Wednesday, April 20, 2005

One-dimensional? No, just badly expressed...

Just got an interesting phone call from Justin Herald, author of It's all a matter of attitude, which I didn't seem to think much of back in November.

Surprised (he was)
He was surprised, because mine was the only negative coverage his book had had. "Don't you think it's a bit one-dimensional?" he asked me.

No. It's not that I hadn't read or understood where Justin was coming from - at least, from what was there in the book.

Irresponsible (I may have been)
But I will concede I expressed myself a bit irresponsibly. It's easy - and reads well - to say stuff like "This guy is really, really arrogant." I can't know that about someone by reading a book they wrote in four days! But I can say he comes across really arrogant from a read through the book - both the slogans and the explanations for them.

Clear (I am trying to be)
So what's my problem with books like "It's a Matter of Attitude"? Let me try again:

  • They offer black-and-white solutions in a very grey world.

  • They seem to overlook the value of brokenness, instead emphasising the power of the will to 'get the job done'. Sometimes failure - absolute disaster - is the best thing that can happen to us. That doesn't seem to be in the worldview of this book.

  • Read one way, the book seems to have a dismissive attitude towards people who are down and out. However, read another way, it's simply saying don't let negative people influence you, and don't be a negative person yourself. That, I'm into. But not dissing people just because they're 'losers'.
Oversimplified (the book was)
I guess the major problem I had with "It's all a matter of attitude" was that it oversimplified things. But what was I to expect for a book of "slogans to live your life by"? Perhaps I was expecting too much from what is really a feel-good book. Maybe I was gettin' too philosophical.

Professional (I am) (and opinionated)
Another thing that kinda came up in the conversation was professional reviewer vs. personal opinion. I don't think any professional reviewer can honestly say their personal opinion doesn't affect their reviews.

I'm a professional writer who reviews books. This is a blog, so it conforms to the blog format, which is usually highly personal and highly opinionated. If I was equivocating all the time on this site, it'd be a bore to read. Or maybe not... ;)

Funny (the book is)
Having said all that, I've missed the main point of many of these slogans which is, they're supposed to be funny! And they are that.

So get the book, and enjoy it, and read it with a smile on your face.

Impressed (I was)
Anyway, I was impressed that Justin actually picked up the phone and called me. It's one thing to be upset about a negative review; it's another to actually ask the reviewer why they were thinking.

While I can tell that at first Justin wanted to tell me why I was wrong (which would be easy) he did manage to hear me out as I tried to remember my thoughts last November.

One of the things he mentioned was that we'll be held accountable for our words. I agree. It's interesting that it goes both ways - he put his words out in the form of a book, and got one negative review (mine). I put my negative review out, and get one questioning call (his).

Right. I think I've said enough about all that. Comments welcome!


At 1:21 PM, Blogger Borscht said...

Nicely summed up SY. I like the breakdown -- kinda reminds me of my early blogging days. (I should get back to those again -- those were the good ol' days).

I used to be a huge consumer of feelgood books, but have since sworn them off for their apparent 'simplicity' -- I find myself enjoying the dig-through on something more ponderous. Something classic -- but reviewing books is fun -- it really is.

I especially liked your words about "...the possibility the book dismisses people who may be down and out simply because they're down and out..." I second this notion --- especially your feelings about failure. Sometimes it's what we need most.

Nice post. Very nice.


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