Hedgehogs and Trolls

Early this year I happened to read a book and dislike it. That happens. A lot more than once a year, I tell you. But when that book is actually quite popular, it seems to become something more. Something like a problem. My problem. Because I don’t like this book, people make assumptions: “oh, but you must have mis-read… this book is so great, you just can’t dislike it!”. When I persist to dislike, they jump to not-very-nice conclusions: “If you don’t like this book that is so great, then you are definitely [fill in the blank with anything from slightly depreciative to downright rude]”. Which is the part where it becomes not so funny anymore.

Now, I didn’t mean to make fun of that book. I respect people who love it, but for me, the magic didn’t work. I just don’t understand why it has become so hyped-up. I didn’t find in there what other people have, namely generosity, open-heartedness, the kind of book that changes your life. Lucky you if it changed your life, but don’t come reproach me that it didn’t. That’s not quite a generous move.

This blog is not very popular, just a quiet place where I hope other book-lovers can drop by and say hello from time to time. But if I trust WordPress statistics, this negative post on that popular book is increasingly becoming my most popular post, which is a shame indeed. I would so much prefer people to come to my blog for something better, say Philip Roth or Henry James. Why didn’t I get any flame for Roth novels for example? I’d be happy to engage in a constructive discussion, but on this particular book and post, I’m becoming increasingly tired.

I don’t want to moderate every comment, because the process is heavy for but a few inconsiderate bloggers, but I had to for this post. It cost me a lot but I edited rude comments, leaving the just-very-negative ones for the moment (lest I’d be accused, not only of disliking a great book, but of not tolerating criticism on top of that). And I’m on the verge of removing this particular post altogether. But then I’m entitled to say that I dislike this book, am I not?

Here I am seized with self-doubt. Maybe I’m overly sensitive and these comments didn’t really mean to be rude, just that a lack of context made them seem so. Maybe I called it upon myself. Maybe I should be very gentle in all my book reviews. Maybe I should even refrain from writing negative reviews and just get to the next book. But I guess it wouldn’t be as fun. I can’t do self-restraint in my own blog, I practice it enough in my professional life. And I consider, perhaps unduly, that criticism against a book is fair-play, unlike criticism against a person. I know it hurts when someone tells you that your story sucks, but so far I never had the honor of having an author complain about my book reviews.

I saw some blog-friends struggle with trolls and politeness rules, and I agree that this kind of problem is unavoidable. But faced with this (c)rude reality, I’m not very comfortable with any option left to me. How I wish people would know to remain considerate in their criticism! I don’t want to self-google, but I wonder how so many people get to this particular post. Any idea on how to remove any outside link?


9 thoughts on “Hedgehogs and Trolls

  1. Sorry to hear this is happening to you! I think it’s entirely fair that if you didn’t like a book you can discuss why it didn’t work for you–this is your space after all. I think criticism can be fair and saying a book doesn’t work for you isn’t a criticism against someone who did like it. Can you keep your post up and just close off the comments? I’m not sure there is a way to make an outside link (do you mean if someone is googling it?) disappear if the link is active. I hope people aren’t being rude!

  2. Oh what a shame. I don’t understand why people react so badly to other people’s responses to a book – I mean, just a mere book for heaven’s sake! Of course you are entitled to your opinion. What I find happens on forums is that one nasty comment seems to indicate to other people that if they wish to be nasty they can – and the anonymity of the internet encourages all those horrid bits of negativity into the light of day. People say things online that they would not dream of saying in person.

    I’m no wordpress expert, but I think it’s possible to close comments on individual posts. Maybe you might like to do that, because then your opinion can stand (as it should) but people will have to write their own posts of praise about the book if they want to express themselves.

    And sending big hugs – these things are weirdly upsetting.

  3. Oh, so sorry about that. It’s hard to have random strangers being rude to you. I’m pretty heavy-handed about deleting comments I don’t like, although I do it mainly with those ones that seem like half ad/half comment. But if someone is rude, I see no problem in getting them off your personal site. I have wordpress set so I moderate comments only from those who haven’t commented before — that works pretty well because the regulars are the nice ones and I don’t have to moderate them, but it means I get to moderate anyone new, just to make sure.

  4. Aren’t people too strange they way they use the blogosphere to exercise their anger and so on? I don’t get that — and it’s such a bummer. I’m just waiting for the day someone comments meanly on my blog, and you know what I’ll do? DELETE. My feeling is that my blog isn’t a democracy — it’s mine.

    I agree with the others: Maybe close comments to the post. I notice that many “professional” bloggers (like those that have columns on HuffPost) close down comments after awhile.

  5. Most of my hits from google are for a very popular — and very stupid — book that I wrote about as I was starting my blog. I get hits at least once a week, but the comments have trailed off. Some of them were very weird. I’ve moved beyond feeling guilty when I hit the delete button. The only comment that really ever pained me was when I reviewed an ARC and the author commented that he was sorry I hadn’t liked it. Without context, it wasn’t possible to detect the tone of the ‘I’m sorry’ but the possibility that it was a somewhat pathetic apology for wasting my time bothered me that I had been harsh. But, if I only write about the things I like, that wouldn’t be very much fun. My advice would be to close comments if it really bothers you, or just ignore them. The further down in the archives this post falls, the less likely it is that the person reading it is a regular reader. Chances are, they won’t be back.

  6. I don’t understand why people have to be so mean when they disagree. Politness costs nothing. If you want to leave the post up you can close the comments on that post only. You can turn off trackbacks too so if someone links to your post it won’t appear in your comments (both of these are done in the edit post screen), and you should be able to delete trackbacks you don’t want (should be on the comments screen). Unfortunately if someone just links to your main site url there is no way to delete that link. Don’t waste your time editing comments. If they are rude and mean, delete them and don’t feel bad about it. No one will think badly of you for it.

  7. Please write what you think. What places do we have left to do so? I nothing of how things are “linked” out there but encourage you keep at your work, your reviews. This is not a chocolate and vanilla world and in terms of books and thinking (often the same thing), there can be no censoring or whack-job rudeness.
    There is etiquette in blog-responding. Some people cannot allow for that. They are the same people who take up the whole aisle in the grocery store, who turn in front of your car without using their blinker then give you the finger, who believe opinion needs no fact or basis, who complain to the teacher when their kid doesn’t do homework.
    Let it go. Keep writing. We care what you have to say. We know better than to interpret it as an absolute judgement, calling a book a complete “yay” or a complete “nay”; it is a review, after all!!!!

    The weird thing is how disturbing it is when the trolls take the time to write responses. They’d be better off spray painting graffiti on their own dining room walls.

    It’s important to talk, discuss, offer insights, have good conversation, hear well-based opinions and ideas. Please keep going. Real readers want to hear what you have to say.

    As Hemingway wrote (in French): “D’abord, il faut durer.” Translation:”Above all, one must endure…” (“and keep going” – which is the subtext I’ve always added).

  8. Thanks for all your support!
    I feel a bit like the newcomer who have been naive for way too long… Well I learnt my lesson here too… and I learnt a great deal about these WordPress options I never took time to read before!! 😉
    As a result to your recommendations I actually closed comments on this post and put a note so that people who really want to continue discussing the book may do so by e-mail. So far, so good. Apparently trolls need the thrill of having their comments publicized.
    I also discovered trackbacks of my post in websites like complete-review and was quite relieved to read many other unfavorable reviews of the book from trusted, bona-fide literary critics.

  9. Coming a bit late here but also wanted to say tsk tsk to all those people who don’t like hearing someone disagree with them. It’s a shame that so many people like the controversy and not the nuanced discussion.

    I can’t remember if I mentioned but I’ll be reading this book for my Swiss book group later this year and am very curious to see what I’ll think of it.

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