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Melissa Mead
Posted on Friday, December 31, 2004 - 12:29 pm:   

Dear Doctors:

I really must protest. Having received a copy of your Guide as a Christmas present, I now find myself subject to outbreaks of amusement, at times escalating to the point of unrestrained hilarity. And I have yet to pass the Introduction...

This is quite irresponsible of you. You DO realize, do you not, that you could be responsible for a wave of mass entertainment, perhaps of epidemic proportions?

Shocking...
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Dr. Jay Caselberg
Posted on Friday, December 31, 2004 - 02:36 pm:   

We did jointly see some cases of Unrestrained Hilarity, but our joint opinion was that this is a mere symptom rather than a fully fledged disease on its own.

Yrs. Dr. Caselberg
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Jetse
Posted on Friday, December 31, 2004 - 09:44 pm:   

"Humour, the familiar saying goes, is subjective." An opinion. Not from a doctor, but from a lowly scribbler, whose latest novel won both the BSFA and Arthur C. Clarke Awards. "The single joke in the book is similar to the much better ones in Ripping Yarns."

It seems that the outbreak of hilarity is not quite unrestrained in all quarters.

Full review here: http://books.guardian.co.uk/reviews/sciencefiction/0,6121,1376149,00.html
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Melissa Mead
Posted on Saturday, January 01, 2005 - 06:02 am:   

It appears that the reviewer (perhaps a test subject for antidotes to Unrestrained Hilarity?) has overdosed on Literal-Minded Gravity.

Poor fellow. This can become quite a burden to bear. He'll obviously need extensive therapy, such as a few rounds of Beyond Balderdash and trips to Web sites like this one:

http://www.fortunecity.com/roswell/spells/260/medical_humor.htm
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dr. yates
Posted on Saturday, January 01, 2005 - 07:25 am:   

Jetse -- It seems the reviewer in question did enjoy some of the entries -- oh yes -- only those of his personal friends and associates and all the rest were found wanting. I should think this points to a certain disease itself.
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JV
Posted on Saturday, January 01, 2005 - 07:30 am:   

Okay, let's stop the snarking about on both sides. Fact is, the Guide was set up to be both humorous and serious. Chris Priest thought they were all supposed to be funny. Well, they weren't. He's entitled to his opinion. I'm entitled to disagree. End of story.

JeffV
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Dr. Yeager
Posted on Saturday, January 01, 2005 - 07:32 am:   

Since when has winning the Arthur Clarke made anyone an expert on humor? The BSFA, yes, but not the Clarke.

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Jason Williams
Posted on Saturday, January 01, 2005 - 09:11 am:   

I want anyone who finds humor in Steve Tem's disease (about the wasting away of children) to stay far, far away from me.
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Brendan
Posted on Saturday, January 01, 2005 - 02:09 pm:   

My entry was not meant to be funny. Actually, when submitting, I did not even think it was supposed to be a humorous book. But of course this is another case of needing to classify things so we can feel comfortable in the world we live.

"I read."

"What do you read."

"I like horror."

"Oh, I only read literature."

"Literature? You mean like Shakespeare?"

"No. I don't understand him. I read the Da Vinci code."

"Oh!"

"Yes. I will read anything if lots of other people read it."

"That is always the best way to know if something is good or not."
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JV
Posted on Saturday, January 01, 2005 - 03:41 pm:   

No, Brendan, your entry isn't funny--although it's bloody brilliant! The Guide was started as an exercise in alternative modes of storytelling, with the understanding that it would be a venue for *some* humor entries, and that the gestalt of the book would be best supported by a mix of the serious and the humorous.

JeffV
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Brendan
Posted on Sunday, January 02, 2005 - 01:08 am:   

Thanks Jeff!

Well, for me good fiction is often sort of a blend of emotions: Funny, Sad, Horrible, Uplifting. That is the way real life is anyhow--and the best fiction often reflects this.
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Rhys
Posted on Tuesday, January 04, 2005 - 02:50 am:   

The best blurb of anybody's book I've ever seen was the Times review of John Sladek's *Roderick* book. The blurb just said, "Hilarious and serious."... That's a blurb that equally well applies to the Thackery volume and to all the fiction I like.

Like Brendan said, a blend of emotions is crucial, and all sorts of contradictions can work too. Absurdity can be a vessel for unbearable poignancy, etc.
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Lowly scribe
Posted on Tuesday, January 04, 2005 - 06:01 am:   

Just as it's a mistake for the writer(s) to respond to a negative review, so it's probably also a mistake for a reviewer to respond to negative feedback on a negative review. But I can't let the slur from "Dr Yates" stand uncorrected.

He/she says that I "enjoyed" only the entries written by personal friends and associates. The review mentions four contributors by name, and praises them: Langford and Calder are indeed personal friends. But I barely know Neil Gaiman, and if "Dr Yates" thinks Mike Moorcock is my personal friend, then we're living in a parallel universe. The insinuation is false. The book contains many other entries by people I consider to be my friends, or at least friendly acquaintances.

What "Dr Yates" seems to be saying is that a review should only praise complete strangers. The corollary of that is what? That one should only do a hatchet job on friends?

While I'm here -- the blurb on the back uses or quotes the words "hilarious," "spoof," "demented," "funny," "ribald," "witty" and "absurd". The review slip says the book is "hysterically funny" (and more). It's therefore fair game to judge the book by its alleged humorous content, and if necessary find it wanting. Not many laughs in there, chaps, so you got the thumbs down. But there's some excellent writing too, and I ran up the flag for that. The book was given a near-full-page review in a national newspaper with an audited readership of two million. Can't be all bad.

Cheer up! And Happy New Year ...

Chris
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Dr. Perplexed
Posted on Tuesday, January 04, 2005 - 06:14 am:   

"Not many laughs in there, chaps, so you got the thumbs down." you say and yet you also say that other reviewers found it hilarious. So in your opinion it wasn't funny, but others have found it funny. I don't see the point of your response. You already got your say in a national newspaper with a readership of two million, right?

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JV
Posted on Tuesday, January 04, 2005 - 06:35 am:   

Hey, Chris Priest didn't like a book that many other reviewers have liked. It's not like he stole somebody's Christmas, so chill out.

Who is right or wrong will only be revealed in the fullness of time (he said pompously). Majority opinions, looking at it dispassionately, are often as wrong as minority opinions. Fact is, the Guardian review increased sales regardless of its content. Chris did mention things he liked about the book, he did indicate other reviewers had really liked the book, and he indicated he wasn't sure disease was something to poke fun at. So, with all of that in play, I think a discerning reader of the Guardian could still easily tell whether the book was to their tastes or not.

I'm glad that people feel passionately about this book, but Chris is right--accusations about bias are unfounded and a bit much.

JeffV
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Rhys
Posted on Tuesday, January 04, 2005 - 10:45 am:   

Yes, bad reviews, grumpy reviews -- even i{honest} bad/grumpy reviews -- are all part of the game...

My own feeling was one of delight when I came across the review because it was a review in a newspaper I was reading anyway. This is the first time I haven't had to seek out a review. The review came to me -- excellent!

And I didn't think it was such a negative review either...
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Brendan
Posted on Tuesday, January 04, 2005 - 11:53 pm:   

Yes. The most important thing is that a reviewer is honest. A bad review is better than a good review by someone who did not really like the book that much.
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Liz
Posted on Wednesday, January 05, 2005 - 01:56 am:   

>The book contains many other entries by people I consider to be my friends, or at least friendly acquaintances.

Me, for example! :-)

I'm with Brendan. I'd much rather people were honest. I've reviewed friends' books on occasion, mainly for InterZone, and have been both positive and negative - though I have to say that if I really loathed a friend's book, I'd probably pass it on to someone else to review.

Anyway, I'm with dear, dear Oscar on the subject of publicity. I'm just glad the paper saw fit to review it, given the attitude here to anything genre.
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steve r
Posted on Wednesday, January 05, 2005 - 08:50 am:   

Funny,I didn't read Dr Yates' comments the way Chris Priest did, maybe because I've just finished reading Lynn Truss' SHOOT, EATS AND LEAVES, a witty and enlightening book (despite New York carping bloody Times) on punctuation. Here's the quote:

"Jetse -- It seems the reviewer in question did enjoy some of the entries -- oh yes -- only those of his personal friends and associates and all the rest were found wanting. I should think this points to a certain disease itself."

I assumed the lack of a comma after 'associates' was not a mistake, and that Dr Yates was ironically DEFENDING Priest, saying he had been equally critical of friend, foe, and unknown alike, and that the 'disease' mentioned was in fact the reviewer's 'painful' honesty! Now I feel disappointed.

Without defending book or reviewer, I do feel that reading it all in one go is NOT a good idea at all. It was never intended be be read that way.


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Dr L Williams
Posted on Wednesday, January 05, 2005 - 10:02 am:   

I actually couldn't read it all in one go. I'd come over all funny.
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Dr. Turgid
Posted on Wednesday, January 05, 2005 - 08:03 pm:   

I came all over and was funny.

Dr. Turgid.

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