Thank you for reading "Venice Under Glass" and taking the time to express your thoughts.
You might be interested in a new site dedicated to this entirely new genre of Literature made possible with iBooks Author; www.MultiTouchFiction.com
It's straight commentary; no ads; no selling, no BS.
FYI: a conscious decision was made NOT to use iBooks Author's Chapter divisions. They look fine in a textbook or non-fiction cookbook, but they interrupted the flow of the narrative. When I looked further into this I realized why. In Fiction, individual chapters don't have these 'abrupt' changes that CAN be confusing in a narrative and were deemed inappropriate. For that reason I decided on a continuous flow with the individual chapters demarcated within the narrative like a standard novel. I do understand why you feel otherwise because not many people are aware of what iBooks Author can do in this new genre of MultiTouch Fiction. In fact, as of this writing, VENICE UNDER GLASS happens to be the FIRST and ONLY example of a MultiTouch Fiction novel created with iBooks Author - so I can understand your confusion.
Lastly - and purely in good humor - your "the writing is at best, workmanlike" were you referring to passages like:
""However, what struck me immediately upon entering was perfume. It wasn't Cordelia—rather roses. The scent was unmistakable. There were dozens and dozens of flowers in vases of all descriptions filling the living room. Roses grew from metal floor stands and stood in cut-crystal on side-tables and window-ledges and overflowed into the dining room, stopping only when the bouquets had covered her kitchen counters, scenting the air throughout like crazy. Some bear had sent her bright yellow and orange dozens, poised next to red, white and pink dozens. In the center of the living room, two dozen anxious roses blushed lavender by the vacant love-seat. " - CH14 pg.104
That's straight out of Fitzgerald and Keats, my friend. Straight out....and VENICE UNDER GLASS is more a lyrical prose poem to Venice than anything else!
Ok, not one last thing. This is: You mentioned that I could have made the map more interactive. Yes, I could have...but that 'stakeout' map has three other iterations in different formats, one of which expands full-screen.
Funny you picked the one thing YOU would have done but failed to mention the 40 other instances of advanced widget use. Tell me, honestly, did you really read the book from beginning to end? Because how you could characterize Inspectore Loredan Marcello of Polizia Venezia as "a stereotypically clueless police inspector" when he's anything but is bewildering.
This is too easy, Michael: "It reads, in fact, rather like a juvenile genre offering on the level of Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys." In fact, like this?
"A crowd had gathered on the San Marco side where a Carnevale reveler, costumed as an infamous Senator of the Old Republic, was entertaining the crowd with his 'drunken' antics and crude bloviations. He carried an empty wine bottle as a prop, pausing often to ‘drink’ and belch again. He wore the mask of privilege and superiority, alternating these expressions with the stupefied looks of a drunken letch. This pantomime he complemented with exaggerated staggering. A mock-exercise routine included chasing several ladybears who screamed in delight. The Senator owned an oversized purse, open and overflowing with bribes ("campaign contributions") from his constituency. He engaged the crowd in a game of pretend solicitation and the historical figure—drunken, dishonorable and corrupt—was thus given life."
Didn't, in fact, read the book?
"Juvenile" and "at best, workmanlike" as this perhaps, Michael?
"The Mayor was unharmed but thoroughly humiliated and so waterlogged that it took three of Marcello’s largest to drag Vincenzo Gritti back up onto the dock. Had the water been any deeper the Chief Inspector would have called in the divers—whose normal duties were rather grim by comparison. When the Mayor finally stood—trying to regain some composure—he slipped and fell into the water again. The howls and growls of derision will replay in his head for the rest of his career. I couldn’t tame the impulse to laugh and had to look away for fear my reaction might be misinterpreted—or worse, caught on camera. By dinnertime, TeleVenezia was promoting the breaking news with a scroll-bar dubbing Vincenzo Gritti “Mayor AquaOrso” alongside a video of AquaOrso being snatched, carried and tossed in the water, dragged out soaking wet by the police then falling off the dock back into the lagoon over and over again on an endless loop.'
Or perhaps you were referring to "juvenile" prose such as this?
"Then a familiar face, “dressed” as Lady Godiva, entered the reception hall....In the bright palazzo lights Reina was even more spectacular than I remembered. She was flawless: not a blemish on her anywhere—and there was a lot of ‘anywhere’ showing. Coco Grande’s bears were scrutinizing her intently; but there were no chinks in her regal bearing. Reina’s expression was open and generous—unspoiled by any hint of haughtiness. One feature fascinated above all: Reina’s eyes had an irresistible translucence. Two wide-set luminous pearls captured the world’s reflection and its wonder then invited all to gaze within. Reina was sublime—radiant and beautiful in exquisite measure; elegant and graceful as she moved with Paco! from one group to the next; animated with an angelic temperament that enchanted every bear at the Ball. Our Lady Godiva won even the jaded hearts—hearts that had everything yet still beat unfulfilled."
Perhaps you meant these 'Hardy Boy' reflections on life lessons and morality?
"However, there were two frightening things that I learned on this case that shattered some of my illusions. They pushed a profound dilemma to the forefront of my psyche.
"The first was that this bear, Herbert Richard Glass, became a good friend in such a short time. It was a close friendship; the kind one is certain will be a friendship for life. We’ve all had these; some of our best memories are of friends known briefly, in experiences lived through intensely. I was positive Loredan and I were like that; that we would be friends—and comrades for justice—for life. But that I fell into Glass’ trap—well, that was really embarrassing. Gullibility in my profession is not a virtue. My false friendship with Glass—forged by circumstance and necessity—proved as out of place as pasta in a blast furnace."
"But here’s the other frightening thing: there are bears out there who willingly do harm to others. They knew it and didn’t care. These were hard, reckless bears who took without conscience or remorse. And worse, they stole away our faith in each other; and they didn’t care about that either. There were bad consequences and all would pay. To many, Glass had been a benevolent angel spreading his largesse over the City. He offered money, security and protection. All that was now yanked away. Those in Venice who had benefited from his vast generosity—and there were many—would have to return to the world of unmet longings, a much barer reality. Great wealth affords certain comfort. I guess that’s the appeal, ultimately—the feeling that we’re being cared for and looked after; that we are safe with basic bear needs met. But the cold light of day coming up on this crisp Venetian morning would be a stark reminder that life is uncertain and we can find ourselves adrift on turbulent waters."
"Herbert Richard Glass was a complicated and brilliant bear; but he remained an unrepentant one. And that, for me, betrayed a presumptuousness beyond extreme: it was ugly and conceited and revealed a bear deeply flawed in the design. Glass would be a case-study for the ages—internationally analyzed by experts across every time zone. His tearful parents wouldn’t escape the scrutiny either and questions would be asked about what they did or didn’t do or could have done better. (“He never learned to cry,” his mother would tell Vedi Vanità for their Spring cover story). When this humiliation was over and the expert consensus had rendered its post mortem, Herbert Richard Glass would be mercilessly—and gleefully—dissected with the scalpel of public opinion sharpened for precisely that purpose."
'Juvenile' and 'workmanlike' Michael?
Missed all that in your ‘close reading’ Michael? Surely you read the “juvenile” and “at best, workmanlike” prose on the first page?
“Landed in Paris at 7:45am local time, unrested and a little bleary-eyed. I taxied over to Le Gare de l'Est and boarded the train for Venice... I thought I might try to stay awake for the first part of the trip, so I rang the cabin steward for his strongest coffee and settled back with a copy of The Times. Half an hour outside Paris, we were in the country and heading towards the Swiss Alps. My eyes fell lazily from the paper and out the window, where the lush green zipped by in a Degas abstraction streaked with intermittent patches of snow. The soft, steady clik-klp-klop, clik-klp-klop from the tracks lulled me into a daze.”
Where you say "turning the stock characters (possibly based on friends and acquaintances) into stuffed bears as an in-joke" you meant like this?
"A few moments later Signora Morosini appeared. She was an elderly bear, regally attired even at this early hour. She wore a green silk suit in a delicate, iridescent jacquard which she had complimented with a multi-faceted emerald necklace. Brilliant earrings in the same design twinkled by the fireside while a pavé diamond lizard with emerald eyes crawled up her lapel. Signora's ginger fur showed signs of gray here and there, as well as a little wear. She was well-maintained, however, and it appeared she had some recent work done: there was new stitching around her neck and arm sockets as well as new paw patches in a light auburn suede. She was sprightly with imperious eyes that were trained intently on me. They were eyes that wouldn't miss much."
That's a stock character? It's all just an in-joke with my friends? Really, Michael?
This is not original writing, Michael?
"But the mummeries had just begun. Harley Kino, newly arrived on the scene and witnessing the crowd's enthusiastic reception of his predecessor, was determined to earn his share of attention. As the Senator crossed the bridge, Harley tagged behind, miming the politician, gesture for gesture. When the Senator stopped and pretended to drink again, someone tossed Harley a bottle of Pinot Grigio (it was, after all, Carnevale). Not missing the cue, Harley pulled the cork, toasted the crowd and poured the shimmering liquid past his lips until the bottle was empty. With that gesture, Harley's imitation was complete. But the applause brought an end to Act One of his performance. Harley hurled himself into an impromptu series of cartwheels over the bridge and back again, waving to the Senator on each pass. Encore! Encore! screamed the crowd. Harley's sense of the theatrical had been emboldened by his eager ingestion of wine: what came next was memorable."
"Harley Kino commandeered a pair of pantalooned walking stilts from two young performers on break from the bright afternoon. He quickly mounted the stilts; but once aloft, he began swaying inexpertly, taking wide, uneven strides like some berserk cast-off from the Cirque du Soleil. Screams of encouragement were heard from both sides of the water as Harley teetered above us. Wobbling violently at the apex of the bridge, Harley Kino concluded his act by diving head-first into the Grand Canal. An eerie, surreal moment of quiet followed. All eyes were on the performer's hat floating precisely where Harley had entered the water. Fifteen seconds went by. Twenty seconds. Thirty! The suspense was finally broken when Harley bobbed to the surface, waving madly—and wearing his hat! The crowd roared once again. It was inspired improvisation that would be immortalized on YouTube for all the world to see."
Not characters but in-jokes, Michael? Based on my friends? And you know this how?
So, you missed the satire and social commentary completely, Michael?"
"Mystico Rafael, the famous Venetian artist (costume by Titian), accompanied his lovely daughter Gazelle. She had the name and a shape the world’s modeling agencies had pursued forever. But other than a complete devotion to her father, Gazelle was focused on pursuits of a higher calling; pursuits untypical in the worlds of fame and fashion. She was disenchanted at an early age by the media obsession with her famous father. In a recent interview, Mystico revealed that Gazelle was in her last year studying International Law at Université de Genève. She had already interned with the International Criminal Court in The Hague. It was no secret she wanted a position with the International Court of Justice. Gazelle was plotting a course into the most learned, most consequential circles and the idea that what dress she wore mattered was beyond her interest."
And here, too?
"Salvatore’s gold pen made a note in an enormous reservation book. Our names were inscribed inside a genuine antique, leather-bound portfolio from the library of a monastic order made extinct by a modern world that wanted nothing more soothing than the balm of instant gratification. The ironic ‘manuscript’ inside (where Salvatore had written), now recorded the times and dates when the named devoted would indulge their appetites, untroubled by any price they would have to pay. On each page, ample room down the margins waited for the chef to illustrate his culinary inspirations."
Surely not here, Michael?
[Marcello] had escorted the Mayor back to police headquarters ‘for his own protection’ and the Mayor was quietly napping in Marcello’s private office. We sat in the adjoining conference room.
“He could use a good cry right about now,” observed Cordelia. “Do you think he might resign, Inspectore? After all that has happened, wouldn’t it be the honorable thing to do?”
“Signorina, there is nothing honorable about politics.”
The more involved my conversations with Loredan became, the more layers of complexity he revealed. Trained as a prosecuting attorney, Loredan Marcello had turned to police work after seeing bad bear after bad bear get off and beat the system, then continue their felonious careers. Police work had given him greater satisfaction—the opportunity to actually do something to combat the crime that tarnished his City. Now, I needed to take full advantage of this fact and appeal to these greater angels in his character.
The environmental theme is from Nancy Drew too, Michael?
"I knew of MOdulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico, the project dubbed MOSE—a clear biblical reference for a city that knew it needed to be saved. Venice was built on millions of wooden piles driven deep into the marshy islands of the lagoon and has been sinking since the first days of the Republic. While Venetians learned to cope with the annual aqua alta, or high waters, flooding only worsened... Further exacerbating the problem, climate change has induced a rise in sea levels. La Serenissima, threatened by the very waters upon which she was built, prayed that MOSE would lead to a future that, otherwise, looked promising... Contentious political and environmental debates caused delay after delay. Once the environmentalists were satisfied there was still the matter of funding. €4.6 billion in new taxes was a frightening prospect for any politician; and politicians were known to fear the wind blowing in the wrong direction."
'Juvenile' like this observation from the main character?:
"It was a strange dream. How strange were my questions? I knew what Uncle Clive would say. But what had Glass actually done, besides being gracious and friendly—and giving? H.R. was a multi-billionaire—a very generous multi-billionaire. He had donated billions for the flood gates to protect Venice from an angry Mother Nature who found herself pregnant with a polluted atmosphere she was forced to carry until every coastal city on Earth was flooded. Glass was “Il Salvatore di Venezia” and viewed as such by many."
Is Basil Baker a perceptive narrator who provides thoughtful reflections on his world, Michael? Let’s see:
"I sensed excitement ahead as we entered the Grand Canal. It was that time in the evening when the winter dark tempted everything into motion. Throughout the City bears traveled to new destinations: some for duty, some for romance, some for pleasures of one kind or another—some looking for other things."
"I left La Questura at half past eight. Roberto had offered to take me home to San Polo by police launch but I needed to walk. There was so much spinning around in my head; and without sleep my nerves were frayed. I’d just come out of an intense interrogation and was expecting a delayed reaction to hit me at any moment. I was alone with my thoughts and it wasn’t a place I wanted to be: like a waking nightmare, I kept rewinding and replaying the video footage of my attack on poor Grasso. No one deserves to have his left eye popped out, I thought. It wasn’t my best hour."
"I stepped up to the podium... From the front of the stage and out fifty rows into the crowd were the protesters who had marched from every sestiere in Venice. They had reached such a heightened state of agitation that it occurred to me I was making a horrible mistake and had badly misjudged the situation... What’s the worst that could happen? I thought, shocking myself with the first half-dozen answers that flashed in my head... I started to introduce myself and was surprised when Piazza San Marco fell quiet... I hadn’t spoken three words when a tomato soared past my head and hit the Mayor’s press secretary in the face. It was a perfect shot. I’ve never seen such self-composure on a bear and I doubt I ever will again. He turned restraint into a cardinal virtue. But the crowd stayed calm—making it difficult to determine what bears lay in wait with other dangerous produce. I’ve seen an eggplant break a plate glass window and can imagine the mischief a zucchini might get up to.
Mr. Cohen, I value proper literary criticism - critique that is based on the referenced text. I backed up everything I said that you got wrong. You offer no evidence to back up any of your drive-by pronouncements that I just showed were wrong. It is abundantly clear to everyone now that you really didn't read the book. If you had, you would have seen it as a breakthrough work. But the worst part is the lack of professionalism and respect: you expect others to respect your books and to listen to your advice yet you fail to show the same professional courtesy to others who just might know something you don't. You didn't write this book; I did. Why does it bother you so much? To dislike a book because you just don't like it is one thing. But to purposefully mischaracterize what's in and then tell others, that's something else entirely.
Even in France, critics are laughing:
It was reported on one of the most famous french newspaper. Hold on !
“Oh, and all of the characters in the book happen to be teddy bears… did I not mention that?”
That’s your ‘tell’ Michael: what gave you away! Now, we BOTH know where that came from, don’t we? I wrote it. I had the audacity to let one of my website characters, Neville Addison-Graves III, write a critical analysis of VENICE UNDER GLASS (Basil’s Blog at www.basilbaker.com) using the standard methodology of literary criticism in academia - a fancy way to say Neville supports each and every point in his analysis with specific textual reference, as I have done here. For some reason - pique? spite? resentment? who knows? - you were more interested in taking me down a peg and thought the best way to do that was to misrepresent VENICE UNDER GLASS.
So rather than do your own rigorous work required to support an honest review to prove me wrong, you decided on the lowbrow approach with the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew trope signifying your contempt, even though a cursory review of the actual text would show anyone you were wrong. You coupled this, ironically, with the insinuation that self-publishing was somehow at fault and layered on some snobbish disregard for what you perceived as a violation of iBooks Author best-practices even though you don’t write about Fiction in your iBooks Author tips book and never heard the term MultiTouch Fiction until I officially named the genre on May 9th!
Do you actually think I wanted to be the first to use iBooks Author to write an original work of MultiTouch Fiction? Over the entire two year period spent on VENICE UNDER GLASS, I was certain someone else, some big name author and publisher would beat me to it. I looked EVERY day. But no one did. Do you understand the implications of this? It was up to me - not you, not anyone you know, not a major publisher or big-name author - to write about and pioneer this field for ALL of us. Have you read any of the foundational posts at www.MultiTouchFiction.com? Because if you haven’t, you simply are not qualified to express an informed opinion on this new genre of Literature? If you think you are, let’s have it. Stop the hating and naysaying and misrepresentation of someone else’s Art. Create your own Art.
Methinks the author
doth protest too much over
That is the understatement of the week. This is one of the most ridiculous author reactions I have ever seen.
Ah, the non-serious come out to play. Naturally you would be the uneducated - unfamiliar with critical review. Yet, amazingly, you seek out opportunities to 'contribute' - what? Nothing of any value or substance. My god, your triviality...do either of you contribute anything to the world of Ideas or Art? And just how would you respond if you had created something of value that someone thoughtlessly tore down?
Do you not know that there is greatness in each one of us? That there is greatness in you? What do you stand for? What do you defend?
I don't know about greatness, but I did eat a TON of jellybeans today.
Still wasting time here.
He isn't realizing
We're laughing at him
I'd shrug and move on. Definitely wouldn't spazz out about a review that really wasn't all that harsh, and actually had some very positive things to say. Certainly not what I'd consider thoughtlessly tearing down.
Lord Bearington, I shall heed your advice.
I want to thank everyone for reading; this was a fun little exercise. I tried to use critical thinking and a few of the standard analytical methods developed over 400 years of scholarship to address one-by-one Mr. Cohen’s misrepresentations of Venice Under Glass. To refute Mr. Cohen, I marshalled evidence directly from the work itself. If you don’t think I backed up what I said with evidence, just show me where. Don’t blame me for asking you to show me. And if you just want to say, ‘screw this guy, who does he think he is?” that’s okay, too. Just know that you’ve left the conversation. If your opinion is that anyone with a website who has written a few How-to Manuals is a qualified literary critic incapable of error, you’ve just tossed those 400 years of scholarship in the waste-bin. Anyone CAN be a literary critic if they care to learn HOW to be one; how good they are will still depend on WHAT they write, not THAT they wrote it.
Reeeeeally late to take the high road, Mr. Harper. 'Specially when you stop to take a parting shot at the reviewer.
Excuse me, but I was ALWAYS on the high-road. I just have standards. If someone is wrong, tell them and show them where, don't just stop in for a drive-by insult. And it's not an insult to tell you that you just did a drive-by insult.
Okay, serious question before I go back to haiku: were you drunk when you posted the 20+ comments that make up the first comment thread? It's okay if you were; I won't judge. But there's no point continuing this if it was a one-time mistake.
Andrew, let me ask you a serious question: are you interested in a serious discussion about this or just want to know if I'd been drinking? Btw, I've INVITED anyone to judge WHAT I said. Just tell me WHY I am wrong. I've been clear on that...
and the following two pages, basically.
Those remarks are all ad hominem, Andrew.
Lissibith states: “I see exactly what they meant by workmanlike writing now” without saying why it’s workmanlike. It would be instructive to see her take a passage and rewrite it to her liking. After all, she says she sees EXACTLY what is workmanlike. Can she do that? Is it unreasonable to ask her to explain by example? Just a few sentences would do. She's a writer. As a writer, I always want to know when something isn’t working. I have an editor I’ve worked with for the past ten years who can spot a story defect a mile off. She always tells me WHY something doesn’t work. Don’t we all want to know WHY something isn’t working? If I want to ask you why you think something isn’t working and you don’t want to tell me - okay, that’s your business and you’ve left the conversation. But the fact that I’m asking is my business; you must remain agnostic on my decision to ask. It’s my decision; not yours.
Here, Andrew, from fellow writer @absolutewrite.com forum “Authors should really stop telling reviewers how to give reviews.”
#4314 Bicycle Fish: “For more insight into the author's love of his self proclaimed genius, read the fake review he mentioned in the comments.”
There’s nothing fake about that review. Basilbaker.com has been on the web since 1998; these are all all fictional characters, including the reviewer! It’s standard MFA practice to write a critical review of your work and support that critique by textual reference. The point of the exercise is for the writer to think critically about their work. If the argument is valid and supported it is proper literary criticism. Others are invited to critique on the merits. No one takes you seriously if you just say - “Gee, look what he did over there!” The REASON I took ONE line from it is because it’s the line the reviewer lifted from my own writing which I used as a referent to make my point that he took the line!
I think we've been talking at cross-purposes here. I'll bow out. Maybe we'll meet at Absolutewrite sometime.
What was your purpose, Andrew? I've only asked WHY you don't agree. I believe in objectivity: the words matter, not who said them. We all depend on that statement being true. An argument is either sound or it isn’t. The only way to determine if an argument is sound is to examine the words. If I read a book and say only, “that writer makes no sense” - that’s okay, but then I’ve taken myself out of the discussion. If I say that in my writer’s group, someone will simply ask how the writer failed to convey his intent. If I say “well, that’s my opinion” everyone will gently remind me that it’s okay to have an opinion but we’re here to discuss how we came to our opinions.
If you really thought
I cared about the review,
I cannot help you.
“Critique” at absolutewrite is that I wrote a lot of words, i.e. not what I said but rather that I dared to say them. Ketzel (“Of the big heart”) says: “And so far, he hasn't posted a single thing that actually, yanno, refutes the opinions in the review.” My second post was very specific!
Cohen: “Nor, sadly, has Harper mastered how the Table of Contents of an iBooks Author book can work: though he divides the novel into several chapters, the book’s Table of Contents presents them as one long chapter.”
Harper: “FYI: a conscious decision was made NOT to use iBooks Author's Chapter divisions. They look fine in a textbook or non-fiction cookbook, but they interrupted the flow of the narrative. When I looked further into this I realized why. In Fiction, individual chapters don't have these 'abrupt' changes that CAN be confusing in a narrative and were deemed inappropriate. I decided on a continuous flow with the individual chapters demarcated within the narrative like a standard novel.”
Artists strive for ‘unity of effect’ - that’s a basic tenet. How the artist achieves it - well, on that we must remain agnostic. We don’t tell an artist who paints only lillies she should start painting roses, too. Now, if you want to see for yourself that what I said is true and worked in Venice Under Glass, download the Preview which contains the first six (of 24) chapters. It was purely an aesthetic choice. But fellow writers who want ‘honest’ reviews need to remember that ‘honest’ is a word that has meaning. It’s an important ethic in all journalism, including reviews. Yet, Reviewer Cohen states an untruth (that I don’t know how iBooks Author works here) and then goes on to make a value judgement (“sadly”) compounding his error. Is this honest? Don’t blame me for pointing out the very words he wrote! Mr. Cohen knows a lot of things about iBooks Author; so do I. So what? If I want to paint lillies, that’s my choice. If you want roses, go paint them.
And if you don’t want to take issue with someone who professionally reviews your work, that’s your business. I don’t make decisions for you.
Lastly, no author in his or her right mind would quarrel with the New York Times over the issues I raised with Mr. Cohen because the standards of the New York Times wouldn’t have allowed them to be printed.
And, thank you, Samsonet, for having the decency to post one of my arguments. You seem honorable. I've invited criticism all along; I only ever asked that it be valid. Not one has a lock on truth. And yes, despite what your Mocking Queen of Swords says, there IS greatness in each one of us. You depend on the truth of that statement with every sentence you hone, every page you agonize over. And if you think something is great, show the world. Be courageous. We'll all be dead soon enough.
"That's straight out of Fitzgerald and Keats, my friend. Straight out....and VENICE UNDER GLASS is more a lyrical prose poem to Venice than anything else!"
I was laughing at you for your reaction, but if you truly think your drivel resembles anything approaching Fitzgerald and Keats, I now just pity you. Unless you meant Mr. Fitzgerald who ushers at St. Bridgets and Keats the maintenance guy at the library.
You do not convince. Are you saying that sentence isn't lyrical? Because that's what it sounds like you're saying. I've studied Fitzgerald all my life and he instructed his own daughter how to emulate Keats with a very specific example from The Eve of St. Agnes. Do you know the phrase I'm referring to? FSF said that writers should 'steal' techniques from the best and then make them their own. There's a well-known passage in "The Beautiful and Damned" where he uses Keat's technique in a modern setting to do just that. In my own sentence, the verbs carry the roses throughout Cordelia's apartment just as he instructed. The apartment comes alive with roses just as FSF instructed. If FSF thought other writers could do this, who are you to say he was wrong? Please, by all means deconstruct the sentence and show me that it's not lyrical. Can you do that? Otherwise, it sounds like you just don't like hearing an author value what he wrote. FSF never felt that way.
The difference is between genius, and aping genius. Moving words around to sound pleasing to yourself is not approximating genius.
Here's a good rule of thumb, and I'm not being facetious: If you have to tell people what a good writer you are, you're probably not. If you're truly good, people (and critics) will tell you.
Until then, it's very good advice for you to back away from the keyboard. You're fast becoming a national joke. (see www.gawker.com)
You think this is about YOU? I wasn't talking to you. I was presenting an argument to the reviewer. YOU chose to insert yourself into the discussion with drive-by ad hominem. Would you rather I ignore you? Sorry, but I wasn't raised to be impolite; and the Jesuits who taught me to value reasoned debate would never forgive me if I didn't defend what I thought was true. Sister Mary would be pleased that I am treating you with respect, patience and courtesy. I simply asked you to explain yourself. You either want to explain what you said or you don't. But if you express a view and then don't care to explain how you came to that view, why would you expect someone to consider what you said meaningful? Why would you say the writing was drivel unless you had a good reason to say it was drivel. Deconstruct what I wrote and SHOW me why it's not lyrical. Show me why its drivel. Can you do that?
And for Christsake, I never said I was a genius. Show me where I said that.
Ms Q, www.gawker.com was referring to Stephen J Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada. Do you base all your views on such close, considered observations?
Everyone, can we PLEASE now dispense with the ad hominem? If you want me to value your critique of my prose, at least show me the courtesy of reading it. I shouldn't have to say this: but why would you expect to be taken seriously if you don't give a reason why you should be taken seriously? I've taken your insults and patiently responded by simply asking you to explain WHY you are saying what you are saying. If you don't want to tell me why, that's perfectly reasonable, too. But I would simply ask WHY don't you want to explain yourself?
Okay, I keep telling myself to stay away, but I want to make this clear for the record:
Nobody's talking about the book. They're talking about you, Mr. Harper, posting 23 comments quoting your own work in disagreement with the reviewer. Over ten hours. That's part of why I asked if you were drunk; a very rude question, which I'm sorry for, but I honestly couldn't tell.
No, welcome back, Andrew. Glad to have you over...
Well, I wasn't talking about the book, either; this has always been about explaining WHY the reviewer was in error.
As for "Nobody's talking about the book" - Not yet, Andrew. Not yet :-)
I think the whole point of a review is it's an opinion. Maybe you wrote a great book. But you can't force people to like it. How would you know the reviewer is in error?
I'll give it one more try to show I'm a reasonable, upfront and open fellow. Over on authorswrite.com, Lissibith stated: “I see exactly what they meant by workmanlike writing now” without saying why my prose is workmanlike. It would be instructive to see her take a passage and rewrite it to her liking. After all, she says she sees EXACTLY what is workmanlike. Can she do this? She's a writer. SO, here's my challenge to all those who felt free to criticize and refused to explain their position.
ANY OF YOU - ANYONE - WANNA GIVE IT A SHOT?
I never said I was better or worse than any of you; yet you felt free to think you can write and my prose sucks. Prove it. Take any of the referenced passages above that I used to justify my remarks to the reviewer; deconstruct it; tell me why it sucks; then rewrite it until you think it's better. If you can't do something as easy as that, how on Earth can you call yourself a writer and think you are qualified to judge my writing or anyone else's?
Most of the commenters here (and at AW) haven't been criticizing your book at all. They've been criticizing the way you reacted to the review. Even when you receive the harshest, most unfair review in the world (which this one wasn't), it's generally best to move on and let your work speak for itself. Just about the only exception would be if the reviewer made an extremely specific factual mistake, like misspelling your name. I think most readers are aware that reviewers are expressing subjective opinions. A demand that they "prove" what they say is misplaced.
(And by the way, people can criticize your prose without needing to rewrite it into anything better. By analogy, I can test-drive a car and find all sorts of faults with it even if I have no idea how to design a better car.)
But since you seem so very eager for criticisms to be backed up by specifics, here are some specifics. Let's look at the first excerpt you posted above, about the roses in Cordelia's room. Lyrical? Sort of. But several clunky bits undermine the lyricism. Roses have a scent, but they do not emit "perfume," unless you're speaking metaphorically; and, if it is a metaphor, it's a poor one. A good metaphor would make us think of the scent of roses in a different way, and this one doesn't.
Further points: A rose can grow IN a metal stand, but not FROM a metal stand. There should not be hyphens in "cut-crystal" and "side-tables." The phrase "like crazy" is very colloquial, not really compatible with the lyrical tone you're going for. It's totally unclear what the metaphor of roses being anxious might mean. (Are they in a vase that looks like it's about to tip over?)
Again, I'm not claiming to offer an objective assessment--I'm just supporting my own personal opinion here.
Look, Kevin, if you are going to comment, at least read what I wrote. It's common courtesy. I methodically lay out my case but it's not THAT long. I explained in clear language WHY I responded. I pointed out FACTUAL ERRORS. Responding to a reviewer is my decision. I don't make decisions for you. As I said, no author in his or her right mind would quarrel with the New York Times over the issues I raised with Mr. Cohen because the standards of the New York Times wouldn’t have allowed them to be printed. Journalism has standards and one of those standards is objectivity. Journalism is not opinion; when opinion IS expressed, it is accompanied by supporting FACTS. My response was not an attack but a point-by-point rebuttal to what the reviewer got wrong. Read it and tell me where my critical analysis failed. Lastly, writers criticize me FOR responding and the time I put in, not WHY I responded. Have they never once sat in a chair for ten hours to put their own words down?
However, I do appreciate your interest in the passage itself. At least we have an honest dialogue started.
Of course, cut-roses don't even 'grow' Kevin. It's poetic license as in "the orchestra is playing yellow cocktail music" (FSF). 2) Google "les parfum des fleurs" and check IMAGES. I chose my words carefully to place the emphasis that there were so many roses that they filled Cordelia’s entire apartment (this becomes important later in the story). Do you think I failed to convey that impression? It was my choice to place a slightly lower emphasis on les parfum des fleurs for the needs of the story. Poetic license.
But we still have a gap in your: "several clunky bits undermine the lyricism. Roses have a scent..." The issue above, naturally, has nothing to do with the lyricism of the existing words. Where's the clunk, Kevin?
3) Elements of Style: "when two or more words are combined to form a compound adjective a hyphen is USUALLY required." In my passage, "cut-crystal" is the modifier for "vases of all descriptions" in the preceding sentence. The "side-tables" and "window-ledges" the vases are on, may be hyphenated for clarity but there are no hard and fast rules on this usage. All three together makes the passage flow better on the page. Again, poetic license. 4) "like crazy" IS colloquial; modern usage consistent with a character's speaking style, as in "[r]each me a rose, honey, and pour me a last drop into that there crystal glass." (FSF) Is that 'clunky' Kevin? Basil Baker may have a way with words but he's not speaking poetry. 5) "anxious roses" - "blushed lavender" - "vacant loveseat" anticipate romance between the two characters. TOTALLY unclear, Kevin? That's the word you used.
Note in none of this am I being defensive; just explaining why I chose those words that YOU pointed out.
In your passage, "cut-crystal" isn't serving as a compound adjective at all. It certainly isn't modifying a word in an altogether different sentence--that's not how English adjectives work. Rather, you are using "cut-crystal" as a noun phrase.
I'm afraid I don't have the time or energy to participate any further in this discussion. It is very much a matter of opinion how good a metaphor is, or how apt poetic license is. I have backed up my opinion with specifics; you remain free to hold a different opinion.
If I am not mistaken, one of your own characters has advised you to "move on." I suggest you follow Lord General Bearington's advice.
That was not one of MY characters and wouldn't presume to take credit for the delightful name: "Lord Sir General Theodore H Bearington III Esq" is very clever and it's not from my pen.
On the other issue, since you are bowing out and don't wish to see my response I won't waste my time with one. Tell me if you change your mind. But just because you GAVE specifics, doesn't automatically make them valid. You do understand that, right? I'd hate for you to leave with the wrong impression.
EDIT: But for the record, Kevin is right when he says: “[‘cut-glass’] certainly isn't modifying a word in an altogether different sentence" - ‘cut-glass’ is modifying a word IN THE PRECEDING SENTENCE. There’s a period instead of a semi-colon because, after everything else is done - and as all the great writers attest - the flow of the words on the page takes final precedence.
As for anyone advising me to stop replying to commenters...well, I've clearly stated my views on such advice.
Mr. Flibble (authorswrite.com) addresses me:
“The reviewer has posted their subjective opinion -- it cannot be "proved" one way or another. They are pointing out what they see to be problems -- you may not think they are, and maybe other readers won't, but, and here's the important bit, you don't get to decide what someone else's subjective opinion is.”
Well, which is it, Mr. Flibble? A "subjective opinion" and objectively "pointing out problems" aren’t the same thing. If a reader doesn’t like “Venice Under Glass”, ok, fine. So what? Why would I tell someone they should like it. Let me put it this way: I don’t CARE if they like it or not because I have no right to expect them to like it or not. That’s an individual preference and won’t foolishly insert myself where I have no business. HOWEVER, if Mr. Flibble would care to come out of his hidey-hole over there in his in-group of snarky writers, he might want to, you know, actually READ WHAT I WROTE!
A reviewer is a journalist and journalism has standards of objectivity. Look at any review in the NYT. When an opinion IS expressed, the reviewer ALWAYS supports it with reference to the text. It’s called credibilty, Mr. Flibble. Do you actually believe just anyone can call themselves a professional reviewer and then not practice the basic principles of literary criticism developed over 400 years of scholarship? Because, I assure you that your professors wouldn’t let you get away with it. I pointed out FACTUAL ERRORS in the review. If YOU don’t want to defend your work in a similar situation, that’s your business. NOWHERE in my remarks do I not give a reasoned-response. You are all writers? Yet you can’t put together a reasoned-response in a coherent paragraph (like this one) to any of the arguments I made showing WHY the “reviewer” was in error? I am addressing YOUR comments point-by-point. Yet you can’t seem to get beyond the fact that I, what, wrote a lot of words?
At this point it seems
the best course of action is
to just let it go
At this point it should be obvious that I am writing because I have something to say. If you don't want to hear it, why are you listening? If you don't think it's important to think through something deeply and analytically, why do you care? I'm writing now because it's fun and a great way to practice writing clearly. That should be obvious, too. Have I in any way been unclear?
I'm a writer. So are you, Andrew. If you write something that you know is good and the people qualified in the field tell you that it's good, do you really CARE what someone over on some message board says when they can't seem to put a coherent paragraph together to support their snark? I don't. I really don't. I just don't respect anyone who's not serious yet expects to contribute to a serious discussion anyway. My words stand. The only ones who matter to me are the ones who take the time to read them. Go over to that forum and see the litany of snark and snide rejoinder. Now THAT'S embarrassing.
Listen. The reviewer hasn't bothered to reply to you at all. The people at absolutewrite can't tell if you're drunk or trolling. Whose mind are you trying to change? Let it go.
Andrew, did you not read what I just wrote to you? There's nothing to let go of; you imply that I shouldn't be writing. It's my concern and I just told you why I'm writing. I don't tell you what to do. Why do you presume to tell me? Why do you insist on inferring I must be drunk. Have I been unclear in any way? Has my reasoning been sloppy? Have I not given a reasoned-repsonse to ALL comers, including you AT THIS MOMENT?
As I said: My words stand. The only ones who matter to me are the ones who take the time to read them. Go over to that forum and see the litany of snark and snide rejoinder. That's not legitimate commentary and they know it. Their professors never let them get away with it; you need to justify your views. They refuse to think clearly and prefer saying I'm drunk.
Mr. Cohen doesn't have to respond. He knows what he did and he's read the comments. He's learned from it and will now be a better reviewer. We all learn from our errors; in fact, it's the only way we do learn.
Psst. Andrew is a troll. He's baiting you, and you keep falling for it. You can't win arguments with trolls. If you reply to them, they consider it a win.
Thanks for the head-up, Stella! And greetings...
Psst...they don't realize yet that this ceased to be about me long upstream. This is a master-class in literary criticism and textual analysis and they have no idea what I'm talking about + no idea how qualified I am to teach it. It just amazes me that they call themselves writers but aren't interested in the words. I don't know any writers like that; and my writer's group thinks this is DELICIOUS.
They also think I'm being too patient and generous. But that's just me. These guys over here would have laid waste to them long ago. Think Dale Peck then think about five of him! No serious writer gives a second thought to correcting an Internet book 'reviewer' who misrepresents their work. This is serious business for serious people and our livelihoods are on the line. Writers are brave and we don't tolerate shoddy thinking. The NYT and the WSJ don't make amateurish mistakes and that's why we send Christmas presents to them every year.
Oh, Stella, Stella, Stella. Don't you know that no good deed goes unpunished?
For those ethically-challenged reviewers (and mocking writers condemning me for presenting a reasoned argument):
"A book review is a description, critical analysis, and an evaluation on the quality, meaning, and significance of a book, not a retelling. It should focus on the book's purpose, content, and authority. A critical book review is not a book report or a summary. It is a reaction paper in which strengths and weaknesses of the material are analyzed. It should include a statement of what the author has tried to do, evaluates how well (in the opinion of the reviewer) the author has succeeded AND PRESENTS EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THIS EVALUATION."
Why on God's Earth should it be necessary to remind you all of this basic tenet? You learned it at University!
Seriously, do NOT argue with reviewers. I learned this hard lesson early in my career. Believe me, it NEVER ends well, and the author in this case is not only arguing with reviewers, but is doing so ARROGANTLY.
If you can't handle getting negative reviews, DO NOT BECOME A WRITER. I don't care if they LIE about what's in the book, believe me, I learned you cannot argue with reviewers. Period. Full stop.
I didn't go to university. Arrogant so and so.
This is the most extraordinary display of author hubris I’ve ever seen. Like Anne Rice on steroids.
Has anyone actually read book this yet??
Why yes, the reviewer.
I wouldn’t patronize this author, ever, based upon his behavior here.
For anyone who actually wants to see a short, well-balanced, non-prejudical review of Venice Under Glass, see D.B. Hebbard’s review at Talking New Media here: http://www.talkingnewmedia.com/2014/04/14/venice-under-glass-a-childrens-suspenseful-detective-story-created-as-a-multi-touch-ebook/
Note my response to the reviewer. The review is short yet meets the journalistic standards quoted just above. Mr. Debbard (like Mr. Cohen), is not a literary critic; his analysis is focused on his areas of knowledge. I agree with every word he said. Now compare this review to Mr. Cohen's review; read my remarks. I support each contention with references taken directly from the text of Venice Under Glass that contradict Mr. Cohen’s statements. You will see at once what I've been talking about all along as well as the inescapable conclusion that Mr. Cohen deliberately made FALSE statements about the text and inserted personal comments and conjecture outside the realm of the work itself.
And, as I have said, I chose to defend my work against deliberate mischaracterization that Mr. Cohen knew would be read by THOUSANDS. If you don’t want to defend your work in a similar circumstance, that’s your choice. If you think a well-reasoned, detailed response like mine is going to hurt a writer’s career, you can’t possibly know this for fact. It may have that effect or no effect or, in our media-hyped age, the exact opposite effect.
The ONLY reason I responded to commenters after my remarks to Mr. Cohen is because they inserted themselves into the discussion with direct insult. I was patient and gave considered-responses of my own. NO one came back with well-reasoned, considered-responses to support their snide rejoinders because they had none.
Instead, they continued their snark over in another forum, remarks that were, in essence and in toto, ‘go see the author’s meltdown’ and ‘what a hissy fit’. A well-reasoned response defending your work is not a hissy fit or a meltdown. A hissy fit is a hissy fit and that’s why it’s called a ‘hissy fit’. It’s the EXACT OPPOSITE of a well-reasoned, considered response. And a ‘well-reasoned, considered-response’ usually calls for more that 140 characters. If you STILL say ‘well, there he goes again’ you haven’t given a moment’s reflection on the sentences I just wrote. Don’t you all expect people to consider what your response is after they’ve made a comment directly to you?
And the reason no serious writer has commented is because serious writers - and there are many - heeded the advice that all the great names said was required for great writing. They are doing the hard work and deep reflection on their craft and know first hand what happens in their own work. They know I’ve had an ‘ace-in-the-hole’ all along.
So, now I’ve said all that I have to say in this forum; it’s all there and on the record for anyone who cares to read and THINK about the words. And the only response that I will offer - free of charge - is to confirm the answer to: “What’s my ace in the hole?” If you don’t know the answer, you’re not a serious writer. It’s as cut-and-dried as that. If you post haha obscenity after obscenity know that you’re the joke not me. I’ve tried to be of service; if you don’t know valuable advice when you hear it, well, that’s unfortunate. I always listen to valuable advice. But hey, like I said, that’s just me.
"it’s all there and on the record for anyone who cares to read”
Yes, yes it is.
Here’s some “valuable advice.”
Stay away from social media.
It wouldn't be right for me to hold anything against you all just because you were rude, condescending and thoughtless. And so, I am stopping by to lay at your feet a gem that you failed to pick up the first time. This is a test to see if you are committed to the craft of writing:
Oh, heck with it. Let's see if we can get this to a hundred.
I'm just commenting in order to be part of an historic event.
This is, just.......wow. I suppose I should thank you for filling the last hour or so of my attention. Seriously, though.....stay off drugs.
All I can think when I read this is the song from "Frozen" -- "Let it Go". But it was an important lesson on what not to do when someone takes the time to read and review your book, and what to do when you're the reviewer -- not respond at all.
This comment thread is that for which the internet was invented. I say, "Bravo", my friend.
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