Recently seen on the citizens review board of Amazon.com, regarding three different volumes:
The popularity of this book stupifies me—do people like it because they think they are supposed to?
This book was a peice [sic] o’… you know and wasn’t worth the time or effort to read.
Classic or not, I don’t care for this book.
These reviews are for major, major bestsellers, and so perhaps you were thinking they refered to the latest Tom Clancy, James Patterson, Nora Roberts, or Harold Robbins, even though the old cokehead died a few years ago.
But no. These (real) reviews are for Goodnight Moon, Harold and the Purple Crayon, and Babar, respectively. Yes, classic children’s books. These reviewer-parents say the books are of inferior literary quality and are not appropriate for our nation’s youth—I kid you not.
Things only get better from there. Curious George is panned because it promotes cruelty to animals. Other experts slam The Very Hungry Caterpillar because it teaches children to overeat and telling kids that butterflies emerge from cocoons (as opposed to moths) teaches bad science.
Worst of all, my all-time favorite children’s book is taken to the woodshed because it 1) promotes anarchy; 2) will scare children because animals in the book talk and are human-sized; and 3) isn’t about promoting imagination or literacy but is instead a subtle examination of id versus superego and the dynamism of the ego.
I’m sure you realize I’m talking about The Cat in the Hat.
I chanced upon this gems of critical insight after searching for a training potty for Baby-Tot, being that he keeps saying things like "made a poo-poo" and "I’ve got a wee-wee! I’ve got a wee-wee!" Modern parent and writer that I am, I also bought several "how-to" books on helping kids learn how to take a proper dump, and ultimately landed upon the reviews mentioned above.
What is perhaps more odd than the reviews themselves—hating Dr. Seuss is like hating ice cream—is why anyone would bother. Does one really think their review will stop people from buying (and their children loving) Cars and Trucks and Things That Go? In my earlier, feckless days of youth (I was in my mid-thirties), I would post an occasional review on Amazon, mostly of music and movies. I once slammed a well-known music album that I likened to the vomitus that emerges after doing battle with a bad batch of raw seafood.
This is your id on drugs
Why did I embark on this endeavor of nastiness, full well knowing that it would not make one iota of difference in the greater artistic consciousness of the world? I can’t say for sure, but I remember feeling a distinct sense of self-righteousness when considering the work in question: These people love a total piece of donkey dung! They are deluded! They are wrong! I am right! But at least I had reasons for these (admittedly) juvenile criticisms.
The beauty of the Internet is that it gives a voice to all, and the horror of the Internet is that it gives a voice to all. You don’t have to go farther than the comments section of most news Web sites to see the bile; if you really want to feel the hate, go to a sports Web site, scroll the comments section, and see why fans of a certain sports team are inherently inferior to fans of a competing sports team based on the fact the former fans were born in Chicago and the latter in St. Louis.
I carry no brief against the amateur critic, but when some nimrod weighs in and slams, say Great Expectations ("The fool author made it up as he went along") or One Hundred Years of Solitude ("Don’t waste your time or money"), it brings the death of literary fiction that much closer. These claims are in the minority, of course, but that somebody felt their empty thoughts were even worth writing down shows some serious hostility to some of the greatest works of literature, like, ever.
That was exquisitely awful
This is not a grad student expounding on a blog or a well-read civilian actually having insights into the book in question. This is like Rush Limbaugh saying waterboarding is not torture or Wall Street bankers don’t earn enough. Or, more to the point, this is just like Rush Limbaugh.
So if you don’t have anything intelligent to say, just shut the fuck up. Which I really, really wish I could make happen to Rush Limbaugh.