Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Common Courtesy


Recently I saw a woman standing in line at the supermarket. She had one item – a bottle of milk. Our supermarket does not have any express lanes. She was third in line. The couple directly in front of her had a trolley filled with groceries. They looked at the woman and her bottle of milk several times and I expected they would do as my husband or I would have done in that position and let her go before them.  Not so. When the person in front of them finished they placed all their items on the conveyer belt, ignoring the woman and her one item. To say my husband and I were flabbergasted was an understatement. Both of us could not believe people could be so inconsiderate to keep her waiting for the next ten minutes while their accumulations of groceries went through. What in the world has happened to common courtesy? It seems common courtesy is a disappearing commodity in our world.

It’s not much different in the world of writers and readers.  The reality is not everyone is going to like a book. This results in some books being given 4 or 5 stars while the same book by another person can be given 1 or 2 stars. If writing a negative review, the reviewer needs to say why the book does not work for them. Often the very things one reader may object vigorously to in a book  may not worry another reader at all. Bad language and sex scenes are just two that come to mind. Of course I’ve seen other people say when a book doesn’t have these things that the writer is not living in the real b world by not portraying them. Again, it is a difference of world view, of beliefs and of opinion.

A while ago I started to read a book and was turned off by excessive language and explicit sexual scenes.  I gave up on it. Other times I have been persisted to read the book, skimming over bits, because the rest of the story was so good. As a courtesy to others who may wish to read the book, when I have written the review I have usually commented on those aspects that I had trouble with.  That way if someone is not comfortable with such things they know and may choose not to read the book.

Another book I started, bored me because of the way it was written. To me it was a book where nothing happened. Yet other people have enjoyed this book. I made my comments about why I gave up reading it and gave my reasons but was attacked by someone online because their opinion was not the same.

We all have different ideas of what constitutes a good book and what is acceptable to us. I gently explained to the person that we were probably at a different stage in life with different expectations and interests. When she persisted in telling me I was wrong and attacked me, I withdrew, not my review, but withdrew from making any more comments.

Often when I have written a review that it is negative I have said it is a personal reaction and others may like the book. It just wasn’t for me.

It reminded me of someone I knew who hated living on the coast. She preferred living inland with rolling hills. I live near the sea and feel blessed by God to be able to do so. I never ever expected such a thing would eventuate.  I have lived inland but much prefer living on the coast. She is happier going for a walk in bushland. I love going for walk by the bay near our home.

Different people with different ideas.   We accept that we are different. It doesn’t mean her view is right and mine is wrong .It doesn’t mean I am right and she is wrong either. It’s just different views. It doesn’t mean we can’t be friends because our ideas are different. Sometimes it’s those very differences that enhance our friendships and other relationships. Think how boring it would be if we were all the same? The thing is to allow other readers and writers the courtesy of having different opinions just as we do with our friends. It’s just common courtesy.
Over the years Dale has written fiction, poetry, children’s fiction, bible studies and Sunday school lessons. More information about Dale can be found at www.daleharcombe.com or on her Write and Read with Dale blog http://www.livejournal.com/users/orangedale/

16 comments:

  1. Well said, Dale. We are all entitled to our own opinions, both as readers and in life, and we need to allow other people to have differing opinions. The only key should be that we are all able to express ourselves politely, with courtesy. It would be nice if courtesy were more common!

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    1. It certainly would Iola. At least each of us can do our share in it.

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  2. Thanks for that Dale. You've expressed it really well. It's frustrating when you see negative reviews that just seem to attack the book or author. Your reviews are always balanced. I'd rather read an honest review that explains why the reader had reservations about a book. Then I can decide whether I still think it's the type of book I'd like to read. Wouldn't it be boring if we were all the same? Thanks for the reminder.

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    1. Thanks for that comment about my reviews Nola. Life would indeed be boring if we were all the same and liked the same things.

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  3. Thanks for the reminder, Dale, re always treating others with courtesy, whether it is other authors or reviewers or someone in the line at the supermarket. I like your approach of saying a book just didn't work for you and why when writing anything negative in a review. That doesn't put me off the book entirely then--I can make up my own mind.

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    1. That's the general idea Jo-Anne. I had it demonstrated recently when my husband read a book I had read and thought was okay but didn't love as some others did. I didn't tell him what I thought till afterwards as didn't want to impose my opinion. He loved the book far more than I did. He was also surprised I had read it as he knows I don't read a lot about war.

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  4. Like the Book of Proverbs says, 'a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.' Yes, Dale common courtesy in all things makes it pleasant or everyone.

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    1. But amazing how often it is lacking Rita. Very sad.

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  5. Well said Dale - 'The thing is to allow other readers and writers the courtesy of having different opinions just as we do with our friends.' This is so true not just of our friends, our opinions on books but also those on facebook or in society in general. Too often nowadays a person will be vilified for an opinion expressed that is different from someone else's. It reminds me of the old adage 'play the ball, not the man (or woman)'. Or as Paul says 'speak the truth in love.'

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    1. Yet, it seems to be common these days on social media to attack people. I think because it is so easy to do and often remain anonymous. Probably why I am not a big fan of social media a lot of the time.

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  6. I absolutely agree, Dale. When a review is backed up by a polite and well-written explanation of why they chose the lower ranking, it's a shame when others choose to attack and argue in their comments. After all, as you say, the review itself will reveal if it's a simple difference of opinion.
    I'm glad to stay most people still offer to let me go ahead of them in the supermarket if I just have a bottle of milk, or even three items, but there have been occasions when I've been stuck behind people like the couple you mentioned. I can't believe it either :)

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    1. Thanks Susan and Paula for your comments.

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  7. Dale, thanks for your honest post. I'm sorry to hear you've been attacked by someone who hasn't agreed with the content of your review. I remember looking up a popular YA book on Goodreads, and seeing a reviewer get smashed by the author's fans who couldn't accept the reviewer didn't love the book. It's sad that people have become too invested or obsessed with reviews, and crossed the line into bad behaviour.

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  8. Sad but I guess it's just a sign of our world these days Narelle, and increasingly since social media became so prominent.

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