Today, I randomly pulled up some well-respected novels on Amazon.com and checked out one-star reviews. Here’s a few samples:
“How the hell can anyone consider this a great novel? It addresses no deep themes, has no dramatic tension
and no moving or even likable characters.” – john smithers “smithersj” on Lolita by Nabokov
“…reading this book was one of the most painful literary experiences I have ever endured.” – A Customer on The Left Hand of Darkness by Le Guin
“This book was very dull and boring. I was made to read it in English and I soon realized not far in that it was very boring. It’s not a good book for highschool readers. It is written in very dull and boring text.” – “imherein85” on Great Expectations by Dickens (I guess he thought it was boring, what do you think?)
“…one of the most boring books ever.” – Heidi on Lord of the Flies by Golding
“Possibly the dullest book I’ve ever read…” – Stratman “Stratman” on Lord of the Rings by Tolkein
“…one of the most pathetic, self-absorbent pieces of writing ever published.” – A Customer on The Bell Jar by Plath
Most of the books above are well-respected or even considered “classics.” Many of them are often taught in schools. Yet, there are people out there who do not like them. Believe it or not, some of these people even have valid, well articulated, and credible criticisms of the books in question.
Right or wrong, many current popular novels and novelists are often blasted by snotty literati amateurs and the Harold Bloom wannabes. (See: http://southernweirdo.livejournal.com/81934.html)
In the end, these things are always subjective. There is no such thing as an ‘absolute’ when it comes to a book being good or bad (except, perhaps, in those situations where the writer does not have even the most rudimentary understanding of basic sentence structure, spelling, or cohesive narrative). For example, I disliked The Mote in God’s Eyes, it did not suit my taste, but many SF fans I know consider it “The” classic first contact novel.
So next time you get a bad review or an editor rejects a story, keep this in mind and keep plugging away. If you really want to write, you can’t worry about pleasing everyone, just try to please yourself by writing the best book you can. When you get a bad review or rejection (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14453550), keep in mind that you’re in pretty good company.