You know the old adage, the one that states “if you wonder if you are crazy, then you are very likely not”? I have to be honest, sometimes I wonder if I am a closeted “troll”. Yes, you read that correctly, somewhere out there, there is probably a bridge missing me.
The sister of a friend of mine nicknamed him “Surly Joe”, which ironically is how I came to give myself the moniker of “Penny Dreadful“. Joe and Penny were our irascible alter egos. We identified strongly with Statler and Waldorf of The Muppets fame, sadly Surly Joe is no more. No, no, my friend is not deceased, he simply had a spiritual awakening of sorts and became, and I quote, “Zen”, I must admit part of me misses Surly Joe. You might wonder what any of this has to do with trolls and what I hope is my irrational fear that I am secretly one of them.
For those of you who are not in the know I am not referring to 1. (in folklore) an ugly cave-dwelling creature depicted as either a giant or a dwarf. Particularly, as I am of average height neither tall, nor short at 5’6. I speak of another kind altogether, the kind as identified below by Wikipedia as:
This sense of the word troll and its associated verb trolling are associated with Internet discourse, but have been used more widely. Media attention in recent years has equated trolling with online harassment. For example, mass media has used troll to describe “a person who defaces Internet tribute sites with the aim of causing grief to families.”
While this definition is bit harsh, you will get my general meaning I have often noticed on Facebook that when authors complain about receiving a poor review at least one of the consolations is that the reviewer was probably a troll. As a reviewer I try to adhere to the more socially accepted “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Which begs the question at least in my mind that if I refuse to review books that I don’t like, am I being disingenuous?
This is not to say that I have not given bad reviews but I genuinely don’t like to, often times you may notice that when I DO give a bad review I seem angry and usually that is because I am. It is probably irrational but I often feel in these cases that the author could have done better, case in point Love Unscripted which started off with such promise before its characters indulged in unprecedented levels of ludicrous behavior bordering on farcical on my opinion.
You might wonder what has inspired this latest spate of self reflection, there has been a lot of press about bullying on Goodreads and I have read numerous accounts of persons leaving the site due to this, the latest being Karina Halle. Coincidentally, this departure coincides with the release of the final book in her Artists Trilogy and she stated herself in the posting that some readers would not be happy with the manner in which she chose to end the series to which I thought “boo hoo“. It smacked a bit of dropping the bomb and then getting the hell out of dodge! Don’t get me wrong I adore Karina’s work as anyone who has read my gushing reviews of the spectacular Experiment in Terror series but shouldn’t someone who has achieved this degree of success be willing to accept some negative reviews and chalk it up to “you can please some of the people, some of the time but you can’t please all of the people, all of the time“?
Notice that I specified “established” authors, I struggle with warring reactions when asked to review relatively unknown work. I am always thrilled initially and then the doubts set in “what if I don’t like it?” Grumpy demeanor aside I am a “pleaser” and I am sure that I spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about situations that are beyond my control. Certainly the majority of the time I have stumbled across work that I never would have read ordinarily and for this I am thankful but it is just an example of my circular logic for you.
Regardless of my opinion on the ability of established authors to endure criticism and my belief that I will likely be called if I have not already been “a troll”. I can’t help but feel that reviewers who give well thought out justified bad reviews are being unfairly vilified. In the meantime, I will endeavor to remember the fate of the troll in fable The Three Billy Goats Gruff.
The Third Billy Goat then gets on the Bridge and is stopped by the hungry Troll. When the troll gets up on the bridge however, the third billy goat is so big that he easily throws the troll into the stream with his horns and crosses the bridge. From then on the bridge is safe, and all three goats are able to go to the rich fields around the summer farm in the hills. They all live happily ever after.
The troll, however, was never seen again.