Kantian Reading Fail

06/01/2016 by syrbal-labrys

1sugar shitI joke about quite often, that I am a Kantian Existentialist in love with Frederich Nietzsche.  But it really is only half a joke.  I really DO admire Immanuel Kant, even though his ethical road map only is helpful choosing between a good and an evil.  If two evils are the only choice, one has to have some sort of pragmatic, often utilitarian “plan B” in the back mental pocket.  I am definitely an existentialist — we create ourselves through our choices, even our unacknowledged choices.  And Nietzsche?  Well, anyone SO soundly thumping monotheism on the head makes me swoon in spite of conflict with Mr. Kant.  So obviously, I think deeply about my choices and my ethical choices at all times.

This complicates my life more than one might think.  Even extending to my reading choices at times.  I’ve rarely been a big devourer of fiction, for instance, since leaving my teens.  I do enjoy science fiction because of the bizarre, uncanny semi-predictive capacity it possesses.  I don’t care for most mysteries because my analytical background means I’ve usually solved the mystery before the halfway point, this is boring – as you can imagine.  I’ve been doing  bit more fiction of late, enjoying some and finding other books utterly a waste of time.

Most difficult, however?  Reading the novels of an online acquaintance.  The very first one was on a topic I frankly find trite and overdone to the point of needing to drive myself with Kant’s whip made of duty.  I didn’t care for the book much, and I was not inspired by the writing.  But I did a harmless review, dutifully, on my blog (EP, iirc, not here) and sent the link to the writer.  He did not reply.  But some great while later, he complained because I had not reviewed him “on Amazon.”  Well, I don’t shop Amazon and do not have an account there.  Thus I told him.  Then he thought I should go back over months of nigh daily blogging to find the link for him again.  I am not his secretary and did not reply to this demand.

Recently, I began on another book he kindly sent to me.  I do like it better than the first and told him so.  But for me, the book was not without issues.  I know all writers of historical fiction will update language use, even the 19th century forms are very cumbersome and odd to modern readers.  But there are standards — having a mid 19th century person use the word “Neanderthal” as an insult when at the story’s timeline the discovery of Neanderthals was not even scientifically verified or particularly well known, struck me as over the top.  I so told him in a email.

And he didn’t like it.  I should “be ready to defend my criticism”.  Oh, my.  Well, if that is how a writer responds to a reader.  To a “friend” as he relentlessly addresses me?  Worse, to a possible editor?  To a publisher, perhaps?  In the past, I’ve offered what help and support I can to this very embattled man.  I’ve explained that certain fictional genres and topics simply do not warm me.  I’ve been an editor in the  past.  Mind you a lot of readers more casually will have started such a book and simply gone “Ewww — I hate how he puts black speech in a crude ‘slave’ vernacular, but not most white speech,” and thrown it down.  Perhaps I am unusually careful about matters of consistency that way?

But it was as if blinders fell from my eyes.  It did explain why so few people reviewed his novels anywhere at all.  He is tender about criticism and friends didn’t want to give offense, nor did they want to “damn with faint praise.”  So they didn’t review, perhaps?  They were too embarrassed to tell him their reservations perhaps?  Or perhaps, like me, they did so and got a quick aggressively defensive response that made them wonder why they even tried to drive themselves through the book at all.

Every creative person loves their own creation.  I absolutely understand this.  But that should not mean to a writer, that every word is loved just as it comes, by a reader.  I blocked this writer from my phone and mail.  I will not communicate with him further.  I will not read his work in the future.  I find his titles oddly similar to other works in a way that could get him into legal pissing contests if he made enough of a wave to be noticed.  I worry about him.  But clearly, I cannot really help him any more.  So I failed at my Kantian reading; even duty cannot drive me onward on a dead horse.



The name of this blog, and my Dreamwidth blog, Herlander Refugee, is taken from a 1915 feminist novel "Herland". It makes my heart sing that modern women are experimenting with creation of a new "Herland"! Yes, comments are closed. Anyone who just MUST reach me can do so at syrbal6 at gmail dot com.

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