A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament. ~Oscar Wilde

Archive for the ‘WTF Moments’ Category

Judging the reviewer

Who is a review for?books

Of late, there has been a lot of to-do about book reviews being offered for sale, and authors purchasing them. Reading through some of the news about that, I had wondered how pervasive this could possibly be. But I did not lose any sleep over it. My decision to read a book, or not, is seldom based on any review, professional, or friendly. (Thank God! Else I would have read those Grey books! Eew!). So I moved on.

I put my hand up recently to review a book and was asked by the author to put it up on amazon.com, but only if I was able to award it 3 points or above. The request felt absurd, but I was not expecting to dislike the book. When I realised I could not award it 3 stars, I started feeling uncomfortable. I felt that for what it was worth (or not), my opinion of the book should be on the site.

My advisory board said I should put  the review up on Amazon nonetheless.

“Any publicity is good”

“You cannot have a biased set of reviews. What kind of request is that? How can you only put up good reviews?”

Since I had not discussed this before reading the book, I decided to do the right thing by the author, and sent off an email saying that I was unable award the book 3 stars and would not be putting up my review on Amazon. But I did also forward my opinion that  it had been an unethical request.

The author accepted my decision, but asked me the question “Why would you offer to write a review if not to help?” Meaning, I presume, that a negative review will not help sell a book.

It set me thinking. Who is a review intended for? Having been always a reader,  I have always assumed that a review is intended to inform the buyer. Information and a recommendation to fork out the dollars or not. If I am part of a setup where only favourable reviews get seen by prospective buyers, then I feel that I am committing fraud.

There are studies that suggest that a book’s sales does not really depend on its reviews. But it seems to me, that they must have some value. How often do we ask those whose opinions we value: “Do you recommend it?” Very often we are swayed by the recommendation for or against. So had I, by not putting up my opinion on amazon, committed fraud, nevertheless? No one would know about it, but what does it say of my integrity?


NB: For the record, I was not offered, nor did I expect or ask for payment for the review.

The Witch Who Flew in from the West

Wicked: distressing, mischievous, evil, mean, depraved, immoral…

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (The Wicked Years #1) by Gregory Maguire

When I picked up the book at the library, I was excited. Having been the inspiration for a musical, I was expecting it to be quirky, saucy, funny, clever. I thought it would give a story of how the Witch from the West became Wicked. There was always this niggling thought at the back of my mind, “mmnngh! Don’t know whether I will relate to a book that excuses Wickedness due to life’s hard hits.”

But that idea of a musical  loomed large in my mind and I decided to give it a try.

I found it quite Tolkeinesque in its descriptiveness and slow, meandering narration. I believe that is what kept me going. I kept expecting the adventure to start. In Lord of The Rings so much happens it is hard to keep track of everything. I soon realised I had done Tolkein a grave injustice by comparing Maguire’s style to his.


We have a green baby girl whose first word is “horrors”. She grows into a green teenager who is extremely clever, intelligent and in spite of being an outcast because of her skin colour, extremely kind and loving. She grows into a green woman while the reader waits, and waits and WAITS for her to do SOMETHING.

She never does anything, achieve anything, or really learn anything. Growth never occurs. She always is what she always was. Strong, fiercely independent, well read, with a brave and realistic though sometimes incredibly naïve outlook to life, she makes a few half hearted attempts at political activism, and most of the time just seems to wait around for something to happen. Why Wicked? There is not a single wicked bone in her body! Neither is she mischievous. She is so earnest in all her dealings, it is surprising that she does not project prudish. No one who knows her ends up believing her to be wicked. They mostly love her. So, it all remains a bit of a mystery.

Losing himself in myriads of descriptive passages and relating in minute detail what the Witch feels, Gregory Maguire never surfaces long enough to actually make a hero of his protagonist. He never commits the solecism of making his protagonist Wicked due to horrible life circumstances, he shows her capable of rising above every petty evil thrown at her, but neither does he ever take her on an heroic journey.

There are those who will tell you this is a book  with political references, socio-philosophical lessons. There are those who will discuss long and hard about how this book is a political satire. As you can tell, I am not one of them. Please do read it if you are an academic who likes reading obscure references. You may also want to read it if you are incredibly clever in finding meaning in everything.

The others may just want to watch the musical, which I am told, is a hoot! 


PS:Another one of those rare books I did not finish. I read up on what happens at the end, and stopped a few chapters short.

The Locked Trolley

A regular day of shopping. Or so I thought it would be. Get some regular day to day clothes that always seem to reach end of life, get some food and ingredients that always seem to get eaten and head off back home. As I parked the car I realised that I was in the wrong spot for the supermarket, it would be a long trek back pushing a trolley. Shrugging off the thought with another, “It will do me good to push the trolley further” I went off to do my shopping.

140 minutes or so later, there I was pushing the trolley back, laden with groceries and figuring out how best to get to the car. Of course, it involved getting out on to the street and pushing it along the footpath, across a pedestrian
crossing and then across a set of lights further along. All the while within the bounds of the mall, I was just in between two buildings of Westfield, not away, just to a car park within the shopping bounds for this Westfield. Somewhere I have parked often before.

What happened? You guessed it, my trolley decided I was a Bad Woman, trying to run away with it. Down descended the yellow lock and my trolley would not budge. Right as I was going across a driveway from a car park where other, more clever parkers of cars had parked close to Coles.

So here I was, dragging my trolley back to safety and poking underneath it to see why it had locked itself.

A pretty girl asked “Whoa! What happened?”

Giving the trolley a scientific jerk, I said, “the trolley won’t move!”

Her male companion said ”You have to push it.”

!*@!*%! Really?

I decided against answering, and the girl helped me by lifting the trolley and the guy offered helpful hints “it’s locked” “I don’t know” “it’s locked”…

They strolled off after a while.

As I dragged the trolley along to the short distance to the car park, I assumed that something had gone wrong, and that I was unable to unlock it because I am not clever enough. Until another helpful person walked by. “That is locked,” he said. “They do it on purpose. You cannot unlock it, I got caught just like this the other day on the other side.”

“I am just trying to get to the car park!” I wailed. He shrugged and turned away.

Thoroughly disgruntled, I jerked, pushed and pulled the three wheeled and one locked trolley back to close to my car, and then took my things and went home.

Mr Coles, and Mrs. Woolworths, and all the other giant markets who feel the need to protect your trolleys from the big bad gang of trolley thieves please be assured that we are not ALL out to get your trolleys. And we might need to park a little distance away, probably because the car park near the supermarket is full. Probably because we have to go to other shops as well which are a fair distance away from your end of the supermarket. So while you invent ingenuous new ways to stop trolley theft, spare a thought for the vast majority of us who are innocent and honest and desperately want to do some legitimate shopping.


In the meantime please enjoy the Christmas tree from Darwin.



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