Thursday, 21 April 2011

Everyone's a critic

I don't know how those women on 'How To Look Good Naked' do it. One minute they're bursting into tears when they see themselves in a cheval mirror, the next they're strutting down a runway in the middle of the Metro Centre, wearing less than Kim Kardashian in a home movie.

It takes an awful lot of guts (and in the case of Gok Wan's protégés, the ability to suck them in) to throw yourself open to the public. In a world where we're each given countless opportunities to expose ourselves, both literally and figuratively, we have to be prepared for the inevitable brickbats and bouquets that follow. And sometimes, even the bouquets come with nasty thorns.

I'm one of those people who takes every word of criticism personally. I burst into tears if a warden gives me a ticket for bad parking. So when I started this blog, I realised I needed to develop a thicker skin, otherwise I'd bleed like a haemophiliac in Fight Club every time someone posted a negative comment. By and large, I've escaped too much negativity, since the people who visit the site are a friendly, supportive bunch.

Of course, all that changed when I got the opportunity to share my blog with a wider audience. More readers means more opportunities to irritate or aggravate. And clearly, my recent post about Jodie Marsh and crew from The Only Way Is Essex managed to do just that.

When my BlackBerry alarm sounded its synthesised steel-drum alarm this morning, I noticed a new email had come in overnight. It was notifying me of a new comment added to the Marsh/TOWIE story, and told me in no uncertain terms that I was a "crushingly unfunny cunt". Hard as that may be to swallow, I guess it's still preferable to waking up to Sonny & Cher every morning.

Humour's a subjective business at the best of times. Some people are going to laugh, others are going to flinch like they just got a frosted margarita tipped down their back. That's OK - as long as the positives outweigh the negatives, I'll keep doing what I'm doing. The key is to not let the occasional voice of criticism distract you from what you're doing.

If only someone had directed similar advice to self-published author Jacqueline Howett, who achieved notoriety recently when she refused to let lie a less-than-glowing review of her book 'The Greek Seaman'. Taking objection to an Amazon customer's review, she decided to fight fire with ire, coming across like Glenn Close stood up on a blind date.

She tracked the reviewer down to his own blog and fired off a bunch of angry responses, citing the four and five-star reviews that her book had already achieved. That was bad enough, but when other visitors to the blog suggested that her defensive position wasn't winning her any fans, the gloves really came off. In a series of increasingly unhinged posts, she repeatedly argued "My writing is just fine!" only to continually disprove her own point. And when it all got too much, she resorted to that most witty of rejoinders - "Fuck off".

Ironically, the review itself was actually pretty even-handed, going so far as to compliment Howett's storytelling and characterisation. However, BigAl wasn't quite so enamoured with the writer's scattershot approach to grammar, punctuation and sentence construction. Reading through the incoherent excerpts that have popped up in light of his review, it does seem as though she dictated the book through a possessed medium with a stack of papers and a broken pencil.

Unfortunately for Howett, her war of poorly-arranged words went viral, sending her Amazon status sky-rocketing. But reviews don't necessarily translate into sales, even when your e-book is retailing for the grand total of $1.14. Like all the best stories, this one has a moral - don't feed the trolls. And under no circumstances should you stick your head through the bars to call them names.

1 comment:

  1. i think that was Jodie Marsh that posted that comment Gareth, I loved it!