Guten tag! Today is the last Thursday of August in 2018, a day that will never come again (unless it turns out that time is recurrent and the universe is closed in the fourth dimension, which I suppose is possible).
I hope you’re all well. I myself am in a better mental state than I have been for the past few weeks, something for which I’m intensely grateful. I imagine that anyone reading my blogs with the hope of enjoyment is probably also at least mildly grateful. Reading something written by a person in a gloomy mood can occasionally be powerful, but it’s rarely much fun.
Speaking of fun, I got an amusing email from Amazon this week. It’s something that’s happened to me once or twice before, and I might even have written about it here; apologies if I’m being redundant. Anyway, the message came because, a month or two ago, I ordered a copy of my book Welcome to Paradox City to give to a friend of mine at work. Of course, Amazon has the very nice feature that, if you buy a product from them, especially a book, they encourage you to rate it and, if you’re so inclined, to review it. I thus received a request to give feedback about a book that I had written.
This is a curious situation. There’s a part of me that’s tempted to write a glowing review, praising my book to the stars and saying that I highly recommend it to anyone who ever reads at all in their lifetime. A few things, however, get in the way. One is simply that I don’t think I could do it. I’m very happy with my writing, especially some of my fiction, and I even enjoy rereading my own stories, but I can never delude myself that they’re among the greatest things I’ve ever read.
I don’t know what sort of neurological configuration is necessary to make one into a Kanye West or Donald Trump type, but whatever it is, I don’t have it. At some level, this may be a weakness; it certainly puts the damper on my self-promotion. In the long run, though, I think it’s a strength. One cannot improve if one is not self-critical. I won’t go so far as to say that the unexamined life isn’t worth living, since that would imply that the lives of all creatures without any capacity for reflective thought have been without value. But I will say that, as humans, we can always find ways to be better than we were in the past, and the only way to know where and how to improve is to look at ourselves honestly and evaluate where we’ve fallen short of our ideals.
So, as a matter of temperament, I’m simply not good at giving myself unalloyed praise. I suppose I could pretend to be that way and force myself to behave as though I were a narcissist, but it’s not easy, especially if one wants to have an honest interaction with one’s readers. I suspect that most writers of fiction want to be honest in that way.
On a more practical level, it’s simply a fact that Amazon identifies the writers of its reviews, so anyone paying attention could see that this glowing adulation of my book had come from the author himself. That would seem pretty cheesy and might throw a lot of people off. I know it would throw me off; I know this because, when people like the above-mentioned Trump and West praise themselves unreservedly, as they do, I find it distasteful and boorish. Maybe I’m just a stick in the mud, but Hillel counseled us not to do unto others that which is hateful to ourselves, and I think that’s a good, basic moral guideline.
It might, however, be fun to leave some obviously overblown self-praise, plainly written by me, as a joke that’s also an attempt to encourage people to read my work. I suspect, though, that this would violate some Amazon policy against self-reviews—they are often pleasingly scrupulous about such matters—and, of course, the joke would have to be done very carefully to avoid simply blowing up in my face and seeming stupid. Also, as part of reviewing a book, one gives it a star ranking on Amazon, and I just don’t think I’d be willing to give my work five stars. I mean, I gave The Lord of the Rings five stars, for crying out loud, and the Harry Potter books…and I would give five stars to Of Mice and Men, and On Liberty, and Paradise Lost. It would feel tremendously audacious to rate my own fiction as comparable to such works. On the other hand, five stars’ official meaning is “I loved it,” and of course, I do love my own works—in some senses—more than I could possibly love anyone else’s, since they are intensely personal to me. But would that qualify?
I’m probably overthinking this.
If any of you readers have any thoughts on this matter, I would be delighted for you to share them with me. I’m serious. How would you react to a consciously self-praising review by an author, if you could tell it was intended whimsically? Enquiring minds want to know.
On to other matters: the first draft of Unanimity is now just shy of four-hundred-thousand words. Oy. It’s been an ultra-marathon, to say the least, but I can at least feel good knowing that I’m in the last leg of the race now. I don’t even want to think about the effort that’s going to go into editing it and paring it down to a more manageable size. Unfortunately, I just did think about it, and what’s more, I wrote a sentence about it. Oh, well, whataya gonna do?
The audio for chapter nine of The Chasm and the Collision is almost done, and it should be posted here by tomorrow, or maybe even by later today. The YouTube version will follow shortly thereafter. It took slightly longer than the previous chapter because there are some (very minor) special effects involved. I tried not to make them silly, but I thought they were indicated. Hopefully you’ll like them and it.
With that, I am all but finished with this rather atypically long blog post. As always, I really, honestly, truly welcome and encourage your feedback. Even if you want simply to leave a comment saying “Hi,” that would be delightful.
And of course, more generally, do, please, if you read someone’s book—especially if it’s the work of an independent author—leave a review on Amazon or wherever you might have the option to leave it. I won’t say that it’s impossible to exaggerate how important these reviews are, but they are terrifically useful, as well as rewarding. I think, ultimately, most creators create at the bidding of the inscrutable exhortations of their own souls (to paraphrase Calvin), but I doubt there are any who are utterly indifferent to the impact their work might have on others.
Be well. Thank you for reading.