Sunday, May 10, 2009

The strangest thing that has happened to me in a while

Friday morning when I checked my email there was one from a stranger, written late the night before, asking for help regarding a short review I did for a book I read for one of my college classes, Zakes Mda's The Heart of Redness. (Background info: due to my 50 Book Challenge I keep on LibraryThing I review every book I have read this year, even if it--the review--is short, and even if I don't post it here.) It reads:

Hi! I know this is random but I need general questions answered about this book and would love your help! I need it by tomorrow (May 8) so if you get this in time that'd be awesome. I'll go ahead and ask you the questions in case you do get this before tomorrow...

1.) What seems to be the "heart of redness" the novel title is referring to?

2.) the 19th century cattle-killing produced divisions within Xhosa society, which re-emerged in the modern dispute over the casino project. What seems to be Mda's purpose for making these connections?

3.) What message does Mda seem to be sending about the proper kind of "development" needed in modern South Africa?

if you don't mind doing this, thanks so much! otherwise it was worth a shot!

Is this bizarre or what? I wish I could properly describe the facial expressions I was doing when I read this. Doesn't it seem suspiciously like a student who, having procrastinated on doing their English essay until the last night, looked it up on a book-review website and randomly sent the first reviewer he saw an email with his essay questions attached?

Later that day I also signed onto Goodreads and found the following message from this same person:

I was wondering if you could answer some questions about this book for me. I need them by tomorrow so if you get this please call me 817-***-****

Um. I don't like being mean, but maybe one can say, desperate much? I was really tempted to write him an email back explaining why, exactly, I didn't feel inclined to write his essay (due the next day) for him. However, I restrained myself. There was no need for me to use more energy on this person. Let him learn his lesson through the silence he has received in return.

I'm beginning to understand now the frustration that some authors have recently been expressing about bloggers demanding their ARCs for review, demanding their time, demanding their answers to interview questions (emailed before the author has even agreed to an interview). It's things like this that make me even more afraid to contact authors for anything, although I know that the good majority of them are wonderful, accommodating, and totally excited to be contacted by a fan. It's a combination of my shyness, my belief since childhood that authors are like mythical enigma creatures, untouchable, unapproachable--like celebrities (which they are in my book), and these recent exhibitions of humanity's increasing brashness and lack of thinking that makes me worry about the kind of person I am now, what I'm afraid of becoming, the future of my blog, and my future as an aspiring author.


  1. Wow, I can't believe someone would actually do that! Desperate much??

  2. I kind of lost for words about that...yup

  3. Haha wow, that is really quite rude. I admit that I read a book for my friend before and told her what it's about (because she hates reading and I am a complete dork), but to have a random stranger expect you to do their work for them - wow. O.o

    You should've taught him a lesson by giving him blatantly wrong answers... but that may be a bit cruel, haha.

    Oh and I have a contest on my book review blog if you want to enter:

  4. awww it sucks for them but it's not your problem. I wouldn't worry about it

  5. That's just really, really cheeky :)

  6. Sparknotes are a wonderful thing!

  7. That is just so completely out of order! It's so appalling how people cheat with their school work, yet others work really hard to get their grade. It makes me so mad! Kudos to you for not emailing, I don't think I would have been able to resist emailing him back giving him a piece of my mind.

  8. First, I need to start reading your Library Thing reviews. I really want to know about this book.

    Second, this may be a student and s/he might be trying to cheat but why do we assume so much when we're given so little information? I'd either reply that I'm suspicious of his intent and with clarification I might be willing to discuss the book or I'd ignore him. I would not assume the worst.

    Have we forgotten what it was like when we were in school? Were we all the most articulate, responsible and upstanding all the time? Let's say the writer is some kid who should know better. It is silly to ask a perfect stranger for help but in the age of technology I don't fault him for trying. I have seen far more outrageous commentary, behavior and requests from young people online. Trying to cheat on a homework assignment pales in my mind. It's worth a laugh and a pass at best.

    Regarding your own apprehension, I have talked to dozen of writers and my experience is they love talking about their work and they love interaction and most do not mind requests. What bothers anyone is an expectation that the author owes you something.

  9. That's hilarious. How desperate. Maybe if he/she put that time and energy into reading the book....

  10. I think Susan had some great comments. We shouldn't assume the worst (Although it does sound suspiciously like a desperate student. But like Susan said, there are so many more malicious acts out there and many students do try to pull a fast one at some point) I also consider authors to be celebrities and am in awe of them. The fact that you are worried about offending others means you are very considerate. Don't worry!

  11. This isn't the first time I've seen this actually. My friend has a fantastic blog and this happened to her. And I think this is exactly how authors do feel, but I wouldn't worry too much about the interview questions, so long as you ask permission for an interview before SENDING them. (and when my book gets published, you can have a guaranteed interview. I had loved reading your blog for a long time now) :)

  12. I would go like this O__O if I was in your position. They sound so rude.


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