky and opinionated. He blames everyone for how he turned out in life, taking little responsibility for himself. The story had some very graphic scenes, more than I found enjoyable, which is saying a lot since I spend most of my time reading horror stories.
The synopsis stated, ‘This is a story about the dangers of depending on others to give you a sense of self-worth, taken to the extreme.’ This is probably why the world is full of psychopaths and unbalanced people. To hinge your feelings and views on the world on the feedback of everyone you meet in your life can only lead to disappointment. To blame all past interactions as the reason for your current and future behavior is a problem and the situation the main character finds himself in. If you want a dark ride through the eyes of a crazy person this is the book for you, for me it didn’t hit the mark.”

Right off the bat, this reviewer shows he didn’t get the entire idea behind the story. He is critical of the main character for not being likable and not taking responsibility for himself.

Um…well…yeah, that was kind of the idea of the story. That is why the my synopsis says, “This is a story about the dangers of depending on others to give you a sense of self-worth.” He wasn’t meant to be likable.

In fact, I want to talk about this whole idea that main characters are always meant to be likable. It’s foolish, and it hasn’t been the case ever since the whole “anti-hero” motif came along. To base a review on whether or not you and the main character could be best buddies seems a bit odd to me.

That shouldn’t be what informs a review. What SHOULD inform are two simple questions: (1) What was the author trying to achieve? (2) Did they do that? I mean, can you imagine if every reviewer based reviews on whether or not they liked or could identify with the main character? Books like A Clockwork Orange and By Reason of Insanity would have nothing but 1- and 2-star reviews.

Look at it this way: I bet Roger Ebert was not a fan of every genre of every movie he was sent to see, and yet his reviews were not based on whether or not he liked horror movies. They weren’t based on whether or not he liked the characters. They were based on how well the filmmakers made their world believable. End of story. For example, if a movie was about a character who was insane, he didn’t give it 2 stars and say, “The main character was crazy, and I couldn’t identify with him.”

Thankfully, there are still some people understand this rule. They know how to look at the story without any personal biases. They know that depending on others for a sense of self-worth is the EXACT downfall of this main character, and they understand I’m not asking anyone to empathize or feel sorry for him.

I’m not sure if the majority of reviewers write like the quote above, or if they know how to separate those emotions. The jury is still out on that one. However, I am grateful for those who do.

 

intelligence, life, misunderstanding, peace, quotes

When Good Quotes Get Horribly Misinterpreted

A few months ago, I posted the following comment in a social group on Facebook:

I thought it was a beautiful, powerful quote, something that we desperately need to hear, understand, and implement. Sadly, the reaction I got to this quote shows that many people have accomplished only Step 1 of 3.

Why do I say that? Well, consider these two responses:

  • #1: “Yeah, okay, well…I’m not going to like someone who treats me like shit!”
  • #2: “I disagree. If everyone liked everyone, the world would be a boring place.”

***sigh***

Okay, let’s start from the very beginning.

#1: My dear, you completely missed the mark here. If everyone liked everyone, then NO ONE would treat you like shit. It’s not advocating that you should be friendly toward those who do you harm. It’s saying that those who do you harm SHOULDN’T.

#2: I think you were thinking of something else when you read the quote, buddy. It doesn’t say, “Everyone SHOULD BE LIKE everyone.” It says, “Everyone SHOULD LIKE…” The word “be” is not in there. Yes, I agree that if everyone was the same, then the world would be boring. However, if we had a world where everyone was kind to one another, where there was no mockery over silly things like the kind of clothes a person wears, how they look, how they talk, what gender/sexuality/religion they were, and so on, then that would be a world full of light and positivity. Compare that to the way the world is. If a world with less violence would be “boring,” then please…sign me up to live in THAT world!

It’s a sad thing when good quotes go misunderstood. For my part, I try to educate when these things happen, but if the windows of perception aren’t open, then people can’t see things for what they are.

(PS: You get crazy cool bonus points if you recognize what I am paraphrasing there.)

~~~Steve