I first discovered this idea on Matt Mikalatos’ blog and found it hilarious. Who, for instance, would give a 1-star review to Green Eggs and Ham? Surely only a madman. Or someone who’s experienced a bad case of food poisoning due to the consumption of moldy ham?
Anyway, I started looking up some of my favorite authors on Amazon and found that they, too, suffered from absurd 1-star reviews. Here’s one from “A Customer” for Leonard Cohen’s Beautiful Losers:
I had to read this book for a university course onCanadian novels, so I couldn’t throw it away or burn it as I would have liked to do. It is without a doubt the most painful and difficult book I’ve ever had to read. It is without question Cohen is a master at what he does–not just anyone could leave such a lasting distate in my mouth more than six years after I read the book! However, the subject matter, the style, the imagery, and especially the various kinds of loveless sex…everything seems to feel terribly sick and twisted, and the overall impression the book leaves is one of profound and lasting oppression. [emphasis mine, typos his]
I appreciate this reader’s honesty, but does he often stage book burnings? Should we presume he is the type of reader who is persistently petitioning libraries to ban books as well? Or was this book a special case? He doesn’t clarify, so I fear the worst.
He also titled his review “YUCK!!!!” Do the four exclamation points stress exactly how much he disliked the book? How many times he would’ve liked to burn it? The mind boggles.
One reviewer also seemed to misunderstand the rating system generally, doling out only 1 star, but then describing the book as a “brave exploration” and exhorting readers to “come and take a peek, open your flowers.” My confusion knows no bounds. Who doesn’t get the concept that 1 = Amazon’s lowest rating and 5 = the highest? It’s not golf, where the lowest score wins, people.
I’ll admit that Beautiful Losers is not for everybody, so I’m kind of surprised there are only four (technically three, if we subtract the guy who didn’t get the rating system) 1-star reviews of the book. Canada Reads voted this book off in the very first week of the competition back in 2005, despite compliments from all of the judges on how timeless and wonderful it was, saying that it was “too challenging” for the “average reader.” Sure, if by “challenging” you mean “awesome and mind-blowing.” Read it again. It’s got a sentient vibrator, for fuck’s sake. If that isn’t brilliant, I don’t know what is.