Saturday, February 11, 2012

infra dig

I recently read a discussion between Nathan Englander and Jonathan Safran Foer in the Guardian (they were talking about their new edition of the Haggadah, translated by NE and edited by JSF). JSF said he did not read reviews. A fortiori I'm guessing he does not check out GoodReads and then dig down to the stats on ratings. If one is going to indulge in this undignified practice I can't help feeling the best plan is to keep quiet about it. But! We have data! (You know my weakness for data.)

Lightning Rods was rejected by 17 editors when Bill Clegg sent it out; it was rejected by another 4 or 5 years earlier; this looks like a unanimous rating of <= 2 stars.

Here is a dear little bar chart from GoodReads:

This isn't quite what I would expect the distribution to look like if people either loved it or hated it, which (editorial consensus notwithstanding) seemed to be the response among people who read it pre-publication, but there's certainly much more variation than among readers of The Last Samurai:

I contemplate the fact, though, that many of the people who HATED the book are of my mother's generation - and my mother HATES COMPUTERS.  She tried e-mail, grudgingly, for years; six years into the trial she had not gone online once to check out a website.  So she would certainly not sign up for GoodReads; if the sort of person likely to hate the book is also the sort of person unlikely to sign up for GoodReads, this would naturally affect the distribution.

How much easier life would have been, I can't help thinking, anyway, if the distribution among editors had matched that of readers on GoodReads. Or rather -- it's so complicated with editors. Bill said 16 out of 17 editors thought the book was funny and well written but they could not see publishing it, which maybe means they anticipated most readers giving it a rating <= 2 stars. Would an anticipated distribution like that of GoodReads have tipped the balance? (How much easier life would have been had the distribution of editors anticipating a distribution like that on GoodReads matched the distribution on GoodReads . . .) But regrets are fruitless. On with the show.

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