Thursday, November 24, 2011

Can You Say Non Sequitur?

Anne McCaffrey is dead. Her NY Times obituary contains the following sentence:

"But the immense commercial success of Dragonriders of Pern more than outweighed any criticism."

Hmm, so what exactly is the equation that balances the errors critics spot (one critic accused her of "awkward similes" and "formulaic descriptions") against sales? One thousand copies sold negates one awkward simile?


  1. Let's hope whoever wrote that obit never sees the sales figures for Battlefield Earth.

  2. The equation is that calling yourself a critic doesn't mean your opinion on anything is more valid than anyone elses, and thinking otherwise is a great example of being a snob.

    Specifically *one* sale to *one* person who doesn't give a ratsass about "awkward similies" and finds other beauty in the book negates all the holier than thou nitpicking critics in the world.

  3. So someone who actually takes the time to learn about a field and painstakingly builds up expertise in it is a snob! This is ignorant philistinism masquerading as anti-snobbery, Avram.

  4. They're not snobs (always) because a lot of critics are very humble.

    I respect what critics do. In fact they do me a great practical service as often I decide whether or not I will purchase something or not based on criticism. The more informed and in line with my own thinking I deem the critic, the more likely I will weigh his opinion more heavily in my decision.

    However I stand by my statement that all the critics in the world saying a book is bad for blah blah blah does not actually make the book bad.

    For example I am sure that many people could write a very intelligent critique of Mozart's music. It is very possible that the critical consensus on Mozart's music could be that it is terrible.

    This does not make the music terrible.

    And to relate to the original thingo, if thousands other non critics said Mozart's music is good, then maybe this would be a sign that the critics are out of step with what good actually is.

    I will admit that I am guilty of thinking that you think that if a critic says something is bad it must be bad. Maybe you do not think this.

  5. "However I stand by my statement that all the critics in the world saying a book is bad for blah blah blah does not actually make the book bad."

    Of course, Avram, critics saying a book is bad do not, thereby, make it bad. But if they all think it is bad, that is a fairly good indication that it really is bad. But not an infallible indication!



"If your approach to mathematics is mechanical not mystical, you're not going to go anywhere." -- Nassim Nicholas Taleb