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Opening the books - a couple of questions
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bbmedos



Joined: 26 Sep 2007
Posts: 274
Location: Western Kentucky, USA

PostPosted: Tue May 27, 2008 5:07 pm    Post subject: Opening the books - a couple of questions Reply with quote

Why the apparent resistance to opening and referencing the books as part of discussions on them?

Background, I've been debating with myself about posting on this off and on all weekend because of several things that were said in the Opinions on Stephanie Laurens thread. Not new things, mind you, but I guess I've reached the point I want to ask about this topic because it's bugging me.

First off, I have absolute respect for individual opinions on books or author's writing styles. (Or most anything else, for that matter.) Our reactions to either of those are what lead to our personal reading tastes and choices, so again total respect there. However, none of the above is what I'm talking about when I say the books can speak for themselves so why not let them do so in discussions? All I'm really asking is what's wrong with actually opening the books and getting information and possibly even some added knowledge directly from them on occasion at the same time that we're sharing those personal opinions? The books are what we're ultimately talking about after all.

Correct?

There are also other considerations, too. Some opinions really do have more weight than others, which is where the question of whether someone is still reading the author's books comes in. Yes, it does matter to me and others, I think, how many of an author's books someone has read before they dismiss the entire body of that author's work, personal opinion or not. (Or an entire genre, sub-genre, or whatever, either, for that matter.) I'm sorry, but if someone really has only read a couple of books by an author with a fairly large backlist and then stopped reading them, isn't that the knowledge equivalent of just reading a few chapters of a book?

Personal taste? yeah

Honest opinion? absolutely

But truly informed opinion? hmmm

What do the rest of you think?

If we would question overall observations of the individual who didn't finish a book, why do we not also question the observations about an author by individuals who haven't read all the books by that author?

Why does being a devoted reader of an author almost seem to label one as biased instead of informed with ready information at one's fingertips because one actually has that author's books on hand to reference during discussions?

Just wondering.
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Kelly B



Joined: 19 Apr 2007
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PostPosted: Tue May 27, 2008 6:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, I think one fairly simple explanation for why people don't go back to the text is that a lot of people might not have the books anymore and so rely on their memory. I'm certainly not going to spend the money to buy a book I didn't love again, nor am I going to spend the time to walk into a bookstore and flip through the books until I find the exact passage so I can better make a point on some internet message board.

As for the fan thing... I think presenting the text is unbiased, but oftentimes people who have strong feelings on an author either way are going to filter their understanding of that text through different lenses. It's (and I kind of can't even believe I'm comparing the two) kind of like constitutional interpretation. Scalia and Breyer can read the same passage and come to very different conclusions about how to apply and interpret that provision.

As for someone who has read more books having a more "valid" opinion... I guess that depends on the opinion. If someone reads a couple of books and hates the author's writing style, well, that's valid. It doesn't take 10 books to figure out that you don't like someone's prose. As for "the sameness of plot and characterization"--which is what I'm assuming you are referring to--well, maybe someone who has read more can point out all of the differences, particularly if there is some sort of evolution. But if you read a few books and all of the plots or heroes or what-have-you strike you as similar, well, they strike you as similar. That's how that reader responded to the text. You may respond differently. Just because one person has read more doesn't automatically convey the weight of authority of the correct way to respond to the text. One person may see Demon and Vane as totally different people, another may see them as essentially the same type with a different hair color and hobby.

If there is a factual discrepancy, by all means let us point to the text to correct it, but if it comes down to differing interpretations... Three different readers can read the exact same scene three different ways.
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Yuri



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Tue May 27, 2008 10:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kelly B wrote:
Well, I think one fairly simple explanation for why people don't go back to the text is that a lot of people might not have the books anymore and so rely on their memory. I'm certainly not going to spend the money to buy a book I didn't love again, nor am I going to spend the time to walk into a bookstore and flip through the books until I find the exact passage so I can better make a point on some internet message board.


Even if you still have the book, you may not have it to hand, or it will simply take a while to go back and find a supporting quote and I don't think most people are willing to do that for an internet post. Mind you i think someone who backs up their opinion with evidence (quotes or other details) will have more weight than someone who doesn't.

Kelly B wrote:
As for someone who has read more books having a more "valid" opinion... I guess that depends on the opinion. If someone reads a couple of books and hates the author's writing style, well, that's valid.


I don't think that bbmedos was saying it wasn't valid, but there is a difference between saying "I didn't like the writing style of those books by this author I read" and saying "The author is a bad writer". I think the more books you have read by the author the more informed you will be, and therefore the more wieght your comments will have.

The immediate example that springs to mind is the trad vs single title Mary Balogh debates. The number of people who said they preferred the trads to the single titles when they had read only one or even none of the single titles and vice versa amazed me. Personally while I was happy to say I liked the singles titles I didn't feel qualified to make comparisons until I had actually read 5-6 of her trads.
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MMcA



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PostPosted: Wed May 28, 2008 3:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
If we would question overall observations of the individual who didn't finish a book, why do we not also question the observations about an author by individuals who haven't read all the books by that author?


My internal rule of thumb is that I can comment on a book I've read; I can comment on an author I've read that I no longer read, if I've something relevant to say; and I can - if I'm feeling grumpy - comment on why I gave an author up.

I try not to comment on a particular book unless I've read it, though I have, on occasion. So if people are discussing the latest J.D.Robb, I'd feel that I'd left the series long enough ago, that I couldn't have anything sensible to say.

However, if the discussion was about a particular book in the series I'd read, like 'Naked in Death', or a generalised question about the series like whether Robb is a good mystery writer, I'd be annoyed if someone suggested I couldn't say anything relevant because I hadn't read every book.

My personal bugbear is people who post 'Why I'm not going to read this...' posts into threads about books. I always think it'd be better in a different thread. Happened a lot with the Harry Potter books (not necessarily on these boards). You'd be having a nice conversation about horcruxes, and someone would post 'Am I the only person who has no intention of reading this series?' And twenty other people would reply that no, they weren't going to read it either.
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JaneO



Joined: 17 Feb 2008
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PostPosted: Wed May 28, 2008 7:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

[quote] I'm sorry, but if someone really has only read a couple of books by an author with a fairly large backlist and then stopped reading them, isn't that the knowledge equivalent of just reading a few chapters of a book? [/quote]
Wouldn't that guarantee that the only people commenting on an author would be the ones who really liked that author? After all, if I read two or three books by Author X and don't much like them, why would I keep coming back for more? And if I comment that I didn't like them for reasons A, B, and C, how is that not valid?
On the other hand, if all I have to say is that Author X writes lousy books, I'm certainly not adding anything to the discussion and probably should keep quiet.
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xina



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PostPosted: Wed May 28, 2008 8:47 am    Post subject: Re: Opening the books - a couple of questions Reply with quote

If we would question overall observations of the individual who didn't finish a book, why do we not also question the observations about an author by individuals who haven't read all the books by that author?

Why does being a devoted reader of an author almost seem to label one as biased instead of informed with ready information at one's fingertips because one actually has that author's books on hand to reference during discussions?

Just wondering.[/quote]




Yes, personally, I hate "reviews" on books labeled DNF (did not finish) That is not a review...because the person didn't read the book. *rocket-science" Anyhoo...I really don't think a person can base an opinion on a body of work if they have only read 1 or 2 books, and perhaps they should say that. I for one am not a Kinsale fan, but try to state that I've only read 2 books and they didn't work for me. I used to think that about Mary Balogh's work, but have since tried again and find I like them very much, so now, I feel more qualified to respond to a question about Balogh. Off topic...sort of, but this reminds me of a few reviews on Amazon relating to James Fry's new book. Half of the reviews haven't even read the book and are just basing a opinion on his last book and dust-up with Oprah. In this case, the book wasn't even read...yet, an opinion was formed and the review/opinion is posted. Odd.
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lijakaca



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PostPosted: Wed May 28, 2008 11:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

bbmedos, I'd say it depends on the intent of the post. In the thread you mention, the original poster asked:

Quote:
For those who have read her books, what do you think of her writing style? would you recommend her? What're your favorite books by her?


To me, that's asking for opinions both by readers who still read Laurens, and those who don't. Many people responded who had read at least 3 books by her - I think that that is enough for people to distinguish whether they do or don't like an author and to get an idea of why.

In my opinion, if someone asks whether people would recommend a certain author and if so, which book etc., that's fair game for people who have read that author to respond with how they felt - even if they've only read 1 or 2, even if they didn't like them, or even if it's been several years since they read them. The more people that respond, the more information the OP has to make a judgement. If she has questions about some of the responses, she can ask for more info.

Are you saying that you don't think those people should have responded in that thread because they don't like Laurens, or they haven't read at least 5 or 6 books by her?

Quote:
I'm sorry, but if someone really has only read a couple of books by an author with a fairly large backlist and then stopped reading them, isn't that the knowledge equivalent of just reading a few chapters of a book?


And I have to disagree with this. A book is a complete work in and of itself; it can be analyzed as a whole. Chapters of a book cannot.

If when someone asks about an author, the ONLY people who respond are those who have read all or most of their backlist, then probably:

1) There will be many fewer responses.

2) The responses will be almost 100% positive - very few people continue reading an author whose writing they don't enjoy.

I think it's more helpful when the post garners both types of responses, positive and negative. If the OP wants to see only positive responses, they can say that - in this case she didn't.
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bbmedos



Joined: 26 Sep 2007
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PostPosted: Wed May 28, 2008 12:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

JaneO wrote:
Quote:
I'm sorry, but if someone really has only read a couple of books by an author with a fairly large backlist and then stopped reading them, isn't that the knowledge equivalent of just reading a few chapters of a book?

Wouldn't that guarantee that the only people commenting on an author would be the ones who really liked that author? After all, if I read two or three books by Author X and don't much like them, why would I keep coming back for more? And if I comment that I didn't like them for reasons A, B, and C, how is that not valid?
On the other hand, if all I have to say is that Author X writes lousy books, I'm certainly not adding anything to the discussion and probably should keep quiet.


Hmmm, but don't misinterpret what I'm asking here. I'm not wondering why any opinons are valid. They all are. I'm wondering why the wrong ones may be routinely given more weight on this particular issue. That's a big difference and it's also a phenomenon I've seen for years across the Internet.

It's one thing for someone to talk about, say, issues of personal taste based on the fact that an author doesn't appeal to them and so they stopped reading those books. That's useful opinion and information to other readers. It's a helpful "if you like or don't like, then you may also like or not like" kind of thing.

It's quite another for someone to actively dismiss an author's writing with sweeping statements or generalizations as if they know all about it without having read at the least the majority of the backlist that actual readers who have done so may be able to contradict or at least clarify. That type of generalization is not useful opinion and could in fact be flat out incorrect information. Yet time and again, I've seen devoted readers of different authors who've actually had the nerve to confront this shot down with the laundry list of "oh, well, these are just opinions", "we're only on the Internet", "I don't have the book(s) anymore". None of which, of course, are arguable. Or so it seems. So, the actual readers of the authors shut up.

I simply wish those "fans" and everyone else would value their contributions more because they, afterall, usually have the direct line to the very thing we're discussing.
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
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PostPosted: Wed May 28, 2008 12:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

bbmedos wrote:
If we would question overall observations of the individual who didn't finish a book, why do we not also question the observations about an author by individuals who haven't read all the books by that author?


I'm with Lijakaca here. A book should be able to stand on its own merits.

If someone bashed my favourite author after reading only one of her weaker books, of course I'd try to recommend a better title. That would be in the awareness that when any author has several books, some are definitely going to be better than others.

Quote:
Why does being a devoted reader of an author almost seem to label one as biased instead of informed with ready information at one's fingertips because one actually has that author's books on hand to reference during discussions?


I've never thought that about anyone, Bbmedos, so I certainly hope that I didn't come across that way in our debate over at the Stephanie Laurens thread. Smile

I'd agree that someone who has read all of an author's books is a better authority on the author and a better apologist for individual books than someone who has read only one title. Yet when people read only one and say they don't like it, they aren't trying to explain the author: they're just saying that they didn't like it.

Of course I'd argue if they tried to use the wide "This is a terrible author" brush to paint the tiny "I didn't like this book" detail; but there is more to a book than an author's style, and I think someone may be perfectly justified in being turned off by particular elements. Isn't that why we have a mile-long Pet Peeves thread?
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bbmedos



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PostPosted: Wed May 28, 2008 12:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

lijakaca wrote:
Are you saying that you don't think those people should have responded in that thread because they don't like Laurens, or they haven't read at least 5 or 6 books by her?


No. Again, please, don't read more into what I'm asking than what I'm actually saying.

In fact, I could probably say an "absolutely not" because there were really two things combined that lead me to post here. It was not about the entire thread.

The first was that I did challenge someone's claim about the author's writing as being a generalization and wanted proof from the books. This was met by considerable consternation by several. Not unexpected but there it is.

The second was that someone questioned anyone "defending" the author fairly soon after I'd entered the discussion with the above type comments. That seriously threw me, partly because I wasn't sure the "defending" comment was directed at my posts and so I wasn't sure whether to respond.

I did though because it's all part of the pattern I've seen before. Keep the books out of the discussion. Keep it all opinion. Keep the author's "fans" as quiet as possible.

And it bothers me a lot.

So, no, I'm not saying any opinions shouldn't have been offered but I am saying that there are also some opinions that can and should be challenged and sometimes that challenge is directly related to referencing the books themselves. How can it not be?
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Schola



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PostPosted: Wed May 28, 2008 12:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

lijakaca wrote:
bbmedos, I'd say it depends on the intent of the post. In the thread you mention, the original poster asked:

Quote:
For those who have read her books, what do you think of her writing style? would you recommend her? What're your favorite books by her?



There's actually an opportunity to compare and contrast. There's a similar thread on Christina Dodd in the RTR Forum. It was worded differently, with no question about Dodd's writing style, and no doubt that the original poster wanted recommendations rather than confirmation that recs would be worth asking for.

So when I replied, I posted my two favourite Dodd titles and didn't bother mentioning the one I couldn't stand. Nor did I add that I generally don't care for her style, which is the case. It was outside the scope of the original post.

In contrast, the original post on the Laurens thread seemed to welcome the kind of broad answers it got.

lijacaka wrote:
To me, that's asking for opinions both by readers who still read Laurens, and those who don't. Many people responded who had read at least 3 books by her - I think that that is enough for people to distinguish whether they do or don't like an author and to get an idea of why.


I'd agree that three books is the minimum for deciding whether to give up on an author or not.

However, I'd say that people who have been reading a long time, especially in one genre, can usually trust their instincts on the first or second book.
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lijakaca



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PostPosted: Wed May 28, 2008 1:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

bbmedos wrote:
lijakaca wrote:
Are you saying that you don't think those people should have responded in that thread because they don't like Laurens, or they haven't read at least 5 or 6 books by her?


No. Again, please, don't read more into what I'm asking than what I'm actually saying.


OK. I was hoping you weren't, but wasn't sure and wanted to confirm.

Quote:


The second was that someone questioned anyone "defending" the author fairly soon after I'd entered the discussion with the above type comments. That seriously threw me, partly because I wasn't sure the "defending" comment was directed at my posts and so I wasn't sure whether to respond.

I did though because it's all part of the pattern I've seen before. Keep the books out of the discussion. Keep it all opinion. Keep the author's "fans" as quiet as possible.

And it bothers me a lot.

So, no, I'm not saying any opinions shouldn't have been offered but I am saying that there are also some opinions that can and should be challenged and sometimes that challenge is directly related to referencing the books themselves. How can it not be?


That's fair. I tried to give more specific information in my second post on the thread. Though I couldn't remember quotes and don't have the books to look up; it made me communicate more clearly why I had that opinion and that's a good thing.
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Diana



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PostPosted: Wed May 28, 2008 10:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I share your dislike for broad, sweeping generalizations. I generally don't participate in threads of the "Historical/Contemporary/Paranormal Romance Sucks" ilk. Given that there are hundreds and hundreds of authors writing said romances with infinite differences in style and story, using a broad brush to dismiss an entire subgenre isn't valid. However, there are lots of posters who enjoy those kinds of discussions and I say live and let live.

However, I don't see any need to cite chapter and verse in order to defend my like/dislike of any book that I've READ. Anyone who has READ a book absolutely has a valid opinion as well as the right to express it. There are books I've had a visceral reaction to and there just may be no explaining it.

These boards see a wide range of posting styles. Again, I say live and let live.
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Suzanna



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PostPosted: Thu May 29, 2008 1:46 am    Post subject: Re: Opening the books - a couple of questions Reply with quote

bbmedos wrote:
I'm sorry, but if someone really has only read a couple of books by an author with a fairly large backlist and then stopped reading them, isn't that the knowledge equivalent of just reading a few chapters of a book?


I think with some authors you know from one book that you're wasting your time with a second try (the book I've just finished is a case in point - the setting and characters were different and exotic, and I really wanted to like it, but the style is like nothing I've ever encountered before, and it was really, really hard going).

But there are authors I've tried and not liked, whose books are admired and recommended by other readers. In those cases I generally give the author a second try - I'd maybe ask for recomendations for a second try (eg. Samantha James - I disliked the hero intensely in the first book I tried, but I did try another book recommended by someone else here, which was much better). And I do consider the date of publication - sometimes an author's early books don't age well. But if the second book doesn't work for me I'm unlikely to try a third. Maybe that's harsh, but the world is full of enticing books to read, and dozens of them are waiting on my TBR shelves!
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bbmedos



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PostPosted: Thu May 29, 2008 12:34 pm    Post subject: Re: Opening the books - a couple of questions Reply with quote

Suzanna wrote:
bbmedos wrote:
I'm sorry, but if someone really has only read a couple of books by an author with a fairly large backlist and then stopped reading them, isn't that the knowledge equivalent of just reading a few chapters of a book?


I think with some authors you know from one book that you're wasting your time with a second try (the book I've just finished is a case in point - the setting and characters were different and exotic, and I really wanted to like it, but the style is like nothing I've ever encountered before, and it was really, really hard going).

But there are authors I've tried and not liked, whose books are admired and recommended by other readers. In those cases I generally give the author a second try - I'd maybe ask for recomendations for a second try (eg. Samantha James - I disliked the hero intensely in the first book I tried, but I did try another book recommended by someone else here, which was much better). And I do consider the date of publication - sometimes an author's early books don't age well. But if the second book doesn't work for me I'm unlikely to try a third. Maybe that's harsh, but the world is full of enticing books to read, and dozens of them are waiting on my TBR shelves!


I usually use a three strike rule myself on authors so I don't disagree with what's being said here. As long as an opinion is kept to the individual reader's personal tastes about those books that were read, I'm perfectly comfortable with it.

It's when opinions are expanded to apply to other books by that same author that haven't been read that things begin to get shaky.

And even that probably wouldn't bother me nearly so much if there wasn't this almost knee-jerk reaction to someone asking for proof that such generalizations are actually based on what's in the books themselves. It's one thing to have a "feeling-based" opinon about one book by an author. Or even several. We all do that. However, when the opinion is about summing up a writer's entire backlist shouldn't we at least be able to back it up with more than just our feelings - starting with having read most of said backlist?

See, it's the acceptance of those generalizations by individuals who haven't read the books that bothers me, not the opinions of the ones who have. If anyone has read even a couple of books, then their opinions are valid on those books.

It's the extrapolating so negatively about anything else by an author and expecting not to be challenged that I'm raising my eyebrows over. What type of discussion is that encouraging?
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