The Inheritance Cycle: Hate Mail

These are the e-mail responses to my essay/review about The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini. Please go to the jump-off page to see what other categories of comment are displayed here.

Please note that at the time many of these comments were sent, Paolini had only planned the series as a trilogy (and now it is supposed to have four books when all is said and done), and some of the information may be out of date.

This was my first negative e-mail after the review was posted on Amazon.com.

Subject: Eragon review
Date: 1/3/2004 2:49:56 PM Eastern Standard Time

C'mon!!!!!!! HOW can you think that this book is so crap!!!!!!!! Yes it combines Tolkien, McCaffrey, and so many other great writers, but they are combined so seamlessly, that you hardly notice it, except for the obvious elements, like the different accents and similar, and the dragons, but they are combined in such a way that as you read, you hardly notice it. Likewise he has put huge effort into creating these completely original languages as only Tolkien that I have read has done as well.

And also on the back of the cover, unless I am completely blind, Ms. McCaffrey says, quote, "Full praise to Eragon, and I want more! A winner... a tip of the hat to young master Paolini".

As for the plot; it takes completely unexpected turns, or at least as unexpected as the turns in the plays of the esteemed Mr. Ayckbourn. There are species and creatures that are taken from originally created ones, but made almost unrecognisable, but enough so that it can be recognised as being taken from the original, this is part of what made Rowling so great, for example Shades=Vampires, but made almost entirely differently, from how they are created, to powers that they have.

Text.
Dialogue. Every possible permutation of the word "said" simply makes the book more interesting. Personally, I find the word said after every speech, spectacularly boring. These are not tacky. They give the reader an extended vocabulary, and as I said above, they make speech coloured. Discription. This is almost excatly what Tolkien did. Why are you complaining if you like Tolkien so much. Now the one thing I do agree with you on is the Urgals. They are the one downfall of the book, but a small redemption is the fact that they have completely original names. More than most people could do!

I find the way he smoothly intertwines many differnet styles so smoothly a very interesting, new approach.

Yours angrily,
[name deleted].

And . . . my response.

Subject: Re: Eragon review
Date: 1/3/2004 7:28:20 PM Eastern Standard Time

C'mon!!!!!!! HOW can you think that this book is so crap!!!!!!!!

Um . . . because I've read a lot better, as my review said. It's okay if you were actually taken in by Paolini's world, I'm sure there are plenty of people to whom such things appeal--otherwise it wouldn't be a bestseller. But I think, as I said in my review (by which I stand wholeheartedly), that it is overrated and just overall simply the literary equivalent of empty calories.

Yes it combines Tolkien, McCaffrey, and so many other great writers, but they are combined so seamlessly, that you hardly notice it, except for the obvious elements, like the different accents and similar, and the dragons, but they are combined in such a way that as you read, you hardly notice it.

But why is he "combining" anything? Why is he taking bits and pieces from things that have already been written at all? I think that he could have had it in him to create an entirely new idea, but instead he chose to write (in his own words) "a traditional epic hero story," and I found that there was neither anything fresh about the perspective nor a shred of original, quirky likeability in any of his characters. (Character, incidentally, is important to me, and his characters had very little charisma.)

Likewise he has put huge effort into creating these completely original languages as only Tolkien that I have read has done as well.

I really don't want to be rude to you in this letter because I understand that you're just angry I dissed something you like, but I have to say this statement reveals some stunning ignorance. First off "creating a language" is something that would take many years, and for it to have all the richness of a real language one would have to have studied linguistics at great length before trying to create such a thing. Tolkien DID this and was a linguist, and a stunning one. Paolini, however, shows no evidence of having actually created a whole language for his world, and if you are fooled by the fact that there is a glossary in the back, well, you just don't know much about languages (which, I remind you, is a statement I regret to make since I don't know your background). I am somehow doubting that Paolini can speak his language and make sense, and I also am slightly insulted by his little footnote saying that Eragon's speech is probably incorrect because he has horrible grammar or something, you know, just in case a linguist were to try to analyze this. I've made up languages too, but I've never had the illusion that they were full and complete systems of communication in and of themselves; at the most Paolini's "languages" are a string of code words for English. I don't know what you know about linguistics, but I'll go ahead and (regrettably, again) assume that it's not much, and write off the comment you made with the excuse that you're just not informed enough to tell the difference between a fully realized, carefully constructed language that is the work of many years of linguistic study plus more than forty years of research . . . and a bunch of made-up words strung together by a creative nineteen-year-old.

And also on the back of the cover, unless I am completely blind, Ms. McCaffrey says, quote, "Full praise to Eragon, and I want more! A winner... a tip of the hat to young master Paolini".

Do you know what that proves? That proves that Anne McCaffrey likes Eragon. It doesn't prove that it is good, or that I "should" therefore like it (just because a well-known fantasy writer does), or really anything at all. Incidentally I do not like Anne McCaffrey. But I do not think she is a bad writer either; I just don't enjoy her subject matter. Is there something you wanted to prove by pointing out to me that Ms. McCaffrey happened to like this book?

As for the plot; it takes completely unexpected turns, or at least as unexpected as the turns in the plays of the esteemed Mr. Ayckbourn.

I read the entire thing without being surprised once. I doubt that reflects entirely on my having uncanny prediction abilities. I suppose that it was partly because he WAS attempting to write a specific TYPE of story, which is part of what made it BY DEFINITION predictable. If you want to write an epic hero story, then dandy, go right ahead. But don't try to stitch ten different overused fantasy plots together into a quilt using a dull needle, and don't try to say that your quilt hasn't been mass produced plenty of other times--by artists whose talent outshines yours.

There are species and creatures that are taken from originally created ones, but made almost unrecognisable, but enough so that it can be recognised as being taken from the original, this is part of what made Rowling so great, for example Shades=Vampires, but made almost entirely differently, from how they are created, to powers that they have.

I don't necessarily have a problem with people using "classic" or even archetypal creature types in their fantasy writing. They're allowed to have influences (Tolkien certainly did, like with his modern conception of elves--before his work, they were mostly conceived as the little people who work for Santa, but he changed their image by mixing them with other cultures' fae folk and giving them their own mythology to say the least). What I do have a problem with is when a writer is setting his story in what is essentially Middle-Earth with a number of tweaks small enough to be counted on one hand, and then insists on renaming it instead of just admitting that it's set in a world another person dreamed up.

Dialogue. Every possible permutation of the word "said" simply makes the book more interesting. Personally, I find the word said after every speech, spectacularly boring. These are not tacky. They give the reader an extended vocabulary, and as I said above, they make speech coloured.

Unless you're talking to an author who sells work to a largely NON-literary audience, almost any professional writer will unequivocally agree with my opinion. Using silly permutations for the word "said" is the distinct mark of an amateur. Of course, words other than "said" exist to be used in place of it, but there is a time and a place, and the use of alternate permutations in Eragon was more than enough to make one seasick. Do you not see the logic in thinking it silly to write "'Sorry,' apologized Brom"? Speech should be colorful, but it does not become so just because someone uses a thesaurus to replace "said" with more creative words, nor should that PART of the text be colored. The focus should be on WHAT is being said, and if extra description is needed in order to properly convey voice volume, emotion, intent, or what have you, by all means include it; however, I do not need "apologized Brom" when Brom has just said "Sorry." It is distracting and pointless and (though you may not be aware of it) indicative of inexperience and childishness in the writing style--at least, it is indicative of these attributes to those with an eye for it, such as all professional editors (like me).

Discription. This is almost excatly what Tolkien did. Why are you complaining if you like Tolkien so much. Now the one thing I do agree with you on is the Urgals. They are the one downfall of the book, but a small redemption is the fact that they have completely original names. More than most people could do!

You made an assumption when you stated that I like Tolkien "so much." I admire him because he created a rich world. I do not admire his writing style, and actually if the standards of today were in place when and where Tolkien did his writing, he would have been told his work was unpublishable (most likely) because of said descriptions and some of the wandering natures of his narrative. In his books, Paolini is trying to emulate exactly that which I don't like about Tolkien, but in addition to that he is leaving out nearly everything that I DID admire about the man. In any case, Tolkien's descriptions, while wordy and sometimes distracting and meandering, did indeed give a richer picture of the full world he created, and described, say, scenery (of which there was a lot on these characters' journey) and sights uncommon to the reader's mind. On the other hand, we'll get a random flash in Eragon of, say, Eragon's bedside table (do you remember this?). It was thrown in for no apparent reason and NEVER had any point in the story, not even to help us visualize his room better. (Not to mention that it didn't matter if we could visualize his room, because he was NEVER THERE.)

I find the way he smoothly intertwines many differnet styles so smoothly a very interesting, new approach.

Do you think you could be more specific in identifying these "different styles" that are being smoothly intertwined smoothly? How is it different from or similar to the way more well-known and accomplished fantasy writers are writing?

I'll wrap up my little response here by just letting you know that yours was the first response to my review that did not agree with my sentiments. I had been surprised that giving a bad review to such a popular book had thus far never attracted me any negative attention. Now it has. But you are alone in voicing that opinion to me, so far. I have had around six other responses in which people who had read the book were complimenting me for writing a negative review that did not just bash the book without giving the reasons, and these other responders also disliked the book for similar reasons. (There are also other negative reviews on Amazon about this book, but mine seems to have been voted "helpful" so many times that it became the "spotlight review.")

I firmly believe that the book owes its success mostly to these factors: 1) Nice cover art; 2) Showing up when a void in the fantasy market was eager to be filled; 3) The young age of the author, and the fact that his youth has been used as a selling point, setting him up as a prodigy; and 4) HAVING PARENTS WHO VANITY PUBLISHED HIS WORK which led him to get accidentally discovered by a popular author who slipped it to his editor--Carl Hiaasen was impressed that a teen wrote a book and recommended it without reading it.

I'm more than willing to continue discussing whatever you'd like about this book (or any others, if you'd like; I'm pretty widely read), but if you're too annoyed by my opinion I'll understand if you'd rather not deign to speak to me again, I'll afford you similar respect if you'd rather.

~*~*iVY

No response was sent.


Next mail:

Subject: I think you are so wrong
Date: 2/18/2005 1:53:05 PM Eastern Standard Time

The book Eragon was amazing and I'm am sorry that you have no imagination and can not see the book for what it really is. Do you know he was only 15 when he wrote. Can you even claim that honour I bet not.And I Have read The lord of the rings books to. Why don't you go back to the kids section, because you don't belong here.

Uh-huh. I'll let my response speak for itself.

Subject: Re: I think you are so wrong
Date: 2/18/2005 3:01:57 PM Eastern Standard Time

The book Eragon was amazing and I'm am sorry that you have no imagination and can not see the book for what it really is.

Hmm . . . why is it that because I don't have the same opinion you do about a book, you decide I must have no imagination? I wrote a very well-thought-out essay of why I don't like the book and none of the reasons I listed cite any problems with my imagination. If you don't understand why the reasons I listed are good reasons not to like a book, you've missed the point.

Do you know he was only 15 when he wrote.

No he wasn't. He was 19 when he finished it. He was 15 when he started it. And regardless of how old someone is when writing a book, I judge it on what it is like when it gets into my hands. If it's good "for a 15-year-old" that's fine, but I want to read something that's good PERIOD. I shouldn't have to take his age into account when I'm reading published material.

Can you even claim that honour I bet not.

Can I "claim that honour"? You're not asking a very clear question, but I seem to sense you're asking me if I wrote a book at 15. I wrote two when I was 14. They both sucked. They're not published. I'm glad my parents didn't have a publishing company because then I might have suffered the same fate as Christopher Paolini and would have wanted to bury myself in embarrassment a year later, like he should want to.

Why don't you go back to the kids section, because you don't belong here.

Belong where? Where is "here"?

Please withhold your comments if you don't understand that my opinions are very well supported and that I have a right to them just as you do to yours. ~~*ivy


A response sent through the forms that turned into an e-mail:

Colin: writing is not a simple thing to do. im sure you understand this as well as others. i dont think it very appropriate to down ones work when you have not produced your own. If you dont like the book then shut up about it, but if u really want to make a change how about you show everyone how a good book should be written in your eyes.Until you have produced a book of your own i think you are merely jelous that a young man is reaping the fruits of his work and that you can not do the same.


My response:

Subject: Eragon rant response
Date: 8/10/2005 12:32:36 AM Eastern Standard Time

Hi Colin, thanks for sending me a comment, even though yer bein' a negative nancy:

writing is not a simple thing to do. im sure you understand this as well as others. i dont think it very appropriate to down ones work when you have not produced your own.

Oh, have I not? Looks like you don't know much about me at all. I've written ten novels and twenty-three short stories besides being a professional editor. I felt that I was in a position to say what I said about Paolini's work partly because I can do and have done better.

If you dont like the book then shut up about it, but if u really want to make a change how about you show everyone how a good book should be written in your eyes.

If I don't like a book then shut up about it? No, that's not really what this is about. What it's about is that I not only don't like this book, but I think that the way it was both created and distributed is pretty wrong. He may have been fairly young when he wrote this book, but that's no excuse for the supreme unoriginality of the plot, and even worse is the fact that his parents published his book and spent money on producing it and taking him around on cute little local tours. If it was just a book that sucked I wouldn't have a pseudo-crusade against it.

Until you have produced a book of your own i think you are merely jelous that a young man is reaping the fruits of his work and that you can not do the same.

Think what you like about why I don't like his work--you will anyway--but being "jealous" insinuates that I wish I had what he does and I do not. I do wish for success for my writing, but I am very, VERY glad that I was not a pampered kid whose parents decided I was a genius and published the first drivel that came out of my pen.

I am still working on the publishing of my stuff and I am not nineteen. So be it. But if I had parents who paid to produce my book and a publisher picked it up to fill a strategic hole in the market, I'd probably be ready to shoot myself in a year because what I wrote when I was nineteen wasn't suitable for publishing. Same goes for good old Paolini. And either he'll realize it one day and wish his parents hadn't done that, or he'll continue to think he's a genius and continue to churn out crap, and the lowbrow, undereducated, and undiscriminating world will probably continue to think it's amazing that a kid that young can copy Tolkien and blend it with Star Wars and add bad dialogue and hideous characterization so seamlessly.

The fact is, I don't respect the opinion of the masses. Sometimes everyone likes something because it's great. Sometimes everyone likes something because they don't know their ass from their elbow. Harry Potter's pretty good, but Diane Duane writes a much better wizard's novel. Narnia's a classic, but Pullman's answer to Lewis is frickin' amazing and nobody's gonna notice 'til the movie comes out. Stephen King wasn't an instant sensation. Neither was Ms. Rowling. Neither of them had the publishing equivalent of stage mothers. Coincidence? Errr. . . .

You're right that I want to be published too--it'd be great to have the sort of success he has. But if you think I am jealous of Paolini because he can steal from Tolkien and fool people who haven't read it (have you??), you're mistkaen. I want to be published because I have quite a collection of stories to tell, not because I just wanna be published as a goal unto itself. If that was all I wanted, I'd tell a story dozens of other people have told TOO.

Let me know if you've got any comments or questions on this, I'm open to it, but if you tell me I'm just jealous because he can write and I can't, oh, so help me, I'm gonna digitally kick your butt, see? ~~*ivy

This person ended up asking me for book recommendations and getting along with me. Guess he wasn't a bad guy. :)


I got this in a form from my site:

Ari Morcos: I understand your annoyance with Paolini's writing style and the plot, but I have a couple counterarguments. First of all, practically all fantasy writing is based of Beowulf. Tolkien based everything on Beowulf. Every story that starts with a common person as an aspiring hero requires the hero to learn from some sort of mentor. The hero learning the skills himself would take a long time and it would be very boring. Other people have used it because it works. It's as simple as that. Second of all, I can't believe you predicted the plot. How could you have predicted that Arya was poisoned or that Murtagh was Morzan's son??? I've read almost every well known fantasy book and there was no way I would have predited that. Third, when you argued about the fact that Eragon used Brisingr (what he thought was curse word) was unlikely didn't make sense. Brom told Eragon that it required a strong arm to use his bow. Assuming that Eragon would be tired at this point he woul d grunt or say a curse word when he shot the arrow. Overall, I thought the book was very intriguing. I believe that you are searching for something to hate. Yes, there are some minor writing flaws, but beyond that it is a very fun book that I had trouble putting down.


Here's my response to that:

Subject: Eragon rant response
Date: 8/11/2005 12:06:57 AM Eastern Standard Time
Hi Ari Morcos, thanks for letting me know what you thought of my Eragon rant even though we disagreed. . . .

I understand your annoyance with Paolini's writing style and the plot, but I have a couple counterarguments. First of all, practically all fantasy writing is based of Beowulf. Tolkien based everything on Beowulf.

Beowulf? I can see using literature as a reference and as an inspiration. Fine. But Tolkien created Middle-Earth and its people. I am not a huge fan of Tolkien either, incidentally, but I do think that the inspiration for his work is mythology, legend, and archetypes rather than actual other people's stories. In any case, I wouldn't say "all" fantasy writing is in any way based on Beowulf or Tolkien or any of the classics--that's just one brand of fantasy and though it is popular there are plenty of types of fantasy that don't use one similar root.

Every story that starts with a common person as an aspiring hero requires the hero to learn from some sort of mentor. The hero learning the skills himself would take a long time and it would be very boring. Other people have used it because it works. It's as simple as that.

I don't have a problem with the fact that he has a mentor or teacher. As you said, many "heroes" learn to be so from a teacher. What I don't like about it is how cookie-cutter the teacher was, and how predictable it was that the "storyteller" turned out to be a guy who could train him. The "mysterious old man mentor" type seems overused to me, not the idea of a teacher in the first place. If you want to disagree with my points, you've got to poke at what I've actually got a problem with.

Second of all, I can't believe you predicted the plot. How could you have predicted that Arya was poisoned or that Murtagh was Morzan's son??? I've read almost every well known fantasy book and there was no way I would have predited that.

Well, I can prove it for ya. Paolini is writing a "traditional fantasy epic," which pretty much by definition means that there are certain aspects he will be using. I'm not saying "I knew Arya would be poisoned." But I am saying that when it came clear that she was poisoned and it was up to Eragon to get the antidote, there was no point at which I was actually worried she was going to die, because of the part she plays in the obvious structure of the novel. She's not in a place where characters die (like his unfortunate uncle was). She was not wearing the metaphorical red shirt. It was absolutely obvious that she would not die and that Eragon would be able to save her.

The fact of the matter is, Eragon is based on the same motif that Star Wars is--and I criticize it for that not because "others have done it" but because it has never been an original idea. It is an established, archetypal "hero's journey" story documented ages ago by Joseph Campbell, drawn from the deeper Jungian motif of the "hero." Many works of fiction follow this to some degree, but very few so obviously that the hero's journey outline could be an outline for the novel. Incidentally, it goes like this:

STAGE ONE: DEPARTURE. Step 1: Call to Adventure. Step 2: Refusal of the Call. Step 3: Supernatural Aid. Step 4: Crossing the First Threshold. Step 5: The Belly of the Whale.

STAGE TWO: INITIATION. Step 1: The Road of Trials. Step 2: Meeting the Goddess. Step 3: Temptation. Step 4: Atonement with the Father. Step 5: Apotheosis. Step 6: The Ultimate Boon.

STAGE THREE: RETURN. Step 1: Refusal of the Return. Step 2: The Magic Flight. Step 3: Rescue from Without. Step 4: The Crossing of the Return Threshold. Step 5: Master of the Two Worlds. Step 6: Freedom to Live.

I can assure you that the Inheritance series will follow this almost exactly, and that its first book could have been using this outline as a textbook to tell it what to do next. I just kind of find that a little tired, especially since it became a well-known archetypal journey thang because it was already predictable.

Third, when you argued about the fact that Eragon used Brisingr (what he thought was curse word) was unlikely didn't make sense. Brom told Eragon that it required a strong arm to use his bow. Assuming that Eragon would be tired at this point he would grunt or say a curse word when he shot the arrow.

That's a weak excuse. He never adopted the "Brisingr" word before that; never said it in his life. Considering he also needed to concentrate on magic later in order to make it work, the fact that it just happened to flare up in a time of need just at the same time he happened to say a word he never said before really just seemed too convenient to me. If he had even made one other reference to Eragon using the magic word as if it was a curse word or any other explanation that magic can work in the way that it just happened to work that one time (in other words, if all the other situations in the novel hadn't shown that this situation was impossible), then it would have been okay. But he didn't even try to make it so that made any sense. He just had him saying the word conveniently and consequently discovering he had magic. It felt very hollow and staged to me.

Overall, I thought the book was very intriguing.

Well, to each his own, but I struggled to finish it, thinking if I didn't finish it and then I said what I wanted to say about the book then people would give me crap for not reading the whole thing.

I thought it was awful. Bloody awful. But that is why you are writing me. You don't think my opinion's justified. Er, whatever.

I believe that you are searching for something to hate.

I don't know why you'd think that. What do I have to gain by saying I hate a book if I don't actually hate it? I hate the book itself and I hate the process by which it appeared in the publishing industry, and I resent the fact that it's such a piece of crap and some people don't even notice and throw money at it because it is about dragons and is written by *gasp* a teenager. In any case, I don't hate other successful books (Harry Potter, A Series of Unfortunate Events, His Dark Materials) and I don't hate other young authors (Bujor, Atwater-Rhodes)--I don't know why you'd think that I have to stretch in order to particularly hate this one for some reason. I gave more than enough reasons why I thought the book was trash. It's pretty unfair of you to claim I'm just "looking for something to hate" when I did such a damn good job supporting my opinion.

I'm a writer myself as well as a professional editor, so I have a certain amount of right to be standing here saying what I'm saying about this book. I'm not just a negative nancy who likes to crap all over people's books; I generally know what I'm talking about. I do believe people can still like the book in spite of its flaws, but not me. The book was published by the author's parents and promoted with their money until a well-known published writer who met the author at a signing forced his kid to read it, and when the kid said it was good he talked to his own publishers about getting it a "real" deal. Someone at Knopf wisely saw the gap in the fantasy market and slapped a pretty cover on this one to plug the hole and make some money. If you don't understand why I don't like a derivative, predictably plotted, badly characterized, unmasterfully dialogued book that on top of all that got into the publishing world in the above way . . . well, then maybe you ought to read the essay again, or ask me a couple more questions, or maybe accuse me of a few more false judgments. But I assure you I can support my opinions rock-solid and clarify anything you think is off-base.

~~*ivy


I had one more arguing exchange with this person--where I included some predictions for the next Inheritance books, incidentally--before he e-mailed me and said "well let's agree to disagree and I enjoyed arguing with you." Whoopee.


How 'bout THIS? For some reason this showed up in my friend's e-mail box!

Subject: Fwd: Ivy's Eragon Essay
Date: 8/11/2005 8:27:56 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: OttergirlIda
To: SwankiVY2

Did you forward this to me? cause if you didn't, I want to blast this dude.

-----------------
Forwarded Message:
Subj: Ivy's Eragon Essay
Date: 8/11/2005 7:42:59 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: [e-mail deleted]
To: ottergirlida@aol.com

This email was written in response to Ivy’s essay regarding Eragon, by Christopher Paolini.

Firstly, no one is keeping the fact that the book was first published by Christopher’s parents “on the down-low”. Chris admits to it in every last interview he’s ever done. And Random House has no reason whatsoever for posting that information. The book in question was re-edited, but only for small, grammatical errors that were missed the first time around. The book and story were never changed when it came to Knopf. You’re almost certainly correct in assuming that the book would have been rejected if it had gone the normal route to publication. But it would have, eventually been accepted, despite what you may think you know about publishers. And I’ll tell you why in due time.

I won’t even bother to contradict all of your LOTR and Eragon similarities. Not only would it be a waste of time, but it would lead me to start pointing out every other fantasy book’s similarities to LOTR. It’s a known and generally accepted face among accomplished writers that Tolkien revolution the fantasy genre. There is not one major fantasy in the last century that does not draw inspiration and ideas from it. Eragon is no exception.

As to your complaints regarding the writing style itself, who cares if the word “said” was hardly used? Or more accurately, who would care besides an editor or another author? If you want to make criticisms about minor things such as that, you’re preaching to the wrong crowd. The average reader doesn’t care squat about rubbish like that. All that matters is that the reader understands what’s going on. You’re complaining about stuff that make the writing style tacky? Please. Not everyone is an overzealous editor. And I think that I should add that Eragon was edited by someone far more experienced than yourself. Save the editing mumbo-jumbo for editors, not readers.

You had a problem with the pronunciation of the created language in the book. German is not the only language with umlauts. Christopher’s “Ancient Language” is based, and wonderfully so, off of Old Norse. I find it highly ironic that you would denounce the 100% original feature in Eragon. Several esteemed authors commented that it was an extremely crafty and new way to create a language, especially one based off of a language as complicated as Old Norse. The one thing that you despise is the what everyone that means something in the literary world is congratulating him on. Duh.

I also think that I should - Tolkien was not the first to come up with Hobbits, and goblins, and the like. He drew his inspirations from old Icelandic legends that no one bothers to read anymore. So yes, even the great Tolkien was not original in everything he did. If you take the time to actually look into those things, you wouldn’t feel so scandalized when you read a book that’s “like” another book you’re read. The same goes for your plotline dilemma.

The bottom line is that Eragon is a good book. No, not because of it’s non-originality, not because of its out-of-place descriptions. It’s good because it tells a good story. You could have the best editor known in history - it doesn’t matter. If the story sucks, the book sucks. Had Christopher submitted a manuscript to Random House the normal way, it would have been rejected for small inconsistencies in the plot and storyline. At best guess, RH would have asked Christopher to make some changes and then come back with a more well-rounded book. But the overall story would have remained the same. and I’m struck by the fact that you read the entire book, and plan on reading the entire Inheritance Trilogy if you hated Eragon so much. The authors main job is to keep the reader reading. He’s obviously succeeding.

Haven’t you ever wondered why so many fantastic authors - Terry Brooks, Anne McCaffrey for starters - are congratulating Chris on a job well done? Or do you think that they’re just as deluded as Eragon’s other fans?

Your entire review had a bitter, shaky tone about it that made me think you’re just a frustrated little girl that can’t figure out why another young writer was so successful. You say that you don’t factor in the author’s age when you obviously do factor in Christopher’s age. The evidence is throughout this entire piece of unmerited garbage that you call an essay. Any serious writer that takes the time to set up a website dedicated to shooting down a book is no writer at all.

I just happened to find your ridiculous little site as I browsed Amazon.com. Hopefully, I’ll never come across it again.

I had such fun writing back to this one.

Subject: Re: Ivy's Eragon Essay
Date: 8/12/2005 4:58:57 AM Eastern Standard Time

Hellloooo! Knock, knock! Who's there? Oh, me? My name's Ivy.

Something very odd happened today. My best friend Ida got an e-mail from you. But for some unknown, weirdass reason, its subject matter was devoted to smashing my Eragon essay. Now, HOW she ended up with this e-mail from you is beyond me, and before anything else is said in this letter I really wanna know. Why did you send a response to "Ivy's Eragon Essay" to my friend and not me?

I don't know if she's going to respond. All I know is she forwarded your snotty letter to me in confusion and wanted to know if I sent it to her or something. Neither of us has any clue how you apparently came to think OtterGirlIda@aol.com has anything to do with SwankiVY2@aol.com because it certainly isn't posted anywhere that we're the same person, but I think this is something only you can answer.

So, since the letter repeatedly addresses accusations and responses to "you" meaning me, I can feel justified in replying to this, I think. I've got a few things to say and I hope you get 'em.

Firstly, no one is keeping the fact that the book was first published by Christopher’s parents “on the down-low”. Chris admits to it in every last interview he’s ever done.

And yet all the people who are clamoring to buy the silly thing know that he's nineteen (or think he's fifteen) and tons of other stuff about it, but if I mention to people that it was published by his parents' company and that is new to them. I don't expect that they'd be jumping to advertise it or anything, but everyone is reacting to this as if some amazingly talented kid "got discovered" when really it was a lot more like a parentally funded traveling circus.

The book in question was re-edited, but only for small, grammatical errors that were missed the first time around.

That's evident! If only a pro editor had been allowed to touch the content and writing style rather than just snipping typos, this might have been a book that did not cause me to want to eat my own head. But then again, the kind of editing he would have needed to bring the book up to the usual industry standards would probably end up being nothing short of writing lessons.

You’re almost certainly correct in assuming that the book would have been rejected if it had gone the normal route to publication. But it would have, eventually been accepted, despite what you may think you know about publishers.

Well, we'll never know now, will we?

I think that probably the problem he'd have run into had he gone through conventional means is that every publisher would have said "oh man, not this story again." He admits it's a traditional fantasy epic--and hey, maybe that's not always a bad thing, but a new spin on it would be nice. I don't find anything fresh about this, and I guarantee you that various publishers would have looked at the outline and said "another one from the cookie cutter . . . where's that circular file?"

Seriously, most publishers are looking for something new. This is old news.

I won’t even bother to contradict all of your LOTR and Eragon similarities. Not only would it be a waste of time, but it would lead me to start pointing out every other fantasy book’s similarities to LOTR. It’s a known and generally accepted face among accomplished writers that Tolkien revolution the fantasy genre.

A generally accepted "face"? Tolkien "revolution" the fantasy genre? These last couple sentences were a little muddy but I think I understand that you're trying to say since lots of people have similarities to LOTR then therefore Paolini's rip-offs are excused. (?)

Hey, I'm not saying that lots of fantasy novels don't take inspiration from Mister Master J.R.R. They do. So does Dungeons and Dragons. I'm not disagreeing with you there. But I would disagree with you if you are trying to say that Tolkien's Middle-Earth is now a public-domain playground that writers are allowed to take and rename Alagaësia if they want. Inspiration is one thing but literary transplants are another thing entirely. And any good surgeon knows that if you're going to do a transplant then there has to be a blood type match. From the lethal curdling that I saw in Eragon, I'd venture to say that Middle-Earth is O-positive and Alagaësia is AB. Negative.

There is not one major fantasy in the last century that does not draw inspiration and ideas from it. Eragon is no exception.

I'd disagree with you there too--I think there are plenty of fantasy novels that aren't "high fantasy" and Tolkien-inspired, and I'd say that some of them could be considered "major." I know you're saying that Tolkien created a mythology that irrevocably affected us all, but I don't think you understand what my problem is with Eragon if you think that's it. Influence. Influence is the key word there. Lots of fantasy novels' elves suddenly started being long-lived, tall, fair, graceful people instead of working for Santa after Tolkien showed up. Okay. But you know what Paolini did? He didn't create his own world so much as write mediocre fanfiction in Tolkien's. That's how much I see that's ripped off. He changed the name of the orcs to the Urgals, but he even kept the bit where there was a special subsection of the baddies that were elite, just like Uruk-hai. The only difference between Paolini's stuff and regular fanfiction is that usually fanfic steals the characters. But he kinda did that too, except it was more from a known story structure that didn't need to be told again than from one particular work. Though it really resembles Star Wars more than anything else. (Though Lucas does seem to have admitted that Star Wars is totally based on Campbell's mythic hero thang.)

As to your complaints regarding the writing style itself, who cares if the word “said” was hardly used? Or more accurately, who would care besides an editor or another author? If you want to make criticisms about minor things such as that, you’re preaching to the wrong crowd. The average reader doesn’t care squat about rubbish like that.

Oh, don't worry, you're right on that. It's also true that "the average reader" doesn't know his ass from his elbow. I realize this was written for the lowest common denominator--a lot of its fans are teens and below (not to insult the young, but ya know, they tend to have less learning and experience under their belts and therefore weaker discriminatory powers), and a lot of its fans do not have the literary patience to read stuff like Tolkien or Jordan or whatever--so of course this stuff seems kinda new to them, it seems fresh and amazing and inventive when actually the people who really invented it did it a lot better. It's not that the concepts aren't in some ways cool. It's just that they were already cool before he wrote them, when they were invented or constructed from myth in someone else's work.

Fact of the matter is, I've seen a lot of trash published. I've even seen a lot of trash that's successful. Does that mean it's good? Is it true that because something has fans, it doesn't matter that it's not very high quality? Let's put it this way, if everyone at the table chews with their mouths open and no one at the table is grossed out by it, is it still rude to do it? Probably not, as long as everyone at the table is guaranteed to be doing it themselves. The publishing world unfortunately isn't like that. Some of us know how to chew with our mouths closed, and some of us have sensibilities that get offended when we have to look at some jackass whose food falls out of his mouth as he talks.

Let me know if this trend toward talking in extended metaphors gets on your nerves. I'm really trying to get you to understand me, but who knows if you're just going to see it as a bunch of drivel?

All that matters is that the reader understands what’s going on. You’re complaining about stuff that make the writing style tacky? Please. Not everyone is an overzealous editor.

I disagree that all that matters is the reader understanding what's going on. It's called style. It wouldn't be a good book if it was just written in boring declarative sentences, like "Eragon found a weird thing. But it turned out to be a dragon egg. He took care of the dragon." Blah blah blah. The parts that he's making "colorful" with zesty little words like "proclaimed" and "apologized" and "expectorated" are not the parts of the story that NEED to be colorful. They are middle school English attempts to make writing varied. What needs to be colorful is the storytelling, the descriptions, the dialogue. Not the permutations of "said." It's misplaced. That's why editors and publishers look at that as the hallmark of the amateur writer. Because it indicates a basic misunderstanding of the whole point of language.

I think that I should add that Eragon was edited by someone far more experienced than yourself. Save the editing mumbo-jumbo for editors, not readers.

Er? Well, I daresay that someone who works for a living as an editor at a major publishing firm probably has more experience than a freelancer by definition. Does that mean I therefore suck? Incidentally I once found 402 errors in a manuscript that was first edited by a guy with a doctorate in English from Harvard. He had more experience than me too. I've got a recommendation letter from his ass. I don't really appreciate that little dig. It doesn't prove much of anything except that someone with a lot of experience obviously can still pass a goose egg.

And your giant whine about how I might be right but no one cares is pretty infantile. No one in the playpen cares if you crap your pants, but it isn't just babies in this playpen. Some of us are wearing big boy pants here in this preschool. That's the difference.

You had a problem with the pronunciation of the created language in the book. German is not the only language with umlauts.

Of course it isn't. German doesn't even have an ë like in Alagaësia.

I find it highly ironic that you would denounce the 100% original feature in Eragon. Several esteemed authors commented that it was an extremely crafty and new way to create a language, especially one based off of a language as complicated as Old Norse.

Er . . . he didn't create a language. He isn't a linguist. He might even have a better-than-average grasp of languages at his tender age but he did not frickin' create a language. And how can it be 100% original if it's in the same breath "based off" Old Norse? I mean which is it?

I was aware that he used some of their words for his magic language--which kinda makes me giggle because I guess that means the old Nordic tribes were setting things ablaze every time they talked about fire since it was the "true name" of the stuff--but it's kind of offensive that he just ganked stuff out of a real existing (though dead) language, like it was cool to "invent" a language based on that one since probably no one is enough of a scholar to realize where the stuff came from.

Tolkien's languages weren't 100% made up either, but it was more language structure and sound patterns than, oh, completely transplanted words. But ya know, quite honestly, the language thing doesn't bother me much, 'cept for the bit at the end where Paolini assures us that if there's anything that doesn't really make sense to us should we bother to try to translate stuff exactly, we have to keep in mind that Eragon's grammar is horrible. Of course. Though that horrible grammar was not in any way commented on or noticed by people who conversed with him in the language, nor did it cause any impediments in understanding. 'Course not! Meh.

The one thing that you despise is the what everyone that means something in the literary world is congratulating him on. Duh.

Are you really this small-minded as to think the whole world is celebrating Christopher Paolini and that those who are not are only people who don't mean anything? Someone is brewing coffee this morning, and I suggest you sniff it. A large percentage of the woo-hooing over Paolini's book is coming from young'uns and people who don't read fantasy. The exceptions are the ones who agreed to put their names on his book cover congratulating him. The literary world is NOT congratulating him en masse. Seriously. It's not.

So yes, even the great Tolkien was not original in everything he did. If you take the time to actually look into those things, you wouldn’t feel so scandalized when you read a book that’s “like” another book you’re read. The same goes for your plotline dilemma.

I'll clarify two things. One: I'm not in love with Tolkien, incidentally--the man masterfully created a legend, but he is not a god to me. Two: If you'd take the time to actually look into my arguments, you wouldn't feel so offended at my conclusions, considering I'm not as annoyed at the unoriginality as I am at the fact that it brought nothing new to the table. There's nothing wrong with inspiration and I stand by that. I also stand by my statement that if you're going to tell an old story, you should have something new in it as well so that you are not rewriting the same epic with the names changed.

Say there's a person who's a big fan of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies. He likes the disturbingly delicious idea of a monster killing victims in their sleep. So he decides he wants to write a movie with that idea too.

No problem. It's a creepy and cool premise. Even though it's not original, it's not like "killing people in their nightmares" is owned as a concept by the creator of Freddy. New horror movie writer is "allowed" to do this.

The new writer has a choice at that point. He can just use that idea and then have a completely original story. He can have them get haunted in their sleep and wake up possessed. He can have them dream of their death and then actually die that way. He can have them attacked by a monster in their dreams and mysteriously die of the same sort of injuries. Somehow he can have the old concept be used again to support a new story with a new set of characters who fight against their enemy and succeed and fail to the writer's heart's content.

Or the writer could have the monster wear a striped shirt, have pointy knife hands, and resemble a burn victim. And be named Eddy. And have a lot of the victims die in ways that Nightmare on Elm Street victims died. And have Eddy defeated in the same ways that the Nightmare on Elm Street survivors defeated Freddy.

And have fans of both say "it isn't the same because that stuff happened in a different order or there are some aspects of the villain in one that the other doesn't have or not ALL of the same things happened!"

There is a world of difference between using the same basic idea and making a story that is so derivative that there is no point in telling it again with the names changed.

I have already ironed out in my essay why I think Paolini crossed that line with Eragon, and I'm not alone in my beliefs that unlike some other masterful writers who used Tolkien's books as their main inspirations, Paolini's story was unnecessarily derivative to the point that it reads like fanfiction rather than an original story.

The bottom line is that Eragon is a good book.

I didn't think so. And I pointed out plenty of reasons why I thought this was so. They're valid. And some of them are opinions. And all of them are legitimate complaints that when taken into account can still be ignored by some readers ending in the result of enjoying the book. But in my definition of a good book, the characters are vivid and alive, and none of Paolini's characters seemed alive to me. In my definition of a good book, the dialogue flows and seems realistic. This did not happen. Good books have fresh plots (bzzt!), well-written prose (bzzt!), good organization of detail (bzzt!), revelations and surprises (bzzt!), and--in this genre--magical systems that are well-organized and consistent (big bzzt!). It did not even come close to meeting my standards for "good book," and again I am not the only person who noticed in how many categories and to what degree this book fell short.

If the story sucks, the book sucks. Had Christopher submitted a manuscript to Random House the normal way, it would have been rejected for small inconsistencies in the plot and storyline.

Er . . . I doubt that would have been its major sticking point. I think its major sticking points would have been the overall amateurish storytelling and lack of freshness in its plot and completely cardboard characters, but that's just me.

I’m struck by the fact that you read the entire book, and plan on reading the entire Inheritance Trilogy if you hated Eragon so much. The authors main job is to keep the reader reading. He’s obviously succeeding.

I think I said this somewhere on the essay, incidentally, but the main reason I bothered to finish the book is that I quickly amassed a series of complaints early on in my reading of the novel and I knew for a fact that if I did not finish reading it then its fans would devour me alive for dissing the book but admitting to not finishing it.

In order to get a full understanding of a book, one really must finish it. And since this is but the first part of a three-legged dog of a trilogy, I theoretically have to read the whole thing to give it its proper chance. Some people hysterically wave Paolini's age and inexperience in my face and tell me I need to just READ ELDEST and see how he's matured. If the special edition's excerpt is any indication, Paolini's writing style hasn't grown up at all--it's been stagnating. And it's gonna sell a bajillion copies anyway. Popularity does not mean a damn thing to me, but that I will get to in a moment.

In any case I am a fast reader and it does not take very much for me to read a book. Not to mention that I work at a bookstore and I am the store's specialist in children's books, so it really helps to be familiar with the material and know what to recommend. That's why I picked up Eragon in the first place.

Haven’t you ever wondered why so many fantastic authors - Terry Brooks, Anne McCaffrey for starters - are congratulating Chris on a job well done? Or do you think that they’re just as deluded as Eragon’s other fans?

Yeah I do actually. And I don't personally like Terry Brooks or Anne McCaffrey. Though I also don't think they're bad writers. I just don't personally like their stories. There's a difference.

In any case, no one ever said that if you're a successful writer then therefore your taste is impeccable. One of my favorite writers is Eoin Colfer. I read a book once because it had a quote from him on the cover that said he said "I love this book." Oh God, it was one of the worst books I've ever read. I was disappointed in Mr. Colfer. Since then I have seen him endorse other books I dislike or didn't particularly enjoy. I've come to the conclusion that the man can write, but he has crap taste. So be it. It doesn't change my opinion of his writing.

And I can't believe how shallow you must be thinking in order to throw it in my face that other successful writers like Paolini's work (or say they do, at least) and expect me to change my tune or at least feel embarrassed about my voice. Come on now.

Your entire review had a bitter, shaky tone about it that made me think you’re just a frustrated little girl that can’t figure out why another young writer was so successful.

Thanks! No actually I know why "another young writer" was so successful. Because he was in the right place at the right time. And his parents vanity published his work. Paolini was successful due to a pretty wild coincidence involving meeting a published writer. Sometimes that works. Ever wonder why all you have to do to sell a book is be famous and write a book about it? People who know people! No mystery at all as to why he made it when he did. It had great reception because the marketing people were very smart and because the timing was right (LOTR movies were grinding fans' desire for fantasy novels you don't have to be so damn LITERATE to read, and no new Harry Potter book in sight).

And I do hope that I'm still considered a young writer, but I think I'm not as young as you seem to think I am. Assumptions are baaaad.

And I've been at this writing thing a long time, but I have no reason to be "frustrated" since as such I don't have rejection letter wallpaper. I've written ten novels, but I also have standards, and finally after many years I have one that I think might have a chance. I only recently sent it off to an agent for review. Maybe I'll get a rejection letter for my trouble. I suppose we shall see. In any case it's not like I'm some crap writer who keeps getting rejections and is now wailing about the injustice of it all.

You say that you don’t factor in the author’s age when you obviously do factor in Christopher’s age.

I'm not sure where you got this misinterpretation, but yet again it's all unfocused. What do you mean by "factor in"? My mentioning of Paolini's age is in the context of "I should not have to let him get away with 'but I'm only nineteen!'" That's the most common cry for mercy that I hear: "He's a BOY, let him be! He did GREAT for being a teenager!" I never said "I don't factor in the author's age"; I said I shouldn't HAVE to. His age is supposed to be this get-out-of-criticism-free card, not a detriment that his bad ol' enemies are using against him. I said I did not like to judge based on age, meaning it wasn't like I found out he was nineteen and assumed he couldn't have written anything worthwhile. But I did say that reading his work makes it obvious that he hasn't been at it long. You shouldn't be able to tell that people are inexperienced by their writing.

The evidence is throughout this entire piece of unmerited garbage that you call an essay.

"The evidence"? The evidence for what? That I took his age into account? Which as I already said is supposed to be in his favor rather than a blow? I don't understand what your point is here, but that's not surprising considering you've done an awful lot of blustering when your point boils down to "nuh-uh!!!"

Any serious writer that takes the time to set up a website dedicated to shooting down a book is no writer at all.

Ahh yes, because if I spent some time criticizing something I have a cartload of problems with, it therefore follows that I must have no writing ability.

I don't have "a website dedicated to shooting down a book." I have an essay on it. And that essay is one of many essays. And that essays page is one of many branches of a large writing website. Which is in turn a large branch of an even larger personal website. It's a tiny, tiny piece of the empire that is my Internet presence. If you think it's obvious that I must be "no writer at all" because I have a problem with Eragon and said so in exhaustive detail, then you're assuming again. And you know what they say about people who make assumptions.

I just happened to find your ridiculous little site as I browsed Amazon.com. Hopefully, I’ll never come across it again.

Since you couldn't even direct your response to the right person, I have to wonder what "site" it is you're talking about. Obviously you read my essay or at least part of it, but it's unclear to me what site you're directing this at. It almost sounds like you're talking about the Eragon Hatelisting, which has a link to my essay but is not of my authorship (although I know and agree with its author, Cara). We're both very clear about not being each other, though, so unless you're REALLY not paying attention (it's possible!) I doubt that's the problem.

So what site is it that you're dissing, and where in the world did you get my friend's e-mail address, and what possessed you to send this to her and not me? I'd appreciate an answer, though it'll probably come with some more hysterical retorts to what I said about the subject of this mail too. Well, bring it on if you feel like it. I'll listen, and decide if you're worth a legitimate response or whether you're just another whiner who repeats himself. But I really would like an answer to these burning questions above all else. Oh please won't you indulge my curiosity? Gee willikers,
~*ivY

Interestingly, the person who wrote back to me said the author of the original mail was his little brother. A ten-year-old. He never addressed my response (where I said THAT smelled like fish, as I've never had a ten-year-old call me a "frustrated little girl," nor have I had an elementary schooler who calls an essay they don't like "a piece of unmerited garbage"). Was someone pulling my leg? Oh, I think so.


From the forms again:

Chad: u r retarded ok if u r going to argue with everything about this book fine but find other ways of doing it. so its a little over dramatic with the said things and mabe it doesnt quiet equal tokien but it was a good book and the second was spectacular it has absolutely nothing to do with lotr and for your info i have read alot of great fantasy books and this falls into 3
Harry Potter-awesome
Lord of the rings
inheritance aka eragon eldest ____
now stop being retarded dont make a whole webpage about a book u dont like.

[Yes, can I get a reply! AMEN!]

Date: 2/10/2006 5:31:07 PM

Hello chad, thank you soooo much for your response to my Eragon essay. It showed me one more time exactly how nasty, immature, and bad-mannered the fans of this book tend to be.

u r retarded ok if u r going to argue with everything about this book fine but find other ways of doing it.

Find other ways of doing it? I think the way I did it was fine. Why should I do it a different way? I wrote down the things I didn't like and gave the book a very bad review. In my opinion it was a very bad book, so that was what I thought it deserved. I don't see why you can't handle that.

so its a little over dramatic with the said things and mabe it doesnt quiet equal tokien but it was a good book and the second was spectacular

Yes, the writing was "over dramatic" and yes it didn't equal Tolkien. It doesn't have to equal Tolkien to be good. I don't believe it was a good book and I don't believe its sequel is a good book. We disagree and that's fine with me, though apparently because I disagree with you you feel like you have to try to discredit my essay. It won't work, chad, because you have to have verbal skills to do that, and yours are seriously lacking. It doesn't surprise me that you could overlook Eragon's glaring errors if this e-mail you sent me is a proper expression of how you write and how you think.

it has absolutely nothing to do with lotr

That's crap.

Paolini himself has said in interviews that he used the same myths LOTR did, and claims Tolkien as one of his influences. You can't say it has "nothing to do with LOTR" if every race in his book is exactly like the races in LOTR, and the terrain looks just like Middle-Earth, and the plot shares about half of its points with the Rings trilogy. If you think they're nothing alike, you either haven't read the books or you have a terrible memory.

for your info i have read alot of great fantasy books

I have my doubts about whether you've actually read LOTR because I wouldn't think someone of your literary caliber could get through it, but let's just say the books and the movies are two different things.

And everyone's read Harry Potter. I think Harry Potter's pretty good, but it's not one of my favorites either--I would never put it on my "great fantasy" list. And I certainly wouldn't put Inheritance on there.

But reading other fantasy doesn't mean you're automatically a good judge of it. It just means that somehow you managed to enjoy a piece of crap. I guess to each his own. I wrote about why I didn't like it and I'm entitled to that.

now stop being retarded dont make a whole webpage about a book u dont like.

I didn't "make a whole webpage" about it--I wrote one essay. One review. And it's the only website I've ever made about a book I didn't like. You see, I hated it so much and was so appalled at its popularity (well, among preteens, that is) that I felt like I had to say something. So I did. I didn't just "not like" the book. I found the book itself and its author's process of getting published despicable. His parents published it and it got discovered because a famous author bought it at one of their signings and sent it to his editor without reading it; isn't that enough to make me roll my eyes even if the book is GOOD? But then it is a lump of junk, or at least it isn't good enough to have been published if it had gone through a reputable chain of publishing.

I don't think I'm "being retarded" just because I gave the book a bad review. If you have objections to what I say and want to be civil about refuting the points I made, that's fine, but don't you dare tell me I shouldn't express my opinion.

But I guess I shouldn't be surprised that almost everyone who's had a problem with my essay says things like "your retarded" and "u suck Eragon roX!" My detractors are almost always immature people like you. Perhaps when you grow up a little you'll understand what I'm talking about. Until then I'll try not to hold it against you.

What I got back was a protest from someone claiming he hadn't written the original comment:

Date: 2/10/2006 11:21:25

um my names not chad, its chris ellis eragons ok in a sense but why did u send me this?
i am actually a writer and just by reading what u sent me u seem pretty talented, are u a writer and if u ask me i think all adventure book spark of of tokiens intellect so u really cant take this book down without taking many books with it so... i agree it had many mistakes it made me take somethings out of what i was writing. and i think u have a wrong email

I wrote back to this person calling himself chris:

Date: 2/10/2006 11:55:20 PM

i think u have a wrong email

Ahh, that's probably the case--but it looks like someone has decided to use your e-mail address to say insulting things to me. I got this sent through a form on my Web page where I have an essay about the book Eragon:

[snip where I repasted the comment]

So, chances are, whoever chad is, he decided to have his say and then be even more immature than his response indicated and use someone else's e-mail address. People don't usually just make up e-mail addresses out of the blue, so maybe it's someone who has something against you too. I don't know.

i am actually a writer and just by reading what u sent me u seem pretty talented, are u a writer

Yes, I'm a writer. Thanks for saying I'm talented, but I don't think my e-mails and essay writing really say much about my fiction . . . though I do appreciate the compliment.

if u ask me i think all adventure book spark of of tokiens intellect so u really cant take this book down without taking many books with it so...

I don't really think that's true. I believe there's a big difference between using Tolkien as an influence and ripping off a big chunk of his work. One of the things I don't believe is that "all" fantasy or "all" adventure books owe their existence to one story. True, Tolkien handled the mythic hero quest, but that is mythology, not fiction--sort of a different thing, and people can pull straight from the mythology that Tolkien did without getting it from Tolkien himself. That said, there are plenty of other kinds of adventure stories that do not have the same hero pattern that LOTR did.

Hmm, anyway, I don't know who chad is or why he decided to use your e-mail as his, but what I should probably do is disable the e-mail link he created in his comment on my Web page (since it will only go to you) and post my response in public instead of privately by e-mail since he didn't leave that option and felt it necessary to sic me and my response on an innocent person.

Thanks for writing back.


A form-sent response and my reply:

Floyd: While I write this, I can already here the comebacks you are sure to deal out (simpleton, lack of taste etc.). However simple and uninventive you may think Eragon is, you cannot disagree that Christopher Paoloni accomplished what he said out to do. LoTR is indeed an epic story that all love, but that's not what Christopher wanted to do. His goal was to create an exciting fantasy that people would enjoy. I think that as an editor, you pick and pry too much into the story and don't see the story as what it's meant to be. I'm a musician. Too often I find myself dissecting songs into keys, time signatures, and chords progressions, and fail to appreciate the song. On the note of unoriginality, Tolkien was not the first to write about elves and dwarves. George Lucas was not the first to write a story of a boy who loses his old life and has to fight a greater evil. If you claim that Eragon is a book of unoriginality than we must brand all literature as unoriginal . And if you read Eldest, it is significantly different than how you predict. As far as the language, I thought that it was inventive and colorful. When the author spends a paragraph or so describing the items on his bed table, if I'm not mistaken, it's when he desribes the rock that Roran had given him which underlined the basis of Roran and Eragon's relationship. Also about the physical impossibilities of the wind pulling the wings and such. If Saphira was straining to pull her wings in, then a 150-200 pound youth put his full weight on the wings, then it might be the extra push that's needed. A bit of a stretch, but I think that arguing the physical impossibilities of a dragon is a little nitpicky. Also in Eldest they tell Eragon that they never told Riders how to use magic, but under extreme circumstances they would discover it. Similiar to the way that a wizard discovers he/she is magical in Harry Potter (I am reminded of Neville's uncle pushing him out the wind ow so that he might bounce). All and all i think you are too critical of a work that is very enjoyable and an author that one might owe a lot of credit.

Now my turn.

Date: 2/14/2006 2:06:01 AM

Hi Floyd,

I see you left me some feedback on my Eragon essay. That's appreciated, but this part is not:

While I write this, I can already here the comebacks you are sure to deal out (simpleton, lack of taste etc.).

I have to say this is really the only part of your response that really cheesed me off, so let's get this out of the way.

After reading my essay and probably not reading anything else on my page, you've written me off as a bitter and sarcastic person who can't take criticism and can't allow others their opinions. You see an essay with an opinion that's different from yours and you assume I would stamp "[IDIOT]" on anyone who disagrees with it.

Guess what?

You're allowed to disagree with my essay and not like it. I don't mind. That's what opinions are for.

So before I reply to the rest of the stuff you said and take it at face value, I just wanted to say that I'd rather you not pretend you know what I'm going to say based on what kind of person you seem to think I am. If you think I just crap all over everything, you're sorely mistaken. I don't think everyone who disagrees with me is therefore a simpleton; it's how they express their disagreements that determines how I judge. Please don't write letters to strangers pretending you know more about them than you do.

So, now, on to the content of your essay.

However simple and uninventive you may think Eragon is, you cannot disagree that Christopher Paoloni accomplished what he said out to do. LoTR is indeed an epic story that all love, but that's not what Christopher wanted to do. His goal was to create an exciting fantasy that people would enjoy.

I understand what you're saying here, but where you've said "you cannot disagree," I still do. I have no idea what Christopher Paolini set out to do, but whether his goal was to create an epic fantasy like LOTR or an exciting fantasy that people would enjoy, I don't think he did a good job writing it. I went into pretty distinct detail about why I thought he didn't do a good job, too.

Let's use metaphor. Say I go to an art gallery, and I notice that most of the framed art is beautiful and in some way obviously made by a talented person even if I don't like or understand some of it. But then I see some painting that's framed like the others and hung up next to other artists' work, and I don't think it's very well done. Its colors are flat, the portrait's eyes are at the wrong angle with the tilt of the head, the perspective and proportions are off, and the lighting on the face is different from the lighting on the neck. My artist's eye notices these things and I begin to point them out.

Immediately I am attacked by art critics defending the painting. Most often they say that this portrait was done by a boy when he was only fifteen, so it's great for the kid's age. Secondly they say he didn't set OUT to paint a realistic picture. He set out to paint something people would enjoy, and people are enjoying it and it obviously got into this gallery, so it must be good enough. But all I see is the painting itself. And I still don't think it's good. I would understand "it's great for a fifteen-year-old," even if I don't really think it's that either; however, this isn't a children's gallery or a developing artists' gallery, and I don't feel like I should escalate the painting's value or its creator's talent just because he is young. He is in the art gallery with adults and serious artists, so he should be on their level if he is going to be hung in the gallery. Then I think to wonder . . . how did this happen? Is the whole artistic world as oblivious as these art critics?

After a little research, I find that the kid who painted it has parents who own the gallery. Surprise!

I'm still looking at a substandard painting. I'm not reading in any excuses for how long the artist has been painting or who his parents are. I'm looking at the work itself. I still see that the artist needs to learn some things about perspective and facial proportions, and I know enough about art through my own experience as an art critic and a painter to be able to tell the difference between a deliberate IGNORING of these rules (as in Picasso's cubism or Dalí's surrealism) and a badly rendered attempt.

And obviously this kid's parents telling him all along that he's a genius has made him think he doesn't need to get better; he just needs to make more like this, because this is good enough and everyone seems to be so in awe of it.

This isn't much of a distant metaphor so I'm sure you're understanding the parallels here. So I won't go into lining them up. But I will address this:

I think that as an editor, you pick and pry too much into the story and don't see the story as what it's meant to be.

I don't think I should have to have a statement from Paolini saying "well I didn't mean it to be good, I meant it to be fun" so that I can excuse it for not being good. I believe that if I'm going to say something isn't good in public, I'd better explain why and back it up. I didn't do that because I'm picky; I did it because a) It was all stuff I picked up immediately upon reading, and I didn't have to dig to find these substandard things; and b) to support my opinion I need examples. I can't just say "the dialogue is flawed" without saying HOW it is flawed and giving examples, because then people will say I am making it up or not supporting my conclusions. But then when I do support the conclusions, people say I'm digging too deep. I'd rather be accused of too much support than not enough.

I'm a musician.

Me too. I understand what you're saying about overanalyzing music. But just remember that while your ability to instinctively tap into technical aspects of music might sometimes distract you from a song's soul, it also opens you up to hidden information that others can't appreciate. In being able to see how perfect a line of counterpoint is, in appreciating a particularly inventive modulation, in being tickled by an unusual chord resolution, you are experiencing the song on more levels than a non-musician and I would venture to say you can appreciate its whole song-self with this deep understanding. Similarly, if a line is hackneyed and unoriginal, if resolutions stink, if you hear a choir featuring a flat soprano, you are probably more highly offended than the average listener. Your fine ear hurts, doesn't it? Since you know how good music can be, it's almost a personal insult when you see it done badly. Especially when you know you have done, can do, and will do it better.

Did you ever go to a concert and have a bad orchestra player or an annoying soloist ruin your whole night? And then you get doubly annoyed because no one you were with noticed? Did you ever have that experience of feeling like you're the only person in the room with ears, and then get scolded by peers because they enjoyed it just fine in their blissful ignorance and think you're picky because you let sour notes sour your mood? You know they just don't know any better, either because they don't have the ear or they don't have the experience, but you know it, and it pisses you off.

It goes the other way too, as I mentioned. Being able to tap into that musician self simply makes you more sensitive to all aspects of music. It is part of knowing your craft with all your heart, so the good looks wonderful and the bad devastates you. And nobody seems to get it but other musicians . . . especially not the people who are telling you, "Well I *liked* that concert. Such a catchy melody." You want to tell them a melody isn't everything, but if that's all they came to get out of it, then fine, let them have their melody.

I'll let you have your "exciting fantasy that people enjoy." And I'll continue having my editor's ear plinked unmercifully with the sour notes of bad adjectives, hollow characters, hackneyed plots, unrealistic dialogue, and overzealous descriptions.

On the note of unoriginality, Tolkien was not the first to write about elves and dwarves. George Lucas was not the first to write a story of a boy who loses his old life and has to fight a greater evil. If you claim that Eragon is a book of unoriginality than we must brand all literature as unoriginal

I'm really tired of that argument. Just because Paolini is one of the latest in a string of people who have used mythological and archetypal standards to gank for their stories does not mean that all things are unoriginal and therefore up for grabs. Paolini re-used tired themes AND he didn't bring anything new to the table. I don't have a problem with elves, dwarfs, and dragons. Or fighting evil. But damn it, it's got to become an author's own creation too. Start with an inspiration and go from there, Paolini--don't just write fanfiction.

And if you read Eldest, it is significantly different than how you predict.

No it wasn't. I did read it and do plan (eventually) to throw together an essay on it. I think it was written with higher quality than Eragon; it was slightly easier to read. But every supposed revelation felt more like "yeah, I kinda figured" or "okay, I saw that coming." There were character interactions that had me going, "Yeah, that was inconsistent, why did the person do that/think that/go there? Oh, because the plot said so." It was underwhelming and again wholly unconvincing and unoriginal.

As far as the language, I thought that it was inventive and colorful. When the author spends a paragraph or so describing the items on his bed table, if I'm not mistaken, it's when he desribes the rock that Roran had given him which underlined the basis of Roran and Eragon's relationship.

Umm . . . point is, who was looking at this stuff? During the scene where Paolini--who is not a character--is describing stuff to us, Eragon is putting his shoes on. If Paolini wants our attention on the items on the table, all he has to do is have Eragon fiddle with them and/or think about them. That wasn't done; Eragon wasn't interacting with the items. Paolini was. He was telling us. You should never feel like the author is talking to you unless that is the deliberate style of the book and the author's narrative voice makes him a character. That's not the style of Eragon. In that scene it was more like Paolini said "It's time to describe now, because here and there writers are supposed to descriiiibe the enviiiironment." Every time he blabbered to us about what things looked like I felt like I was being lectured. Show, don't tell. It's one of the very, VERY basic hallmarks of writing. And just because adjectives are good for colorful descriptions does not mean they need to flourish delicately around every sentence. That's just tiresome. It shouldn't be the language itself that's trying to be pretty.

Also about the physical impossibilities of the wind pulling the wings and such. If Saphira was straining to pull her wings in, then a 150-200 pound youth put his full weight on the wings, then it might be the extra push that's needed.

I doubt Eragon weighed more than 140 pounds, but I don't care at this point--in a howling windstorm I don't see how the kid has any leverage at all, not to mention that unless he was sitting on both wings (huh?) he couldn't be putting his full weight on them, he'd have to just be pushing. But yeah see, this dragon can push her wings down with a force that's great enough to pull her entire body and Eragon's off the ground and stay there without too much strain, and yet a wind that is not picking her up and carrying her around is somehow strong enough to resist her efforts. Yeah, I'm no physics professor, and yeah, we're talking about a dragon who uses magic, but you'd think that that would work in her favor, not against her. The laws of physics are usually broken for the benefit of the magical creature. It just seemed really forced and fake to me.

Also in Eldest they tell Eragon that they never told Riders how to use magic, but under extreme circumstances they would discover it.

Except that one false word and you could say a spell that drains all your life force and all that fun stuff. Apparently it's a seriously dangerous art and a science and a language all put together, and there is never any actual explanation (besides this cop-out one about how "oh they'll discover it under 'extreme circumstances'") about how magic goes about somehow revealing itself to people in times of need. No sudden appearance of magical knowledge had been mentioned before--it's pretty much inconsistent, and convoluted enough so that if you think you find a loophole he's got some other vague excuse to cover it up so that you realize you're not really supposed to think about it, you're just supposed to admire the complexity, seeing every accidental knot as a mystery and every leak as a deliberate red herring or plot point. It looks more like a patched up fire hose to me.

All and all i think you are too critical of a work that is very enjoyable and an author that one might owe a lot of credit.

I don't think it's a good argument to say "but it was enjoyable!" Obviously I didn't enjoy it. And like in my long music appreciation analogy, I pointed out that ability to know the ins and outs of language only destroys your ability to appreciate works if they are substandard anyway. It sounds like you're saying I should have ignored all the things that bothered me about the book so I could "enjoy it," but the main problem I have with the damn thing is that there just plain wasn't anything left after all the bits that annoyed me. I didn't like any of the characters. I didn't like how they talked. The plot was overused and I never felt surprised or interested. I was repeatedly struck by the forcedness of the language and the scenes' pace and the unoriginality and . . . everything. I didn't dislike it because I spent the whole time overanalyzing it. I disliked it because I know good writing and this isn't it.

I'm a writer too, by the way, not just an editor. I do understand the heart and soul of story, character, and word. Part of the reason I think I'm a good writer is that I do understand my craft in a technical way. But believe me when I say I have no problems enjoying every other good book on my list, and that list is a lot longer than the books I don't like. You probably haven't seen my book fan pages. Er, have you?

I don't think it's my analysis that ruined the book for me. It's that I didn't have to try at all to find things that pissed me off. You can't blame me for "looking too hard" if the flaws are there, as if to enjoy good books you're just supposed to blithely accept everything a writer puts forth. It's his fault for having flaws, not my fault for finding them.

Hope you receive and understand this mess. Feel free to respond if you have something to say.

This one wrote back again:

Date: 2/14/2006 10:00:10 PM

Okay,
Well I really don't feel at all like writing a long response at all, (no offense to you), but i would like to say first off, sorry for offending you for assuming that you would chew me out. It's just that most people chew you out whenever you disagree with them, or they choose to find discrepencies in your character instead of your argument. Also I half expected not to even get an email back. Eragon was an enjoyable book for me. Maybe I just don't have the foresight that you do, but I honestly didn't predict Murtagh becoming evil and all that. I would like to say that I respect all your opinions. However, what I meant by the fact that Paoloni accomplished what he set out to do is that I don't think that he set out to make the masterpiece that Tolkien did. Whatever. We differ in opinions. I did look at your list of favorite authors/books after I read you essay on Eragon and I would like to say that a lot of those books are very good. Good day.

One more from me:

Date: 2/15/2006 7:04:40 AM

I really don't feel at all like writing a long response at all, (no offense to you), but i would like to say first off, sorry for offending you for assuming that you would chew me out. It's just that most people chew you out whenever you disagree with them, or they choose to find discrepencies in your character instead of your argument.

I've noticed that (the attacking character instead of argument thing)--which is why I have a message on my comments box to direct criticism toward what is said and not me personally, but most people don't listen to it. I've sure gotten my share of "omg u r a retard" because of this thing.

If I had a problem with being disagreed with I probably wouldn't write opinionated essays and put them out there for everyone to see, so as you can see I really don't mind if people want to talk to me about disagreeing as long as they're civil about it.

Eragon was an enjoyable book for me. Maybe I just don't have the foresight that you do, but I honestly didn't predict Murtagh becoming evil and all that.

Well, it's not like I could have outlined the book's exact happenings bit by bit before reading it, but that was pretty textbook, the whole "Luke I am your father" scenario--a revelation about your family's dark side is classic for these epic tales. If you don't see it coming, all the more fun for you--it's new to everyone once--but Paolini based his book's structure pretty seriously on the outline of the hero's quest as put down by Joseph Campbell (and his work is somewhat based on the studies on archetypes done by Carl Jung). Both Lord of the Rings and Star Wars follow the same quest motif (though SW more than LOTR). Looking at how the story has gone so far and how it continued to follow this blueprint through Eldest, I can see certain patterns that should manifest in the third book as well if the hero's quest is to be complete.

I've read a couple interviews with the kid where he said he studied storywriting from a couple specific places that I know to be very focused on a certain story outline. He plotted out his book with very little deviation from one of several actual blueprints and has pretty much admitted that. He said it took him "a whole month" to plot out the trilogy. A whole month? That's it? Well, not so bad if most of the work's been done for you, right?

All that is probably most of the reason it feels unoriginal to me--that it's deliberately and unrepentantly derivative from a classic story theme with nothing invented--but on top of that, unlike the other stories that use this classic theme, I felt like his delivery sucked, you know, all the stuff I've mentioned before--hollow characters, bad dialogue, descriptions that seemed out of place or overdone (I can't tell you how many times I felt like the action actually *stopped* because it's now time to listen to the author talk about the scenery!). But I'll stop rambling there, because I've kind of said most of this stuff before and I don't want to badger you with it. I'm just trying to get it through to you what made it so distasteful to me.

I would like to say that I respect all your opinions.

Cool.

However, what I meant by the fact that Paoloni accomplished what he set out to do is that I don't think that he set out to make the masterpiece that Tolkien did.

Well, I would sure hope that Paolini wouldn't expect to achieve the breadth, depth, and scope that Tolkien did when Tolkien spent his whole life and studies creating this thing and Paolini fiddled it into being in the years after finishing his homeschooling but being too young for college yet.

However, I'm not saying it sucks because it's not as good as Tolkien. It's *not* as good as Tolkien, true, but it's not like "it's not as good as Tolkien" is the problem I have with it. I'm not even a big fan of Tolkien's writing style either. Eragon's inability to measure up to the person whose writing has been called the basis for all modern fantasy is hardly a crime. But the whole package--the unchanged mythical storyline, the flat writing, and the just plain immature feeling I get from it--is something of a literary crime to me. I definitely feel that this is something that is published because the kid's parents were publishers, not because it is something that would have earned it had he not had that help.

Also I want to mention that there is a big difference in my mind between just not enjoying a book and then thinking it sucked. I have read books that I thought were well-written but just didn't grab my interest. Tamora Pierce's Circle of Magic, for instance. I read the first little mini-series of four books, and though the idea was interesting, the characters were pretty good, and the plots were intricate and well-woven, I just didn't enjoy them. During all the climaxes I didn't really care who lived and who died, I wasn't all excited when I saw the next one, etc. Just not my thing. There are lots of authors out there who write well--Anne McCaffrey, Robert Jordan, Piers Anthony--whose stories just aren't my thing. And then there are others who are simply masters, and I'll read anything they write even though I don't care for their subject matter sometimes. Like I hate horror writing, but I'll read Stephen King any day. Even his autobiography was enthralling.

Sooooo what I'm saying there is that it wasn't so much that I didn't enjoy the Eragon book and I can't leave it alone. I actually think it sucked. I found lots of things wrong with it--things I consider errors and mistakes and bad form, not just things I didn't like or didn't find interesting. That's about as clear as I can make it, though I do understand that the kinds of errors he makes are a mixture of not noticed by and not important to this book's fan base. That's the way it goes.

I did look at your list of favorite authors/books after I read you essay on Eragon and I would like to say that a lot of those books are very good.

Umm, cool.

Ending my rambling now!


From the forms:

Daniel: I don't agree, but I don't disagree so much either. Mr. Paolini is not 'a kid'...

You 'supposedly'have written work better than Paolini's... how do you evaluate that?

Because you are egocentric and think it is better? Saying it was abysmal but still good shows just that...

Eragon was a good read, but not a hard book by any means, even for an 11-year old like me. It did lack certain qualities, and had borrowed names and phrases, but the languages weren't 'not close to German'. They were realy words from languages, even if you don't speak them and didn't care to notice.

I for instance, speak Russian, English (duh), Spanish, German, and French. Many words came from The first and last two of the above.

The fact that Christopher Paolini bothered to delve into those languages surprises me, but it was smart, nevertheless.

Yes, Eragon does lack some random things, and some of it is 'tacky', but you cannot compare it with, for instance, your personal work (not by any means saying it is bad, not having read it myself) is impossible, because Eragon, Eldest are different.

Don't encourage people to join Anti-Shurtugal.com because it's just wrong.

Okay, you think the book is bad...GOOD FOR U! But why criticize, put down, and tease the author? He didn't cause you any grief...who cares about what you think ANYWAY?

?You're just an egoistic jerk...

Haha. My response:

You've written a response to my Eragon essay. Here is my response to your response.

I don't agree, but I don't disagree so much either. Mr. Paolini is not 'a kid'...

Opinions are fine. But yeah, Paolini is a kid. He was fifteen when he started the book. He was nineteen when he finished it. Most people who are old enough to live by themselves would consider nineteen a kid.

You 'supposedly'have written work better than Paolini's... how do you evaluate that?

That's an opinion too. Mostly I just know the rules and tools of the trade better than the average joe because I am a professional editor. That's not part of the opinion; that's a fact. And it's a fact that Paolini's book breaks many rules that are there for good reasons (and doesn't break them and still come out smelling like roses, like some books do), and it's a fact that Paolini's writing style is very amateurish. While I know that my writing doesn't have these particular problems, it is my opinion that it is also better. If you wanted to see for yourself, there were plenty of links on my site to my writing page. As far as what constitutes "better," well, you just have to be in the business, don't you? A famous clothing designer could probably explain to you why her clothes were better quality than machine-produced clothes sold at Walmart, but the fact would remain that loads of people who are both more ignorant and have lower standards are not going to stop buying the Walmart brand. The designer has fine taste. She knows more about clothes and making them. But her clothes aren't cheap and sometimes they are not suited for everyone. Same goes for books: I can explain 'til I'm blue in the face why some aspects of my books make Paolini's look like crappy sitcom writing, but if the readers are mostly inexperienced "Walmart readers" then I will certainly be wasting my breath, because they can't tell the difference and furthermore, they're happy that way.

Because you are egocentric and think it is better? Saying it was abysmal but still good shows just that...

"It was abysmal but still good"? Who said that? I never said the book was good.

Eragon was a good read, but not a hard book by any means, even for an 11-year old like me. It did lack certain qualities, and had borrowed names and phrases, but the languages weren't 'not close to German'. They were realy words from languages, even if you don't speak them and didn't care to notice.

I'm well aware that some of them were borrowed from other languages. It doesn't mean that the language made any sense, or that Chris invented a language the way Tolkien did. I made fun of how it sounds--I think it just sounds silly--but I'm not ignorant to the fact that lots of languages have words that English speakers would consider unpronounceable. What I'm getting at when I talk about his "language" is stuff like "Alagaësia"--on his page the pronunciation indicates that this word could have been spelled more simply to make sense and avoid confusion, but Chris just likes how foreign it looks. It's not like there is an overall consistency between his language systems or their vowel handlings or anything like that, nor is there consistency with how the diphthongs are pronounced and whatnot. Tolkien had umlauts and diaeresis and accents over letters because he had a language worked out. Chris's lack of consistency seems to show that he didn't really study to make it realistic; he just wanted it to be like other fantasy books he liked.

That's what I think, anyway. . . .

The fact that Christopher Paolini bothered to delve into those languages surprises me, but it was smart, nevertheless.

Why is it "smart" to grab words out of languages? I too can use Google Language. I can say "hello" in 23 languages, but that doesn't mean I'll be any better off if I actually go into any of those countries. He didn't "delve into" the languages so much as he picked and chose his favorites so he could look cultured, much the way he picked and chose his characters, plot elements, and settings from other works of literature.

Yes, Eragon does lack some random things, and some of it is 'tacky', but you cannot compare it with, for instance, your personal work (not by any means saying it is bad, not having read it myself) is impossible, because Eragon, Eldest are different.

I'm not trying to say that Paolini's work is bad because it isn't like mine (or anyone else's). Mostly I'm saying it's bad because it's bad. It's not just that I didn't like it, though that helps. I've disliked plenty of books that I still can acknowledge were well-written. This one, the main reason I disliked it was that its writing was just bad. The words themselves. The tone. The stolen settings. The cookie-cutter characters. The dialogue. All so hollow and first-drafty. I would not have accepted this manuscript to edit if it had been offered to me; I would have given the author a couple things to correct, told him a couple things he did well, and given him the encouraging phrase "Keep writing!" That's what he needs. More practice. That's all. The worst thing the world could have done for him and his writing ability is to make him think he's already achieved greatness and that THAT WAS IT.

Don't encourage people to join Anti-Shurtugal.com because it's just wrong.

Anti-Shurtugal.com has some of the most intelligent and creative people I've ever met. People who, like me, have good well-thought-out reasons for hating Eragon. I like what they stand for but I don't contribute to their site because I don't have time. I really have devoted enough of my time and energy to disliking the thing. But you have to understand that it isn't because I just like to sit around disparaging things that I choose to rain on Paolini's parade. I do it because I dislike his work, I dislike the shady business pathway he traveled for publication, and I dislike his writing practice and his attitude toward it. Same reason I give money to the Humane Society but not to PETA--I care about animals' welfare, but I don't like how PETA handles their organization. There are plenty of books out there that I don't like that I haven't made a public statement about hating. And that's because I not only hate the thing itself; I hate the circumstances surrounding it. I think many aspects of its rise to fame are *wrong*.

Okay, you think the book is bad...GOOD FOR U! But why criticize, put down, and tease the author? He didn't cause you any grief...who cares about what you think ANYWAY?

Why criticize, put down, and tease him? You just read an article about why. And the grief was certainly caused when I read his book hoping it would not suck. Incidentally, I wouldn't say I "tease" the author. I would say I publicly criticize it and that I support all my reasons. It's not a hateful bashing piece. It's a critique. And if he can't take it then he can go boo-hoo and get off the stage.

Did someone else take over writing the e-mail at this point? The tone changed. If that's still the same person writing, I think you got pretty upset at this point and just started kicking your feet and had a little temper tantrum. It sounds like you lost it. You were pretty rational up to this point and all of a sudden at the end you fell apart like it finally boiled over in your brain that I crapped on your beloved book even though I had fine reasons and justified every one of them.

?You're just an egoistic jerk...

Thank you for that assessment. I guess after trying to battle my arguments, you (like many others) have been reduced to name-calling. What's next? Want to hurl insults about each other's mothers?

That's about all I have to say about that . . . now let's see if this e-mail actually gets to you.

Oh look, it responds.

Date: 8/14/2006 9:45:36 PM

Yes, it did get to me… and you said YOUR work was abysmal but still a whole lot better than Mr. Paolini’s… then you mention your’s is great…. ?!@#!?$$?%E%$#?

Gee. Better reply to that right away!

Date: 8/14/2006 9:52:14 PM

Why would I say my work was abysmal? I don't believe my work is absymal at all. You must have misunderstood me.

Which isn't surprising considering how you've chosen to express yourself here. You're getting less and less coherent. Maybe you'd better stop e-mailing me before the next transmission is just you screaming and hitting the keyboard indiscriminately before hitting "send" and then wetting your diaper.

If you'd like to communicate like a real person I'm all ears. If not, please just go away.

Look how quickly and relentlessly it returns!!

Date: 8/14/2006 10:02:44 PM

All right. First of all, in one of your responses to email you said “I wrote many books when I was under 19, and those were pretty abysmal, but not as bad as Mr. Paolini’s……………they were quite good actually”

My response:

Date: 8/14/2006 10:35:50 PM

I don't see this quote anywhere on my pages, but since I didn't write "many books" when I was under 19 either, I'm assuming you're paraphrasing and you probably didn't really understand what I said anyway. Allow me to clarify so that no matter what sentence you actually read that gave you that impression, you will understand my intention.

I wrote three books when I was under 19. I've said they sucked. I still think they suck. I also think that at the stage of literary understanding I had at the time, I wouldn't have been able to say what made Paolini's suck the way I can now. I don't consider my current writing "abysmal" and I don't think that anything I wrote at his age deserved publication (though I do think I made more sophisticated mistakes). The novels I've written recently ARE, in my opinion, "quite good actually." They're not the same novels that I wrote when I was fourteen, sixteen, and eighteen. Only one of my early novels has a hope of seeing daylight and that's only if I rewrite the whole thing.

As a novelist who does not have parents who vanity published my work, I am going through an honest literary growth which will--with work, luck, and talent--eventually end in publication. If it had been so easy as it was for Paolini to just have one of my early manuscripts picked up and published and sold all over the world, I never would have made it to the stage I'm at now--I wouldn't have thought I needed to. I'm thankful that I didn't have an automatic helicopter ride to the top, because that means I've gotten to strengthen my muscles as I climbed, and I have a chance to reach the summit at the peak of my health and through the honest work of my own drive and sweat.

Despite the fact that my early novels did suck, there were aspects of them that were good, and some of those aspects are things Paolini still doesn't have. I think he should try writing in first person sometime. He might learn something about how to write a character one of these days.

Oh well. Time to nip off for a nap.

There weren't any more contributions from that guy.


Here's one sent through the form response forwarder:

Kamal: wow, your really mature. i'm not gonna draw this out because it will be pointless to try to talk some sense into you without u aving some "smart and witty" comeback but let me just say this. all that matters he's making money because people are buying his book and you arent. :)

btw u cant really create something completely new and original these days. most ideas are used up and sometimes you might think you have and original idea but someone else might have already used it. basically what i'm saying is most authors get their inspiration from others but don't copy it. what's wrong with a good old-fashioned fantasy book?? its not like he completely copied it jesus christ. go ahead make your little quip or "smart ass" remark.

Here's what I had to say!

go ahead make your little quip or "smart ass" remark.

Go ahead and categorize any response I might make as a meaningless quip. I'm sure it will make my well-supported opinion look groundless. Or not. Sorry, encouraging me to do my worst is not going to make your argument look more convincing.

wow, your really mature.

Maturity doesn't enter into it, kid. It doesn't make sense to try to accuse me of immaturity just because you don't like what I said. I did a very good job supporting what I said and that is indisputable regardless of whether you liked its conclusion. It simply doesn't follow from the fact that our opinions differ that I must be immature. "You're immature" (well, as you put it, "YOUR immature") is just an example on your part of how you have no fair way to argue with me or can't express it. Surprise.

i'm not gonna draw this out because it will be pointless to try to talk some sense into you without u aving some "smart and witty" comeback but let me just say this.

Ahh yes, it's pointless to try to "talk sense into me" (translation: change my opinion into yours) because we disagree and you don't have the verbal skills to unmake my sense.

all that matters he's making money because people are buying his book and you arent. :)

Ahh yes, that's "all that matters." Money is what defines success and talent in this world, is that what you're saying?

Come on. It is common knowledge that people are getting paid for things they don't deserve to get paid for all over the world. I never said he wasn't successful. I just said I didn't think he deserved to be. You know as well as I do that there are television programs and musical artists who don't make much money but whose products are superior to some of the ones that are making the most money and getting the most attention. Ability to generate cash does not determine the *quality* of the product, and I have already spent plenty of time explaining why I think his product is not worth the paper it's printed on. You can disagree with me if you want to, but don't sit there and tell me the only thing that matters is that it's selling.

And attempting to categorize my criticism of his book as petty jealousy over my own lack of selling books is just childish. I gave a lot of reasons for why I don't like his book, and frustration over my own career is not one of them. Lots of authors out there who I don't particularly like but who are successful--like Robert Jordan--have escaped being criticized by me so far. It is not Paolini's success that makes me hate his book. It is the plain lack of quality. I made that very clear. Whether I am successful in the future with my own literary career doesn't come into play.

btw u cant really create something completely new and original these days. most ideas are used up and sometimes you might think you have and original idea but someone else might have already used it.

Oh wow, one of the weakest defenses ever. I've seen this SO many times in defense of Chris: "But there AREN'T any more ideas out there!" Guess what? It's said the U.S. Patent Office released this statement once: "Everything that can be invented has already been invented." Guess when they said that? 1899. Sorry, but all the inventions since then were not simply reinventions of the wheel.

I agree that basic themes seem to be recycled a lot in literature. It doesn't mean that this gives all authors free rein to just copy whatever they want since after all there are *no original ideas left*. I'm not saying you can't write a new take on an old theme. I've done it myself--one of my novels is a retold fairy tale. You can't get much more derivative than that. But would anyone argue that my book therefore is a story that shouldn't have been written? No, 'cause it's actually original despite its source material.

"u cant really create anything original these days" is the saddest cop-out excuse I've ever heard, and it just shows how limited your imagination is.

what's wrong with a good old-fashioned fantasy book?? its not like he completely copied it jesus christ.

I'm sure you don't want me to go into the exact story forms he used as blueprints, do you? That would be awfully tedious. Suffice it to say that he used a "story blueprint" from Robert McKee's book Story--a "how to write" seminar/publication--and used the exact story arc from Joseph Campbell's hero outline, as based on Carl Jung's archetype studies. If you had studied literature and story forms as much as I have, you might recognize this, but you haven't studied literature and story forms. You haven't studied *anything* of the kind, while I--a professional editor who KNOWS her stuff--actually really do know what I'm talking about. But no, by all means, you--a kid who's just pissed that someone tore apart a beloved book, a kid who can't even be bothered to form a sentence using the correct homophones--you know a lot more about the whole situation than some stuffy old English geek, right? I couldn't possibly know what I'm talking about. You've got it all figured out.

Nothing is wrong with a good old-fashioned fantasy book. *Everything* is wrong with an unoriginal, badly written rip-off that thinks it's on the level with Lord of the Rings. *Everything* is wrong with an author who thinks choosing the most artful and beautiful words to describe a strained and clipped story is what writing is about, rather than being delicate and talented enough to make the reader forget that there are words in the first place.

That's my opinion. I've supported it very well. If you would like to argue with me about some of the points I've made you are more than welcome and I am not going to be rude when I respond, but I expect you to be respectful and not pin our difference of opinion on situations that don't describe reality (such as your off-base accusations that my dislike of Chris's book stems from failures in my own career rather than what I perceive as failures in his). You won't get anywhere with that attitude.


Note: This genius even mistyped her own e-mail address when filling in the form to write me.]

Nikki: I would like to comment on your pictures. How old are you? I hope its less than 11, because they are very unprofessinal. I am writing a literary critisim on Paolini's Inheratance Trilogy for my 11th grade english class, theres not much critsim out there that i can ues because so many just callit a "Tolkinism". J.R.R. Tolkin was an amazing author that spent many years on his books plot and used many different plots that are found in places such as greek mythology. you don't hear insults about that do you. So I guess what I want to say is never pass judgement on how awful something is until you walk a miles in their shoes.

My response:

Hello Nikki, this is a response to your form-sent response on Eldest.

I would like to comment on your pictures. How old are you? I hope its less than 11, because they are very unprofessinal.

Ahh--grasping at straws to attempt to insult me. Your mail is pretty funny. No, for your information, I am not less than eleven. I am twenty-nine. I don't see what about my pictures being unprofessional indicates that I must be less than eleven years old. I think all it says is that the taker of the pictures was not a professional photographer. But considering you didn't even tell me what pictures you're talking about, I don't think you're prepared to argue with me convincingly. If you want to give a criticism about something, you've got to include details. "Oh you must be less than 11" is not a criticism. It's an attempt at insulting me . . . and it's groundless.

I am writing a literary critisim on Paolini's Inheratance Trilogy for my 11th grade english class, theres not much critsim out there that i can ues because so many just callit a "Tolkinism".

If you would like to write a literary criticism, your grade might be helped by spelling simple words in your report correctly. You misspelled "criticism" (twice), "Inheritance," "use," and "Tolkien," and you failed to capitalize "I" and "English," and you ran your words "call" and "it" together . . . AND THAT'S JUST ONE SENTENCE. I don't see where in the world you can get off calling me unprofessional (or rather, "unprofessinal," since that's how you spelled it) when you write like you're still learning the English language.

Incidentally, if you're trying to say that MY criticism is nothing but "calling it a Tolkienism," you didn't read it. I compared it to Tolkien because of the setting, but overall it's more like the epic hero archetype that Star Wars was based on. I say that plenty of times in my essay. If you missed it, you didn't read it, and worse yet you tried to criticize me for being so simple as to just call it a copy of Tolkien when *that's not what I did at all*. You might want to actually read my essay before you try to criticize it, but then, considering what you've showed me of both your attitude and your literary criticism skills, I can't imagine that I (or your English teacher, for that matter) will be able to take anything you say seriously.

J.R.R. Tolkin was an amazing author that spent many years on his books plot and used many different plots that are found in places such as greek mythology. you don't hear insults about that do you.

Tolkien is spelled "Tolkien." He is an amazing author and I certainly never said otherwise. I don't see why you are defending Tolkien against an insult that you've apparently imagined. I would indeed insult Paolini for being unoriginal, but I don't see where you think that has anything to do with my attitude toward Tolkien. But I'm not even sure why I'm writing back to you like this; you obviously didn't understand or even properly read my essay and were determined to try to insult me by writing this bad attempt at intellectualism. When a person tries to sound knowledgeable when writing to someone who really *is* knowledgeable, it ends up sounding really ridiculous. That's you and me right now. You have just tried to tell a writer and professional editor that her essay is groundless because "Tolkin" is great. Why don't you go try to teach Michael Jordan how to play basketball next?

So I guess what I want to say is never pass judgement on how awful something is until you walk a miles in their shoes.

That's nutty too. Until I walk a mile (um, "a miles?") in whose shoes? Paolini's? I'd venture to say I have. (Another obvious giveaway that you didn't read my essay.) I'm a writer and have written ten fantasy novels. I wrote four of them before and while I was nineteen (the age at which Paolini's family business published his book). I don't see how you can think I didn't walk in his shoes, but it doesn't matter; your suggestion here is also really ridiculous because even if I hadn't done what Paolini did in a way that DOESN'T suck, I would be just as fit to judge his books as crap. I gave well-thought-out reasons for my opinions, with full support and in-depth discussion, and it speaks for itself. You have yet to learn that skill.

Next time, don't criticize people's writing until you a) have READ their writing; and b) learn how to form a mature, well-written critique instead of pulling attempted insults out of your butt. I promise that if you learn to construct an argument, learn to support it, and try to attack the issue and not the person (oh, and learning how to spell wouldn't hurt either), you will encounter a much more satisfying experience in your correspondence.

~*ivY


Another from the vaults:

Pacoflyer: I dont mind that it is taken from others, I like this type of story. I liked Star Wars, this is like Star Wars so I like this, I also Like Fantasy more.

The story was good was told in a readable way no huge words that i have to go look up. I like the start from nothing become superhero story.

This story has been set since ancient greeks.

If it didnt say "star wars, light sabre, the ring," Then I don't care. It was a good story was written more than well enough.

If you didn't like it your not the target audience.

Thats like if you work for Porsche, you go and grill a ford focus for having a seat a steering wheel, a clutch, windows.

Its not saying Porsche on it so it not a porshe its a ford focus.

BUT milloins of people drive ford foucuses. They are not Porsches target auidence if they drive a ford focus.

What do I say, you ask?

Date: 1/4/2007 2:59:15 PM

Hi Pacoflyer,

You wrote me a comment on my Eragon Essay, so I'm going to respond to it here.

You said this:
I dont mind that it is taken from others, I like this type of story. I liked Star Wars, this is like Star Wars so I like this, I also Like Fantasy more.

That's up to you. I tend to think that if a story is "taken from others," it is called copying and stealing, not "writing." I have no respect for an author who can't come up with his own stuff.

The story was good was told in a readable way no huge words that i have to go look up. I like the start from nothing become superhero story.

I like that kind of "coming of age," "starting from nothing and growing into something great" story too. But not all such stories must be so formulaic.

I thought it was told in anything BUT a "readable way." It didn't have hard-to-understand words; it had boring writing. The characters were boring and not real. They talked in ways people don't talk, not even in fantasy. I couldn't believe anything, and a good fantasy story is supposed to make you believe the fantastic. This didn't even come close.

This story has been set since ancient greeks.

Then why tell it AGAIN? If you're going to bother telling a story that's already been told for thousands of years but you're going to claim it's YOURS, you need to bring something new to the story or do something different. Paolini didn't.

If it didnt say "star wars, light sabre, the ring," Then I don't care. It was a good story was written more than well enough.

You have low standards. That's all. If you're not ashamed of that, that's up to you.

If you didn't like it your not the target audience.

I'm a fantasy fan who has liked many other books in the genre, even if they are for teens or even younger. I have read tons of children's books in fantasy and have loved them despite being in my late twenties. I like Artemis Fowl and Harry Potter and Young Wizards and His Dark Materials. I'm not the target audience for those either. I love them because they are good. You can't pretend that I hate this book because I'm not the target audience. I hate this book because it is a bad book.

Thats like if you work for Porsche, you go and grill a ford focus for having a seat a steering wheel, a clutch, windows.

No it isn't. Having a seat, a steering wheel, a clutch, and windows is part of being a CAR. Having a beginning, a middle, an end, a climax, some characters, and a plot is part of being a BOOK. Eragon had all those things and it is indeed a book. Having an ORIGINAL plot, INTERESTING characters, a GOOD storytelling style, and REALISTIC dialogue is part of being a QUALITY book.

Its not saying Porsche on it so it not a porshe its a ford focus.BUT milloins of people drive ford foucuses. They are not Porsches target auidence if they drive a ford focus.

Your metaphor is off here.

There are many different kinds of cars. There are many different kinds of books.

You can't criticize a Ford Focus for not having the features a Porsche does. That is true.

You can't criticize a children's book for not having any romance. Children's books aren't necessarily supposed to have romance in them to be good children's books. The only time you could criticize a book for not having romance in it is if the book was in the romance section.

I understand that.

But the different types of cars are like differerent genres of books. You can't criticize one for not being the other, because there are different standards for each car, each genre.

But it's equally true that some cars have better engines. Just better. Some cars simply ARE better than others because they have more quality parts, or are more fuel-efficient, or have endurance over long periods of time, or perform well over difficult terrain. If your car breaks down frequently, it is not a quality car. It is not a matter of you not being the "target audience" for this car. Cars, period, are supposed to take you from point A to point B. If they can't do that, they're not good cars.

I argue that as a book, Eragon doesn't go from point A to point B without breaking down a few times (causing the reader/rider to have to get out and make adjustments), and it doesn't have as smooth a ride, and it's uncomfortable, and it has bad gas mileage. There is no way to blame that on its driver. If you enjoyed your ride in Eragon despite the noisy gears and the bumpy ride and that weird smell inside that is definitely NOT "new car smell," then what we have here is NOT a target audience problem. What we have here is a person who has no standards due to having been on so few car rides . . . or a person who is so excited by one or two aspects of this car (that might or might not have been swiped from another car to be fit together imperfectly) that all the other faults are dismissed out of ignorance or naïveté. Lots of pieces of crap cars can have nice paint.

Mechanics will tell you that some cars are good and some suck. But no mechanic is going to expect a Ford Focus to perform like a Porsche, or to have the same parts. I, as an experienced reader and book editor, am a book "mechanic." And I will tell you with some authority that I do not expect a fantasy book to perform like a romance, or a children's book to perform like a corporate thriller. But I hold them all to their standards within their genres, and there is no genre where it's okay for a book to SUCK.

Eragon SUCKS. I gave a lot of reasons why I think so and know so. I have a lot of reasoning, time, and professional experience invested in my verdict. So believe me, it's not an issue of "not being the target audience." None of my attacks on the book were of the personal variety, like that I just didn't *like* aspects of it. They were done poorly. There's no target audience for cars with engine trouble. Most people don't mind driving a Ford Focus instead of a Porsche because they know the tradeoffs. But nobody likes driving either car if its engine, brakes, etc. are not in good working order.

I think Paolini should take his book to a mechanic. And that's the end of my ramble.


Another from my forms:

Seratha: Wow, your an ass. You don't like the book so this is what you say "omfgthisbooksuxkkthxbye" What is your problem? I thought this was an excellent book, and if you don't like it fine, I won't try and change your mind; However, you go to this and make an essay on how much you despise the book. That's just low and stupid. AND! You make a Hatepage...you have some serious problems. But back to the topic. This is a fantsy novel, I have no idea why your making such a big deal over it. I'm just sending this comment to just show what a complete ass you are. Hey, how about next, you do this for Harry Potter! Yeah, makes thousands of people hate you just because YOU suck at writing so YOU have to critize others writing and so YOU can look like a complete ass to the entire world. You stupidity in making this site is only exceeded by your crappy comments and most likely, crappy writing. Thank you, and have a nice day.

::grin:: Don't you want to see what I said back?

Date: 1/17/2006 11:07:44 PM

Wow, your an ass. You don't like the book so this is what you say "omfgthisbooksuxkkthxbye"

Er . . . well, judge me how you like, but I certainly didn't say anything like "omfgthisbooksuxkthxbye." You're insinuating that I just didn't like it and bashed it. I did a lot more than that; I gave well-thought-out criticisms that I think are based on a lot of solid facts and backed up pretty well. I'm not just shitting all over the book. I have very good reasons for not liking it and I said so. Yes, some of those things are opinions, like yours (that it was a very good book). I'm sure you have your reasons, and I have mine. But just because you don't like my reasons doesn't mean you have to condense them into a shallow statement that I sure as HELL did not make.

What is your problem? I thought this was an excellent book, and if you don't like it fine, I won't try and change your mind; However, you go to this and make an essay on how much you despise the book. That's just low and stupid.

It is NOT "low and stupid" to make an essay on a book you hate as much as I hate Eragon. I didn't just dislike the book. I hated it, and I hated how it got published, and I thought it pulled all kinds of shallow tricks. Expressing my opinion and then backing it up with a bunch of supporting examples is not "stupid." Explain to me why disliking something and giving mature and supported reasoning as to WHY is "stupid," and I'll listen.

AND! You make a Hatepage...you have some serious problems.

I didn't make the hatelisting. I don't know how many times I have to tell people this, but Cara is not me and I am not Cara. I don't think SHE has serious problems just because she made a hatelisting (and neither do the dozens of people who have joined it), but the fact remains that I didn't make it and YOU didn't read carefully and then you go and call ME names.

But back to the topic. This is a fantsy novel, I have no idea why your making such a big deal over it. I'm just sending this comment to just show what a complete ass you are.

So why is "it's a fantasy novel" a defense for why it should not be disliked? Did you even read my essay? I had really good reasons for not liking it and said so. Regardless of whether you like the book, my reasoning is solid. It's there. And why would sending a comment show how much of an ass *I* am? I think it's kind of going to do the opposite. . . .

Hey, how about next, you do this for Harry Potter! Yeah, makes thousands of people hate you just because YOU suck at writing so YOU have to critize others writing and so YOU can look like a complete ass to the entire world.

Why would I do it for Harry Potter? I don't hate Harry Potter. I actually like it all right (though it isn't one of my top twenty favorite books either). I have never hated a book as much as I hated Eragon, and that's why I wrote the essay. Apparently you think the only reason I wrote the essay was to crap negativity everywhere. Why would I do that? I'm a reasonable person who wrote a reasonable essay. Find me one thing in the essay that you disagree with and explain to me why it was wrong, and maybe we can have an actual discussion about it--otherwise you're just saying "Why'd you write this, you're stupid for writing this because I liked the book!" You're not supporting anything you're saying.

And beyond that, you've never read any of my fiction. You're again not supporting what you're saying, which doesn't make ME look like an ass, I'm afraid. You read my fiction and fairly criticize it and we'll see. But you're not going to do that--you'd rather just crap on it without reading it because you don't like my opinion on something else.

You stupidity in making this site is only exceeded by your crappy comments and most likely, crappy writing. Thank you, and have a nice day.

See, you even said it there, "most likely, crappy writing." Why is it so difficult to support the stuff you say? Until you write me an e-mail detailing exactly what you think was off-base about my essay instead of pretending you're going to make me look in the wrong by pointing out that I did, indeed, write an essay that disses the book and YOU DON'T LIKE THAT, then you're going to be the one looking like an ass.

Bite me,

~*~ivY


A perfectly civil one (mainly), but it's still a hate mail.

Kaen: first of all, i want to apologise for any english mistake in this comment. english is not my native lenguage.

There's a lot of things in your review that i agree: paolini is to youg and imature, what creates a lot of impossible situations. His writing style is anoying and the lenguage thing is a poor try to be like tolkien.

but I have to disagree when you talks about originality. hey, a litle justice! if you find something completly original, give you a cookie!
tolkien? he praticaly copied word by word from the norse mitology =P yet, the lord of the rings is a great story.
there's nothing- NOTHING- that has not been done before.

"I'm saying that it needs to not be a rehashing of overused themes that were INVENTED--not derived from mythology or legend, but INVENTED--by classic writers"

Ok, boy-who-does-his-homework, if you really invented something completly diferent, never done before, i'm really want to read. NO ONE never did, some writers (FAMOUS CLASSIC WRITERS) even like to tell everybody about wich story they used as basis, and even then the book stil is a success.

Do you ever heard about joseph campbell? well, this guy wrote a book caled the hero with thousand faces, an examination of the archetype of the hero. and you know what he says? exactly what i'm teling you, he wrote that almost all hero stories can be shown to contain at least a part of the same patterns.

so it's not just me that's saing, there's a lot of other psychological reserches (campbel's the most famous) that comprove what i'm saying.

But while i'm writing this, i really have the strong sensation that you already know all of this (or someone told you already). you seems too much inteligent no never have heard about campbell, so i'll make you a question:

Why are you sayng such nonsense? maybe you're just angry because a kid like paolini is becoming more and more famous. maybe(that's what i think) you're a litle jealous.

after all, he mixed all these sources and made a best seler, with enough prestige to reach this isolated land here i live. there's a movie coming out, and a lot of fans waiting for it. after all, i would say that he did a pretty good job for a teenager. it would have been better if he waited and worked more in the book? sure, but hopefully the next ones will be beter in this aspects.

I hope what i wrote make you think, even a litle, like what you wrote made me look back and realise some important things in eragon.

thaks

Now I WRITE!

Hi Kaen, thank you for your response to my Eragon essay. I will reply here.

There's a lot of things in your review that i agree: paolini is to youg and imature, what creates a lot of impossible situations. His writing style is anoying and the lenguage thing is a poor try to be like tolkien.

Yes, that's true. I am glad you picked up on that.

but I have to disagree when you talks about originality. hey, a litle justice! if you find something completly original, give you a cookie!
tolkien? he praticaly copied word by word from the norse mitology =P yet, the lord of the rings is a great story.

I am not in love with Tolkien either. I know that he is not "original" in the sense that he pulled everything out of his own head, though he did enough reinventing and had enough imagination to make his Middle-Earth a rich, fleshed-out world.

This is something that I *really* hate: When people tell me Eragon should be excused because there IS nothing original in the world to write anymore.

In the 1800s, supposedly a boss at the patent office said "everything that can be invented has already been invented."

I am not saying that one cannot use an old THEME or an INFLUENCE or even a particular mythology or storyline. But I am saying that it should be a new twist on an old theme, or that it should at least have flavor and originality. I think there are many writers today who have come up with writing that would have to be picked apart and reduced to analytical outlines in order to look like any other story. There are bare bones of people that look like other bare bones, but that does not mean that when the flesh is on them they are not different people entirely.

In short, it really bothers me when people say "it's all been done before, so leave him alone." It has not all been done before.

For example, I have written a story that is derivative. It is a story that has been told before: The story of Sleeping Beauty. I have told it from the point of view of the story's traditional villain, and I have made the story more about her search for identity and happiness than about the small part of it that makes up the famous story. I don't think anyone will read my book and think "that is utterly unoriginal."

By the same token I loved Gregory Maguire's work, and most of his stuff is derivative too, but very original.

I think a writer has a choice about influences. One can say "Well, there's nothing new under the sun; might as well set my story in Middle-Earth and not try to think of my own world." Or one can say "Wow, Middle-Earth was neat. I'm going to try to have a land as broad and rich and beautiful and magical as that." Go for the effect, not the details. Details are the rip-off.

Ok, boy-who-does-his-homework, if you really invented something completly diferent, never done before, i'm really want to read.

First off I am not a boy, I am a girl.

And if you are of the opinion that there is no such thing as an original story, then what you would do with my book is reduce it to basics and point out other stories that have the same basics. In my novel series, I have a modern-day girl with unusual looks and unusual abilities and no idea where she comes from, trying to find out where she belongs in the world. You can reduce that to say it's just a book about coming of age, and yell about all the coming-of-age novels on the market all you want. But the truth is, her story's never been told before, not the way I tell it and not through her eyes. And it's original enough that no one's going to say "oh this character is the same as that character in this other book; this character serves the same function as that other character." My character learns lessons, but unlike most storybook people she sometimes regresses and has to learn them again because she's realistic. She doesn't really behave the way most fictional people do. As a result the storyline is sort of unpredictable and doesn't go in a straight line, and it probably will make people wonder "what's the point?" sometimes. Well, the point is the character and her evolution. She has her own way of going about it and putting together pieces of her identity.

I have influences. I have been strongly influenced by Joan D. Vinge, the excellent science fiction writer. But though there are similarities between her main character and mine, they're not at all the same, and their plots and morals and personalities couldn't be more different. Influence and inspiration is not the same as actually lifting story elements.

Do you ever heard about joseph campbell? well, this guy wrote a book caled the hero with thousand faces, an examination of the archetype of the hero. and you know what he says? exactly what i'm teling you, he wrote that almost all hero stories can be shown to contain at least a part of the same patterns.

I have written about Joseph Campbell and the hero archetype on the same page you're responding to, in comments by other people. I have said that Paolini follows the hero archetype so staunchly that there are no surprises. It's almost like Star Wars all over again. Where are the Wookiees?

But while i'm writing this, i really have the strong sensation that you already know all of this (or someone told you already).

Yes. Someone didn't have to "tell" me, I too have a background in mythology and classics.

Why are you sayng such nonsense? maybe you're just angry because a kid like paolini is becoming more and more famous. maybe(that's what i think) you're a litle jealous.

This accusation is completely uncalled for. You're making some ridiculous assumptions.

I made a very good case for why I think the book is trash. If you believe there's nothing new in the world and you think that frees Paolini to steal anything he wants as obviously as he wants and as much as he wants, then I guess you're willing to excuse him for writing a substandard book on an old theme besides. But to tell me that because I disagree, I'm *jealous* of him? That is beyond insulting.

I want to be published too. I would like to have the attention he has for my own writing. But I don't think that means I'm jealous. I think his book is terrible, and I don't want to write terrible books and get them published anyway. Do you know that his parents published the book themselves? Do you know that they then spent lots of money to print it and take him on little local tours trying to promote it and get attention, before they finally met author Carl Hiaasen by accident at one of these signings and he sent the book to his editor without reading it because he thought it was cool that a teen wrote a book? He did not get into the limelight because he is a genius boy with an amazing story. He got into the limelight because of a chance encounter, and someone realized they could make a lot of money.

I am very, VERY glad I was not a pampered homeschooled child whose parents sheltered me from the world and declared my teenage drivel to be genius and printed it and distributed it, with no access to outside critics at all. Because if that had happened to me, I would want to hide my face forever now that I'm more mature and I see what the stuff I wrote at nineteen looked like. I want to be successful with my writing too, but not in the way that he is (on the "who you know" basis rather than the quality of his manuscript) and not with the kind of material that he is successful with.

That said, on to this:
after all, he mixed all these sources and made a best seler, with enough prestige to reach this isolated land here i live. there's a movie coming out, and a lot of fans waiting for it.

The popularity does not impress me, nor does it prove that it is a good story. Most of the people who like it so much are teenagers and a lot are inexperienced readers. That is not to say that you have to be an inexperienced reader to like it, but that is usually the case, and inexperienced readers who are not literate enough to read Tolkien or Robert Jordan make up a large percentage of this writer's fan base. Lots of people liking something does not make me think "wow, there must be something I'm missing or not understanding." I judge with my own thoughts.

i would say that he did a pretty good job for a teenager.

That is another thing I hate hearing. If you have to know he's a teenager before you can judge it as good for his age, then it doesn't deserve to be published. EVERYONE who praises this book talks about how amazing it is that such a young person can write a whole real book and everything. Wow, he's only nineteen and he rips off Tolkien and Norse mythology and Campbell so wonderfully! I am not impressed, actually--not with the source of his material OR with the way he handled it. The prose was dull, the dialogue was completely unbelievable, and every character was entirely controlled by visible puppet strings, not by felt and shown emotions and thoughts.

I hope what i wrote make you think, even a litle, like what you wrote made me look back and realise some important things in eragon.

I'm sorry if this sounds offensive but you have not "made me think," because everything you tried to open my eyes to in this e-mail is something I've already covered. I don't believe there's nothing new under the sun, but even non-new things can be dressed in fresh clothes, and he didn't even try. I am not angry at and jealous of the author; I am just appalled at the product's low quality and its surprising popularity for something so bad. I am aware that there are other hero journeys and that it is an established story type and that he is just one of the newest people to use it. And I do think he did an okay job "for a teenager," but not for a published author. I have seen unpublished fanfiction writers who draw up characters in a more believable sense and write better prose.

I do appreciate that you wrote me, but I didn't appreciate the tone in the part where you claimed I must be jealous because I don't like the book. I hope you can understand what I have written in response and that you take it to heart, because I have done my research and measured my responses to the book. Perhaps we will have to assume that you and I just have a difference of opinion, but feel free to ask me any questions or rebut anything I've said. I don't mind if you have more to say as long as you respect me.


Here's a response to a snooty comment from my feedback form:

Jayne: You said that you have published several novels and short stories? What are they? I have read many fantsy novels and never run across your name before. Its not the bit of getting published thats as hard as getting people to read your works, so if your such a great know it all writer then why havent you been heard of before? As to your coments on the book and to what you said to other people you seem like a hateful person who has to drag everyone else down with them.

Ahh yes, personal "ha-HA, I GOT you" attacks. My response follows:

Date: 3/21/2007 6:14:01 AM Eastern Daylight Time

Jayne,

You wrote me a comment on my Eragon Essay, and this is a response to that.

First off: Nice try, but you did not do your homework.

You said that you have published several novels and short stories? What are they?

Find me the part where I said this and I'll be verrrrry impressed. Because I've never said that.

I have read many fantsy novels and never run across your name before. ::

Nice try again. You do not KNOW my name. So even if I HAD said the above, you would have no way of knowing what my name is, would you?

Its not the bit of getting published thats as hard as getting people to read your works, so if your such a great know it all writer then why havent you been heard of before?

You obviously know very little about publishing based on this comment. And as I mentioned before, you have no idea who I am, so you know nothing about how heard of--or not--I am.

Even if I wasn't a writer, I would still be just as justified in saying the things I said about Eragon and Eldest, because I made my statements and I supported them. Is there a reason that success as a writer would also be necessary in order to be right about what I said?

As to your coments on the book and to what you said to other people you seem like a hateful person who has to drag everyone else down with them.

You're confused. Nothing I said in either of my essays on Christopher Paolini's work was based in "hate."

My essays on his books are the ONLY negative book essays I have ever written--because I disliked them that much--so your belief that I have a desire to "drag everyone else down" is apparently based on what I said about ONE author.

You have assumed I'm a bitter and hateful person based on the only critical review I've written. It's both a premature assumption and very rude to assume things about people's life and character based on so small a sample, especially since if you only read people's CRITICISM you're going to think they're CRITICAL people, but I doubt this sort of judgment is unusual for you. You do not do your homework before you write things, and therefore you say things you cannot support. That's the difference between us.

Every critical statement I wrote about the books was supported with points from the book and why I think each one of them was an example of bad writing. This not hateful--it is my educated analysis with a healthy dash of opinion.

Apparently you take all statements personally; you see an attack rather than a critical review. If Christopher Paolini would take some of my advice, he'd become a better writer, and probably wouldn't make me feel violently ill while reading his crap. That's what criticism is for. I like getting criticism on my work, but I don't enjoy being attacked personally by people like you when I say what I believe and do a very good job supporting it.

If you have something actually critical to say about my essay, I'm happy to hear it. But every sentence in your last submission was a personal attack: "YOU haven't published anything so what do you know??? No one's heard of YOU! YOU are bitter and hateful!"--you see how every sentence was an attack on ME? Brush up on your debate skills before you try to start one, please.

And do me a favor and pay attention while you're typing. You seem to have even mistyped your own e-mail address in the form. I've never heard of "hotmal" but I have heard of "hotmail." That's where I'll send this.

~*ivY


From the form box again:

ikhsan: Dear Mr whatever you are!!!

Eragon is not as bad as u said,,,it's a good story,,,moreover it is written by a teenage boy,,,i've read it twice,,,and the more i read the more i feel amazed with this book,,,eldest as a sequel of it,,,it's a lot better than the first,,,at the ending of the story,,there're lots of surprising fact what i never ever predict before

Wow, what good points and great delivery! Not.

Hello ikhsan,

You weren't very polite in your response to my Eragon Essay, but I'll try to be nice and understanding in my reply.

You said this:

Dear Mr whatever you are!!!

I'm not a Mister. I'm a woman. It's probably a good idea to read enough of people's work to know their gender before you go writing them letters.

Eragon is not as bad as u said,,,it's a good story,,,

I thought that Eragon was an awful book and I gave you plenty of reasons why. You writing me and saying "Nuh-uh, it's GOOD!" does not work here. If you disagree with something I said, you can say so.

And you can like the book even though I did not.

But don't kid yourself that just writing to me and telling me I'm wrong *without supporting what you say* is a good way to argue with me. I supported everything I said with rationale and examples. You haven't learned how to do that yet. In fact, you haven't learned the basics of the English language yet, since you're using commas that way--I don't think you're really qualified to judge my essay, so sorry.

moreover it is written by a teenage boy,,,

If you think I didn't know that, you didn't read my essay. Next.

i've read it twice,,,and the more i read the more i feel amazed with this book,,,

You are probably responding to the concepts in the book, and none of them are made up by this author. The setting is Middle-Earth, the language is based on an ancient language, the dragon/human relationship is almost exactly like Anne McCaffrey's writing, and the plot is straight out of The Hero's Quest (the same blueprint they made Star Wars from). You probably haven't read many other books of this type. If you had, you would see what a hack job it is. The only people who think Christopher Paolini's work is original and awe-inspiring are people who have read his book before they have read all the books that he stole things from--books that did what he did much more effectively. You will probably understand this a little better when you're older.

eldest as a sequel of it,,,it's a lot better than the first,,,

If you think I didn't know there was a sequel, you haven't read my essay. I wrote a whole essay on Eldest too. I didn't think Eldest was very much better. Next.

at the ending of the story,,there're lots of surprising fact what i never ever predict before

That's because you have no practice reading the hundreds of stories that have the same plot. Chris Paolini worked from a blueprint. A writing template. If you were surprised by things like Murtagh being Eragon's brother or him not really being dead after Eragon assumed he was, then you were not paying attention. I have lots of experience with literary criticism and I am familiar with this story "type." Because I know there is a "type" he is working from, I could easily tell you many things that will show up in the third book as well.

Your opinion here shows that you believe the way you do because of inexperience. I don't care if you liked the book, but everything I said in my essay is well-researched and documented and specific. I know what I am talking about. If this story doesn't seem overwritten and unoriginal to you, you just have yet to see it done better as many times as I have, by writers who came before him and came up with their own ideas or put really original spins on old ideas. Chris has a really hard time with that. You'll probably see signs of that if you read more fantasy as you become more experienced and get wider tastes.

Keep reading!


Again, sent from forms but ended up in e-mails:

Olivia Coker: Your comments about many of the ideas in Eragon originating elsewhere, while valid, do not diminish the value of the book. Your criticisms that the style and content are clearly indicative of the author's immaturity are similarly irrelevant, and seem to manifest your own envy at not having been published more than anything else. I note that nowhere is your full name or "pen" name revealed. The Inheritance books are, although imperfect, more entertaining than a vast number of published fantasy books, and a fine first effort on the part of Paolini, from which he is fortunate to benefit, since this success will give him the means to hone his craft further, without worrying about living in poverty. Obviously, I need to hone my craft further, as well, to learn how to avoid run-on sentences. You and others would do better to focus on more positive exertions.

Aw, isn't that sweet? My response is just as sweet!

Hello Olivia Coker,

In response to your comment on my Eragon Essay, I have these things to say:

Your comments about many of the ideas in Eragon originating elsewhere, while valid, do not diminish the value of the book.

I beg to differ. Many young and inexperienced writers learn to cut their author's teeth by cobbling together unoriginal ramblings consisting largely of what they liked in other literature they've read in their short lives. It's very common to "rip off" the people one admires during the learning process, and most of us get this sort of thing out of the way outside of the public eye because rehashings are generally not interesting to publishing houses. The book is not well-written, and its most attractive qualities are the epic ideas which are in fact not his in even the smallest sense. Because the author's parents published his book and because they were willing to put in the money and time required to publicize the book, it got the attention most other books would not, and because of a lucky break involving a personal contact with an established, successful Florida author, he got an in with a major publishing company. At no point was the manuscript subjected to the usual critical eye that would have resulted in the "nothing new here" diagnosis, and it was put into the public eye largely untouched by actual readers of fantasy. (Even the author who gave it its inside track admitted openly that he didn't read "that kind of book," which is why it seemed so unusual and original to him.) So many people who liked it responded to what they thought was the freshness and imaginativeness of a young mind, when actually the setting, character relationships, and overall plot came from older sources almost unchanged. And yet here you are trying to tell me that the unoriginality of the book combined with its mediocre rendering, uninteresting characters, and overwritten vocabulary exercise of a prose style still equal a book with true value. I do not buy it and I went into detail about why I feel that way.

Your criticisms that the style and content are clearly indicative of the author's immaturity are similarly irrelevant, and seem to manifest your own envy at not having been published more than anything else.

Your attempt to pawn my legitimate complaints about the book off on jealousy are very ineffective. It happens all the time that people who disagree with me try to discredit me through personal attacks, such as your suggestion that I'm only saying this stuff because I'm obviously a publishing-world loser whose anger is directed at the winner. How is it irrelevant to my conclusion ("this book sucks") that the author writes in an immature way? We all have to learn sometime, but normally immature writers' schlock is not snapped up as being the work of a prodigy and showered with attention and cash by a community that is less versed in fantasy and less literate than the general reading population. In case you did not notice (which you surely haven't, as your e-mail shows you did not do your homework), I do not have any other negative essays about books on my website, and yet I think there are a few other authors out there who have been published without incurring my apparent jealous wrath. By all means, try to argue with me by claiming my arguments are irrelevant because I'm jealous of the author. Except that it's a really bad way to make an argument. You remind me of a politician who thinks the best way to gain votes is to attack the opponent instead of making good arguments.

I have disliked and/or at least been less than interested in plenty of books that I thought were mediocre or bad. Some books I disliked because I just didn't like the story, not because the writer can't write. Some books I think the author isn't the best writer in the world, but I have very little to say about it because those kinds of books tend to disappear and sink quietly. Part of the reason I'm so offended by the popularity of Eragon is that it has so few positive qualities and yet it seems to be popular. Its audience is responding to the supposed awesomeness of ideas within, but they are ideas that Paolini didn't create--the book is the first fantasy and/or dragon-oriented book that many of these kids have read, so they think it's so mind-blowing and entertaining when it's actually been done before by the people who *invented* it.

But I'm sure that my thoughts on the essay are nothing but the prattle of a jealous, frustrated author. D'oh, you got me. Busted!

I note that nowhere is your full name or "pen" name revealed.

Ah yes, because it is so smart to attach my contact details to unpopular criticism and open myself up to the abuse of rabid people like you. Is there some kind of point you were trying to make by pointing out that I don't reveal my name? If the company I now work for had been able to Google my real name and had come up with a link to the types of things I say on the Internet, they may not have wanted to hire me. I use lots of bad language and I belong to a non-mainstream religion and I have a lot of unconventional ideas. I prefer not to attach that to an important piece of information that could allow others to hurt me with it. But I guess to you it's some kind of clue or support for your position that I'm not justified or qualified to say what I say. You probably ought to work on clarifying your meaning when you write this sort of thing. You're not being very effective with your writing if you frame something as an insult or support of a differing position but you don't identify how it helps your argument. Explain to me how my failure to reveal my real name supports anything you've said here and I'll be glad to listen.

And if I had signed the essay with a full real name or pen name, would that have changed how you felt about it? What would it have changed?

The Inheritance books are, although imperfect, more entertaining than a vast number of published fantasy books, and a fine first effort on the part of Paolini, from which he is fortunate to benefit, since this success will give him the means to hone his craft further, without worrying about living in poverty.

"They're more entertaining than a vast number of published fantasy books" is an opinion, and you don't support it. I made it clear why I feel otherwise. If you enjoyed them, that is up to you, but don't try to act like your statement here can be used like a statement of fact.

And "first efforts" are generally not published. They are first efforts because the author is learning, and there is no reason I should be giving him a get-out-of-criticism-free card because it is his first book.

If you were able to enjoy the books despite the mediocre writing and the "learning novel" mentality that permeated them, more power to you--but when I try to "look past" all the mistakes he made in those books to see the true core, all I see are others' ideas that he built upon, which were awe-inspiring and entertaining without his tripe on top of it. I don't believe it's a "fine first effort," and I believe that most of the people saying so have not read the books he pulled from, and I believe there are many more talented teenage writers in fanfiction forums who are displaying the same amount of creativity as he did. I don't think Paolini would have had to worry about living in poverty. Perhaps the money they spent on using the family's resources to produce and promote the book could have been used to support the family, and maybe the boy would have (gasp, horrors no!) gone to college like the rest of us. He's not going to do that now. He thinks he's already achieved greatness and that THAT was IT. He thinks he doesn't really have much else to learn since the first junk his pen leaked out was gobbled up by the masses. It's the same reason Dan Brown's book was so popular: He wrote The Da Vinci Code with the pacing of a movie in order to play to the short attention span and action-craving desires of the population at large. I can't tell you how many times I heard while working at a bookstore that The Da Vinci Code was such a good book by people who said in the next breath, "And I don't *like* to read!" Same with the kids who liked Eragon. "My son hates reading, but he ate that book up!" Funny how its fans are people who have little experience with reading, eh? Like I said, they're responding to an idea, and the idea isn't even something the author made up.

Obviously, I need to hone my craft further, as well, to learn how to avoid run-on sentences.

I'm afraid run-on sentences are the least of your worries. Your style needs help much less than your content. It needs to be clear why you're saying something if you're going to bother saying it--especially if you are making accusations about someone's motivation.

You and others would do better to focus on more positive exertions.

More blatant advertising of your failure to do your homework. Very little of the anti-Eragon "community" is dedicated to mindless hating. Most of them are justifiably outraged at the travesty that Eragon represents, and many of them are writers themselves who are offended on any number of levels. (And they express it well, too!) This expression of it is not the result of a bunch of negative people who need something to whine about, any more than people who think terrorism is bad and dedicate time and effort to figuring out how to combat it are "negative" due to their efforts against something. You don't understand that to a lot of us, Eragon is not just a book we dislike. It's representative of a sensationalized, undeserving ball of mediocrity being upheld as genius by a population that doesn't know how to measure such things. The anti-Eragon communities that I can think of are largely dedicated to improving writing and discussing literature, using Eragon as a hub around which to revolve as a wonderful example of what NOT to do. I have engaged in conversations with librarians, professors, English majors and English degree-holders, professional book reviewers, literature experts, and fantasy-literature gurus on the subject of this book and they unequivocally designate this book as junk. The book's fans don't seem to count such people among their number. What conclusion would you draw if all the fans of a historical novel were people who know nothing about history, and all the history buffs disgustedly pointed out how historically inaccurate it was and how dangerous it is to make the population at large think about history that way since it is written in such a way that it is framed as historically accurate? Would you say the history buffs are a bunch of picky jerks? Or would you say "hey, maybe they know what they're talking about"? We literature and language buffs do know what we are talking about when we claim Eragon is a fraud and a badly written book. I myself am a professional editor, and I love books and the written word. I know a lot about it. And I know what I'm talking about and can support it convincingly. I find myself having to discuss Eragon's merits with people who think a solid argument for the book's value is "But I liked it!" and "It is good and you are just jealous!" and "Stop being such a negative nancy!" Er . . . sorry, but you make me feel like I'm in a NASCAR race with someone who forgot to get in their car.

You do seem *civil* even if your opinions are different from mine and are not well-supported, so I would be plenty open to continuing to discuss this if you have more to say. But I advise you to stay away from assigning me imaginary faults, feelings, and opinions that are the "real" source of my problem with this book, and actually take a look at what I said. There's more than enough to work with there without assuming anything irrational about me.

But wait . . . there's more!

Dear Swankivy,

Your impassioned response is understandable, and I concur with many of your arguments. Certainly, the vast majority of folks read but do not think, and are incapable of appropriate judgment, because thinking is not taught alongside other subject matters in public school. A side point, by the way, which I would like to make, is that public school is, in many cases, although probably not the majority, inferior to homeschooling, although examples of both are justifiably criticized. Your dismissal of a diploma earned through homeschooling is not all that well-informed.

The crucial difference between the Inheritance series and the Da Vinci Code, in my view, is that Dan Brown purports to possess secret information which is to be taken seriously -- and has been -- and was intended revolutionize the way people regard Christianity and the religious establishment. Paolini is just spinning a yarn, as far as I know. From the pen of a supposedly mature writer, I would say Brown's is by far the greater travesty. I realize that you hold beliefs which are also basically at odds with Christianity, yet you surely do not support such foundless propaganda, whether or not it has been couched, as in this case, in a sloppily-glued together farce -- celebration of the sacred feminine, indeed! Ha! It is astounding to me that so many women go along with that man's view that an audience watching an old woman engaging in sex ranks among the highest honors to women the world around.

And what, I might ask, aside from the true terrorism you mentioned, and other heinous acts, could approach the offensiveness of a giant robot of Michael Jackson roaming the wilderness? I wonder if even the poor desperate chumps who try to find escape in Las Vegas deserve such a serving of terror.

Nepotism is only bemoaned by the people whom it does not serve. I have never witnessed anything to refute that fact, and I know few who would shirk undeserved help, myself included, since, although I value my own abilities, I do not pretend to have achieved perfection either, and I am sure I never will. If you are not jealous, then you should find another way of expressing yourself, that does not leave you open to that accusation.

You and your friends no doubt possess many credentials -- I am not bereft of such a circle of acquaintances either -- but they do not guarantee that you are the final judgment on the written word. I stick by my assertion that it would be better to use your obviously overflowing energy to provide a better example for the deluded masses.

Secret identities impart freedoms which are profoundly questionable. If, as you admit, people you know might not want to have you around if they knew your true nature, do you not realize that all of your assertions then become suspect?

Nevertheless, I hope you meet with success in your positive endeavors.
Olivia

Yes, I wrote back:

Thu, 29 Mar 2007 7:02 AM

:Your impassioned response is understandable, and I concur with many of your arguments.

Buuuut you didn't answer a lot of my questions (such as why you think I'm likely nothing but a jealous wannabe based on my not revealing my real name, etc.).

Certainly, the vast majority of folks read but do not think, and are incapable of appropriate judgment, because thinking is not taught alongside other subject matters in public school. A side point, by the way, which I would like to make, is that public school is, in many cases, although probably not the majority, inferior to homeschooling, although examples of both are justifiably criticized. Your dismissal of a diploma earned through homeschooling is not all that well-informed.

Where did I "dismiss" diplomas earned through homeschooling? If you can find me saying that, congratulations, you've found the pathway to an alternate reality. . . .

The only beef I have with the homeschooled-kid-phenomenon is that sometimes it's used by parents who for some reason or another feel the need to shelter their kids, and Chris is a prime example: If he had been exposed to a few more hard knocks on his writing, f'rinstance, I bet he wouldn't have produced a tome worthy of the kind of scorn I and others have showered upon it. He behaves like someone who has been told he is a genius all his life by a very small circle of people and believes that said people are right. Ya know, "because my mommy said so" syndrome. I don't think homeschool is inferior AND I never said anything like that. There are many legitimate reasons to homeschool your kid, certainly, but it is not superior in all areas and the rest of the world does pick up on the problems in social and emotional arenas that homeschool tends to leave unaddressed in many families.

The only thing homeschool does NOT have going for it (besides the tendency to foster socially inept kids more often than public school) is that it is hard to judge against a standard. My sister went to New College, which was a small liberal college whose students didn't get grades and chose their own curriculum under the guidance of a "sponsor" teacher. I went to University of Florida, a large state college that gave out the usual grades and had (gasp) a football team. I have no doubt that my sister learned what she learned very well, but the truth of the matter is that no one knows what she studied or what she knows now that she sports a degree in "Asian Studies" whose curriculum she made up and for whose classes she has no grades but pass/fail. She has discovered that without a transcript that makes sense to the standards of the outside world, her degree is little more than a passport to grad school in practical matters, though I'm sure she values the education she received. One good thing about the college I went to is that anyone anywhere knows or can easily find out what I have under my belt if they look at my degree. That doesn't make it superior, but that does mean there are pros and cons. It depends on what you want the college degree FOR.

I went to public school and would have liked nothing more than to have my parents teach me or at least learn in smaller classes. Even the gifted program (well, when I went to a school that even HAD one) was really underprepared to help curious, intelligent, fast-moving students, and even in the school that incorporated the gifted program the most, we only met twice a week. Much school time was surely wasted with me staring into space required to sit in my desk and behave like a nice girl while my classmates finished their work. It would have been nice to set my own pace. Even in the restricting school system I did manage to challenge myself, but I found that most of the important things I learned were not being picked up at school. But if I hadn't been forced by circumstance to associate with those who had lesser and/or just different abilities; if I hadn't been required to cooperate with them; if I hadn't sometimes been challenged by having to put my time into things I didn't find interesting; and if I hadn't spent plenty of time just learning how to relate to other people; I wouldn't be well-rounded. The world ISN'T tailor-made to YOU. But many aspects of homeschool are. If school is supposed to prepare you to be a successful adult, it's important that it actually prepares you for life. One of the things that pisses me off about Chris is that he is still living in a world that is tailor-made to him. He says he doesn't read reviews. (Why read them? It's irrelevant. He knows he's great and he knows he's making money, and that's all he needs to know.) He wrote what reads like a practice novel by a very inexperienced person, and because the world at large has no idea that it's very COMMON for particular types of young people to write novels (even long ones!) when they're still teenagers, they're all bowled over by the phenomenon that is Kid Author. (Before I was done being nineteen, I had written four novels. Two of them were longer than Eragon. I have no delusion that they were good or that I was a prodigy for doing this.) For his accomplishments, he gets his butt kissed. For his shortcomings, he gets a get-out-of-criticism-free card because he's relatively young. And for his three-brick paperweight of a series, he gets attention from a population that has never read a serious fantasy involving a dragon or a hero quest before. No wonder they think it's original.

The crucial difference between the Inheritance series and the Da Vinci Code, in my view, is that Dan Brown purports to possess secret information which is to be taken seriously -- and has been -- and was intended revolutionize the way people regard Christianity and the religious establishment.

I never thought that Brown was trying to portray his fictional story as anything but fiction, but I do think that he was trying to incorporate some little-known truths. This is not to say that he was using real people's names or correctly depicting real organizations. It was NOT trying to be a frame story for revelations of truth, but I think that its importance is in that it attempted to get the general public to think about why it believes what it believes. I don't like Brown's writing style; I think he is a hack--it got very tiresome to read dozens of three-page chapters that ended with the literary equivalent of "dun-dun-DUN!!!" and had nearly every character change sides from "good" to "evil," some more than once. But I also think he's got a completely different genre on his hands here.

I once edited a romance novel and I'm not accustomed to romance novels. I read the first chapter and reluctantly reported to the author that I thought her novel was too predictable--that anyone could see the bookish valedictorian girl was going to get together with the football player even though of course they hated each other at first. She responded something to this effect: "You don't understand the point of romance. The audience already knows when they pick it up that the guy and girl are getting together, so it's not a question of 'if.' It's a question of 'how.' The audience who reads romance picks it up *expecting* a love story, and if they don't get it they will put the book down." She was right, and I found it much easier to read the book and edit it with that in mind once she said that. As for Dan Brown, he was writing a thriller, and even though I don't like the pace and find the writing a bit boorish, I understand that he was writing for an audience that is not me.

But I do love a good fantasy. And I'm afraid Chris tries way too hard and falls far too short. If I had been a publisher/editor receiving his manuscript, I would have thought "ugh! no sale!" as soon as I hit "A tall Shade lifted his head and sniffed the air. He looked human except for his crimson hair and maroon eyes." (Which in case you don't remember is in the first paragraph of the prologue.) He thinks writing is about the beauty of language rather than the story the words carry--and he doesn't do a good job making it beautiful because he just tries too hard to do so. It's like the difference between a woman who is naturally beautiful and a woman who makes herself that way with makeup and hair products. She'll always look fake next to the woman who has it naturally, even if the "natural" woman isn't as "glamorous" or cultured or whatever. People will appreciate her more, too--and chances are that if a woman pursues beauty so much that she spends lots of time and money on acquiring it, she will have an unhealthy attitude toward it. That's what I think about Chris and his relationship with words. It's just fake, and it's not fooling me. I like natural writers.

I realize that you hold beliefs which are also basically at odds with Christianity, yet you surely do not support such foundless propaganda, whether or not it has been couched, as in this case, in a sloppily-glued together farce -- celebration of the sacred feminine, indeed! Ha! It is astounding to me that so many women go along with that man's view that an audience watching an old woman engaging in sex ranks among the highest honors to women the world around.

I pretty much found Dan Brown's book irrelevant to my beliefs, and I thought he misrepresented the "sacred feminine" quite a bit, but I was glad that someone was willing to say things so shocking about the origins of the Christian religion that the largely ignorant community jumped to take a look at it. Some, in their research, found that there were plenty of exaggerations and misrepresentations, but also found that they certainly didn't have the whole story about what they'd spent their whole lives believing. . . .

And what, I might ask, aside from the true terrorism you mentioned, and other heinous acts, could approach the offensiveness of a giant robot of Michael Jackson roaming the wilderness? I wonder if even the poor desperate chumps who try to find escape in Las Vegas deserve such a serving of terror.

I just shook my head when I heard about that.

Nepotism is only bemoaned by the people whom it does not serve. I have never witnessed anything to refute that fact, and I know few who would shirk undeserved help, myself included, since, although I value my own abilities, I do not pretend to have achieved perfection either, and I am sure I never will. If you are not jealous, then you should find another way of expressing yourself, that does not leave you open to that accusation.

It's very common to challenge criticism with personal attacks, like you did to me. I gave plenty of reasons why I thought Paolini's book was a pile of crap, and your response was "Obviously you're jealous." Regardless of how I feel about him, it doesn't follow that my criticism is therefore not justified.

However, I don't think I present myself as jealous or "leave myself open." I really don't talk about myself very much at all in the essay--I focus on *his* shortcomings. Let's look at Tori and Aaron Spelling. Was nepotism involved? Surely. Everyone who watched that show (which does not include me) could easily pick out the one actress who wasn't as attractive or natural or talented as the rest, and (surprise, surprise) it turns out she's the producer's daughter. Does that mean that all the actors and actresses who see a hack actress being treated as if she's earned the right to be there are therefore fueled by jealousy? I would bet that many of them are jealous in that they want what she has, but you might be wise to note that these actors are not focusing on the other actors who did deserve to be there, just as I am not writing any crusading essays against hundreds of thousands of other successful authors who have what I want. They find Tori Spelling's presence on the cast of 90210 sickening not because she got there through being the producer's daughter, but because she got there through being the producer's daughter AND she didn't deserve to be there.

I do want what Paolini has, but I don't want to come by it the way he did and I do not have any semblance of jealousy toward his talents. I do think I am a much better writer, but I don't yet have a publishing contract to show that anyone in the industry agrees with me. Your suggestion that I am fueled by jealousy or that I present myself that way is way off the mark. I don't have a problem with nepotism just by itself, although sometimes it does provide an unfair advantage (well, I guess that's part of the definition, right?). I only have a problem with it if the people who benefit are not qualified. My grandmother sang in several different Broadway shows and countless off-Broadway and community theater productions. I'm also a singer. I majored in music but I didn't finish the degree, and I have little performance experience. But if I were to go try out for a musical whose director had worked with my grandmother, I have very little doubt that I would be received more warmly than other actresses, and I would probably be introduced to others with a proud "THIS here is MARCELINE'S GRANDDAUGHTER!!" But if I did not win the role on the strength of my voice, I would not want to be there. People who know people is a nice way to get your foot in the door, but if you don't belong in that room, get out. Get off the stage.

Here is an example from my collection of responses that addresses this without me having to say it again:

Say I go to an art gallery, and I notice that most of the framed art is beautiful and in some way obviously made by a talented person even if I don't like or understand some of it. But then I see some painting that's framed like the others and hung up next to other artists' work, and I don't think it's very well-done. Its colors are flat, the portrait's eyes are at the wrong angle with the tilt of the head, the perspective and proportions are off, and the lighting on the face is different from the lighting on the neck. My artist's eye notices these things and I begin to point them out.

Immediately I am attacked by art critics defending the painting. Most often they say that this portrait was done by a boy when he was only fifteen, so it's great for the kid's age. Secondly they say he didn't set OUT to paint a realistic picture. He set out to paint something people would enjoy, and people are enjoying it and it obviously got into this gallery, so it must be good enough. But all I see is the painting itself. And I still don't think it's good. I would understand "it's great for a fifteen-year-old," even if I don't really think it's that either; however, this isn't a children's gallery or a developing artists' gallery, and I don't feel like I should escalate the painting's value or its creator's talent just because he is young. He is in the art gallery with adults and serious artists, so he should be on their level if he is going to be hung in the gallery. Then I think to wonder . . . how did this happen? Is the whole artistic world as oblivious as these art critics?

After a little research, I find that the kid who painted it has parents who own the gallery. Surprise!

I'm still looking at a substandard painting. I'm not reading in any excuses for how long the artist has been painting or who his parents are. I'm looking at the work itself. I still see that the artist needs to learn some things about perspective and facial proportions, and I know enough about art through my own experience as an art critic and a painter to be able to tell the difference between a deliberate IGNORING of these rules (as in Picasso's cubism or Dalí's surrealism) and a badly rendered attempt.

And obviously this kid's parents telling him all along that he's a genius has made him think he doesn't need to get better; he just needs to make more like this, because this is good enough and everyone seems to be so in awe of it.

Nope. I don't buy it. And ultimately allowing "good for his age" to be considered on par with "good, period" lowers the standards across the board, hurting no one more than the "artist" himself.

You and your friends no doubt possess many credentials -- I am not bereft of such a circle of acquaintances either -- but they do not guarantee that you are the final judgment on the written word. I stick by my assertion that it would be better to use your obviously overflowing energy to provide a better example for the deluded masses.

Certainly nothing "guarantees" that "we" (people I've conversed with, NOT "friends") are right just because we have a piece of paper or certain experience, but considering the fact that we a) possess a background that shows our experience dealing with this sort of thing and b) SUPPORT OUR ARGUMENTS WITH FACTS AND REASON rather than just saying "boo, but I liked it" like most of the people who enjoyed the book, I think we are more likely to have a point.

As for "obviously overflowing energy" needing to be channeled toward positive endeavors, I see you are again coming to conclusions about me based on little information. Apparently you think I've devoted a ridiculous amount of time and attention to a book that I don't like. You didn't look at it in context, and you have no idea what positive endeavors I do have under my belt.

On my website I feature twenty-four short stories, excerpts of six novels, many poems, essays, and rants, and a weekly online comic whose writing and worldbuilding have been praised by many fantasy fans (many of whom found me because they were looking for people who disliked Eragon as much as I did and followed my link to the comic from my article). I also have art and photo pages, a sound files page featuring singing and even a few original songs, plenty of personal information and philosophy, and several pages designed to teach or help. I have negative reviews of Eragon and Eldest on my website, and that is more than balanced by the fan pages I display for Francesca Lia Block, the Sandman, Joan D. Vinge, and Lemony Snicket. I'm working on my eleventh novel after hearing from an interested agent who said she thought my tenth novel (which had caught her attention) was too long to market for a first-time publishing, and am hoping this shorter one gets a better response. And my website is something I've built slowly over the last ten years.

The Eragon mess is but a blip on the radar of my packed-to-the-brim life, and here you are saying this one article shows how badly I need to focus my life on the positive. Not to overreact, but that pretty much elicits a "how dare you?" response from me. You've demonstrated how little you know by pretending to know that much. That's why educated readers should refrain from making judgments on the writer based on the writing if they haven't done the appropriate background research. Anything personal I've said about Paolini is based on something from an interview (where he was indeed representing himself) or is not a specifically personal statement about HIM but a general statement about his situation. I don't like personal attacks, so I do my best to avoid slinging them myself.

Secret identities impart freedoms which are profoundly questionable. If, as you admit, people you know might not want to have you around if they knew your true nature, do you not realize that all of your assertions then become suspect?

You took what I said out of context again. I'm talking about professional relationships, and that's what I said in my previous e-mail (also referencing stalkers who shouldn't be given the tools to find me). Anyone I have a close personal relationship with has seen my website and knows just about everything important about me without looking at it. I just don't think it would impact my professional life very well for my co-workers to know I am of a minority religion, a minority political party, and that I write many essays and stories which could be seen as objectionable for anything from language to content. My co-workers are all men, all but one in the age range of 45 to 70, all Christian, and all Republican. My ability to do my job is not affected by the values I hold, and both of our comfort level in the workplace is insulated by knowing little about each other's personal lives. Knowing the sorts of things traditional Christians believe about Pagans, I do not want to be subjected to their prejudices. Knowing that there is an engineer two doors down whose walls are papered with pictures of President Bush and who actually has a talking Bush doll on his desk, I do not want him to know that I in fact support gay marriage and other filthy liberal agendas. (He even gave me a hairy eyeball while inquiring why I was vegetarian!)

Your statement indicates that you believe my desire to hide my views from those who would persecute me for them makes my relationships suspect and dishonest. I think it's more about survival. My relationship with these folks is professional, not personal, so I don't want their personal prejudices affecting my ability to be comfortable and productive at work. (And vice versa.) I do not use my "secret identity" on the 'Net to do anything shameful or to avoid accountability. I use it to separate my personal life from my professional one, and I think that's not only excusable but in some cases necessary.

Er, your move. . . .

(No, she didn't move.)


A weird short one to which I gave an inappropriately long response:

uberhaxxor of pwnage: c'mon, dude, ur bein kinda harsh. u hav really good points- star wars and lord of the rings were way overcopied. still, the detailing was well-done and while the archaic language makes me glad my parents haven't read it it definitely adds a certain feel to the overall story that is comparable to lord of the rings. (barely) sure, paolini's a stuck-up wannabe who thinks he's the greatest thing since homer, but that's why we review the BOOKS, not the authors.

My response:

Hello "uberhaxxor of pwnage," I see you left me a comment about my Eragon essay. Let's see what I have to say.

:c'mon, dude, ur bein kinda harsh.

I'm not a "dude" in the historical sense of the word, but beyond that . . . this book, in my opinion, DESERVED the harshness. You probably haven't done your homework on me--folks like you usually don't--but the Chris Paolini books are the only books I've kicked in the nuts like this. It's not like I'm just an asshole who craps on everything. This book deserved what I said.

u hav really good points- star wars and lord of the rings were way overcopied. still, the detailing was well-done and while the archaic language makes me glad my parents haven't read it it definitely adds a certain feel to the overall story that is comparable to lord of the rings.

Just out of curiosity, have you read LOTR?

"The detailing was well-done," you said--but you don't support it at all. So pretty much you're just saying "Nuh-uh! It was GOOD, not bad!" Why do you think it was well-done? I went into a lot of detail about why I think it wasn't well-done at all. It read like an infodump whenever he tried to give details, and it was so awkward it read like a tenth grade English assignment.

As for the archaic language adding "a certain feel," I disagree. It *felt* created. It felt like he invented reasons for people to speak it just to show it off, rather than that the people had this other language that they happened to speak. He hasn't yet figured out how to be graceful about these things, and he hasn't yet mastered the art of figuring out all the glorious details of a world and then choosing what is and what isn't appropriate to present in the story. In my webcomic I had a race of characters who spoke a different language, but I didn't try to make it seem like I really went all out and invented this language by pulling reasons to use it out of my butt. When it needed to be used I used it. Most of the time you don't really think about the fact that these people aren't speaking English. That's how it should be. It should feel like natural conversation. If you ask anyone who actually knows about this sort of thing, you will find that linguists and their ilk are NOT impressed with what he has done.

sure, paolini's a stuck-up wannabe who thinks he's the greatest thing since homer, but that's why we review the BOOKS, not the authors.

"We" who? I can review the author as much as I like. Especially since Eragon is an admitted self-insert and Paolini's inexperience is not something I can remove from my understanding of the book. The book is all in HIS voice--not in a narrator's voice and not seamlessly told through the voices of any characters--so it's only natural that I comment as much as I do on Paolini's imposition of himself on the text. I'm not sure where you think you get off throwing an attempted zinger at me as if authors are untouchable and I should have to take the book out of its context. I believe Paolini's book is badly written largely because of some attitudes that he holds, so it's not like I can take that out of my explanation for why I think the book sucks.

Feel free to elaborate on the answers here . . . or just ignore me. Whichever makes you happy.

No elaboration was offered.


From the form-sent comments again:
Priya: Hi,

I see that you have expressed your opinion on the two books(Eragon and Eldest) but I must say that you were extremely rude throughout.I also read the comments sent to you by other people and your response to those people and i noticed that you were being more rude.How can you say comment on others' taste?Is yours any better?Everyone has different opinions and I did not care even when I read your essay.But reading your responses i realised it is time somebody taught you manners..or atleast explain to you to behave to others.I dont care if you hate the book..I think nobody should. Simply, anyone can tell YOU that YOU HAVE A BAD TASTE.You have no rights to comment on other people's tastes.

I have read a lot of fantasy like Tolkien, Colfer, Pullman , Rowling and Paolini and I feel that everyones styles are absolutely different.Paolini and Tolkien's styles are similar because they have derived their stories from Norse mythology that is all.If you feel that the copying is the problem, then has not Rowling copied from Greek mythology?What is your answer to that? I am sorry if I sounded rude but i only vented my anger at you. Also you cannot tease someone else's writing style.Can you tell me some books you have written?I will read it and then judge you by it.

Learn your manners,
Priya

I responded with this:

Hello Priya,

I am responding to your comment sent through my forms regarding my Inheritance Cycle essay. Point by point if applicable.

I see that you have expressed your opinion on the two books(Eragon and Eldest) but I must say that you were extremely rude throughout.

There's a difference between rudeness and voicing a negative opinion. I don't like the books. I said so. I'm allowed to give a negative review--especially of books I think as horrible as these--without falling into the category of rudeness. Feel free to cite one statement I made that was unfair to say and I'll be glad to listen to you.

I also read the comments sent to you by other people and your response to those people and i noticed that you were being more rude.

I am often direct and honest about my communications, but I don't think I'm being rude just because I disagree with them. I do think that a lot of THEIR communications were inappropriate, and my saying so doesn't make me rude.

How can you say comment on others' taste?Is yours any better?

How can I comment on others' taste? I never said anywhere that they can't like the books. In fact, I said the opposite; I deliberately stated that people are free to like the book if they want to. I just gave huge amounts of detail as to why *I* do NOT. And that's what an opinion essay is for. You'll find no statements anywhere in my body of work that claims my taste is "better." However, I do give extensive reasons for my tastes. I say what I don't like and WHY I don't like it, and why, in my opinion, the books containing these elements makes them not enjoyable for me. I think they're bad books. I don't think people who like them are therefore bad people. That's all.

Everyone has different opinions and I did not care even when I read your essay.But reading your responses i realised it is time somebody taught you manners..or atleast explain to you to behave to others.

That's pretty funny. Ironic, really. For you to barge into my comments box and claim that YOU are teaching ME a lesson about manners. The bottom line is that I expressed my opinion, and where applicable, I shared my responses to others who give me the same tired old excuses for why my criticism shouldn't apply.

I dont care if you hate the book..I think nobody should. Simply, anyone can tell YOU that YOU HAVE A BAD TASTE.You have no rights to comment on other people's tastes.

I'm not sure what you're saying here. I'm afraid you don't communicate very clearly. Are you contradicting yourself here? Because it looks like you just said anyone can tell ME my taste is bad, but I shouldn't be able to tell anyone else that theirs is bad. This is irrelevant, though, because I'm not telling anyone what they are allowed to like in their books. My essays are about my opinion. Any messages you're getting about me telling other people what to like are made up in your own head. If they're not, quote me.

I have read a lot of fantasy like Tolkien, Colfer, Pullman , Rowling and Paolini and I feel that everyones styles are absolutely different.

Yes, and? Not something I argued against, nor would I.

Paolini and Tolkien's styles are similar because they have derived their stories from Norse mythology that is all.

I don't see a lot of similarity in Paolini's "style" with regards to Tolkien. He has said he "strives for a lyrical beauty somewhere between Tolkien at his best and Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf," but all I see is that he is trying and missing it by a lot. I don't consider their styles similar because Tolkien was a master and Paolini is not. However, what I did argue was that many setting and character elements were lifted from Tolkien's stories. If you're going to criticize what I've said, you owe it to me and yourself to actually know what my argument was in the first place.

If you feel that the copying is the problem, then has not Rowling copied from Greek mythology?What is your answer to that?

My biggest problem with Paolini's work--and I expressed this clearly--is that it uses a classic story theme while bringing nothing new to the table and rendering it all in a sloppy, immature writing style. There is a very clear difference between incorporating mythological elements--which, yes, he and others did--and being unoriginal from so many sources that your work is internally inconsistent. He's borrowed ideas for his magic system from so many places that the magic "rules" don't apply consistently, and he's lifted so many different ideas of dragons from various stories that Saphira behaves differently (and inconsistently with her established personality) whenever it is convenient. You don't need to oversimplify my arguments or entirely make up things I didn't say in order to argue with me. Respond directly to something I said if you want to discuss this.

I am sorry if I sounded rude but i only vented my anger at you.

Stop writing e-mails to people when you're angry enough to "vent." Calm down before you write to me. Otherwise you'll embarrass yourself.

Also you cannot tease someone else's writing style.

I can't . . . "tease" . . . a writing style? Well, I'll excuse you because I think English is not your first language (correct me if I'm wrong), but yes, I can criticize other people's writing style. I am allowed to do that. Especially since I think Paolini's writing style is one of the most obnoxious things I've ever seen. Why are you saying you think I "cannot" do that?

Can you tell me some books you have written?I will read it and then judge you by it.

This was obviously designed to suggest that I've never written a book and therefore shouldn't be judging others. If you've never cooked a meal, does that mean you can't tell when food tastes bad? If you've never composed a song, does that mean you lose all rights to say what you like and don't like about other people's music? I don't think so.

But this is all irrelevant because I've written eleven books. I speak from experience, I'm afraid.

And I'm not saying this to be insulting to you, but your composition of this comment reflects your poor understanding of language. I on the other hand am a professional editor and have been for over a decade. What purpose would YOU criticizing MY writing have if your sentence construction abilities are so clearly lacking? Perhaps you might be able to render some decent criticism about story and character and content, but the way you've structured your argument against mine is incredibly weak and full of ad hominem attacks, so I think even that might be out of your scope.

I'll trust that since you read my essay on part of my writing site, you can find your way to my fiction writing page if you actually WANT to read and attempt to review my writing. Frankly I doubt you'll take the time, because you don't appear to have any experience in literary criticism, and reading other people's work to comment critically on it is actually hard work. In case you do decide to try it, though, you should know that backing up what you say with examples is the only way to make a presentable case. If you believe yourself capable of this, go for it.

Learn your manners

I don't think I've ever been told to learn manners by someone who knows his own. Similarly, I've never been told to grow up by someone more mature than I am. Next time you speak to me--if there is a next time--remove the personal attacks from your argument. Address the argument. Itself. Cite what you think was so "rude" for me to say and why you think it was inappropriate or untrue, and you'll get a lot farther in coming to an understanding than if you just throw personal statements about the other person's supposed "rudeness." Jumping so quickly to personal attacks is the first sign of a person who has no idea how to construct an argument. You're currently in this category in my mind and your opinion will not be of interest to me until you dig yourself out.

~*ivy

Priya responds:

HI,

Thanks, I somewhat got my doubts cleared..and hey you guessed right that my first language is not English..so sorry if my English was bad.But I dont think you should be so straightforward in answering your questions..that may be your style but it sounds way too rude.(just a suggestion but of course you know better than me i think) I said you cannot "tease someone's writing style" because each author writes in a different style and everyone feels differently about it.So what you say may not exactly be what everyone else feels.And because of that, you cannot say that anyone has a bad taste.(you said so in one of your replies to someone else who wrote to you)That was all that i was trying to tell you.And that was what I meant by saying that anyone can tell you that you have a bad taste.See my comment.
Anyway thanks for your reply, whatever I may have commented, I still enjoyed your essay..It really made me think about what you said.

Priya

And I wrote back:

hey you guessed right that my first language is not English..so sorry if my English was bad.

It's not that bad, to tell you the truth, but there are a few glitches in your writing style that suggest it isn't the language you think in. I notice these things because I have a lot of experience editing people's work.

But I dont think you should be so straightforward in answering your questions..that may be your style but it sounds way too rude.(just a suggestion but of course you know better than me i think)

I suppose we can agree to disagree there. Most of the criticisms I get on my critique include attacks on me personally for what I say, so I don't believe I owe their authors any but the most curt of replies.

I said you cannot "tease someone's writing style" because each author writes in a different style and everyone feels differently about it.So what you say may not exactly be what everyone else feels.

I can still say why I think an author's writing style is badly rendered or ridiculous or over the top. It doesn't mean I am personally judging anyone who likes it. I do think that people who like this style simply can't see how amateurish it is (usually because they themselves are not good writers, not experienced readers, or for some other reason can't tell quality from fakery), so all I did was make it my business to show why Paolini's writing style is clearly inferior to that of better writers. If you still like it or can't tell the difference, you're one of many, and you're far from alone--the books are, after all, bestsellers, so there are a lot of people in the world whose taste does not discriminate on the refined grounds that mine does.

And because of that, you cannot say that anyone has a bad taste.(you said so in one of your replies to someone else who wrote to you)That was all that i was trying to tell you.

I'm still mystified as to why you think I ever said anyone has bad taste. Perhaps you misinterpreted something I wrote. I do recall jokingly saying I love Eoin Colfer's writing but have hated books he recommends (and therefore have decided he has crap taste), but I didn't say that to a reader on the grounds of disagreeing with me; I said it in reference to an author repeatedly recommending books that were terrible to the point where I have decided I cannot trust his taste to match mine. I don't honestly care if someone has what I'd consider poor taste in literature, but my essays explain (in detail) the rationale behind the formation of MY taste, and I think it's easily understood that anyone would stop putting any faith in the taste of a person whose values are differently placed. For instance, I prefer character-oriented movies to action-oriented movies, but explosion-obsessed thriller fans would probably say I have bad taste in movies if my idea of a good one is watching people explore themselves and their relationships. That's their right. I have no reason to be offended if they don't like what I like.

My dislike of Eragon is maybe 1/4 based on taste (I am admittedly not a fan of high fantasy or adventure stories), and approximately 3/4 based on what I consider errors. I have read many books in my life which also weren't to my taste, but I didn't automatically think they were bad books just because I didn't care for their subject matter or storytelling. Part of the reason I hated Eragon as much as I did was that 3/4. The errors, the inconsistencies, the lack of originality, the pompousness, and the unrealistic characters. If it was just a book that I didn't particularly like, I wouldn't have written an essay. However, the things I think are blatantly WRONG with it--things that were MISTAKES and poorly rendered tellings--drove me to express my opinion, and the "taste" is just the icing on the cake. . . .

Anyway thanks for your reply, whatever I may have commented, I still enjoyed your essay..It really made me think about what you said.

Thank you, and I'm glad you're willing to examine why you think what you think. It shows promise for later in your life. Curiosity and critical thinking are essential traits for an educated mind. Good day!

~*ivy


Chris Herman: He might not be able to write, but he seems to be doing pretty well for himself. Instead of writing mulitple criticisms, you might actually want to your time reading literature that you actually enjoy! Even though it's been done better, (which I agree whole heartedly that it has) the only the thing you gain from writing this is showing the internet the bitter side of you that would rather criticize a 15 year old who wrote an okay book than do something meaningful with your talent

swankivy: Really dude?

"He might not be able to write, but he seems to be doing pretty well for himself."

If I was criticizing how well he was doing for himself, I'd be in the wrong, wouldn't I? But I was criticizing his writing, and I think I made my thoughts and the reasons behind them more than clear. If you think how much money something makes is a measure of its quality, we have a lot more to disagree about than book taste, dear.

"Instead of writing mulitple criticisms, you might actually want to your time reading literature that you actually enjoy!"

Gee, what a great idea. I sure wish I'd thought of it. I guess I don't have over a thousand book reviews on Goodreads, very few of which were one-star ratings, then. Oh wait, you don't know how to do your homework. Are you unfamiliar with the concept of a negative book review? I shared why I didn't like the books. I also share why I do like the books I like. But you seem to have conveniently ignored the five fansites I have for authors I love and hundreds of positive book reviews I have linked. There's a word for what you did there. Confirmation bias. If you're looking for evidence that I'm just a sad and frustrated person who's wasting her time, I guess all you have to do is read the single set of bad reviews I have on my site.

"Even though it's been done better, (which I agree whole heartedly that it has) the only the thing you gain from writing this is showing the internet the bitter side of you that would rather criticize a 15 year old who wrote an okay book than do something meaningful with your talent"

Really, you can't see anything but "bitterness" if someone writes a book review that gives an unusually comprehensive explanation of her thoughts? I gave you plenty of reasons why I thought the books were terrible, and yet the reason behind my writing them is attributed to a personal flaw of mine? That's not how it works.

Also, how long is Chris going to be 15? He was NINETEEN--not fifteen--when he published THE FIRST BOOK. The last book--which I also thought was awful--was published when he was nearly thirty. Are you Paolini apologists SERIOUSLY going to bang on about his age FOREVER? Is he FOREVER protected from criticism because he was a kid when he wrote his first bad book?

As for doing something meaningful with my talent, gee, I wonder what I should do next? Besides trashing books I hate on the Internet (and, as mentioned, supporting good ones), I run four blogs, draw two regularly updating webcomics, make educational videos about publishing, writing, and activist topics, and, let's see, what else . . . I write novels. My fantasy novel series--which is one of the many things I have created that I think counts as doing something meaningful with my talent--is signed to a literary agent and is at this moment being considered for publication by multiple major publishers. The nonfiction book I've written while I waited for that to happen got signed to a different literary agent and it sold to a publisher last year, and I've just turned in my draft to my publisher for publication in September. I just got back from lecturing on my topic at Princeton University, and am now negotiating my next speech opportunity while lining up the particulars of my book deal and hoping to find time to write my next novel sometime in the next couple months.

But too bad I do nothing at all but write a few essays about some books I hate, huh? Sure wish I could find something meaningful to do.


JustAsking: I'm just curious to know why you hate these books so much you read all of them simply to write extensive essays on how bad they are. I mean, I have plenty of books I absolutely hated, but I just stopped reading them and moved on. You seem to have some sort of vendetta against the series or Paolini, to the point of obsession. Why?

swankivy: Funny that you are so quick to imagine it's some kind of obsession or vendetta when I actually answered exactly what you asked here in the content of the essays you're taking as evidence of inappropriate engagement with the content.

To summarize, I read the first one to completion because I thought a review would be less valuable if I wouldn't even give the entire book a chance, and then I got a lot of feedback about the review I posted since it was such a popular book. Two camps emerged: one that was begging me to trash the second book, and one that was bleating about how much better the second one was and urging me to give his sophomore work a fair try.

I hated Eldest and said so, and refused to read Brisingr even though the other haters were (again) begging me for a review because for some reason they found my rants hilarious. I also was no longer working at the bookstore where I had been working when the first two were released, so I had no easy access to books without buying them (or getting on a waiting list for a book I expected to hate at the library). So I kept responding to public and private requests to review the book with "no, it was torture enough last time," until finally someone gifted me a copy of the eBook for book 3 and said "now PLEASE will you read it and review it??" and I finally relented. It took me almost three years to get around to finally doing it, but I did. The Internet rejoiced.

And finally since the fourth one was coming out shortly after that, I just gave in and reviewed the damn thing while it was still fresh, to much fanfare. If you do not believe people were actively requesting my feedback and celebrating when I gave it, and you really care about checking that this is true, feel free to follow the many links I provided. You can see a discussion group thread with over a hundred people discussing my review, and you can go into the comments submitted on the essays (through the same vehicle you used) to see how much attention it got.

In other words, your eagerness to call my extensive reviews an unreasonable obsession is misplaced, and furthermore, just because YOU prefer to just put a book down if you don't like it doesn't mean people who prefer to post critiques are succumbing to vendettas. You are free to abandon works you're not enjoying just like the rest of us are free to share our opinions. If you really believed there was never a good reason to voice an opinion about something you didn't like, you wouldn't be sending me feedback about my essays since you're implying the only thing that makes sense as a motivation to writing them is if I am obsessed with hating the series/Paolini.

Hope that answers your question. (Thoroughly, as is my usual approach.)


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