On Not Liking Things Honestly

Sometimes, I think: why do reviewers have to be unkind?

Then I remember that I have seen several plays so awful I would gouge out my eyes rather than sit through them again.

Obviously, this is hyperbole. I like my eyes. 

Also, sometimes The Playwright has really enjoyed them. Lo, we have had many arguments about plays!

I don’t like experimental theatre. I like plays that have a recognizable plot of some sort and characters and make sense. It’s not the plays — well, sometimes it is, sometimes they’re really just awful — it’s me. They are not my cup of tea. I try to avoid seeing things that are clearly in this category but sometimes I go see a festival piece and it turns out to be hideous and reminds me of grad school and I play with my rings in the stage lights and brainstorm new scenes in my head and feel like the clock is moving backward. There are plays I’ve seen with friends that we hated so virulently we still joke about them almost ten years later.  God, the second half of The Faculty Play, when the Rapture comes? Or Red Light Winter, which has nary a likable character? Anything by Gertrude Stein in “play” form? They were unforgettable — I’ll give them that. 

So, I am not always Kind About Art. I can be snarky. It would be hypocritical of me to pretend otherwise. Remembering that helps me put things in perspective.

A few weeks ago I was reading some reviews of BORN WICKED. I know they are Not For Me and everyone says it’s emotionally unhealthy to read them but, well, I cannot help but be curious what readers are thinking. I’m a very impatient person, often to my own detriment. I read some, and many were lovely, and a few were unfavorable but not in a way that hurt, and a few were snarky and dismissive and it stung. I felt rather Woe Is Me. I read the stingingest one aloud to The Playwright and he said, “So, that person doesn’t like your book, huh?”

It put things into perspective. Cups of tea. I knew this, going in, didn’t I? And you do tend to think — I would not be besties with this person who is dismissive of this thing I love. Except, honestly? There are people I like very much whose books are not my cup of tea. Again, a bit hypocritical, Jess! Disagreeing about books, even MY books, doesn’t make me right and anyone who disagrees with me wrong. It certainly does not make her/him a bitch. 

Also? I take my book recommendations seriously. I will not say online that I loved a book unless I really loved it. If I went around proclaiming everything awesome, how could you believe me? It’s like when my friends did plays that were eye-gougingly bad and afterward I panicked because I didn’t want to lie, and I was all What do I say what do I say and I settled on a big hug and “Congratulations!” I do not want to put anyone else in that spot. I could never ask my friends to write good reviews of my book, or “like” the good reviews of my book, because besides being ethically questionable, it presumptuously assumes that they LIKE MY BOOK. And they might not! And I wouldn’t want them to lie about it. 

In summation, I think it’s important to remember that everyone has a right to her/his own opinion, even when you disagree. Perhaps especially when you disagree. 

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