Personally, I am getting kinda tired when almost every (er...well, lots, at least) post is hijacked by the same people with the same agenda and the same bone of contention.
There is plenty of stuff I disagree with but I don't feel the need to pour fuel on every thread the minute it dips into the general area of my pet peeve...
So for those who wish to hijack threads, hijack this one--I don't mind. Otherwise stay on topic or post a new topic yourself...none of this 'I meant to start a thread on this subject'--actually start one.
[This message has been edited by skadder (edited June 26, 2009).]
Zerostone: Excellent thread you started. I participate in Hatrack in the effort to make my hobby into a profession (a pitifull attempt, I must admit). I really appreciate the work you did to show what got past the slush readers, impressed the editors, and got printed in one of the most prestigious magazines in our genre. Thank you very much.
Philocinimas: Excellent analysis on your part. You saved the hair on my head from me scratching my scalp trying to figure out what was so special about a submission I usually yawn about. It doesn't change my mind on how I feel about them, but it does help me get inside the editors head.
Talespinner: Please don't make me beg you to stay here. I love your challenges, or insight, and your writing.
KDW: I sympathize with you, gal. I checked out the craigslist forum on writing once. Wow was that ugly. I am betting the creator of hatrack envisioned a place where aspiring writers could go to discuss issues relating to a common craft and offer advise on how to improve it. How an innocent thread that was basically 'Hey, look at what got printed in Fantasy and Science Fiction' degenerated into a bitch fest is both disturbing and compelling from anthropological stand point.
Now I am going to say something that admitly, is hypocritical on my part. A bunch of you ought to be ashamed of yourself. Using the examples of Zerostones thread as evidence that 'the critiquers here are off base' is so far off the point that it defies common sense. Let me blunt on why the vast majority of you won't ever be published in a SFWA publication. You Are Not Good Enough period. (this includes myself)
I base my opinion entirely on the examples in Feedback and Fragments. Reading a few complete submissions only solidifies my opinion. It is my extreme hope that you all prove me wrong. Please prove me wrong.
I read more than once that a few us (and I take those complaints are sometimes aimed at me), that offer our critiques and services for free, somehow cross a line of decorum. Speaking entirely for myself, if I hurt your feelings while give you my opinions on your hard work, that is too damn bad. Get over it. if you want to know what an equal thinks then don't complain when they tell you something you don't want to hear. That is what a critique is about. You can bitch all you want that I am focusing on the wrong thing. My intention is to help you improve your piece so it has an opportunity in the market of your choice. If I see something that doesn't look right to me it is my responsibility to convey my feelings to you on what is wrong with it. What you do with that information is entirely up to you. You are free to have the opinion that I have no idea what I am talking about. You would be probably correct about that opinion.
As far as decorum goes, KDW does a very good job of intervening when things get out of hand. I have seen her do that quite a bit in Writing Discussions but rarely in Feedback and Fragraments, and to be honest, 90% of the heated complaints on here is about what happens on other forums, like F&F.
There have been more than a few references to other critique sites, Liberty Hall, Critters, Baens Slush... to just name a few. The argument that posting something on hatrack jeopardizes its publication rights doesn't hold any weight. The reason why all submissions are restricted to 13 lines is so you don't infringe on its marketabilty.
I participate on other critique sites myself but spend the vast majority of my time here. Why? It's fun. It's more interactive, the feedback you get is quicker, and the writers here are pretty good. I consider all of you equals. What saddens me is when names that I am used to seeing on here disappear. JeanneT, Steffenwolf, extrinsic, Kathyton, LintonRobinson (forget that last one) are gone. Why? These people (well maybe not LR) would offer outstanding advice and would participate in a lot of stuff. I miss their input.
A personal request to She Who Must Be Obeyed: next time a thread gets out of hand and off topic may I suggest that you move their post here. Oh, and I put away my marshmellows and hotdogs.
<Machine gun fire> Due to the Nakatomi Corporation's legacy of greed around the globe, they're about to be taught a lesson in the real use of power. You will be witnesses. Now, where is Mr Takagi? Joseph Yashinobo Takagi...
When there was a GEnie bulletin board, there was a topic that the sysops could move flame posts to, and I'd be fine with something like that here, except that I can't move individual posts, I can only move entire topics.
So we'll just have to muddle on as we have been doing.
[Rant] It's a damned shame when people who are supposed to be perfecting the craft they so love turn everything into a personal matter.
Long ago, I realized the Merlion would never value my critiques, so, I stopped critiquing his work. I would have thought that the simple cure.
And, make no mistake, I am the one he assumes speaks in absolutes about editors. The truth is, I speak from the research I've done on agents and editors. Yes, there are exceptions to the rules. But, they are few and far between--not examples of how to break into the market. If we're trying to improve our skillset (which I am) we won't settle for hoping and editor sees the genius in our story, we'll shape the prose so that he or she will be halfway through the story when they realize they've passed the first page.
You see, the real complaint (whether they realize it or not) is not about the first 13s. What it is truly about is the critiques.
There. The truth is out.
It's been stated (into the ground!) that the problems of the beginnings are fluent throughout the stories. So, if the beginning is rough, confusing, too "purple", slow or weakened with adverbs and adjectives, why would I want to torture myself by requesting more? On the off chance that there is a good story buried there?
Yes, 13 lines/openings are hard. Guess what... writing is hard. There's an absolute for you. Writers are some kind of masochists, we choose to burn our free time with lying on paper, and fight to keep our facts straight. Then we have to go over it again so that the lie is believable--ask questions that could yank half of the weave back out if the answers aren't right--so that even in the face of a huge fishstory, our readers won't care about us lying to them. Then we have to make sure that the words are smooth, the sound effects well-placed, and there are no stumbling points in which the audience can point and say, "Yeah right. This is crap." And the whole time, we're working, too. And then...we do the second draft. Yeah, writing is not easy.
And I'll tell you another little secret: If the openings are too hard for you to clearly hook a small majority, it will reflect on a larger scale in sales. [/Rant]
Wow! You guys have a lot of pent up rage. You should be thanking everyone for giving you this chance to let it out. I love you, so I'll keep it going a little longer...
I didn't see anyone complain about getting negative feedback, only bad quality feedback. Most of us KNOW our stuff has problems, that's why we submit for critiques.
If someone says that my grammar makes them want to slit their wrists, then great! I can use that. What I don't like is arbitrary, unclear, non-nonsensical comments. Sorry, but "not hooky enough" isn't a valid critique. Neither is "Great, interesting characters, but I don't see the hook."
(Note to anyone who's getting personally offended right now: I'm not talking to you. Your comments are gold. Always.)
Seriously, if you don't have something to say that makes sense, then just tell me if you'd read on, and click submit. I already know that you would write it differently 'cause you're not me. Just like the examples from the other thread, my 13 isn't going to contain all your very-best-favorite parts of fiction. That's a given.
And for the record, I don't think that discussing how we critique the 13 was "hijacking" the other thread. The hysteria and foot stomping that followed certainly was, but that came later. Openings were submitted for analysis, but hardly anyone could find anything "hooky" in them. So some people suggested that maybe, just maybe, we're looking for the wrong things. Maybe the way we judge the first 13 is flawed, not the story samples. That seems to be right on point with the topic zero started.
I'll give you guys this one point, though. People take stuff way too personally. If I spot a flaw in your work or your post I'm not trying to attack your very soul, okay?
My comment is related to the number of threads that have deteriorated into 'the first 13 lines is not important in the scheme of things' debate.
quote: Sorry, but "not hooky enough" isn't a valid critique. Neither is "Great, interesting characters, but I don't see the hook."
I disagree. I am not obliged to comment in depth on someone's intro. I am not paid to do it. I do it out of choice. If my only comment was 'yes' or 'no' to indicate if I would read further or not, then it is a valid critique of that piece. Any further detail I may chose to add only adds depth to the critique.
If something is 'not hooky enough', then the intro doesn't make ME wish to read on--that could be one of a trillion reasons, and I may not be able to put my finger on precisely why. I may just sense the lack of a desire to read on. I usually don't say something is boring, but that may be the case. It is after all the writer's job to re-examine the piece and ferret out the problems--that's how you grow. Not by having it handed to you on a silver platter.
If I post an intro and 7/10 people have signifcant things (negative) to say about it--not just grammar stuff or spelling--then I dump it. I want to try and get stuff so it's good in as many people's minds as possible.
What's the point in arguning with people who have taken their free time up critting your work?
I don't think a crit should include stuff that is deliberately insulting/ personal.
It is okay (in my opinion) to say something was mundane and cliche, but not to say it was so boring you wanted to kill yourself. The first was a comment, the second was a comment mixed with a calculated insult.
The truth is you can't make other behave the way you want unless you enforce draconian rules--which no-one on Hatrack wants.
So take what is freely given (someone else's time, usually) and be grateful. Use what is freely given in the any way you can. Get what you can out of it. If your writing doen't improve, blame yourself, not others.
[This message has been edited by skadder (edited June 27, 2009).]
Wow. How did a hijacked thread actually become about something?
I can't speak for anyone else, but here's why I stopped participating in the first 13 line challenge: It was ultimately useless for me. I never really saw a common theme in anyone's critique over an individual first 13. They were ALL subjective.
At a certain point, I wasn't gaining much by participating in the exercise. I may as well send my stuff out and workshop it for real, i.e. let an editor decide if he/she liked it or not. That will tell me if my first 13 worked or not.
From my perspective, I suppose I might seem "critical" of the first thirteen premise at times. I do not attempt/intend to undermine the value of that forum. Here's what's up ...
My UserName is dee, and I was a hookaholic.
I started on hooks because they were fun, and in hindsight it was a way to escape the bigger problems of writing: characters, plot, tension, emotion, and story. I became more-and-more consumed with creating slick, clever beginnings, until the other aspects of writing, the "real world" aspects of it you might say, were forgotten. That's when I realized I was, well, hooked, and that I had a problem.
So my past comments are only cautionary. The excerpts of the published first thirteens should teach us perspective: that the first thirteen lines don't have to grab readers by the throat and drag them into the story every single time. There is room in the world of short stories for a gentler invitation to the reader. But it still must be well-crafted.
There shouldn't be, and I don't think there truly is, any question as to whether or not the opening lines of a story are critically important. They are. But over the years I've gotten really disheartened by an "attitude" that crops up now and then over in F&F that if stories don't open in a certain way they are garbage.
And before anyone accuses me of sour grapes, my excerpts over there have always been reasonably well-received, and all the comments polite, valid, helpful, and appreciated.
Generally, I have one thought, then it leads to another, and another, and then what I'm posting loses any bearing on the original raised issue...though my current thoughts might or might not have something to do with the last few posts.
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If you spend several years on Hatrack (good grief, have I been here THAT long?) you will see the patterns repeat over and over. There will always be the Thread Hijacker with An Agenda, the Indignant Oaf Who Takes Personal Offense At Everything, the Rude and Foul (and generally untalented) Upstart... among other "characters." But you will also find the Thoughtful and Insightful ruminator, the Critique Master who gives powerful (and mostly correct) feedback, the Knowledgeable Professor of Scientific and/or Arcane Topics. This cast rotates through on a semi-regular basis, but you'll generally find the "type" always here, under one alias or another.
The trick I've learned is to sift the chaff from the wheat... take the advice that is useful and learn to ignore the rest.
I'm outraged at Robert's behavior...trying to hijack this thread and get it back off track. When will the madness end? WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEENNNNNNNNNNNNNN?
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Elan...you may well have something there. Am I the "generally untalented" Rude and Foul? (I'd have guessed the Indignant Oaf, but there are some things I don't take personal offense to.)
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quote "the Knowledgeable Professor of Scientific and/or Arcane Topics." /quote
Ooo can I be that one?!
Seriously though, when it comes to critiquing I think we should all be pretty careful. Even something like the first 13 lines. A lot of the time the story those 13 lines introduces represents a great investment of time and effort on the writer's part. To simply dismiss it with a "I didn't like it but I don't know why" seems almost worse than no critique at all.
I'm not saying you should walk on eggshells and avoid giving negative reviews, but if you're going to review something, especially with a negative review, courtesy should dictate that you at least put enough time into it to figure out why you didn't like something, so you can help the writer with constructive criticism based on your own likes and dislikes.
And if you did like something be sure you tell them. I know I cross my fingers every time I put something out there, and any positive feedback comes as a welcome relief.
While it is true that most of us fit each one of the various "character categories" from time to time, I believe no one would argue the point there there is only ONE "She Who Must Be Obeyed."
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quote:...courtesy should dictate that you at least put enough time into it to figure out why you didn't like something...
I disagree with this demand that a minimum level of critique is required or is courteous.
When I read someone's intro, I don't develop an obligation to them through that act. I am not obliged to make any comments whatsoever. How deep I wish to go with my critique is up to me, and it isn't discourteous to offer a brief comment.
I think it is is discourteuos and presumptuous to suggest people are being impolite when they offer only short critiques. It is not the critter's responsibility to improve the author's prose, or make suggestions. When they do, that is great, but really it is the writer's job to identify what is wrong.
If you rely on the critter to that job for you, you will never develop the skill to see the problems in your own writing.
I'm not saying you have to write a ten page thesis whenever you look at someone's work. But if you are going to take the time to reply with a critique it seems only fair that you give them more than "ur work suxxors kthxbai". I mean if you don't like something it can also help your own writing to figure out why it irked you, so you can avoid it in your own work. And it can help the author too.
I agree that a writer should make sure their work is good and it's what they want it to be. But at the same time self-critique is very hard and usually either overly harsh or overly congratulatory. An outside opinion never hurts, and if you're looking at people's work, and asking them to look at yours, for just that reason, it seems rude to dismiss their work with a few trite words and say there's nothing wrong with doing it.
The point of these forums is to improve your craft, and offer your own insight in helping others improve theirs. Anything else and you might as well be trolling the Yahoo forums saying "lol ur dumb" to anyone who has an opinion you disagree with.
Well, I'd like to suggest that a critique's worth is precisely the amount of relevance it has to what the author is trying to accommplish, together with the amount of help it gives the author in actually accomplishing whatever that is.
OSC has indicated that one of the most helpful things for him is to be told where a reader's eyes start to glaze over (or mind starts to wander or somesuch).
So, again, it's going to be subjective. Critiquers give what they can, and authors pay attention to what is helpful and relevant (as well as what three or more critiquers all have problems with).
quote:Well, I'd like to suggest that a critique's worth is precisely the amount of relevance it has to what the author is trying to accommplish, together with the amount of help it gives the author in actually accomplishing whatever that is.
Thank you for condensing the basics of my actual thoughts so well.
Since this thread seems to be dedicated to whatever topic one wants it to be at that particular moment, let me begin by first stating I am very thankful to have found this site. I was a creative writing major, who became frustrated and quit, twenty years ago. I have played with writing off and on since then, but I did not get serious about the craft until about a year ago when I showed up here one day.
I have learned so much from everyone here over this last year, and I owe everyone my very deepest gratitude. I learn from regulars and new members as well, and I always try to "listen" to someone's comments whether I agree with them or not. My opinions do change from time to time.
When I make a comment that I "don't understand" or that a certain thing "irritates" me, it is no more a criticism of the critiquer or commenter than the actual critique or comment was about me (at least I hope it wasn't about me). Snapper, I hope your statements above were not in response to my thread about POV and narration. Those comments were not about any specific person - they were about the critique. If that upset you, I am deeply sorry. I believe that critiquing an approach is as valid as critiquing a story. However, there is a time and place and means for everything. How we critique an approach, comment, or story should be done with respect and purpose. My topic was to help me understand why these things throw off readers.
I believe we should respect each thread, and I apologize for tangents that I have taken off on in the past. I have been trying to do better. We should also have a purpose related to the topic. Avoid hijacking. When someone does this, I think gentle guidance back to the topic is appropriate decorum - not blame or criticism. Thank you KDW (or kdw).
We should respect the writer. I think we should always strive to give useful feedback, whether for 13 lines or for the entire story. Skadder, to my knowledge you have always given me useful feedback - I don't remember you ever saying something "doesn't work" and leaving it at that. However, if you say that to someone, how is that any different from him/her sending the story off to an editor and getting a form letter back? Isn't the purpose of critiquing to help the writer improve the piece? I just don't see how that comment helps.
Related to this, I am sometimes saddened to see new members join, thinking they have written the next Pullitzer winner, and have their 13 lines get ripped to shreads and they disappear forever. Now, before anyone gets defensive let me add that most of these "deserved" to get ripped to shreds, and these writers need to grow thicker skin. They should also read the introduction area which basically warns them that their work will likely get ripped to shreds. I just think a little encouragement helps. Sometimes this happens, sometimes it doesn't.
We should respect the reader/critiquer. If you want specific feedback, you should let everyone know. I wouldn't suggest you put up a list, but maybe ask if something works or not and a simple why. We (I) need to remember the nature of critiques are subjective, and that everyone will not like everything you write. We (I) need to understand the purpose of critiques. We (I) need to find ways to "weigh" specific comments and critiques (maybe that should be a thread of its own).
I enjoy the writing challenges here at this site, because they allow me to judge my own writing in the context of my peers and to receive feedback from a variety of perspectives. This helps me to improve. I want to sincerely thank everyone who conducts and has conducted the challenges. I find them very helpful when I am able to participate.
Finally, we should respect each other. Let's stop pointing fingers and antagonizing one another. Calling someone a "kibitzer" is not constructive and serves no purpose other than to get him/her angry. I can also think of many other ways that can be done, but I try to refrain. I know I've made people angry at times, but it was never on purpose. And I always try to give a sincere apology when I feel I have done this. We are all individuals with unique personalities and styles, and we should try to remember this and strive to be better communicators. That is why we're all here.
That is all. I hope to "see" you all again tomorrow or Monday.
[This message has been edited by philocinemas (edited June 27, 2009).]
[This message has been edited by philocinemas (edited June 28, 2009).]
quote: An outside opinion never hurts, and if you're looking at people's work, and asking them to look at yours, for just that reason, it seems rude to dismiss their work with a few trite words and say there's nothing wrong with doing it.
Critting on Hatrack is voluntary. There exists no minimum expectation of length, however personal insults are to be avoided.
You use very emotive words, Nate, in your post. You obviously feel strongly about this.
A brief crit is neither a dismissal of work, nor trite, nor rude. It is simply a short crit. 'I didn't enjoy your intro' is crit in itself and supplies some information to the author--not much, I admit. As KDW said, pointing out that your mind began to wander at this or that point in the text supplies further information to the author.
Personally, I like it when people supply crits of reasonable length with some sort of explaination. It is generally what I try and supply, although I don't repeat something already mentioned (unless I don't read the posts).
I will take any crit of any length and extract what knowledge I can from it.
I think you need to understand that no-one on Hatrack owes you or anyone else (unless an arrangement has been made in specific group and even then people renage) a crit of ANY length, even if you critted something of their's.
I don't necessarily crit on a quid pro quo basis--I crit stuff I feel I can provide value to, and I decide that by reading the intro.
Also to comment on KDW's assessment of the relative value of a crit, she didn't mention the value it provides the critter. It improves the critters critical eye. Something they spot this week in someone else's work, they may refrain from doing next week in their own work.
Some people's critical eye may not be very developed and a general opinion of the work may be all they can manage at their current level. They may not feel comfortable analysing something that is written better than they themselves can currently write.
We need to encourage critting by keeping the minimum requirement for joining in the process as low as possible--a brief comment. Meanwhile the more experienced critters can provide more extensive crits and thereby encourage others to follow suit.
[This message has been edited by skadder (edited June 27, 2009).]
I used to expect that those who crit my work should, as a matter of principle, put in as much time and attention and effort toward my story as I pour into critting theirs. In my mind, any exchange short of that translated into me being at the wrong end of an unacceptably one-sided deal.
What I eventually came to realize was that those same fellow writers, from their vantage point, might not feel as if I have put forth the same level of time and attention and effort into critting their story as they believe they put into mine.
These days, I concentrate on the fact that this fellow writer chose to crit my work in the first place. With that point in mind, issues of their critting expertise / their interest in my story / their attention towards my story / their ability to dedicate large chunks of time to my story / etc. become virtually irrelevant. Sure, I still want people to give back the same level of quality and care that I give them, but, as I discovered, such values are highly subjective. I choose to see that they gave me the gift of their time, which, with the way our society operates these days, is one of the most valued gifts a fellow writer can give another. Anything beyond that is bonus
I think people tend to forget that, just as writing is a skill, so is critiquing. Many people may have never done a critique before becoming a Hatrack member. You get good insightful critiques from experienced people, and you get bland or unhelpful critiques from inexperienced people. However in-depth the critique is, it's still someone's opinion and should be treated as such, ie: story=reaction.
One of the skills of a good writer is to develop an ability to pluck the useful commentary from a critique to help develop a stronger story, and to leave the rest behind. Another skill of a good writer is to develop a thick skin.
When I said "...which I suppose in turn suggests that a critique's worth is roughly equivalent to the care with which it was conceived," I was being sarcastic. If I flippantly make a comment about someone else's work, that person has no idea whether I put a great deal of thought into the comment or not. If the comment was negative, the recipient might take it very seriously even if it was made without much thought.
I believe we DO have a responsibility to each other to crit with care, which I believe was Natej11's original point. Skadder, it seems you took that point as concerning length/brevity or as some obligation to crit. I don't see that at all in the post. Rather, it was simply a statement that, if we do choose to crit, we should put some thought into what we say and why we are saying it. That's just common courtesy, and my sarcasm was intended to emphasize that point. Unfortunately my intent didn't come through.
I am done with this discussion around crits and will make my position clear before I go (so, not quite done, eh?):
1) I will continue to comment on people's intro's, sometimes they will be long and thoughtful crits, sometimes they will be brief, perhaps just a single comment.
2) I consider all posts before I make them--although I may not correct my own spelling and grammar mistakes. If I had a spell checker on my current browser like I had when I had a mac, I would.
3) I will accept gratefully all comments (no matter how flippant) on my own work. I may, however, find less useful info in a brief, flippant crit than in a long considered one...But no crits at all is worse, than a few low quality ones.
4) I may not act on points or suggestions made in a crit; after all, I have to trust my own judgement. But then again, I may.
I don't do this out of common courtesy or any social obligation, I do it because I want to write better and I think this is the way to approach the issue.
Others can do as they please.
[This message has been edited by skadder (edited June 28, 2009).]
Let me first say that the critique genre is not one I'm overly fond of. Yes, yes, I'm aware that Harold Bloom's opus, The Western Canon's Fuse is Wet is considered by many to be THE final expletive in this high-strung genre, but it's never really grabbed me the way a New Yorker cartoon, or a shiny object, has grabbed me.
Having said that, I think the first 12 lines had me hooked, but then lost me on the 13th. It regained my attention on the 14th line, and I thought the arguments were really starting to coalesce until the meandering in the middle of the piece; generating obviously misplaced non-sequitors that were neither funny nor sad, just perplexing, and failing to live up to the premise that started the beginning of the commencement of the inception of the piece.
The writers tried to recover in the third act. I must say that the hero's journey, though heavy-handed and ham-fisted (not to mention obvious) made the cockle (I only have one aorta) of my heart proud. Until the hero died of a heart attack caused by high cholesterol, and the piano falling on him. I can honestly say I didn't see that ONE coming. However, as much as I may have admired the hero, I didn't like him. And I have to like my main character, or I just cannot get into it. I'm sorry, that's just the way I roll ever since I read the biography of Hitler--Mein Fuhrer, Mein Flower, Mein Friend.
So, in closing, I think cleats should not be used in bowling alleys, and I need a plumber. There's a banana in my ear.
ETA: What time is it?
[This message has been edited by rich (edited June 28, 2009).]
Just a comment on the critique from the critiquer's point of view.
I have said this before, and will probably say it again, but I am convinced that one of the best ways writers can learn is to give feedback to someone else. So the amount of time and effort you spend on a critique for someone else is of more benefit to you than it is to the recipient of your critique.
Why? Because your critique may only help that author with the story being critiqued, if it does that much. (There is, of course, always the hope that the author will be able to apply what you have said in the critique to other stories the author writes, but that is even less likely than that your critique will help the author at all.)
But, by your giving the critique, you are exercising (and, I hope, increasing) your editing skills so that you can then look at your own work and see things there that will help you improve as a writer and will help your manuscripts become better vehicles for recreating your stories in your readers' heads.
The author may only receive specific benefits from receiving your critique, but you can receive widespread and general benefits from giving that critique. Therefore, when it comes to critiques, it truly is better to give than it is to receive.
In this Alice Hoffman situation, it would probably be more gracious to ignore matters, and not go out of one's way to trash the review and the critic.
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