Apologies if I’ve…

Apologies if I've posted this before, but I don't think I have -- the trade paperback cover of Bodies in Motion. Very similar to the hardcover, but slight change in font, warmer tones throughout. I like it fine. Sorry I don't have a cleaner image -- I grabbed this one from Amazon, obviously.

I spent a bit of time on Amazon this morning, posting to their new Author Blog function and poking around. Was disheartened by some of the thoroughly nasty comments on BiM. I mean, it's fine if people don't like my book -- there's plenty of books I don't like. But some of this stuff just seems so mean-spirited, as if they're out to slam me personally. I know, I know, I shouldn't take it that way. But still. When they reference 'over-educated mfas/phd's', you have to think they're talking specifically about me. I wish I understood what motivated people to be this obnoxious.

Formulaic, pseudo-Asian schlock, February 12, 2006
Reviewer: Jennifer M-R (Duluth, MN USA) - See all my reviews
Ever since the Iraq War, American readers have had an insatiable appetite for all the pseudo-Asian schlock we can stuff into our ethnocentric pieholes. Publishers filled (or, arguably, created) this need, starting with Khaled Hosseini's, The Kite Runner and continuing in an endless syrupy stream, of which Bodies in Motion is merely one example that I was unfortunate enough to run across. The formulas usually involve veiled women (with independent minds and churning sexuality), brooding men (who are bothered by Westernization but rarely think political thoughts), a humanizing plot device to help us empathize (similar to anthropomorphizing monkeys at the zoo), and an author (no matter how American) whose name sounds Arab enough to lend credibility. Bodies in Motion has the token twist: They're Sri Lankan lesbians.

Dull and not of interest to the average reader, August 9, 2005
Reviewer: Janessa KR - See all my reviews
This book would be a fine example of what's wrong with so much fiction written by over-educated mfas/phd's -- pleasant writing style, with basically nothing new to say. No moral outlook, nothing that should be required of a novel. To be fair, it's hardly the only novel around like this that gets good press somehow. But when this one gets compared to Ondatje, it's a choking point. Buyer beware, a quick five minute breeze-through in a bookstore cover the content nicely, and is more than enough.

The following two reviews are also negative, but not as harsh-sounding. I can't really complain about them as reviews. Still, I do find it confusing -- my book has a mix of primarily 4-5-star and 1-star reviews. If I really thought a book was only worth 1-star, I can't imagine that I'd bother writing a review of it...

Style over substance, November 24, 2005
Reviewer: Jalia Torres - See all my reviews
I was very disappointed by this book. It promises poetic writing and great sensuality, and both items seemed to be missing in my copy! "Pretty" writing at some points, but no depth, which seems a requirement in order to be truly poetic. There wasn't a character I'd care to follow to the end of the page, never mind to the end of a book full of mish-mashed stories. There's probaly a good and interesting tale about Sri Lanka/immigration in here somewhere to be told, but it seems that the author doesn't have the skill to bring that story out and make it hold the reader's interest.

dull and repetitive, July 25, 2005
Reviewer: RR (LA) - See all my reviews
I read a favorable review of this in my paper, but really, they must have read some other book! I couldn't follow the characters - and didn't really want to after a while - and couldn't finish the book. It's like a rehash of everything you've ever heard or read about arranged marriages, unhappy women, demanding males, etc, without any spark or originality.

I suppose I should take some consolation in the fact that none of these people were willing to use their real names.

At least many of my friends who have read it do seem to like the book -- though perhaps they're just keeping quiet if they didn't. But I could wish that more of the readers who liked it would post Amazon reviews, just to get the nastier ones to scroll off the main page so I don't have to see them when I stop by. :-(

Maybe I go read the lovely Boston Globe and SF Chronicle reviews for comfort. Gods bless Renee Graham and Kim Hedges. Who use their real names.

6 thoughts on “Apologies if I’ve…”

  1. Do not feel disheartened that you get one-star reviews alongside your five-star reviews. It is a sign of greatness.

    You’re successful when you really get in touch with your readership who will express wonder and amazement. But that means alienating some other people.

    What you don’t want is to pander to mediocrity.

  2. You know, reading the negative reviews I noticed that they continually refer to the arranged marriages and their fallout as cliche. It makes me wonder if those people realize that far from being cliche, arranged marriages are still the norm in many cultures. I think a lot of the messages I saw in your stories were fresh to me. And I know that you told the truth as you see it in your culture. To me, that’s not cliche if you are saying the same thing that others have. It’s another voice teaching the west that everywhere and everyone is not like here.

    No matter how well we try to communicate, there are people who are going to either be closed minded or simply unable to understand what we’re saying. Unfortunately, some of the ones who failed to understand you expressed it. But there are a lot of people who did understand you who expressed that, too. 🙂

  3. Hi Mary Anne,
    I’ve written to you before, of course.
    I’m Malaysian, an aspiring author with a place of my own in London, and am in the midst of trying to get a literary agent.
    It’s amazing in just mentioning my dreams and keeping a blog, how the acidic comments have long started to come. More from where I was raised. Definitely not Europe. Some things said about what I write are so vicious and horrible that long after you’ve read it (especially for me) you become drained in, sucked in and you need to climb out of this kind of pit again, to be healed and refreshed.
    The thing is I don’t see anything technically wrong that may bring in these comments.
    My English Language is not broken or inadequate.
    I’ve learnt to become thick-skinned even before the publication of my 1st novel. And I’ve forced myself to hold back and no longer go into these territories (and that soothes and helps a lot). But there will also be many bloggers and strangers who would have loved your book at the same time and will mention this clearly on the web. Just that they’re all jumbled up together, say in Google or Yahoo so you’re exposed to everything at the same time.
    When in London last September, I attended a talk by some famous authors.
    One said of her bestseller that she used to try to go into blogs and in-house reviews to see what was being said of her book and was horrified to find that it was mostly “merciless” and that people could say terrible, terrible things about all her hard work and research. These Mary Anne, by those who would probably never write books themselves. But a lot of bloggers who become critics also fancy themselves as some kind of immediate intellectuals and display this very arrogance.
    In the end, one of the famous authors consoled this lady and said that he no longer looks at the Net to see what they’re saying about his book. And that he’s had a much better life since. This author was short-listed for the Booker a year ago and even he wasn’t spared.
    Just keep going onward with your destiny and don’t be distracted from your dreams, ambitions and passions. No-one can stop you.*love*

  4. Mary Anne, I forgot to mention in my earlier comment and don’t know if this helps but about the author talk in London that I was telling you about – the bestseller writer who used the word “merciless” did mention to all of us in the audience that the Amazon reviewers were the worst of all.

  5. Danielle Ketzeback

    Mary Anne,

    I read your book shortly after class started and I thought it was great. I ended up reading it in a day and a half. I actually didn’t read the reading for your class because the book trapped me. I am not saying this to get an A. Just letting you know I thought it was great. I also think it is pretty cool that I know a real author now. One of the things I liked about the book was it was it had your voice. I honestly cannot say that about any of the other books I have read.

    I will be looking for the next book.


  6. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Heh. It’s always startling to hear from my students, even though I know some of them read this journal. Hi, Danielle! I’ll see you soon… 🙂

    Thanks, everyone, for the encouragement. I really don’t obsess over the bad reviews all the time. I just wish that little star rating would slowly creep up, that the obviously nasty folk would have their reviews drowned in waves of positive reviews. But since I don’t even write positive reviews for all the books I like (in fact, I hardly ever write them on Amazon), I can’t really complain too much about my readers not writing them. Every one who does is a gift.

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