Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Oops, wrong book


I'm really sorry you had an unpleasant time reading my book Secreta Corporis. Can I reimburse you for the cost of the book? I feel responsible when my book turns out to be the wrong book for a reader; I feel that I must not have promoted it right or summarized it correctly.

When a person finds out that a book was written for someone else, he really can return the book! He shouldn't feel like he has to suffer through it. I'm sorry that you kept hoping it would get better and it never did. You were probably expecting more action scenes and more descriptive erotic passages, right? What I intended for the book, though, was to examine what would happen if those ancient clay tablets actually existed. I was fascinated when an archaeologist (Israel Finkelstein) speculated in his book that scholars for more than a century have theorized that the scroll the priests found during Temple repairs in II Kings 22:8-13 had actually been created by those priests but they presented it as the writings of Moses. I was amazed to think that the Bible itself would present a clue that it originated with a book of the Torah that was a forgery and so everything that has since been built on that forgery has been bogus. The whole thing bogus! A billion Catholics, plus all protestants, Jews, Muslims, Mormons and everyone else who believes Moses wrote the Torah/Pentateuch—billions of people have been misled since that forgery was presented as authentic. And the clue to it has been there in II Kings all along. Finkelstein and the other scholars make a strong case that the priests wanted to clear out all the other gods and shrines and altars from the Temple courtyard and elsewhere so that all of the tithe money could be redirected to the Temple treasury. And the scoll of law they created gave the priests so much more authority that the king had to seek their approval from then on. I was amazed to learn that—amazed enough to write a novel that was so long and involved I eventually divided it into two novels (in the sequel The Talpiot Find, archaeologists in the present find the rest of the tablets). So you see my reason for writing the novel was really different than what you thought it was, but I didn't convey that clearly enough and so you went into the book expecting it to be a different book. My fault. But I don’t know how to correct it. Other than writing wordy paragraphs like this to try to explain.

You probably also can see how, for another reader, the book wouldn’t be a “waste of time” but an interesting exploration of how ancient cultures profoundly affected the development of the modern world. Everybody has different tastes in books. If you somehow mistook a Hardy Boys mystery for a crime novel like those of Michael Connelly, you might write in a review “That was the dumbest crime novel I’ve ever read.” But the series has been around for a long time and has sold mountains of books, and its success would sort of prove your assessment wrong. If people on Amazon came across your negative review, they would just shrug and say “You read the wrong book. Get over it.” If you had read Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, you would’ve found it even more tortuous than my book. Much longer and much more slogging through history and doctrine. But it was a NYTimes bestseller, so is it an awful book? If you find reading a book an awful experience, does that make the book awful? Lots of students have complained about being required to read Hemingway’s novel The Old Man and the Sea. Does their awful experience make it an awful book? It’s required reading at schools and colleges; there must be some reason for that.

So it would be nice if those who write customer reviews on Amazon kept some perspective about their reading experiences. When a person writes that a book is awful, they’re actually revealing that they believe every reader is just like they are and that they speak for everyone. But no book is written for everyone. Every book has an intended demographic. And people outside that demographic will be bored by that book. That’s okay. That’s the system we have to work with. Writing things like "waste of time," "annoying" and "torture" just tells whoever reads your review that you must not have realized you could return the book within thirty days for a full refund. As I said, I'd like to reimburse you for the cost of the book. I have a PayPal account; we can use that for the transfer.

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