Saturday, August 13, 2011

give a man a fish

Yesterday on Facebook, I posted the following:

Give a man a fish, and you'll feed him for a day. Give an idiot a thesaurus and he'll entertain me for a lifetime.

I wrote that thought after reading a review in Kirkus, one of the leading (God only knows why) review publications in the industry. Kirkus prides itself on being the toughest reviewer around, or shit like that, and that may likely be the case. But as far as the writing of Kirkus's statements is concerned, the publication frequently comes off as rushed sophomores poring through a thesaurus to hurriedly scribble down a paragraph of self-impressed, blathering nonsense on the morning their English essay is due.

I saw the Kirkus review for Stick yesterday.

It is a very nice review, by the way, and says some really flattering and complimentary things about me and my novel.

Thank you for that, Kirkus, whoever you are.

But, just like the Kirkus review of The Marbury Lens, I will not re-post their paragraph on Stick in its entirety here on my blog. Here's why:

Stick is my fourth novel. Every one of my books has been reviewed in Kirkus, and they've all been positive and flattering reviews.

Thank you for that, Kirkus, whoever you are.

Every one of them has also been extremely embarrassing, too.

Every single Kirkus review I have ever had has either misspelled a major character's name, made gross errors in identifying the setting, or just absolutely made up plot elements that were not part of the book at all.

Every one of them.

Four out of four.


You haven't gotten one right yet.

In my entire life.

Look, forgive me for being harsh, but if you don't have time to get the major details correct, then don't fucking write reviews.

Again, don't make the mistake of thinking this post is in any way calling Kirkus out for the cast of their opinion and their right to express it. I am criticizing Kirkus on how they write, and I can clearly present credentials for doing this.

As a classroom teacher with twenty years of experience, were I to hold a Kirkus review up to even a liberal and soft-hearted rubric, I would have to give it a very low grade. In fact, with all the errors (those listed above), and the pattern of repetition of these kinds of errors, I would probably call Kirkus's parents in for a conference about academic integrity and how their sweet child is probably cheating and not actually reading the books little Kirk has been assigned to read.

Grade on accuracy of content: D

You simply cannot pass an assignment that requires reading a book if you misspell major character names,  misidentify the setting (when it is painfully obvious), or "invent" plot elements that were absent in the narrative.

Then there's the style aspect. This is going to be subjective, but teachers have to be a little subjective when judging voice in an essay.

In any event, there are ways of simplifying your task. For example, if, in a short passage (a paragraph), the prose has an unnecessary frequency of archaic or unused words (this is the telltale characteristic of an idiot with a thesaurus), then the author obviously has difficulty in expressing himself with a clear voice and a uniform purpose.

But I think "word of the day" essays are hilarious.

I do get a chuckle.

So, thank you for that, Kirkus, whoever you are.

Grade on style: C (this is very generous, because C is supposed to mean "average," and average people don't do shit like that).

In any event, Kirkus, if you EVER hand that shit in to me, I'm calling you and your parents in.

But thank you very much for the nice things you said about me and all my books.

Whoever you are.

Try harder next time.

Reading is actually fun.

But I am still calling your mom and dad.