I’ve read a very interesting post, written by Carolyn Jewel on her blog. It was entitled A Modest Proposal and its author suggested how to deal with those ugly, pesky, negatively inclined and satirical book reviewers at the Goodreads site. If you want to have a laugh go there and read it; in a nutshell Carolyn proposed the creation of the Book Review Security Department, backed by Navy SEAL guys and such. Nice, isn’t it? If you wrote a bad, nasty, cynical, scathingly witty review with some inappropriately funny giff images to illustrate your point, you could be practically sure of a visit of Navy elite soldiers in very tight-fitting, black swimming suits, appropriately armed and muscled. Looking devastatingly handsome. Right now I almost imagine an ARMY of female reviewers (and also some male ones) planning the nastiest reviews possible while drooling madly – such a visit is better (and certainly cheaper) than the Chippendales, right? And with all advantages of free home delivery!
Still…shouldn’t there be also an appropriate regulation concerning bad authors? After all every avid reader has stumbled upon a book he or she definitely wouldn’t have wanted to read at all. A book which shouldn’t have existed, written by an author who should have remained illiterate in the interest of the population at large. A book which leaves a horrible aftertaste, which can be compared to something nasty and smelly, something slimy, fungus-covered and rotten…well, you get the idea. What should be done with such authors? Because I am pretty sure every reader and reviewer agrees something must be done. Think system. Think law and order. Think economy, stupid!
First of all a bill or an act should be passed and it must be done worldwide. It will be stated clearly and loudly that bad literature = primo: more misspent money for useless libraries’ shelves, full of books nobody will bother to read after a while; secundo: bad future for our children due to unnecessary deforestation and/or constantly blocked servers; tertio: a headache for us right NOW. Start gathering all these necessary signatures, consult your MP or your Representative, explain to all and sundry that a bad book is like a fart – it makes both the fartor and the fartee very inconvenient although for different reasons (of course you can use different words depending on your target audience).
Here are my proposals.
For minor offences
(from a short story to an average novelette, approx. from 100 to 17,500 words) first I suggest sending a cease-and-desist letter and, if the demand is not obeyed (I bet it will not be obeyed in 90% of the cases) then the offender should be forced to do a spell of community service and pay a fine. The social service might include but should not be limited to: public toilet cleaning, street sweeping, car cleaning, serving free coffee in public areas (at the cost of the perpetrator of course), bathing and combing stray dogs and cats etc. The social service should be chosen in such a way to prevent a bad author from writing and/or speaking and teach him/her the value of proper words said/written in proper time. The fine should reflect the range of the offence properly – every word = one dollar. The significant funds, gathered that way, might be used to create jobs in libraries around the world and enlarge awareness what a good book is. I am sure this way the unemployment among specialists in the arts will be reduced fast to a laughably low level.
If the offender remains unrepentant he or she might be forced to translate texts from Difficultese into English. I have even one example in mind – it is just one sentence which won the Bad Writing Contest
(1997 edition); it was written by Judith Butler, a Guggenheim Fellowship-winning professor of rhetoric and comparative literature at the University of California at Berkeley
The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.
After translating such a beauty every wannabe writer will think twice before taking a biro or switching on their text editor. Or at least I hope so. They might even enlarge their vocabulary. 🙂
For real crimes against literature (from a novella to a novel starting a series, approx. from 17,500 to over 40,000 words) the punishment should be definitely harsher. After all you can hardly write a novel overnight – planning it beforehand suggest a lot of premeditation and especially willful perseverance from the side of the bad author, hereinafter called the perp. We deal with ‘mens rea’ (a Latin phrase meaning “guilty mind“) here, a strong intention to commit a wrongful act and even if the perp claims he or she didn’t intend to write so much the doctrine of transferred malice should be applied. Just in case.
A simply cease-and-desist letter is useless here as we don’t deal with a tort anymore. It is a crime. A hideous crime against humanity and literature. First the perp should be stopped at all cost and isolated from the tools of his trade (also known as stationery or a computer with a text editor). Then he or she should be interrogated by professionals (CIA and Dick Cheney come to mind instantly) to find out whether there are more copies of his or her book hidden there somewhere. All copies will be confiscated and a hefty fine imposed (the CIA guys are expensive but effective so definitely worth their money). Then the perp should be sent to a rehabilitation camp where primo: he or she will be doing something useful for the society like repairing cars, growing garden cress, milking cows, weeding, crocheting or darning socks; secundo: they will be reading the pearls or literature daily so they can see the errors of their ways, repent and convert; tertio: at the moment of their release they will have to sign a desideratum in which they will denounce their crimes and promise not to write anything for five years at least. Finally a restitution bit, my favourite so far: apart from the fine, for every word written in their bad novel they will have to buy a nutritional meal for one homeless pet, a cat or a dog. There are definitely too many homeless pets and too many bad authors – let’s combine two wrongs and make it one big right for a change!
Now the final question: how will you know whether a book is good or bad? I mean it is easy with already published works but what about those which haven’t been finished yet? Before the publication every writer will have to submit one chapter of his or her work (or at least 5,000 words if there are no chapters) to a panel of Highly Accomplished Reviewers and their Sadistic Henchmen (H.A.R.S.H) , consisting of literary critics, reviewers, book bloggers and police enforcers. These will produce a paid review at the cost of the prospective author. If more than half of them give a negative opinion about the submitted text, the author will be ordered to stop writing immediately, find another job and buy every panel member a bottle of alcohol of their choice for causing them a substantial psychical discomfort with such a bad text. If any author fails to do so he or she will be sent the ugliest, the fattest, the most foul-mouthed and unpleasant policemen and/or soldiers around to enforce the law – take them straight to the rehabilitation camp. No SEAL, no fun for the wicked.
Finally those authors who dare plagiarize the work of the others
will have additionally their thumb and index finger of the writing hand and one of their ear cut off. The fingers – so they steal no more. I am not sure about the reason behind the ear but if I think long and hard about it I am pretty sure I will come up with something logical. Anyway I do feel the hand itself won’t suffice.
Authors who behave badly while dealing with constructive criticism of their readers will be forced to answer fan mail of other, more successful/better-behaved authors for at least one year. Let’s hope they will learn how to be kind even through their gritted teeth.
Enough talking – organize ourselves and act now!