Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Reading The Reviews of My Book

I don't do it very often -- and I probably shouldn't do it at all -- but yesterday I dropped by to read the Amazon reviews of my book, A Bad Attitude: A Novel from the Vietnam War, to see what people are saying. The average customer review score, according to Amazon, is four-and-a-half stars out of five. A bunch of people loved it, but if I read those five-star reviews too often it'd just give me a swelled head.

There are three people, though, who wrote "hated-it!" reviews and gave it only one star.

Well, in a quote that is usually attributed to George Bernard Shaw, but was actually from a guy named Max Reger,"I am sitting in the smallest room in my house. I have your review in front of me. Soon it will be behind me."

My favorite of these Hated-Its was one entitled "Disgrace and dis honors [sic] Vietnam combat vets", in which someone calling himself Sgt Maj EMP says:

(Note: All of this is exactly how it appears in the original--I didn't edit it at all; you'll see my comments in red inset between brackets)
First, did not finish. Couldn't take it after 200+ pages.
Fragging? Want to talk about fragging? Lifers got publicity but in the field, folk like Dennis didn't finish their tours [Sounds like a personal threat to me]. Anyone who read this crap and was there can figure out why.
USMC, 67-68-69. Hill and border fights, northern I corps. Ton of issues in rear if you ever got there. Grunts rarely got there. Never had more than 120 - 125 people in what was supposed to be a 200 man company. Had to have damn good excuse or shot to get there [Unclear what this means...]. Then you get to meet real heroes like Dennis, I guess.[Nothing in my book paints me as a "hero"] Telling it like it was...... BULLS***. [How would you know? You were in the field and not in "the rear"]
Race? Huh? Take a good look at 60's America. I think there were a ton of race riots [So? There was one at Long Binh Jail as well; it's in this book -- what do those others have to do with whether or not that happened?] , with a whole lotta other stuff, going on then. What's the matter Dennis ? A few brothers hanging together got you and some other whiteys scared? [Where did I say I was scared of black people?] I'm white, Caucasian , German Polish , Chi-town, west side. What's the fuss? Some stuff going around but hell, there were a ton of NVA that had us outgunned, outmanned and they tried to kill us anyway possible. And you want to talk about race, lifers, drugs, fragging.... all the stuff that people that dissed us way back then to now [Are you saying that none of that happened?]. Vietnam is the most misunderstood and historically inaccurately portrayed war [Because of people like you going all Rambo on it since 1982] -- down to our written history [Written by academic historians in accordance with historical facts.] -- because of all the Dennis s that did and did not serve.[Not clear what this means...]
Speaking of lifers, yeah, a ton of s*** who didn't know which way was up. But I also got to serve with some SNCOs who did WW II and Korea. They taught me a lot -- I was only 19 then. They were my mentors, my heroes. I've used their life lessons every day after. [Again, so what? They weren't around where the events of this book took place   -- our lifers were pretty much all dicks.]
As soon as my time in Nam was up -- yes, I spent 20 months there in a rifle company -- I got out. After a few years and dealing with folk who give 5 stars to this kind of sensationalized crap, I rejoined. Needed to be around some real folk -- you take the good and the bad. [Do you really?]
Okay, let's dial it back a little there, Rambo. I can guess from the fact that you have been out of the service for what, 30 years, and you still insist on being called by your rank -- Sergeant-MAJOR -- that you were likely the kind of dick NCO that draftees hated. By your own admission you spent all your time in the field, so how can you presume to even know what was going on in "the rear"? "Disgrace and dis honors [sic] the...combat vets"? There aren't even any future "combat vets" in my book. ???!!!

But opinions are like assholes, everybody's got one. Sorry if this book didn't adequately provide for your needs and wants and desires, Sarge.

But, to be charitable to you here, you are in your dotage (I'm the same age as you and I know dotage when I see it...) and likely read only the blood-and-guts war stories that shore up your own fantasies (see How Do We Know What We Know? from earlier this month).

At least you claim you got 200+ pages into it before you realized that. Sarge, I don't believe that you didn't you read any of the other reviews before you bought it. It's not like you didn't have a clue going in as to what this book is about. From your comments, though, it looks like you tried to read a completely different book -- I don't think you actually "get it"...

But, as I've often said, everybody is "Rambo" in his own war movie.And that's you, Sarge.

So, Sarge -- 'scuse me, Sergeant-MAJOR -- old buddy, know this: Since -- fact -- it took nine men in "the rear" to support one grunt like you in the field, I'd say that my book is the better description of what Vietnam was "really" like for 90% of the soldiers who served there than all those blood-and-guts books you love.

I was a draftee and I had the same chance as anybody else -- like 80% of my fellow soldiers in my basic training platoon -- to end up in the infantry. I lucked out and got sent on an alternate path. It's not one that I chose -- nor likely would have chosen for myself -- but it was my duty and I did it, and I'm proud of that fact. I am frankly getting a little tired of all you fucking latter-day combat-snob neo-Rambos looking down your noses at REMFs ("Rear Echelon Mother Fuckers") like me.

Okay, diatribe over. Let's get back to the real world. And from now on I hope I will be a little more philosophical when it comes to mentally-challenged and thinking-impaired reviewers.


Katy Anders said...

It's amazing how you can have all those GOOD reviews and get stuck on the bad ones! (It happens to me with my writing, work, and life, too.)

I won't say anything good about your writing until I actually read the book, though, Sgt Maj EMP might be right, after all (okay, probably not)...

Farnsworth68 said...

I know, right? Thanks, KA.
Oh, and "ha ha"...

BadTux said...

Little known fact: 99% of Vietnam era veterans were hip deep in the mud in the field, down to their last clip of ammo with a thousand VC in front of them and most of their platoon dead behind them, when over the hill came....

It doesn't matter if they served in West Germany in the motor pool and never saw a speck of mud for their whole career, you go in the VFW, and there they are. Propping up the bar talkin' like they were the only thing that kept South Vietnam from being conquered in 1969.

I suspect this here "Sgt Maj" legend in his own mind has about as much combat experience as the rest of that bunch. Spent his time in the military dusting some officer's chest cabbage or somethin'. I've noticed that the real combat vets don't seem to go around puffing themselves up about the fact they got shot at and probably killed someone. The hotter the air, the warmer the bullshit underneath it. Just sayin'.

double nickel said...

I'll bet he'a a laugh riot down and the Army and Navy.

Farnsworth68 said...

Thanks, guys. I really should not have let the fucker get under my skin as much as I did. I should at least have waited until I cooled off a little...