I have lots of writer friends. Big surprise—people who like and do similar things frequently congregate. Usually, our “familiars” can decipher us like no others.
Or at least they’re not bored listening to us us bemoan the dialog struggle that lasted for a day and a half, how we killed that sweet poem, can ooh & aah over another writer’s time transitions, that lyrical moment, syntax, the line music. Appreciate the excitement of nailing “it” because they know what it regularly takes to get “it” just right. Plus, they understand the awe of the “gift” poem or book, the one that writes itself.
That said, not everything we write is a 5-star poetry book, novel or memoir. Neither is anyone else’s.
When I go on Goodreads or Amazon and see my friends have given 5 stars to a book, I’m wary. Why? Because it’s either the “classics,” the “ivory tower approved,” or the “I know the writer” rating. It’s safe, not usually real.
For instance, a book of Hemingway’s (in the Canon—not a fan) or Alice Munro’s stories (trendy in lit circles—I praise her): 5 stars. A person you attended grad school with, or a beloved professor: 5 stars. But, something not “literary” enough, not part of the academic academy, a too “accessible” or “overtly political” poet, an assigned book for a class by someone you don’t know personally… the stars start falling.
I do want to support my friends, their hard work and the fact that they’re willing to deal with the pathetic publishing industry. See: the rant-ress to publishers: want some cheese with your whine? too late, you’re already cheesy. But I also want to tell the truth to potential readers looking for good books. With so many books being published these days and my time being quite limited, I appreciate an honest assessment when I’m looking.
So, friends and everyone, how about you stop diluting the ratings—on anything you buy—by nixing the faux 5 stars unless you really mean it? You’ve virtually made it worthless now anyway. Instead, write a pertinent comment. Use those writing skills to tell us what you liked about the book, the writing, the characters. Besides, most of your writer friends really will appreciate the selfless truth—or they should. Honesty is how we hone our craft so we get finer, tighter, better. This is the reason we don’t trust our mom’s, That’s a lovely story, Honey, comments. Am I right?
We need true transforming support. The other is just Spanx.