I had an all-time first, Gentle Reader.
I make it a point never to review a book I do not like. For one thing, if I don’t like a book, I almost certainly won’t finish it, so how can I possibly critique it?
Beyond that, serious writing, like any creative endeavor, is extremely difficult, while critiquing is all too often a purely destructive act that is far too easy. There are probably many more moronic reviews than there are moronic books, and that’s saying something.
So, if I review a book on this website, it’s because I thought it worthy of your attention. And for the same reason, I routinely post my reviews on Goodreads and on Amazon.
The review in the post immediately preceding this one, a somewhat personal review of Liza Mundy’s Code Girls (the exceptional historical and feminist look at the unsung heroes—or heroines, if you want to get all John Wayne about it—of World War Two) was as positive as I can get. Nor did I consider it offensive in any way: no full-frontal nudity, no explicit threats of violence or mayhem, no advocating wholesale lynching on Capitol Hill (which might just qualify as common sense these days). So picture my confusion when almost instantaneously, literally within probably less than two minutes, I received an email from Amazon telling me my review had violated their guidelines and would not be posted.
Mystified, I reviewed the guidelines and reviewed my review. Nothing. Nor were there any hints in Amazon’s email that might suggest which guideline(s) I had violated. The company apparently adheres to the old adage, “Never apologize, never explain.” (An adage variously attributed to a nineteenth-century Oxford professor, who supposedly added, “Get it over with and let them howl,” and at the other end of the continuum to the authors of the John Wayne movie, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, where the Duke adds, “It’s a sign of weakness.”)
I asked my bride to read the post and give me a lead. Darleen suggested that perhaps, because I discuss encryption and cryptanalysis and the teams that did that work during World War Two, I had somehow tripped some algorithm set up by Amazon and, oh, I don’t know, the NSA or something. After all, the notice came far too quickly for a human to have read the review.
This struck me as extremely unlikely. For one thing, if the NSA hasn’t anything better to do than monitoring scruffy little websites like mine, I would suggest we could make a serious reduction in the national budget deficit by getting rid of that agency entirely and firing everyone there for wasting their time and our money. For another, I doubt very much if the NSA and Amazon are in bed together.
But Darleen’s suggestion led me in the wrong direction, and it wasn’t until last night, in the shower, that the truth came to me.
In the review, I quote the title of the John Lennon song, Woman is the Nigger of the World. And I will give you eight-to-five, Gentle Reader, that is why the review was rejected.
If I am correct, it is proof of the idiocy of politically correct group-think algorithms and politically correct thinking of any kind. For one thing, the lyrics of the song are extremely apposite to the theme of Ms. Mundy’s book. Read both. For another, the title phrase of the song, which is also the hook, was coined by Yoko Ono, who gave credit for it to black author Zora Neale Hurston. (It is actually, if I have my facts right, a distillation of two sentences in Hurston’s novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God.) And finally, if I am right about why Amazon felt my review violated their guidelines, it—Amazon—is supremely hypocritical, given that they sell Lennon’s album, Some Time in New York City, and list Woman Is the Nigger of the World, as the first track, clearly and unapologetically, right there on their own website. They also offer the song for sale as a single. No hypocrisy there, by golly, but I’ll bet that’s the reason.
Eight-to-five? Hell, make it seven-to-one.