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The Reader Responsibility to Author Direction

Should Readers follow the direction of authors as to whether/how to read the book?

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Shuzluva reviewed “Unholy Ghosts” by Stacia Kane. The protagonist is an unrepentant drug addict. It’s not clear from the blurb that this is the case but as one commenter to Shuzluva’s review pointed out, Kane wrote about this and gave a warning:

The back cover copy tells you very clearly that the book is about a drug addict. That is true. She is. Drugs are used in the book(s), quite a bit. If that’s a problem for you don’t buy the book, and I mean that in the nicest possible way. I don’t want you to buy a book you’re not going to like, or that will upset you or make you uncomfortable! I want you to be happy with it, and enjoy it

Kane actually went on to state:

And while I expected some people to be turned off, I didn’t expect the Puritanical vitriol I’ve gotten from a small minority who seem to think addiction, or writing about addiction, is a moral crime on a par with baby murdering, and that to even buy a book with an addict character is akin to standing in the corner and cheering while that baby is murdered. I guess fiction is not after all a place to explore different lives and situations; buying a novel is a political and moral act, and buying a book about an addict is a moral wrong. Ohh-kay. Perhaps it would be better if we just shot our addicts? Especially the functional ones? Maybe from there we’ll move to people who take antidepressants; after all, that’s a daily pill to make you feel better, and if you stop taking it you’ll go through very uncomfortable withdrawals, and it does have (IMO) more dangerous side affects than most opiates-

This reminded me of Laura Kinsale’s comments to the positive dual review of her book, Lessons in French by Sarah and Robin here at Dear Author. Sarah F used the word melancholy to describe the book. Kinsale objected vehemently to this.

It is NOT a gloomy, melancholy book. Fer pete’s sake. Quite a few people think it’s laugh out loud funny (though humor is totally subjective so I can only hope for that).

I’m enjoying the discussion, and I’m fine with “poignant,” but “melancholy”-no.

Just. No. Anybody who picks up this book expecting a tragic tear-jerker will be misled. A romp, slapstick, silly, stupid, fine.

But the author is going to behave badly and draw the line at melancholy.

I stay away from author’s message boards and blogs, for the most part, because I don’t want to be influenced by their intentions for their story. I like to have a pure reader response. I might go and check out what they have to say after the book is done but I hardly ever seek out their opinion of their work before hand. Why? Because the author’s intentions should be read through the words in the book, not by explanations from extraneous sources. Other people have different conclusions. At least one reader in the review thread believed that it was wrong for Shuzluva to have reviewed a book that might have a hot button issue for her. I’ve read other comments of readers and authors stating that if a reader doesn’t like X, she shouldn’t be picking up that book to read.   The flip side is that if Shuzluva had stated she wasn’t enthused about drug addict characters but ended up loving the protagonist in Unholy Ghosts, no one would have told her in the comments she shouldn’t have read the book in the first place.

Yet, when reading and writing about authors in the past, we are often looking at extraneous texts to determine the meaning.   We consider the time in which they lived, their political and religious affiliations.   We look at their personal lives and how those might have affected their writings.

So to what extent should we allow an author’s direction to influence our reading?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


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    May 25, 2010 @ 17:03:17

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  2. Sarah Frantz
    May 25, 2010 @ 17:07:32

    You know, I pretty much can’t stand most BDSM books that have maledom relationships. They just make me itch in a very bad way. The maledoms are usually assholes, the female subs usually doormats, and the books are usually wish fulfillment that have nothing to do with real-life BDSM. And yet, I search for maledom books to read, because I *want* to like them. And so I found Victoria Dahl’s THE WICKED WEST, one of my most favoritest BDSM books ever. So should I just not read them, not review them, and therefore not tell people about the brilliant ones I find?

    ETA: And, FWIW, the literary critic in me is really annoyed when people do bio-criticism. It’s not important (to me) what kind of life Jane Austen might have lived and how that might have affected her books. Movies like BECOMING JANE are just as much fiction as any other movie out there. And really, while I think knowing that Suzanne Brockmann is a bleeding heart liberal helps us to understand WHY she puts so much social commentary in her books, I think it’s much more interesting that they’re NYT bestsellers because/inspite of commentary and to examine what that says about our society. But that’s me.

  3. meoskop
    May 25, 2010 @ 17:21:33

    “There is a marvelous peace in not publishing. It's peaceful. Still. Publishing is a terrible invasion of my privacy. I like to write. I love to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure.” – JD Salinger 1919-2010

    What Salinger knew is that when you publish you give the work away. People will view it however they view it (through whatever lens they choose to use) and your opinion of that isn’t relevant. If a book is a writer’s child, publication is the day they leave home for the workplace and you can no longer swoop in to argue with those around them that they have been misunderstood.

  4. Stacia Kane
    May 25, 2010 @ 17:26:52


    I’d just like to make it clear here (as I certainly hoped I did in the post you referenced above) that my comment relating to vitriol was ABSOLUTELY NOT about Shuzluva’s review of the book. My reply to that review was honest; I appreciated the good things she said, and that she failed to see the way the character grew and changed over the course of the book that was MY shortcoming and not hers.

    Nor was my comment referencing ANY public review I’ve gotten or any public discussion. Nor do I feel in any way that a failure on the part of a reader to like the book or character is anthing but MY failure.

    I certainly do not, and never have, felt that it is the job of a reader to talk to a writer, question a writer, or seek out any additional information from a writer. The book should stand alone.

    It honestly never occurred to me that anyone would even suspect me of thinking/feeling otherwise, or that my remark about vitriol would be seen as a response to Shuzluva’s review particularly, given that I discussed it and my appreciation of it in that blog post.

    In fact my comment related to a series of abusive and vaguely threatening emails I’ve received accusing me od encouraging and glamorizing dryg use. I didn’t want to reply to them or mention them in my post, but was trying simply to make a point to those who’d sent them.

    I apologize sincerely to Shuzluva if she felt even for a second that I was talking about or referring to her, and to anyone else who may have thought that.It was not.

    I have always been extremely vocal about my belief that books should stand on their own and that readers are entitled to their opinions.

    I honestly don’t even know what else to say here.

  5. Joanne
    May 25, 2010 @ 17:28:26

    I wasn’t going to be dragged into the other thread but I’m still a bit upset about the Kane book and the author’s response.

    First and foremost: Jennifer Turner wrote her first book (I think) about a female heroin addict and I loved it. It was uncomfortable in places, it was sad in places and it was funny in places. I would have no problem trying that type of character again in another book in the future.

    BUT: I shouldn’t have to go to an author’s web site. PERIOD.

    I don’t want to HAVE to.

    I do go to many author web sites but it’s to find out what’s coming next and when. I should be able to buy the book and it will either suit me or not.

    I’m probably not articulating this properly but geeze, isn’t enough that we want to buy and read the book? Now readers have to go to web sites to find out what the author thinks about what I should think?

  6. Christina M
    May 25, 2010 @ 17:33:42

    Okay, now I’ve got to get this book.

  7. Emily
    May 25, 2010 @ 17:40:21

    I don’t think you should let the author’s direction get in the way. What the author wants should be secondary.

    There's what an author puts into the work, and there's what the reader brings with her/him in reading it.

    I’m more of a control freak than most, and despite my dreams of world domination, I’m not going to be able control people’s reactions to my work, or even control who gets access to it.

    In Shuzluva’s case, well, she read it. She reviewed it, in a more balanced way than I could have done in her position — I’d probably have put it down unfinished if I had a huge thing against drug addicts. Doesn’t matter why, but it can’t be the first bad review that Kane received. (I’m of the school that says authors don’t respond to review, good, bad and anywhere in between.)

  8. Ridley
    May 25, 2010 @ 17:42:57

    I have a magnet on my fridge:

    “Once a book has opened its mouth, the author must shut his.”

    Authors have their chance to tell a story when they write a book. Once they’ve finished it and it’s in the hands of readers, they don’t get to guide the reader further. That’s what the writing was for.

    If a reader interprets a book differently than how the author intended, it’s no less valid an interpretation. If the reader disagrees, that’s the writing’s failure, not the reader’s.

  9. Sandy James
    May 25, 2010 @ 17:47:36

    I would welcome the type of message Stacia gave her readers. My time is limited as it is. To have any author clearly state there might be things in a story some readers find objectionable is a courtesy. Prevents me from wasting time on any book that has something I know I’d object to reading. There have been a few books I wish someone would have warned me off, and some a warning like that might have made me pick up. Either way, it became MY choice and an educated choice.

  10. Angela
    May 25, 2010 @ 18:01:25

    Absolutely I want the book to stand on its own. I want all the information I need to come in that book – and that doesn’t mean I need every last question answered, just that I need to be satisfied (completely subjective I know).

    On the other hand, I will sometimes check out what authors are saying about where they are in their work, what they’re thinking, what they’re writing.

    In the end I want to form my own opinions, based on my own life experiences, ideas and views. And even if I read what an author says about something that’s exactly how I plan to read it.

    I will say that an author can turn me off from reading a book by saying too much. I’ve had authors hit a point where they were just rude, unkind and jerks to some readers…I no longer read their books.

    Sarah F – thanks for the rec for the Dahl book. I’ll definitely be grabbing that as I’ve been looking for a good maledom book :)

  11. El
    May 25, 2010 @ 18:06:09

    I think it’s great for authors to give the kind of warning Kane did–“This book does X; if that’s a problem for you, don’t read this book.” It lets you decide.

    I was *extremely* peeved when a certain author’s book came out and she told everyone over and over how incredibly important it was not to get spoiled on it. And I read the book, and it was like, huh? Yeah, it’s a surprise, but, really, I’d rather have been spoiled…

    (Note: I like spoilers.)

    Information is good. Direction about how to read it, not so much.

  12. lazaraspaste
    May 25, 2010 @ 18:24:07

    See this is why the canon is made up of dead authors. Impossible for them to show up and contradict your reading . . . much to Harold Bloom’s benefit. :)

    I have mixed feelings about this. Especially warnings. On the one hand, as a reader I often want to be forewarned about certain things I might find discomfiting when I’m expecting something light-hearted and fun. But on the other hand, I might miss out on reading a really excellent book because of my own distaste or preferences for certain things. Just because I don’t normally like X or Y doesn’t mean that this author couldn’t turn it all around for me or do something amazing with X and Y. Plus, sometimes the books that make you the most uncomfortable end up being the ones most worth reading. There’s a kind of enjoyment in that experience that can be pleasurable. Particularly when you come across some hidden gem.

    To that end, I think the author’s intentions don’t mean diddly squat. In the first place, just because you intended something doesn’t mean you accomplished it. I think the goal for any author is to garner as many interpretations as possible regardless of intentions.I’d rather have somebody interpret what I’ve written in a totally new and interesting way than have their reading match what I thought I was doing with my story. The only time interpretation should match authorial intentions is in the instruction booklet that accompanies the IKEA furniture you just bought. Otherwise, it seems to be missing the point.

  13. Sarah Frantz
    May 25, 2010 @ 18:43:24

    @Angela: You’re welcome. :) It is wonderful! I hope you enjoy it. eBook HQN Spice brief only.

    @El: Hmm, I wonder who THAT could have been?!

  14. Kathleen Dienne
    May 25, 2010 @ 18:43:51

    “I like to have a pure reader response.”

    That’s what I want as a reader when I’m reading reviews. So no, I don’t want you to have to go to my website to learn anything I should have said in the story.

    But as a writer, I reacted with a raised eyebrow a week ago when I read a review of what was clearly marked as an erotic romance, a review written by someone who did not read erotic romance (or have any interest in erotic romance).

    The reviewer should be reading the book as a reader without access to any words but what are on the page. But as a reader myself, I don’t know if I should trust a review of a book written by someone with no interest in the main concept of the work.

    I do not get most modern art. I do not understand why a painting with a red dot on a giant white canvas gets equal space in a museum with the Renaissance masters. I say so all the time. But I wouldn’t expect someone who is fascinated by/loves modern art to trust my opinion.

    There’s a line somewhere and I don’t know where it is.

  15. library addict
    May 25, 2010 @ 19:14:31

    Every reader will have their own reaction to a book. Love it, hate it, or something in between every reader is entitled to their own opinion.

    How much of an egomaniac do you have to be to tell a reader their reaction is “wrong?” I had an author tell me that once and it was enough to put me off her books for life.

    An author can post a note on their website, so long as it's with the clear understanding a reader may never see it. I'm a firm believer that the book should stand on its own. A reader shouldn't have to visit an author's website in order to understand the book.

    I often visit author websites and enjoy author Q&A's and interviews. It can be interesting to read what the author intended a scene or storyline to do, especially if I had a different response. But telling a reader how to read their book or that they did it wrong…not such a good idea.

  16. Deb
    May 25, 2010 @ 19:28:20

    @Mesokop, Well put.

    I read reviews mainly to find new offerings. I may find after reading the review, the book may not be something I am interested in, or may be of the type I don’t enjoy. As an adult, I’m perfectly comfortable taking a risk, and actually enjoy having been pushed in a new direction.

    Once the book is in my hands, the author’s work is done. My impressions of the book are valid, always. The author or another reader may disagree with my interpretation, but it is valid, and not wrong.

  17. Terri
    May 25, 2010 @ 19:33:00

    Sorry, no. Art is all about interpretation. Beauty (or trash) is in the eye of the beholder.

    I LOVED Lessons in French. No disrespect to Laura Kinsale here, because I LOVE her books.
    LIF WAS uproariously funny in places, particularly the hero’s off-beat dialogue and the slap-stick animal farces. But melancholy. Absolutely. Heart-breaking in spots. I laughed. I cried.

  18. Lori
    May 25, 2010 @ 19:40:58

    I thought Shuzluva’s review was excellent. Especially because she stated she didn’t like the heroine yet would read the next book because the writing and world-building were THAT good. She sold me on it.

    I almost never go to author’s websites. I’ve never bothered too much before with even knowing anything about the author. I think that the more I learn, the more I tink that’s wise.

  19. illukar
    May 25, 2010 @ 19:52:07

    A great many readers will be entirely ignorant of any authorial directions on how/whether to read the book, and I really don’t think that readers should be expected to research/be aware of an author’s expectation before reading their fiction. Readers will make of the text whatever the text tells them (and that will be predicated by the reader’s own personal set of likes, dislikes, knowledge and experiences).

    A book may be melancholy to a reader because it mentions a place which makes the reader melancholy. Or because the words can easily be interpreted generally as melancholy, or not, depending on how one usually reads a text. The reader is not ‘wrong’ for their reaction to the text.

    As for a drug addict main character – as long as it’s relatively realistic, that’s the character. I wouldn’t necessarily expect a series character to overcome their failings in a book, any more than I ever expected Kinsey Milhone to get a better haircut and some nicer clothes. I thought it would be beneficial for her, but it was part of who she was.

    ‘Relatively realistic’ is a kicker, though. Drug use (and I include alcohol in this, even though I suspect that the reaction would not necessarily be so strong if the character under discussion simply let herself get drunk a few times) not only has legal issues, it has moral issues – it’s a deliberate impairment of one’s ability to make decisions. There don’t necessarily need to be negative consequences in the book, the character doesn’t necessarily have to regret her actions, or vow to change. [Though if it’s idealised and made into something it’s not – seen as a positive thing – I’d probably be put off.]

    A reader going into a book which they know has a drug-using character can’t know that the drug use is going to be portrayed as consequenceless and positive. [It doesn’t sound like it was portrayed as entirely consequenceless if the person nearly ends up having sex which she would not otherwise have chosen.] And it’s fair enough that the reader, reaching the end of the book, could dislike the book because they could not reconcile themselves to the particular way that the drug user was portrayed in the novel. Knowing about the presence of something doesn’t mean you know everything about it.

    F’instance – I stopped reading Patricia Cornwell – not because I don’t enjoy the occasional novel about serial killers, but because I don’t like reading serial killer porn, where it’s all just a bit too lovingly in a very sick head.

  20. DS
    May 25, 2010 @ 20:25:17

    I noticed that Ms Kane had used the word “trigger” when talking about her warning. The only place I have seen this used is in a ruckus I once read about where people were talking about how much fan fiction readers should be warned about what happens in a story to prevent psychological distress.

    I don’t read fan fiction, so I thought it was interesting but not something I cared about. I’m rather used to taking books as I find them. But I did wonder if the author was coming out of that “warning” culture, where it appears to be a rule that warnings about content be given.

    I found the reviewer reaction to the drug addiction as well as her description of the world building, interesting enough to order the book. After all I have enjoyed other books or series where the hero has addictions– to alcohol, opium, morphine to name three.

    Then I began to wonder if the reason for the outrage described by Ms Kane was because the addicted person was the heroine.

  21. Kaetrin
    May 25, 2010 @ 20:27:29

    Okay, I haven’t read the original review (that’s next) but just responding to this post, I’d say that it’s helpful when I know things like:
    * this book is part of a series and you’re better off reading bk 1 first; or
    * this book is part of a series but they’re only loosely connected and each is stand alone so you can read them in any order; or
    * this book contains forced seduction/rape which may bother some readers; or
    * this book is not a romance in that it doesn’t have an HEA/the HEA can’t be guaranteed. (I esp. want to know this one – I get really cheesed off if I buy a book thinking I’m getting a HEA and I don’t – it’s the HEA I’m in it for).

    Usually I get that information from reviewers but it wouldn’t bother me to get it from an author. I don’t think that’s the same thing at all as reading with author direction. They are the sorts of things I’d like to know before I read a book.

    Once the book is in my hands the rest is up to me.

    I liked Lessons in French a lot – I’m a Kinsale fangirl but, with all due respect to the author, if I found it melancholy (and I did, in parts, in parts it was funny and lighthearted and various other things) that is a reaction I’m perfectly entitled to have. Others may have a different view but it doesn’t make mine inherently “wrong”.

    As readers, we bring something to the experience of reading a book – our own history, our mood and probably a thousand other things – those things PLUS the book equal our reaction to it.

  22. Persephone Green
    May 25, 2010 @ 20:31:30

    You’re phrasing this question as if the answer is inherently a moral or ethical act by using the word “should.” Can Readers follow the direction of authors as to whether/how to read the book and have valid experiences and opinions? Of course. Can readers choose NOT to follow the direction of authors as to whether/how to read the book and have valid experiences and opinions? Of course.

    The example with Stacia Kane doesn’t seem like the best one for this poll question, however, since this is more about the debate over worldviews and how some people view other people as less than human, fictional or not.

    If you want to talk about authorial intent, as it seems like you do, the question should be, “Is authorial intent dead unless we choose for it not to be, or is it still alive?”

    Arthur Miller said The Crucible was about McCarthyism. I can, on the one hand, acknowledge that this makes sense: I clearly see the connection given the time period in which it was written, the universal circumstances of fear-mongering and gossip and conviction without evidence are similar, etc.

    On the other hand, the play has become the most famous depiction of the Salem Witch Trials in modern history, in my opinion, both because of Miller’s historical accuracy and his brilliant prose. It speaks to universal themes about trust, faith, loyalty, suspicion, greed, and other facets of human nature that run deeper than any single time period and surface over and over again. I could just as easily interpret the play in a purely historical fashion or an abstract, surrealist way. What I choose to take away from the text is not Miller’s business, imho. His part was over when the first published copy of the work became available. My theories may or may not be valid; that is up to outside opinion.The point is that I have a legitimate claim to an opinion wholly independent of the author’s intentions.

    Readers have the right to be bothered by prose. That doesn’t mean they need to harass authors who they don’t agree with.

    I think that objecting to drug addicts as unworthy protagonists — by extension, unworthy human beings — is short-sighted and bigoted, not to mention insensitive to the issues that cause drug addiction or the escape self-medication may provide people, even with negative consequences.

    I can understand why this subject matter would be triggering and/or squick-worthy for some readers (a trigger is something that causes intense emotional/psychological/physiological reactions, like symptoms of PTSD, a squick makes non-traumatized people nauseous or pissed off or sad). I think it was good of Kane to put a warning on the story.

    I don’t think personal ire at characters is necessarily best vented at the author, especially not when said anger stems from an inherent prejudice against people with serious flaws or disorders.

  23. mary beth
    May 25, 2010 @ 20:59:00

    I haven’t read the book, but as the grown daughter of a prescription drug addict who’s watched her mother throw her life away on Peco’s, Oxy’s and Hydro’s, I have to say no way would I ever want to read Unholy Ghosts. It’s not me passing moral judgment. It’s me saving my heart.
    Thank God she warns readers first.
    As far as how far we should follow the author’s direction, it’s very simple. Not at all.
    The author has a vision for the book. She writes it. She sells it. It’s released for public consumption. From that point on, it’s ours to see and interpret as we please. It’s OURS not hers. I don’t mind the author telling me what was intended. But I don’t want the author telling me I’m wrong. I bought the book, I read the book, I thought the thoughts and put them out there for others to discuss. I’m right. Does that mean she’s wrong? No. But it’s not going to change how I feel about the book.

  24. Jennifer Leeland
    May 25, 2010 @ 21:09:11

    I’m going to go out on a limb here.
    Books do have messages from the author that readers can get information and, in a way, follow directions.
    For example; If a book is labeled “Erotic” then the reader will hopefully realize that there will be explicit sex scenes.
    I answered “Yes”. The one thing that drives me crazy is when a blurb/cover/market plan works to sell me a book, get me hooked, and then delivers something else.
    So if an author puts “Warning; the book contains violence, anal sex…” or whatever, I’m grateful.
    I read the review for Stacia’s book and I have to say that there are times when I don’t like a character and that can ruin the book for me.
    I would rather have an author warn me than pick a book up cold and get an unpleasant surprise.

  25. Kaetrin
    May 25, 2010 @ 21:11:10

    @ Stacia Kane.
    I’ve gone and read the original review and all the comments to date. I thought your comments were clear, polite and not at all inflammatory or “righteous” (sorry, I have a cold :( so I’m losing any facility with words I may usually have). When I read the blog post above I didn’t think for a minute that you were referring in it to Shuzluva’s review. It seemed to me you were referencing hate mail you’d received. Just thought you might like to know. :)

  26. Jackie U
    May 25, 2010 @ 21:35:19

    I think this is being turned into something it’s not. Hello everyone, I’m the commenter who mentioned the warning. I don’t for one second think the author meant for readers to HAVE to check her blog to get information, nor do I think she wanted readers to HAVE to research the book. You are all correct–a novel must stand on it’s own. That isn’t the point. The point was she made the effort to educate people as much as possible so they didn’t buy a book they wouldn’t be comfortable reading. Turning this act into something negative is positively ridiculous, and I’m slightly ashamed to see I’m jumping back into this discussion because my respect for this blog is dwindling. Taking a well-meaning action and turning it on its head into something vile screams of dramatics. No one attacked the reviewer, and no one said readers HAD to do anything to appease an author. It’s been blown out of proportion and for some reason I let myself get sucked in. I’m a little ashamed of myself, but apparently not enough to keep my opinion to myself.

  27. library addict
    May 25, 2010 @ 22:00:39

    I didn't read all of the comments in the original review. The fact the book is about ghosts was enough to let me know it wasn’t a story for me. And as others have said, I appreciate warnings if a book contains what could be a hot-button issue. That gives me the information I need to make an informed decision about rather I want to read the book or not. That’s one of the reasons I read reviews, but I am all for an author being upfront about such issues as well.

    Maybe I am being naïve, but I didn't think Jane's post was an attack on Ms Kane. As often happens she is simply using a situation that came up in one post to start another, more general, discussion.

    And just to be clear the author I was talking about in my earlier comment was not Ms. Kane.

  28. Kaetrin
    May 25, 2010 @ 22:28:33

    FWIW, I agree with library addict – I didn’t see this post as an attack on Ms. Kane (or on Laura Kinsale for that matter) – I think the discussion of ther other day’s review sparked a new thread, that’s all.

  29. MikiS
    May 25, 2010 @ 22:45:06

    I have actually written authors when a blurb gave me a hint that a story line might hit my hot buttons/squick points.

    I appreciate their willingness to respond, although to be honest, I’ve learned to take those responses with a grain of salt. I had one author tell me a book had no force in it, and read it to find the “hero” blackmailing his ex-girlfriend to have sex with him at gunpoint! Uh, obviously “force” meant something else to me than it did to her.

    Like many other posters, I don’t like being told I’m wrong in my reactions to a book. I did however have an author point out something I’d totally missed (and wrote her about)…and not only did I appreciate the direction, I apologized for me initial response.

    One other point – it was commented that someone having issues with something in the book (erotica, drug addiction, whatever) – shouldn’t review that book. I don’t agree with that, when it’s a blog like this – a reader blog. If I’ve found a reviewer whose tastes are similar to mine (or are otherwise interesting and persuasive), I’d appreciate knowing her opinions, regardless.

    Maybe she’s say “even with my hot button issue X, I found this book so compelling, I couldn’t put it down”. It doesn’t have to assume the review would be negative.

    Just IMO.

  30. DeeCee
    May 25, 2010 @ 23:05:01

    Personally I just want the story. I don’t want to read what the author was thinking or listening to or currently loving. I just want the story. As long as a good story is delivered nothing else matters.

    I don’t read blogs, letters or notes by authors I enjoy simply because I don’t want to be disillusioned with them. I’ve been burned a few times when an author will do something (MJD, I’m thinking of you) to completely ruin a book for me because I’m constantly reminded of what an author said or did.

    The only time I ever wavered was for Beyond Reach by Karin Slaughter wherein she commits an act so heinous as an author that I’ve stopped buying her books. She then ended the book with a note saying something to the effect of check out my site for a letter to fans. I went to the site. I read it. I. Was. Pissed. I saw it as a betrayal of us, her fans, that she committed said act and then just sloughed it off after we had followed her through 5 Grant County books. In that instance I would have appreciated a disclaimer on the front page with the letter itself so I could have saved the $16 I spent on that POS.

    I will hand it to Samhain though, they have excellent disclaimers on the back that I appreciate once in awhile.

    But that’s me on my soapbox…night all.

  31. sao
    May 25, 2010 @ 23:14:24

    I am not interested in reading a review by someone who doesn’t like the genre they’re reviewing. Ever read Romance reviews by people who don’t like or read romance? It doesn’t matter if they are being nice or nasty.

    I you wouldn’t pick up the book in a bookstore and consider reading it, you probably shouldn’t review it.

    I think warnings to prevent people who hate certain plot elements, like BDSM, from getting a book with those plot elements can be helpful, although mostly this should be done in the back cover.

    Most authors who want to tell you how to read the book are obnoxious. Laura Kinsale’s ‘not melancholy’ comment is a perfect example.

    And I really didn’t appreciate learning that JK Rowling conceived Dumbledore as gay. I didn’t see it in the books and it just annoyed me.

  32. Kerry
    May 26, 2010 @ 01:47:59

    @DS “Then I began to wonder if the reason for the outrage described by Ms Kane was because the addicted person was the heroine.”

    As opposed to, say, that guy in the BDB who fires up a joint every five minutes? I never noticed this big a deal being made about his substance abuse problem. More often, the person commenting on it felt sorry for the poor guy.

    I’d say the double standard is a valid observation.

  33. LG
    May 26, 2010 @ 01:53:34

    As far as the second author mentioned in your post goes, I personally think reviewers can use any word they want to to describe a book they read – that word may not fit what the author’s intentions were, but that’s going to happen.

    As far as the first author goes, I totally agree – if the book’s description makes it clear that there is going to be something in the book that is a hot-button issue for you, you should maybe pass the book by (I wonder if the “Puritanical vitriol” actually came from people who read the book, though – could it be that they read the blurb and then slammed the book’s drug addict character?). However, reviewers sometimes have to read things that have aspects that turn them off, but it should be fairly clear from their review that that was the case – reviews are always subjective things, anyway. As a reader, though, if you can easily figure out, just by looking at the book, that it has something that will upset you, why are you reading the book? So you can be angry?

  34. Bronte
    May 26, 2010 @ 04:40:21

    I like to be warned if there is something in a book that I may find objectionable. Because of my past two very hot button issues for me are drug addiction and mental illness. If I’m warned then I can choose to read or not to read. Author’s are free to write absolutely whatever they like but forewarned is forearmed and I think warnings are appropriate.

  35. Ros
    May 26, 2010 @ 06:00:19

    Hmm. I answered the poll (No) before I read the article. It seems to me that Stacia Kane wasn’t so much directing ‘how’ readers should approach her book but rather warning them of content which, if they find it offensive, they might be glad to avoid. I think that’s perfectly reasonable.

    I think there are a number of different issues being confused here. First is the appropriateness of an author warning for certain kinds of content in their book. Second is an author suggesting/directing the way a reader should approach their book. Third is an author allowing/disallowing certain interpretations of their book. Stacia Kane did the first. Laura Kinsale was trying to do the last. I haven’t got an example of the middle one but I can imagine an author saying something like ‘Readers should suspend their disbelief as they embark on this fantasy,’ or ‘Take my book with tongue in cheek’, or something.

    I don’t think readers are in any way obliged to follow authors’ directions – the book needs to stand on its own and readers are free to respond in any way they choose. So I also think that authors have no rights to dictate the way readers interpret their books – those who found Lessons in French melancholy are well within their rights to say so. Even if Laura Kinsale is disappointed that they had that response.

    But I do think it’s fair to give due warning of content in a book, especially if it’s something different that your readers might not be expecting and you know that some people find it offensive or would prefer not to read it. Readers can ignore the warning, of course, but that’s up to them.

  36. Melissa
    May 26, 2010 @ 06:34:19

    @Sarah Frantz,

    Just wanted to say thanks for recommending The Wicked West by Dahl, I read it a few months ago based on one of your recs and I loved it! I think it’s the only western historical with BDSM I have ever seen. I don’t know enough about real life BDSM to know if the stuff authors write is realistic or not, I just have to go on how much I enjoy the writing, so it’s nice to hear from someone who can tell the difference. Have you read Cherise Sinclair? I read and liked Master of the Mountain by her recently, I liked her writing style.

  37. Edie
    May 26, 2010 @ 07:00:38

    Definitely two opposing arguments going here.. warnings = goodness.. if they could all be done like Samhains, that would be made of WIN. ;D

    But I have to echo Mary Beth, the author can have all the intentions and try to put all the messages they like in the text while writing it, but realistically once it is pubbed and in the hands of the reader.. they have to let it stand on it’s own and can’t dictate how it is to be read. It will rarely be read the same way from person to person..

  38. Kelly L.
    May 26, 2010 @ 07:42:13

    I think sometimes it can be useful to see reviews by reviewers who don’t like trope X (be that drugs or anything else) or aren’t familiar with trope X. As long as, like Shuzluva, they’re upfront about it. Because a reviewer who generally dislikes trope X will have a different perspective from a reviewer who adores trope X. If, say, I don’t like the trope myself, I like to know: Does the book transcend that trope and become something I would like despite the trope? Or even better, is it dealt with in such a way that I could actually like it in this portrayal?

    I refer to tropes, though, and not whole genres. I primarily read fantasy and sometimes I come across am Amazon review by someone who never liked or even read fantasy before, and their review is something like “This has dragons in it? Ugh! Dragons don’t exist! How am I supposed to suspend my disbelief?” Well…maybe this isn’t the genre for that reader.

  39. coribo25
    May 26, 2010 @ 07:47:28

    I don’t read my reviews for this reason. They’re a readers’s response for other readers, not there to massage or destroy my ego. Once that penny drops, it’s very liberating.

    Edited to add that DA do encourage dialogue with the author by addressing their reviews directly to them.

  40. LVLM
    May 26, 2010 @ 07:54:41

    I agree with Ros’ POV.

    I think it’s fine and good when there are warnings. Although, I’m not sure that specifically it should be an author who does it and not the publisher.

    There are content that I like and don’t like and I prefer to know before hand.

    And I’m going to ditto that I love Samhain’s warnings. Most epubs do have warnings now about content, which is good.

    What I don’t think an author should do is the last thing on Ros’ list and that’s to argue with a reader on the reader’s feelings about a book.

    I had one author a long time ago try to tell me my take on her book was not what she intended. She was nice about it and all so it wasn’t a big deal. But she didn’t change my mind on what I felt about the book or how it came across to me.

    I’ve also had authors write me and tell me that I was one of the few who really “got” what they were trying to say.

    So really, a reader’s take on a story is their own and I don’t feel that an author should come in and try to explain how a reader should view their book.

    The only time that is OK though is when a reader gets actual facts wrong. Then I feel the author is well within their rights to say something.

    I’m also going to disagree that a reviewer should not review content that normally pushes their buttons. I rather read a review of a book that pushes the buttons of the reviewer because I know if they do like it then, then it’s something worth checking out. If they don’t like it then I can see in the review whether it’s just because it’s a hot button or there are other issues as well.

    I just read a review of a book in which the reviewer said that she could do without the f/f relationship that was part of the m/f story. Well, that’s exactly what I want to read and it was pertinent info for me. So I give a crap that the reviewer would diss that part of the book because she’s not into that kind of thing.

    We readers aren’t that dumb.

  41. RebeccaJ
    May 26, 2010 @ 08:21:21

    I answered “no”. I think every book is open to interpretation and I experience it the way it’s happening to me, through my eyes, not the way it happened to the author. How can I do anything else? We’re two different people.

  42. Kalen Hughes
    May 26, 2010 @ 08:23:15

    I think that objecting to drug addicts as unworthy protagonists -‘ by extension, unworthy human beings -‘ is short-sighted and bigoted

    I keep waiting for someone to mention Sherlock Holmes . . .

    As for authorial intent and warnings, I do have a soft spot of SmartBitch Sarah's OMG, HEROINE IS NOT A VIRGIN warning label. *grin*

  43. Mari
    May 26, 2010 @ 09:12:58

    Answered no. I really wish authors would stop getting so defensive about this stuff and just learn to smile nicely and thank people for having read the book. And such a well written thoughtful review too! The reviewer was beyond fair and I think many people will read the book based upon it.

    Whenever I read authors responding to reviewers and going on and on about misinterpretations, etc., I just tune them out. And even worse jumping in on the comments and arguing with people who had different opinions. A review is only an opinion. No one is under any obligation to like your book. They can dislike it for really good reasons or for really dumb reasons. I think authors need to stop trying to control this.

    Please authors, just stop wasting time on these blogs and write your books. Be glad you’ve gotten alotof buzz and publicity out of this and let it go.

  44. Author
    May 26, 2010 @ 09:16:16

    If it were any other author, I might suspect the warning was written to spark curiosity and boost interest in the book. But I’ve read and followed Ms. Kane for a while now and I’ve always believed she’s honest, outspoken, and you get what you see with her. She’s also experienced enough to know how to handle her reviews, good or bad.

    I’m surprised no one else mentioned this. But the most interesting part of the review, for me, was that it was given a C when the review itself sounded more like a B review. So I guess interpretation of reading reviews is just as varied as the interpretation of reading books. We all have opinions.

  45. Lindsay
    May 26, 2010 @ 09:47:47

    I agree with the posters who have said there are two different issues here. I do think it’s absolutely okay for authors to warn of the content of the book. There is some content that simply crosses the line for me, and which I don’t want to read period. If a book warns for content that I don’t normally like, but which doesn’t cross that line, good reviews may convince me it’s worth my time anyway.

    On the other hand, I usually dislike authors telling readers how to interpret their work. If the reader isn’t getting the author’s message out of it, that’s the author’s issue, not a matter of the reader being “wrong.” If I suspect my reading differs from an author’s intention, I can generally ignore it and enjoy my interpretation, but having that intention explicitly stated makes it much harder to do. In fact, much of my loathing of the Harry Potter series is because Rowling comes across as telling fans how to read her books. If I had never read her interviews, I might merely dislike them instead.

    I do have an exception of sorts, in that I often enjoy when authors share tidbits about their characters with their readers. It’s like someone passing along friendly gossip about mutual friends, rather than an authority instructing you.

    I think there’s something about respecting the readers in there, but I’m not quite sure how to fit that into my ramble here.

  46. Julia Rachel Barrett
    May 26, 2010 @ 09:52:21

    Giving information about the contents of a book is one thing, telling a reader what to think about those contents is something entirely different. What the reader thinks is what the reader thinks.
    When we, as authors, are published, we put ourselves out there and for better or worse, the chips fall where they may.
    Yes, I have had reviewers write what I consider to be erroneous reviews – it’s clear when I read the review that the reviewer skimmed the book because they make so many mistakes regarding things as simple as character names, events, and even time period. Regardless of how I feel about this, it comes with the territory. I’m shrugging here.
    We all want our work to be well accepted and it hurts to receive a less than stellar review, but the truth is, unless there’s some major Koolaid drinking going on causing a widespread case of The Emperor Isn’t Wearing Any Clothes Syndrome among reviewers, everyone pretty much has their own opinion.

  47. Maili
    May 26, 2010 @ 10:42:34

    I prefer an author to let her book speak for itself. She shouldn’t need to tell readers how to accept, read or interpret it if she’s confident it’s well-researched, well-written, or it’s written the way she’s intended it to be read/interpreted.

    Authors do have a right to say something if a review contains erroneous factual information, but not when a reviewer makes an interpretation author doesn’t agree with.

    I think readers (and reviewers) generally love it when authors share their perspectives as part of a discussion, but not when they tell reviewers or/and readers that their interpretations or takes are wrong.

    If their interpretations are indeed erroneous, then we must agree that the fault lies with the author’s writing skills.

  48. Kat Haeske
    May 26, 2010 @ 10:43:23

    Sometimes, yes, they should.
    There just are subjects, some people can´t stomach.
    Some authors write some pretty controversial books and that´s ok, but as an author, you also have a responsibility, not to make your readers puke.
    You can challenge them, you can send them on an emotional rollercoaster, even more so, you SHOULD do those things.
    But when people get sick, the fun is over.

    That´s, what those comments are there for.
    It´s not about: “Oh, but I don´t like this”, but “Alright, I can´t deal with this subject”

    I write pretty strong stuff myself and I cherrish those warnings.
    It´s not about understanding something in a certain way, but about taking responsibility for the things you do/write before throwing them at the world.

    I don´t want to read about an alcoholic main character, I have to deal with it and the effects it has on others in RL way too much already. Thank you very much

  49. Julia Rachel Barrett
    May 26, 2010 @ 11:12:53

    “If their interpretations are indeed erroneous, then we must agree that the fault lies with the author's writing skills.”
    Maili, I agree with everything you say except for this. An interpretation of meaning is never erroneous, it’s one person’s interpretation and interpretations vary. This is no reflection on an author’s writing skill. Erroneous, as I mean it, is when a reviewer says…oh…that the protagonist is a doctor when the protagonist is a nurse, or that the story takes place in Montana when the story takes place in Colorado. Or perhaps the reviewer gives completely erroneous information as to the circumstances under which the two main characters meet – for instance, let’s say they meet at a coffee shop and the reviewer says they meet in a park. Do you see what I’m getting at? What that says to me is that the reviewer skimmed in a big way.
    As I said, I do believe an author can provide information about the book – but an author cannot dictate meaning any more than he or she can dictate whether or not the reader should like the work.

  50. Lynn M
    May 26, 2010 @ 12:00:49

    This discussion reminds me of a scene from the movie Keeping the Faith when one main character is explaining to his friends how badly a first date had gone the night before. He says that at the end of dinner, he asked his date if she wanted dessert, and she said no. So he ordered himself a slice of pecan pie. She asked if she could have a bite and then took one. She then started choking and became very upset, asking if there were nuts in the pie because she’s allergic to nuts. The main character, frustrated, says yes there were nuts – it was pecan pie!

    I took this poll to be asking me if it was reasonable for writers to expect readers to heed their advice as far as content or subject matter. If an author has written a heroine-addicted protagonist and knows that some readers might not appreciate a book that focuses on drug addiction and thus “warns” readers about content, for readers to then complain about the addiction angle seems grossly unfair. Sure, they can complain about bad storytelling or poorly drawn characters or plot holes or any other aspect of the writing. But to be upset and complain about the general premise of the story seems ridiculous. It’s like complaining that there are nuts in the pecan pie.

    I don’t think Kane’s response was off base if she was objecting to a complaint about the actual premise rather than execution of the premise. As a reader, I’d rather be warned off something I won’t like because of the subject matter.

  51. Jackie
    May 26, 2010 @ 12:05:13

    As an English teacher chiming in, author intention matters to me. This isn’t to say that an author isn’t responsible for crafting quality prose, and it doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for multiple interpretations, but, as I would tell my students when we read Shakespeare, “You can write a lot of opposing viewpoints as long as you support it with the text. However, if you try to tell me that Hamlet is about, say, global warming… you’re wrong.”

    This isn’t to say something in Hamlet can’t remind you personally of the issue of global warming, but that’s not what the play is about, and no amount of “but that’s how I took it” makes an analysis that distant from probable author intention correct. Now, there are English teachers out there who frustrate me with their “exactly like I interpret or you’re wrong” attitude – as I said, there should be latitude, because we can’t know exactly what an author was thinking. I never downgraded somebody for saying something I didn’t agree with as long as they could cite evidence for their assertions. However, I get frustrated with some other of my colleagues’ idea that “every interpretation is okay,” because that’s ignoring artistic integrity.

    I believe it’s important to take books in the context they were intended; and that’s taking “direction” from the author. This doesn’t mean that I should have to go to an author’s website and get their own personal reading guide in order to understand what’s going on – if I have to do that, they’ve failed. On the other hand, if I pick up an inspirational romance novel, and then (as a pagan) lambaste it for morals and themes I radically disagree with… well what did I expect? The question of a reviewer isn’t “do I agree with the book?”, but “did the author do a good job crafting the novel?” If I can’t get the distance I need from my own prejudices to answer that question, then while I’m welcome to my own feelings in the privacy of my home or personal blog, I shouldn’t be reviewing it in a public forum. This is why, though I’m a frequent contest judge, I refuse to judge inspirational novels – I have too difficult a time falling in line with the author’s intended direction to critique the novel fairly. With Shuzluva’s review, it’s hard to tell if her feelings regarding drug use are overshadowing her opinion of how Kane used the heroine’s drug addition as an element of plot and/or theme. Shuzluva certainly is divorced enough from her feelings to credit the novel’s other strong points, but (as the commenter above stated) the review doesn’t read like a ‘C’ book, and that makes it hard to trust her evaluation.

    I answered “sometimes” to the poll. There is definitely a responsibility on the part of an author to convey intention through the text. However, reading in an information vacuum is incredibly difficult; having some form of preparation is helpful or even necessary to set expectations correctly and start our reading with the right foundation. That’s what covers are for: “Ooh, look; a hot chick with a weapon and a tramp stamp – this is an urban fantasy in the kick-butt heroine style.” If most people opened that cover and read the first chapter of a Nora Roberts book, they’d likely be lost, bored, and blaming the author for poor writing. But that’s not Ms Roberts’ fault; that’s improper preparation and expectations (and one of the worst covers in the history of the world), i.e. people aren’t reading it with the right authorial direction in mind. That’s an extreme example, but the point is, unless you’re reading a computer printout of a manuscript you found on a park bench, it’s never 100% about the author’s words with nothing else to go on, and some people need more help than others to consider a text in a reasonable way. It isn’t always the author’s fault when somebody doesn’t “get it”. Sometimes, it really is the reader’s.

  52. Chelsea
    May 26, 2010 @ 12:14:30

    I hate it that authors are pressured or feel the need to explain themselve like that. Saying things like “I meant it THIS way” tells me that not only are they insecure about the measage they were trying to send, but also that they have misunderstood how writing/reading works. As a reader I feel entitled to interpret a book in any way I want–and if that means disgust or sadness when the opposite emotion was intended, then fine. That happens a lot, actually, and I think it’s part of what makes reading interesting.

    As for warnings about subject matter…I feel like with most subjects it depends on how it’s presented and what the context is. One drug addict protagonist, in the hands of a talented author, could turn out to be a character I feel sympathy for or can relate to. Another might disgust me completely and make me regret buying and reading the book. And the thing is, I won’t know for sure until I actually read the book–no blurb or comment from the author is going to help.

  53. SylviaSybil
    May 26, 2010 @ 12:27:45

    Would I like to be warned about specific content in a novel? Well, yes…but that’s not enough to go on. Frex, one of my hot button issues is rape or forced seduction. So I appreciate a heads up on the issue. I read a book where the heroine got date raped in the first chapter, and the author had so much writing skill that I felt the character’s pain as a visceral reaction and had to put the book down. I still plan to come back to it when I’m feeling more sturdy, but a content warning would have helped me know from the beginning that I should wait.

    But even with content warnings I’m not going to stay away altogether because it’s how it’s handled that will draw me in or push me away. If it’s the hero that does it or the heroine’s over the trauma in ten seconds, generally that’s a wallbanger. But not always. There are books where the hero acknowledges what a horrible thing he’s done and eventually manages to redeem himself. Or heroines who have a long history of denial and rationalization and I understand that even though she seems to be over it, her subconscious is being torn up.

    It’s all relative. And a reviewer can tell me their interpretation of it, but I have to understand that my interpretation will never mesh up with anyone else’s exactly. So while I appreciate content warnings greatly I don’t always heed them.

  54. Melissa Blue
    May 26, 2010 @ 13:03:32

    This thread is really about getting our backs up when told how to feel in a direct manner. “This is a fun book,” is just a nice way of saying you should have fun while reading this book. It’s still telling you how to feel. Yet “don’t call this book melancholy” is very direct and makes you automatically say, “what if I feel it is, dammit?”

    But that’s not what you asked. So to what extent should we allow an author's direction to influence our reading?

    I say it depends. Am I reading a book for pure enjoyment? Then I go by whether or not I like the book. Strangely, if the book makes me think then I seek out what the author was aiming for when writing the novel. Or if I read somewhere the author had a deeper meaning then I’ll check out the book to see if it matches the intent.

  55. Suze
    May 26, 2010 @ 13:13:32

    as an author, you also have a responsibility, not to make your readers puke

    An author has no way of knowing what will make her readers puke, as she can only be personally aquainted with a fraction of them. An author can’t possibly be reponsible for individual reader reactions.

    Caveat emptor. If you read a book and it disgusts or disturbs you, stop reading, and think twice before picking that author up again.

    I’m fairly delicate about the movies I watch. If the trailer bothers me, I don’t watch it. If I watch it anyway and get nightmares for a week, oops. My bad. NOT the writers’, not the director’s, and not the actors. ME. I’m the only one responsible for my actions, reactions, and emotions.

    This is especially true for reacting to a book, because IMO reading requires more participation than watching a movie.

    If I read a book I’m finding disturbing, and then go ahead and finish it and end up devastated, it’s nobody’s fault but my own.

  56. RebeccaJ
    May 26, 2010 @ 14:27:58

    @42, Mari…LOL! I totally agree with your comment. You hit the nail right on the head.

    A book is not a baby that you give birth to and guide for the rest of it’s life…or until it turns 15:) Write it and let it go where it will. Not unlike a balloon:)

  57. Jane O
    May 26, 2010 @ 15:48:24

    I love RIdley’s magnet, way back at #7:

    “Once a book has opened its mouth, the author must shut his.”

    There are infinite reasons why a reader doesn’t get the point and love the book, ranging from the reader is stupid to the author loused up in the writing.

    Whatever the reason is, there is NOTHING the author can do about it at this point, and I always feel a bit embarrassed for authors who protest readers’/reviewers’ objections.

  58. Laura Kinsale
    May 26, 2010 @ 17:08:04

    Haven’t read the comments, just the post itself.

    I think maybe part of the issue is the interesting mix between reviews and marketing for books. From both an author’s and a reader’s point of view, the review is not only one person’s opinion or interpretation or reading of the book, it also stands as an important interface in a buying decision.

    Perhaps it’s unseemly of me to mention this. But it’s very true, and it’s not just the author’s interest at stake, it’s the reader’s money, time and emotional reaction.

    Apparently my original comment can be interpreted as “directions” to readers, but then and now my intention was clarification for potential buyers as to the nature of my book. (Admittedly I took a rather exasperated tone. I’m really quite a failure at the Sweet Cuddly Author schtick.)

    Some of the comments on the review (along the lines of “no thanks, I don’t want to read a sad book”) indicated to me that readers of the REVIEW (vs the book itself) were coming away supposing a movie like–oh, say, Animal House, was actually a movie like Titanic.

    I thought then, and I think now, that if a reader went out and bought LESSONS IN FRENCH expecting a sad and melancholy book, they would be disconcerted. In that sense I wholly agree with the quote from Stacia about wanting readers to know what they are buying and thus enjoy reading it.

    Readers have no responsibility to authors regarding how they read the book.

  59. John
    May 26, 2010 @ 18:00:15

    Readers shouldn’t listen to authors on HOW to read there book. Reading is an experience that is unique and entirely individual. While many people have similar tastes, there is always a stark individuality to the process. Everyone reacts differently to different things, and everyone has different levels of comfort and genre likeness. An author trying to guide people closely is not going to do well, because many authors gain readership from impulsive reads or from an outside-the-comfort-genre journey. If an author tries to tell people that they should read their book only if they like that genre, or that they should take a book in a particular way, then they are going to turn a lot of readers off.

    For example, last year I came up with a practice research paper based on the interpretation that Twilight was based on drug-usage. And it worked. It doesn’t mean the author intended that, or any interpretation, of the work (most likely not) but it was possible. It all depends on your viewpoint. Authors should be happy people felt their book worthy of a reading attempt, especially if it wasn’t within a normal genre, and just accept that while they know what they think of their story, people only know what they interpret. That’s just the beauty of reading. :)

  60. Avery Oslo
    May 26, 2010 @ 18:09:38

    The way I see it, a book, like the cheese, stands alone.

  61. Keishon
    May 26, 2010 @ 23:18:25

    I voted “no” in the poll. Authors shouldn’t have to direct/interpret anything for readers. If they did their job right (the author), then there shouldn’t be too much confusion or a gross deviation of the response that the author was intending. Sure, some readers will “get it” while others won’t. Such is life. Nothing to see here. Move on. I say be happy if the majority do “get it” and call it a day.

  62. Kat Haeske
    May 27, 2010 @ 01:21:40


    Yes, if the trailer bothers you. But you need to be able, to make an informed decision, and that is what warnings are there for.
    The blurb? nope, the blurb is to sell the book and solely that. And some subjects aren´t important enough to the overall story to be mentioned in the blurb, but they still happen. Then what?

    What exactly is wrong with a dubious consent warning?

  63. cs
    May 27, 2010 @ 04:57:07

    @sao: I find this unfair. Just because you don’t like a certain aspect of a book, or in your case you mentioned genre, does not mean that there won’t be a story in that genre or an aspect in that book, that isn’t well written. It is up to ME what I will read and review. I don’t necessarily like science-fiction or BDSM, does that mean I should stop reading them, because of that NO. Why would I? I might find a fantastic book/author by continuing and trying to find new things. Why should my reading and reviewing be limited. I’m kind of tired of statements like yours. Just because I don’t actively seek BDSM books, does not mean anything, it means if a blurb catches my attention, chances are I’ll try out. The thing is, I’m not lying about my preferences, but I am not pigeon-holing my reading choices either.

  64. Edie
    May 27, 2010 @ 06:29:46

    @Jackie: I just wanted to comment on one aspect of your comment, if the student can prove that hamlet is talking about global warming using evidence within the text.. they are not wrong. IMO
    Though I could just be arguing that as I took great pleasure with the books I disliked in school of going out of the box for most of my essays, and since I backed everything up with stuff from the text I passed that class with one of the highest marks. (The teacher never decided whether she adored me or hated me, most likely hate though, after what I did to her favourite book. LOL)

  65. elizabethII
    May 27, 2010 @ 09:12:02

    Should Readers follow the direction of authors as to whether/how to read the book? Follow? No. I don't need direction or instruction on How. Heed a short warning blurb Whether to read it? Possibly. If the author, editor, or publisher would like to provide a short warning on the back cover to point out controversial content, that's great. I really appreciate those. I can investigate the book further on my own to see if there is going to be something I don't want to read about. If I choose to buy it after the warning, I can also choose to put it down later.

    to what extent should we allow an author's direction to influence our reading? I take warnings under advisement, so I don't believe there's any influence there. Influence implies power which the author really has lost after the book is written (the book stands on its own) and in my hands. An author that would attempt to tell me how to feel about a book is a turn off for me. I can figure out on my own if I'm getting warm fuzzies or nausea. I ignore those types of essays/comments on their websites or review blogs. I interpret the book myself. If I am REALLY into a series, I might go to their website to get some bonus material on the books.

    I can see how some authors would get their backs up on some comments from readers and reviewers. But after the book is written, it's too late for the author to have any influence on How the reader should be feeling about the book. If the reviewer or reader is getting facts wrong, by all means, correct them. That helps me. It might show me the reviewer didn't have a good grasp for the genre, or they skimmed the book, or maybe they just don't like the author.

    How about bias in reviews? Sounds like another thread to me.

  66. Sylvia Spruck Wrigley
    May 28, 2010 @ 02:16:18

    @Kelly L.: I primarily read fantasy and sometimes I come across am Amazon review by someone who never liked or even read fantasy before, and their review is something like “This has dragons in it? Ugh! Dragons don't exist! How am I supposed to suspend my disbelief?” Well…maybe this isn't the genre for that reader.

    I think that is exactly what was meant in that reviewers should not review books starting from a position that they probably won’t like it. That’s not to say they shouldn’t be open-minded and read the book! But I winced as soon as I saw the review state that she didn’t like a basic premise and yet was going to review it anyway. I don’t like current-tense books, I read them anyway (for the few that make it a non-issue) and I would review one that transcended that issue for me. But “I generally don’t like X and this book has X and as a result this book didn’t work for me” is pretty much not useful.

    I also have not seen anything prior to this post that said or even implied that the reader has a responsibility to read the author’s blog or take direction.

  67. brooksse
    May 29, 2010 @ 16:42:35

    For me, there are two issues here.

    First, I don’t think authors should tell readers how to feel about a book or how to interpret a book. Readers should have the right to feel whatever emotion they choose to feel, and to interpret a book in any way they choose to interpret it.

    Second, authors or publishers warning readers that a book ‘contains subject X which some readers may find offensive.’ I have no problem with the warning, but I don’t think the author or publisher should tell readers to *not* read the book if subject X offends them. I appreciate the warning, but it’s *my* responsibility to decide whether or not to read the book.

    On the other hand, if I choose to read the book, I have no right to complain that it contains subject X. As long as I knew upfront that it contained subject X, then my only complaint is with my decision to buy the book. This is different from complaining about how the author handled subject X. I believe I have a right to complain if I don’t like the way the author handled subject X. The review of Ms. Kane’s book seemed, IMO, to fall into the latter category. Not so much that it contained subject X but how subject X was handled; and it also seemed that Ms. Kane’s post was not referring to the latter, but to the former.

    So bottom line, I appreciate the warnings but please don’t tell me how to feel or what to do…. Unless I’m just complaining that the book contained subject X, when I knew darn well that it contained subject X. In which case, feel free to remind me that it was my decision to read the book.

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