I've read good reviews, mediocre reviews, bad reviews, and mixed reviews. An unknown author learns to rejoice in all of them if they indicate that someone has at least read his or her book and expressed honest opinions of it. However, today I noticed what may be a new kind of review: the "I didn't really read the book, but I'll write a review anyway." I don't object to the negative parts of the review (it's not technically a "bad review") but to the fact that it clearly indicates ignorance of the book's contents and some very basic facts.
After correctly listing my name and the book's title, the reviewer repeatedly refers to me as "Dr. Stone." First, my name is not Stone, and second, I do not have a doctorate. Then he refers to my long teaching career at "St. Olaf's College." My father graduated from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, and my brother taught there for many years, but I did neither. My forty-year teaching career was at Wilbur Wright College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago. The reviewer could have found the correct information on the back cover of my book. He even implies that I retired from my lofty position as a professor and then became a lowly secretary, and he wonders how I feel about that. Well, I do some secretarial work for a neighbor occasionally, but it's hardly a career--and the whole matter and how I feel about it are explained on pages 95-96.
The reviewer does say that I am a good writer (Thanks!), but he shows little understanding of what I tried to do or why. As an occasional book reviewer myself, I never review a book unless I've read 95% to 100% of it and formed some idea of who the author is and of his or her purpose. And I always take time to get the basic facts straight!
I shall not identify this reviewer or the relatively unknown web site, since I have no desire to recommend either, and fortunately, there are several more valid reviews of my book on the Internet. Were I to judge this reviewer as superficially as he apparently judged my book, I'd say that he's an intellectual snob who has a problem with older women who write--but that's not fair to say, is it?
(My title was suggested by Lord Byron's satirical poem "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers," 1809.)
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Copyright 2006 by Marlys Marshall Styne