Have you ever been to a movie, enjoyed it immensely, then talked to someone who said, “I hated that show; I can’t believe you liked it.”? Conversely, have you ever read a book that drove you nuts – maybe you didn’t even finish it – and then had someone tell you “It’s so good! I just couldn’t put it down!”? I’m always intrigued by the reactions of others when I’ve had the opposite reaction.
I belong to a writers’ list serve – well, I belong to several, actually – and in recent months there has been a rather vocal discussion about a particularly popular vampire series. I’m sure you know the one. I don’t know how anyone in the free world could have missed the hype.On one of the list serves, a writer decided – jokingly of course – to start a fan club for the main characters. She was asking for people to sign up to be fan club officers. The response was incredible. A flurry of replies came in with people clamoring to sign up, and not all of them thought it was a joke; many were serious and ready to host meetings in their homes.
Then one writer friend of mine – bless her heart – said that she hadn’t read the whole book, but that the first few pages hadn’t impressed her much. I followed up her comment by saying that I had tried to read the first book, but I couldn’t get past the writing style – there were too many passive verbs and an over abundance of adverbs – and I had put the book down after two chapters because the characters lacked credibility to me. Now, I emphasize that I said “to me” in this reply.
The response was stunning, and I don’t mean that in a nice way. You’d have thought that I said the Pope should be hung upside down from a crucifix and burned alive.
“You’re just jealous,” was a fairly common reply.
“Why do you have to attack a writer just because she is successful,” was another.
My personal favorite: “You don’t know much about vampire literature.”
Hmmmm. I’ve read Bram Stoker’s Dracula a few times, along with books like M.T. Anderson’s Thirsty and the entire Ann Rice Interview with a Vampire series.
I would, by no means, call myself an expert, but I am definitely a fan of vampire stories. The thing is, I don’t think Ms. Meyers has really written a vampire book – I mean, a vampire who doesn’t drink human blood? A vampire who can go out in the sun light, and instead of being incinerated, he sparkles? That’s not a vampire in the tradition of more than 100 years of vampire literature. I’m not sure what that is.
But it isn’t the story I necessarily take issue with – it’s the writing. It didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t believe the characters, I didn’t like the stylistic choices she made, and the book did not work for me.
I got one email sent personally instead of through the list serve that said, “You don’t have to belong to this list, you know. You can spread your hate somewhere else.”
Hate? Who said anything about hate? All I said was the woman uses too many passive verbs, too many adverbs, and that I – me personally – didn’t believe the characters were realistic. I didn’t bother replying to the person who emailed me personally, but I know who she is, and I’ll be very careful to avoid her at any future gatherings we may both be attending.
So what’s the lesson in all this? Well, at first glance it might be that I should be careful about offering my opinion on popular works of fiction – but I don’t think nasty emails will keep me from doing that. I know that I enjoy a lot of books that many other writers or readers might think were ridiculous. I’ve always encouraged my kids to read what appeals to them. Currently, my youngest daughter is devouring manga books like they were potato chips. And she goes through them about that fast, too. Manga, for those who aren’t familiar with teen pop culture, are Japanese cartoon books. These are not your typical Archie comics, they are novel length illustrated stories. The writing is usually weak, the plot lines are simple and often cliche’, but if it puts a book in my kids hands, I’m happy. This one (above) is from a series called “Chibi Vampire” – and I actually like this one a lot.
The point is, as the old saying goes, that opinions are like noses (okay – you substitute your own body part here), everyone has one and they are ultimately only useful to the owner. If you enjoy something – a book, a movie, a band – then go ahead and enjoy it. If someone offers a differing opinion, that doesn’t mean he or she is trying to change your mind. It doesn’t mean he or she is saying you are wrong. All that an opposing opinion means is that someone doesn’t agree with you. Period. So to the woman who told me I could “take my hate somewhere else” – perhaps you should listen to your own advice. I’m not going anywhere.