The BFG

24 April, 2016
The BFGby Roald Dahl

April 2016

Do you know what the BFG stood for before his publisher told him he had to think of other words for the acronym? Dahl wasn’t joking either, not at all. This story is of a man’s interest in a prepubescent girl. The first thing he does is enter her bedroom in the middle of the night and kidnap her. Taking her away from the orphanage she lives in to the land of the extremely unfriendly giants who, in the original draft forced the little girl to look at their giant ‘clubs’. But the BFG’s different, he’s friendly….(grooming!)  It all ends with the little girl giving the BFG kisses and living next door to him and everyone is very happy. Dahl sees himself as the BFG giving Sophie, children, a new way to think, different from human adults, who don’t even believe in giants let alone let themselves be loved by them.

It is an inventive story without doubt, and all fairy stories require you to absolutely suspend disbelief. Lots of them include sexual and violent elements which children either don’t notice (sexual) or thoroughly enjoy (violent). When Disney gets hold of them, they lose both and become the anodyne Barbie-doll princesses (cue violins-in-the-background) we are used to. In that tradition, the BFG succeeds.

In the mid-to-late 20thC there was less emphasis on paedophilia than there is now, and I wonder if it this book could have been written at all in the 21stC. Ironically, this book is banned in some educational districts in the US for ‘teaching poor moral values’ and cannibalism. Ridiculous. Children laugh at those sort of things. I don’t believe in banning books, but Dahl was an unpleasant character and it is wilful blindness to ignore the feet of clay our heroes sometimes have as we place laurel wreaths on their brows.

Misogyny: Dahl’s misogyny, especially in his adult stories, is quite extreme, and, in shades of Harper Lee and Go Set a Watchman being turned into To Kill a Mockingbird at the publisher’s insistence, the first draft of Matilda:

“Painted the protagonist as a devilish little hussy who only later becomes “clever”, perhaps because she found herself without very much to do after torturing her parents.”Dahl’s editor Stephen Roxburgh completely revised Dahl’s last novel and, in doing so, turned it into his most popular book.”

Anti semitism,: ” In a 1983 interview with the New Statesman, he said, “There is a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity, maybe it’s a kind of lack of generosity towards non-Jews. I mean, there’s always a reason why anti-anything crops up anywhere; even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them for no reason. I mean, if you and I were in a line moving towards what we knew were gas chambers, I’d rather have a go at taking one of the guards with me; but they [the Jews] were always submissive.” Buzzfeed

Racism and rudeness. Remember the Oompah-Loompahs? The NAACP objected that in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” the manual labor, performed by characters called Oompa-Loompas, are described by Dahl as African Pygmies, essentially brought-over slaves running the chocolate factory. Look at the original illustrations for the first edition of the book on Bidnessetc In the BFG, one of the giants, the Fleshlumpeater is supposed a black character, certainly another of them likes eating Turkish people.

There is also a discussion on Bignessetc on his general misogyny and unpleasant character leading his publishing company, Knopf, who made a lot of money from him to write,

“You have behaved to us in a way I can honestly say is unmatched in my experience for overbearingness and utter lack of civility.”

Dahl used to belong to the only country club in South Wales that allowed Jewish members. My father and grandfather were members in their time. He once objected very loudly to the number of Jews dining there and how it fouled the atmosphere. The management threw him out and banned him. He is supposed to have done something similar at a gambling club in London with the same result!

I think he worked on the principle that everyone male, white and Christian shared his views on women, non-whites and Jews. I get it here, those sort of whites say racist things to me thinking because I am white I will go along with it. My clerks, always black, say they get complaints about whites from other blacks thinking they are bound to sympathise, but they don’t. But most of us aren’t racist or hate any group of people. Trouble is most people aren’t vocal about that in a conversation and are likely to nod and just file it away. We need always to speak out.

Perhaps the best link of all to Roald Dahl is This Recording. He was without doubt a horrible person, but equally without doubt, a tremendously talented writer with an extraordinary imagination. I’ve enjoyed on some level all of his books and the films made of them.

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Untouchable

24 April, 2016

Untouchableby Mulk Raj Anand

April 24, 2016

This is only a short book and the first two-thirds are quite interesting – a day in the life of a downtrodden Untouchable latrine cleaner and his rat-eating family. The preaching of the last third rather spoiled it though. It is true that flush lavatories would solve the problem for the toilet-cleaning caste, but it is hardly a solution for the Untouchables, no matter what name Gandhi gave them.

Part of the problem of the Untouchable caste is that it isn’t actually a problem at all for anyone who isn’t Untouchable, in fact it’s desirable to have them. Since they, the pariahs of society, do all the work that no one else wants to do, and at minimum wage, and all this exploitation can be justified as being in the name of religion, in the name of not interfering with the Infinite plan there is no impetus from society to improve these people’s lives.

It’s not so far from the way the US treats illegal Mexican immigrants. It allows them to stay to do the work that no one else wants to do for those wages in those conditions. They live in fear of everything and everyone. If they are beaten, robbed or raped they have no redress. They daren’t complain. So just as with the Untouchables not being a problem if you aren’t one, neither are the illegal immigrants.

There are two ways, from a religious point of view, of looking at them. Either they must have done something pretty dreadful in their previous lives to get born an Untouchable and this is Divine punishment, or alternatively, these people must have been really good dogs, cockroaches or whathaveyou to have become human in this life and who are mere humans to interfere with this great Cycle? When looked at in this way, it’s a pretty clever organising of society, of religion, to get the work done. Another way of putting it, one more familiar to us, is the richer get richer and the poor live in ghettos and clean the houses, shops, subways and streets for them.

One of the solutions proposed is Christianity, which has the great advantage of not having a rebirth system so a lowly caste becomes a class problem for which education can provide a ladder up and out. Another solution, one partly in effect now, was Gandhi’s renaming the caste Harijan, or Children of God, and his movement to include rather exclude them from society.

The third solution isn’t sadly as widespread as it ought to be, the flush toilet. The poor who live and sleep on the pavements still shit in the gutter, those living in slums and tenements crap into plastic bags which they launch far into the air earning them the nickname of parachutes and those slightly less poor than that have flush toilets but no running water. So whether its cleaning latrines or cleaning (un)flushed toilets, or sweeping the streets clean of ‘parachute’ bags, this caste of Untouchables, these Children of God, are still plying their traditional trade.

Sometimes I wonder if everything evil under the sun couldn’t find its justification in one religion or another?

I don’t like being lectured to, and I don’t care what literary device is used to pretend that it’s just the story not a didactic excursion by the author, I just don’t like it. I would probably never have finished the book but my computer broke down and it took an hour to fix with all the endless waits while it checked files and rebooted. Lucky aren’t I, to have a bookshop and only a slightly iffy computer to annoy me rather than having to live with broken flush toilets and crap to clean from the streets?

Heavily revised 24th April, 2016. Originally reviewed Dec. 1, 2011

Memories of my Melancholy Whores

29 March, 2016

Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

 

To enjoy this book you have to enter the mind and world of this old, old man, living the last years of his life in poverty in the once-grand, decaying house of his youth. His career never rose above second-rate reporter, he never married and never even fell in love. His personal relationships with women were limited to the whores he paid for. A most unfulfilled life.

But then, for a present for his 90th birthday, he gives himself a 14 year-old virgin, a would-be whore. Exhausted from menial labour and drugged-up with valerian by the brothel madame, she sleeps every night they spend together and for the first time in his life he falls in love. In love with the idea of his sleeping beauty.

This is a poetic, sensual book that many reviewers, unable to see beyond their own ideas of fitness, have condemned as tawdry, a paean to pedophilia and just plain sick. But it isn’t. It’s the last flowering of a rose; touched by frost it should have died but instead is more glorious, more beautiful because it is so unseasonal, a real surprise. What it says about the nature of men’s love for young beauty is age-old: look good, be quiet and demure, and let him be the dominant one, is taken to an extreme here. It worked for Snow White, it worked for the Sleeping Beauty and it works for Delgadina too.

Love changes everything. Despite his 90 years, the old, old man walks with a spring in his step, his head held high and smiling to the world. He has an epiphany, ‘sex is the consolation one has for not finding enough love’ and writes about love in his weekly columns in the local newspaper. This brings him the fame, respect and friendship he had craved all his life. In his 91st year, at last, he has found fulfillment.

Ultimately, Gabriel Garcia Marquez says through this book: Never Give Up.

Read May 1, 2009

The Picture of Dorian Gray

14 March, 2016

The Picture of Dorian Grayby Oscar Wilde

2016

Possessing eternal youth and beauty produces exactly the same effect as sentencing a man to life without the possibility of parole. Both have nothing to lose and morals disappear before the desire for immediate self-gratification in all things. And so it is with Dorian Gray. It’s a moral story so eventually his evil catches up with him and he dies, as does the criminal.

Is Oscar Wilde saying that it is man’s essential nature, to be so internally psychopathic and selfish that so long as he can keep his reputation he will wreak havoc on people’s lives and not care in the process of enriching his own?

Oscar Wilde was a man who held some very nasty views and only cared when extremely similar ones were turned upon himself. (He was imprisoned for homosexuality, but felt it was ok for Dreyfus to be imprisoned on a trumped-up crime but really because he was Jewish. He chose the wrong side on that one and lost even his best friend). I don’t like the author, but I do love his prose.

I read this book years ago. But the psychological story of a man’s realisation that there are no consequences to his actions, nothing is forbidden, everything is permitted, you never forget.

Prosopagnosia, Face Blindness Explained

13 March, 2016

Prosopagnosia, Face Blindness Explained. Prosopagnosia Types, Tests, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Research and Face Recognition all coveredby Lyndsay Leatherdale

2016

Here is a check list of the symptoms of prosopagnosia for self-diagnosis. If you have any difficulty recognising people reliably, you might find it interesting. I’ve put in my own experiences as I think it helps put the questions into context. Or not. Maybe I just like writing anecdotes 🙂


1. Failing to recognise close friends or family members in unexpected situations.

I once left my ex at the airport late at night. I thought it was him but I wasn’t sure. He’d been in college in Canada and his normal brown skin (what we call ‘red’) without the sun had paled to what we call ‘clear’ and he was wearing a hat. Last May I arranged to meet my son in a cafe after he’d come back from Law School and I saw him and called out Daniel. It wasn’t him. The embarrassment… you have no idea.


2. Trouble in following films or television shows that have more than a few distinctive characters.

I don’t have this.


3. Failing to recognize yourself in the mirror and/or have difficulty identifying yourself in photographs or sometimes in reflections.

I don’t have this either.


4. When someone gets a haircut, you may not recognize them when you see them again

I don’t think I have this.


5. Having difficulty recognizing neighbours, friends, co-workers, clients, schoolmates etc, out of context.

I have this big time. But I also fail to recognise them in context as well. There is no guarantee I will recognise even a good customer every time. It’s pretty likely I won’t outside the shop. Ex-employees I often fail to recognise especially if I had no real affection for them.


6. Another common symptom those with prosopagnosia experience is that they are more likely to not be aware that their close friends or family are in the same area if they are in a context that is not of their usual nature. For school friends, this would be at school, for brothers and sisters, this would be at home, or a work co-worker, this would be in the work environment.

Yes. At a party I didn’t recognise one of my sons because I didn’t expect to see him there. At a political cocktail party I failed to recognise a shop assistant I saw almost daily.


7. Lack of navigation skills. For this reason, these individuals are prone to getting lost.

I am famous for this. A few years ago I was staying in Miami and rented a car to drive to the Sawgrass Mills mall. The reception staff at the hotel printed me out a map and gave me very explicit instructions. I drove through the toll booth in the same direction three times in a row. I was with my son who doesn’t have prosopagnosia but also has no sense of direction. The pair of us navigated back to the hotel, but found ourselves first at Opa Locka airport and finally at Fort Lauderdale airport. There we were pulled up where we shouldn’t have been when a police car stopped and started to tell us off and then realised we were genuinely hopelessly lost, so the very nice policewoman said to follow her and took us all the way back to the Blue Lagoon Hampton. That is the worst I’ve ever been lost.


8. Inability to recognise left from right.

I have this to some degree but I’ve grown out of it. I couldn’t set a table properly until my 20s. However my parents said that as a young child I showed no preference for my right or left hand so they decided I should be right-handed. There are some things I can only do with my left hand. So maybe this isn’t related to prosopagnosia.


9. Inability to recognise emotions – Those with associative prosopagnosia may have the inability to recognise faces. It is often also the case that they are unable to identify the emotion of the individual as well.

So what may have been put down to AS for me is in fact another symptom of prosopagnosia. This would fit as I’m not really typically AS in any other way.


10. Inability to identify race or colour.

I like to think I’m colourblind but not in that way!


11, Difficulty in reading literature – It may be difficult for an individual to follow a story in a book. This is due to the fact that an individual has difficulty in imagining the faces of the characters described in the book.

Hardly!

So there you have it. I have associative, genetic prosopagnosia. If anyone else has suspected they have more than average inability to recognise faces (it is specific to faces and not anything else at all) and scores high on this test, I’d like to know. How do you cope with other people’s rejection and coldness when they think you have been rude to them and ignored them? How do you cope with the embarrassment? Do you have coping strategies?

Below this is my review of the book which contains one interesting bit – on some very famous people who have it as well, the rest is just personal opinion.

[I have this, but not badly, which might be worse. Oliver Sacks had it very badly, Jane Goodall about the same as me I think,Duncan Bannatyne the millionaire entrepreneur of Dragon’s Den fame has it worse than me, Chuck Close the famous portraitist ironically suffers badly from the condition and Brad Pitt has people thinking he is incredibly rude and snobbish, like all the rest of us, because he too cannot reliably recognise faces. I am not alone!

All of us are thought to cut style on people, deliberately offend them because we couldn’t care about them, and exhibit manners of the very worst kind. None of us have the faintest idea when we are doing this since if we can’t tell you from a stranger, why would we go up to you and be all effusive? When you say hello to us we try and simulate absolute friendship even though we still don’t recognise you, but there is always something missing and people know.

Why I said it is worse for people like me, Duncan, Jane and Brad is that we do recognise most people most of the time, but not always, so it’s like we say hello to you one day and cut you next. People like the late Oliver Sacks and Chuck Close do not recognise hardly anyone any of the time so they can explain themselves. I’m not saying they have an easier time of it, I’m saying people are probably more understanding.)

If you know people who have difficulty in recalling your name or it seems that they don’t recognise you, be kind. tell them who you are and where you last met. Please don’t cut them because you think they have ignored you, they may not know it’s ‘you’ at all.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

11 March, 2016

by Mark Twain

Feb 10, 16

 

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark TwainThis is a rant. I found Huckleberry Finn on my bookshelf had been changed for Huckleberry Finn Robotic Edition. Some very pc “authors” and “editors” took it upon themselves to change the N word (view spoiler) to ‘robot’. They then rewrote the book to take away any mention of humans and to ‘roboticise’ words such as ‘eye’ which becomes something like ‘optical device’. The illustrations have also been changed. I have no problem with this.

However I have a big problem with the librarians who think think this is close enough to the original that it should be combined and therefore share the ratings of Mark Twain’s original book. There was a long discussion in the librarian thread where some librarians thought it was essentially the same book, perhaps most. So it was combined and the edition of the book I read was changed to that one. I DID NOT read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Robotic Edition.

This robot edition was a Kindle book. Think about it and the danger of these ‘authors’. If this is acceptable and it is to a lot of the librarians, why not politically correct Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Agatha Christie (oh she’s been done already. It was 10 Little N words, then 10 Little Indians, now it’s Then there were 10, lol). Sooner or later print books will be in used bookshops, research libraries and old people’s houses. They will become not books to be read but collector’s items. For reading it will be the ebook where changes can be easily and instantaneously made.

And if politically-correcting everything becomes Amazon policy then the whole publishing world will follow and your children will never know the original story that Mark Twain wrote. They will never understand how N word people were treated.

They will never know that Jim, a grown man who would not normally be expected to hang out with 13 year old boys, kowtowed to Tom and Huckleberry not just because they all liked each other, but because he was not free, he was a slave, property, and was subject to the usual treatment of property. He could be ordered to do anything no matter how stupid or harmful, he could be sold or mistreated not even for punishment but just because he had no human rights whatsoever.

Changing N people to robots negates all this. Yes it is more politically acceptable to Whites but how would a Black person feel having their history taken away from them? This is not pc as much as sanitising history and is wrong on every level.

Do you find this acceptable? A lot of GR librarians don’t see a damn thing wrong with it. But I do.

See Fahrenheit 451

Hurricanes & Hangovers: And Other Tall Tales and Loose Lies from the Coconut Telegraph

18 February, 2016

by “Dear Miss Mermaid”

Why have I one-starred a book that really isn’t too bad? Because I know the author and she once tried to get my son to take a wrapped parcel into the US with him. A gun? Drugs? Either were likely. For sure it wasn’t books otherwise she would not have had a problem with the parcel being open. That was only some of the trouble she caused us. Not only us. A lot of people. But it was never her fault. She lived by nickels and dimes and if you had a dollar, she wanted it.

This is a book full of stories, essays and ramblings from a lady who had in her day many adventures in the Caribbean and the States mostly accompanied by wine. I later heard that one of the bars she used to hang out in to get free drinks from tourists was one of her major sources of stories, stories that happened to other people.

Nonetheless, it’s not a bad book. Some of the stories show the funny side of island life, although it is also about the author’s life in the US. You can read it without feeling that you have to ‘Begin at the beginning and then go on ’til the end. I knew that the author was given to not just exaggeration but outright invention too, so take it all with a pinch of (sea) salt.

I used to sell her book, in quantity, but then she accused me of not paying her and all kind of things. For years we shared a post box then she left the island and bills behind her and several years the post mistress told me that she had put a divert on to her address in the US. I could have lost thousands of dollars worth of books that way if the post mistress hadn’t told me and continued to give me my boxes while I changed my address.

So it’s the author gets a one star and she doesn’t even deserve that.  She always uses a pseudonym for everything, I suppose anonymity is key if you have upset a lot of people and/or owe a lot of money.  Her real name is Cynthia Rose Keeton.

American Housewife: Stories

1 January, 2016

28172350American Housewife: Stories
by Helen Ellis

This is ridiculous. This book has 48 ratings and 19 reviews. It isn’t published until Feb. 2016 so all these reviewers are receiving ARCS, but most are not declaring this.

Doubleday the publisher is providing these books and Doubleday the GR member is then liking the reviews. Doubleday the member has rated a lot of books, only the ones published by them and all 5 star of course. They publish reviews that are written by their marketing department (they do declare this some of the time, but not all) and so are not reviews at all but advertising, in other words a PR release. Spin.

The majority of the ARC reviewers do not declare it is a freebie either explicitly or at all do not declare any of their books to be freebies in exchange for an almost invariably good review. It is easy to check them by looking at the review date and book publication date. Some put it on a shelf called ARC which is certainly meaningless to the majority of readers. I asked every customer who came in to my bookshop for three days this week if they knew what an ARC was. Not a single one did.

People occasionally think it’s a bit much when authors ‘like’ every single good review members write, I think it’s more than a bit much when the publisher supplies the book in exchange for a review and then likes the review having also 5* and ‘reviewed’ the book themselves.

If you look at Doubleday the member you can see that this is what the profile exists for – marketing their books, posting advertising as reviews and promoting freebie reviews. That is fair enough for a publishing company, but not as a reader, since it obviously isn’t. I think publishers as members ought to have a different status, perhaps publisher pages, like author pages.

My own declaration: I worked for Doubleday for quite a long time years ago, Great company. Pay well and promote fast. So well in fact I was able to go sailing around the world and never went back to work. So it’s nothing personal.

But I’m a reader and bookseller now and books do not make much money. I make money from repeat customers so when I promote books I have to tell them the truth and not just 5* advertising. I rely on advance reviews to get sales of new hardback books and when a publisher and a load of reviews are playing fast and loose like this I can’t trust their reviews.

I gave up ever again ordering self-published authors’ books because so many of the reviews reflected the desire of the reviewer to get more free books and not at all the content of the book meaning a lot of disappointed customers who would complain the book had been crap. I don’t want the traditional publishers to go this way too.

A note: I have friends who review only or mostly ARCS. They always declare that and they write really good reviews but not necessarily positive ones and they are in the minority.

Comment:  This review was deleted by Goodreads.  It is apparently against their ToS  which is then fair enough, I contravened the rules. But what rule?  It seems more likely Doubleday complained as it had more likes than any other review of this book and so appeared at the top of the reviews list. I’m not particularly upset about it, but I am a bit put out that I lost a long, 65 comment, discussion afterwards. 

The book now has over 140 and all freebies, every one. It has an average of over 4.  I appreciate that this is to create a buzz for the book, and it might help sell them, but it is damn fake.  If everyone had to declare it was a freebie in the first sentence and Doubleday had a publisher page, everything would be transparent, but the way it is done, it looks like a cynical marketing campaign endorsed by Goodreads.  

I do really want to read the book, and I will order it at the earliest opportunity, I’m not put off the author by the marketing tactics of the publisher.

 

 

Is Fahrenheit 451 the temperature at which Kindles melt?

27 October, 2013

17470674This book is about censorship by book burning. Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which paper burns. This review is about reading Fahrenheit 451 or any other book considered controversial by any group at all and the future of censorship in the marketplace.

Amazon, GrAmazon, is redefinining our experience of literature! Amazon has evaded having to pay tax and comply with labour laws in many countries, in many US states. Now it is getting around the various laws that protect free speech in order to define what people may or may not read purely for the sake of making Even More Money. America is a capitalist country, Amazon is only ‘living the dream’ and taking it to the extreme of that cliche, power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely. The power of the monopoly.

For Goodreads, comments and shelves are to be self-censored under pain of summary deletion of anything that offends GR, because it is off-topic or criticises the author. Especially, or perhaps only, if the author is one of the Stgrb whose genius seems to be in their ability to generate negative publicity. Which is of course at the root of it. Since my reviews are generally snippets of my life, they are mostly off-topic, however they do not offend GR and so they still stand. So from this I gather that to offend GrAmazon in any way puts your work at risk of deletion. ‘Offence’ is always going to be “off-topic”. What stunningly clever lawyer thought that one up, it covers everything!

The world of books already for many people defined by Amazon will also in the future be limited by them into the boundaries Amazon sets. At the moment they are deleting books with overtly sexual titles and others with sexual content they don’t approve of. And should Amazon decide to make what they think is appropriate retroactive, well no-one actually owns a Kindle book, it is only rented, and I am sure in the terms of the rental there is a little tiny bit which says they can alter the words “if necessary” or perhaps replace the entire book by another (sanitized) edition.

Most people now, when they think of Eeyore, think of Disney’s loveable soft-toy donkey and have no idea of the original irascible, cynical, loner of a character that A.A. Milne wrote. Sickly-sweet Disney is all about profits. It is so much better to have a happy ending, all-American accents and nothing to offend the parents so everything is rewritten to fit those parameters and so these stories pass into folk history with their literary origins forgotten. Imagine if the Little Mermaid had ended as in the original – the Mermaid has the choice between murdering the prince’s new wife or committing suicide! So it was rewritten and it is the rewritten version that has become the standard.

How soon before books featuring paedophilia, rape and violence in a positive light are banned or reworked? Nabokov’s Lolita won’t be first on the firing line, Neither would the Q’uran with Muhammed marrying a 9 year old, and the Bible so full of threats, violence and murder. These books are too well-known to mess with, but self-published authors – they are on the frontline. Nenia is one of the first casualties

A couple of things to read, Nenia’s blog and her 100-book giveaway. And a review that is not at all on-topic but about the repression of books even today, Animal Farm

And then with Amazon’s domination of the SPA market, the eBook market and the world’s biggest bookclub, Goodreads you can forget any laws enshrining freedom of expression in books, because if it doesn’t pass Amazon’s ideas of what is right and fit to promote profits, it won’t be published by them. Publish it any other way, and who will hear of it? Did the books still burn if the people there who saw them on fire had no means to tell anyone else? Did Goodreads censorship really happen if only 1,000 people knew and 19,999,000 don’t? 

So censorship is not just deleting, it is making sure that no one knows there is any form of censorship in operation – firstly by threatening people so they self-censor and secondly by limiting drastically the number of people who know about it. Oh the irony if this review is deleted.

What we need is another book company to break Amazon’s monopoly, but it won’t happen, Amazon will just buy it. I have no solution to this problem. I forsee a sort of electronic version of Russian samizdat for those ‘in the know’, for the other 19,999,000 well they say you can’t miss what you’ve never had. 

All hail capitalism without controls.

The original review on BookLikes.

 

The Painted Veil

23 September, 2013
99664

UPDATE:  I’ve just had an email from GR informing me that this review was flagged and deleted. I am sorry to lose the comment thread. However, what was interesting was that GR did read the review as they said that they do regularly check Fiverr for this paid review thing and were even now investigating two people. I reposted the review minus the controversial content. I don’t know if it is visible to everyone or only friends, but then again, I don’t really care.

 ***

This is a fake review. It does not reference the author at all except to say he could write rather brilliantly and I did enjoy the book. But let’s get on with the fake review.
For those who do not belong to Feedback group, there is a massive thread devoted to GR’s new policy (rolled out Friday, of course) of deleting all reviews that reference the author negatively. They are being deleted without informing people until afterwards apparently. But is it just some reviewers who behave badly (in the eyes of Goodreads, not mine) or are some authors doing even worse?

So I posted this in Feedback and I’m posting it here as a fake review because I want people to be aware of this rather pernicious and low way that a tiny minority of authors are availing themselves of.

This site Fiverr is offering for sale reviews, likes, etc to be posted on Goodreads. Obviously no-one but authors are going to pay for these services which go from $5. Some of the people offering the services say they are Goodreads Librarians.

These are the two most interesting imo, mark-as-read-rate-and-review-your-book-in-goodreads-and-become-fan 37 people have availed themselves of this service to date.

and

Add your book and write your own review for me to submit for only $5. This one has had 80 takers so far.

Searching for “Goodreads Amazon Book Reviews” brings up 11,297 people offering services related to those key words. Some people are offering to vote up (on Amazon) a book review from 50+ accounts.

This is a typical service:

Do you want to increase the sales of your book?
Leverage your product’s sales with GoodReads’ Social Networking and watch the growth.

I will mark your book as read.
I will rate it 5 stars (or any rating you want).
I will post a review for a boost on SEO
I will become fan of the author
Add it to a list of your choice

All for $5 !!!

I will re create the process with a different account +$5
I will add or vote your book on 10 extra lists +$5
I will add or vote your book on 20 extra lists,10 with one account, 10 with a different one +$10

I hope Goodreads will take this as seriously as it is negative reviews about authors. Because otherwise it is going to seem very much as if no criticism of authors will be allowed, but having them pay for reviews, listopia votes, likes, fans etc to be posted is acceptable. That is worse in my view because these things are meant to mislead people into thinking people genuinely liked the book and wrote a good review. The reviews that go off about the author are all reactive. The reviewers have written negative but genuine reviews and the authors (or sometimes their agents) have reacted badly to them on GR or elsewhere and then the reviews are rewritten to include the authors behaviour and possibly includes their other books. But which is worse, paying for fake reviews, likes and listopia or reacting by posting a negative review to an author’s bad behaviour?

The first is designed to make as much money as possible for the author, the second is a storm in a teacup review that has to compete against all the other reviews, positive and negative for attention. And how do we know that these authors had genuinely good reviews, maybe their bad behaviour extended to purchasing them?

Please note, I think only a teeny tiny percentage of authors would go in for such a cynical manipulation of GR like this. I don’t think the majority would stoop this low by any means.

So there you have it, fake review! (Which I will delete at some time in the future and write a proper one of this very fevered, almost malarial-swampy book that was an excellent read).

This is the real book review

This book is about the time when society women didn’t work, especially not in the hot and fetid colonies, and this was set in Hong Kong. They sat at home and painted their nails and dreamed of love in the afternoon and sometimes they did it too. Kitty did, she had an affair and her husband found out. He was a good man, as she was to find out, but once crossed, his soul was dark with thoughts of the ultimate revenge – death, either socially or in reality.

He gave his wife a choice, divorce, which would mean the end of her career as a socialite with pretty party dresses, passionate lovers and invitations to all the best balls in town. Or, if she could persuade her married lover to divorce his wife, he would allow that. But the married lover, typical of the species ditched the paramour and kept the wife. So it was either the social ignominy of divorce or she could go with him, a doctor, to sort out a cholera epidemic on mainland China where she might catch and die of the disease herself. She went.

And eventually, her character grew and her soul was transformed as she found a higher calling in nursing children and admiration for her well-respected if unlovable husband. Pregnant, she told him she didn’t know if it was his or her lover’s but it mattered not, because the husband got written out at this point in a touching deathbed scene.
She returns to Hong Kong, now lodging with her previous paramour and his wife, a heroine and tragic widow, but blots her copy book briefly by one more go-round with the ex-lover. Disgusted with herself she returns to the UK and finding her mother has died, sets herself up to support her father and accompanies him to the Caribbean island where he is to become the resident Chief Justice.

There she will dedicate herself to her father and to bringing up the as-yet unborn child. And that’s where the book ends.

What the book do

esn’t say is that the ex-pat society in the Caribbean is every bit as entertaining as Hong Kong and there is a great deal less poverty and sickness. Less white women gives rarity value even unto the sullied, and in any case, less attention to social mores is paid in tropical climes. I’m sure she got back up on that social roundabout again, but that’s for our imagination.

A good book, an odd book for its time giving a lot of power and play to women’s sexuality, but dividing both the men and women into good/celibate (more or less) and sexually active (bad, bad bad). I haven’t seen the film of it, but it’s ideal for a modern remake with a hot young star and plenty of sex scenes