It’s Saturday and I’m cold and I can’t get my lifesaving contact into my eye, so I’m cranky. That said, I’ve been particularly annoyed with (or at least thinking about) a few things this week.
Most of these apply to wider society as well, but frankly outside of work I don’t spend much time interacting with people so I’m going to relate them all to books
Annoying item the 1st: Lack of context
Ok, let’s start with the one everyone is talking about right now: Roald Dahl. I don’t care if the content owners wash the word “fat” out of his books. People won’t be less offended if we call them “enormous” so if the editors want to waste their time nitpicking, that’s on them. (P.S. if the copyright owner decides to alter a publication, they have the right to do that. We don’t have to agree with it. That said, context is important. I don’t agree with these types of choices but still, they can do whatever they want with their property).
“Hi, wow, you’re enormous”
I don’t see the difference but to each their own. More broadly this whole content washing push is about context. American society and book consumers have lost their sense of context while reading.
I see so many reviewers bashing and downgrading old books for their sexism, phobias, misogyny, whatever: it was written 100 years ago. My real concern here is the possibility for this to landslide like everything else wrong with society has done.
Context, people, context
Annoying item the 2nd: perspective and content policing
Tying right into the first is perspective. I know how this one makes me sound, but, readers and community members have lost their wider sense of perspective. Everyone is too worried about offending someone else!
I just keep my language fairly benign and if someone wants to try to cancel me again, fine, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.
I miss the days where people would just keep scrolling without causing a rabble about something they don’t like. What happened to discussion? No one can just have a discussion any more
Like yes I’m sorry that happened to you (to ‘triggered’ people) but at the same time, I don’t endorse content policing when something bothers one person out of a large group.
If you’d like to read an eye opening book about perspective and context, I really recommend The Latecomer by Jean Hanff Korelitz
Item the 3rd: the blessed decline of cancel culture
I think this one is finally going away, as in, I haven’t seen any wider attacks on any particular author recently. Thank GOODNESS.
This just ties into the first two but for the love of everything sacred, if you don’t like something, keep scrolling. I blame wider society for letting our book community get to that point, we can’t pander to every single person with an issue because it’s impossible to make everyone happy
Item the 4th: the AI debate
Ok, back when AOL instant messenger was a thing, I had a chatbot on my friends list. I loved messing with it. I forgot it’s name because this was like 20 years ago (good LORD I’m old) but these AI tools are to me just an evolving technology being put to ill usage.
I’m getting tired of hearing about AI and the debate just started. Submissions are closing down, everyone is riled up, and disclaimers are going into writing assignments in colleges and author competitions. I get it, but I’m seeing a lot of bitching and no offered solutions
I feel like there’s probably a good use for this somewhere. Maybe it can be modified to help kids with learning disabilities or that need more help in school, maybe they need things explained differently, and this could be a library at a tutor’s fingertips🤷♀️ I’d let a big adaptive technology company buy this AI technology and let them put a moratorium on it’s usage for anything else!
The last: hummm… Let’s say the debate about negative reviews
I’ve been reading these articles with great interest and most of the debate has to do with author’s feelings and damaging publisher relationships.
I’ll say a quick piece and move on: you, the reviewer, agreed upon taking the book for review, to give an honest review, so you need to do that.
It’s not a debate, it’s what you agreed to. I’ve incidentally offended people before but I give every single author and publicist the disclaimer that I’m both unflinchingly honest and sometimes don’t have a filter 🤷♀️
If you buy a book with your own money, it doesn’t matter as much what you write. If you have it for review purposes, you need to be honest or possibly you’re in it for the wrong reasons and that’s a whole different issue with the publicity base.
Stay tuned tomorrow for Grateful Sunday, I feel like I need to balance this out with something thankful tomorrow 🤣