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International Bon Vivant and Raconteur

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Ha Ha, People Are Things! [Jan. 26th, 2009|07:36 pm]
International Bon Vivant and Raconteur
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Below is an excellent example of why some content desperately needs to be edited before publication, especially book reviews by amateur reviewers who appear to have forgotten there's a difference between fantasy and reality. While I have no reason to believe the reviewer in this instance is some kind of bigoted monster -- I suspect this is just sloppy writing on her part -- the fact that I have gypsy blood in my heritage gave me significant pause when I read the first paragraph of her review. But you don't need to have the same heritage to partake in some good old fashioned discomfort your own self. In this fun party game, just substitute your own ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation wherever you see the word "gypsy"! (And I remind you, this is the review I'm quoting, a piece of critical non-fiction, not the novel itself.)

Gypsies. The mere word sends shivers down my spine. The image of once brightly painted, now worn and peeling, old-world caravans driven by cunning horse traders and colorfully garbed fortune-tellers is one that inspires an eerie mixture of awe and trepidation. The power surrounding the very legends themselves is an incredible testament to how deeply engrained the superstitions have become within us all over the ages. Despite their true magical abilities as witches and sorcerers, gypsies have cloaked themselves in an illusion lined with a vagabond patchwork of panhandling and swindling working to befuddle the world beyond their families and make outsiders extremely wary. Naive strangers never know what they might lose in their dealings with a caravan, their personal possessions or something far more valuable. However, one cannot deny the resonance of magic that surrounds gypsies, especially those of the old country. In Lisa Mannetti's debut novel The Gentling Box, she delves deep into the world of the gypsies of 19th century Hungary bringing to harsh, dark reality the brutal existence of one such caravan and the merciless supernatural power they possess.

True magical abilities as witches and sorcerers? Well shit, if I'd known I had supernatural powers, I'd have started using them a long time ago! The lottery? Mine! Your ridiculous sports car? Now a bright pink Big Wheel with sparkly wheels! Your bikini top? Invisible! I'M DRUNK WITH POWER!

Of course, in all seriousness, the reviewer is hardly talking about actual gypsies, she's talking about the representation of gypsies we often see in popular fiction, namely thieves, killers and mediums. But that's also my point. Nowhere does she make clear the distinction. Sometimes people forget other people aren't things, you know? It's one thing to say werewolves are scary and vicious because, well, werewolves don't exist. But gypsies do. Saying gypsies have magic powers, or that naive strangers will find themselves stolen from or murdered, only turns them into things. Plot devices and nothing more. They might as well be kobolds or stone giants. The fact that real people may exist behind the moniker is forgotten, either conveniently or inadvertently, and we already know what happens when folks forget people who are different from them are still people.

So please, reviewers, try to remember the difference between fantasy and reality when you're writing your next piece. It's not hard. Just read it over BEFORE hitting the send button and pay attention to the words you're using.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: nick_kaufmann
2009-01-27 03:25 am (UTC)
I'm surprised you would view this as a personal attack when I quite clearly went out of my way in the entry above to say that I have no reason to believe any of what you wrote is meant as bigotry. My point is that nowhere in your review do you make it clear you're talking about representations or stereotypes. Instead, you open the review with the words "Gypsies. The mere word sends shivers down my spine," in exactly the same way one might write, "Vampires. The mere word sends shivers down my spine." If you too have Roma ancestry, I'm surprised that you would say such a thing (and also surprised you wouldn't mention your heritage in the review, as it offers a pretty unique angle from which to cover the book).

Similarly, there's no cause to take offense at the phrase "amateur reviewer." I'm one too. The honorarium that Fear Zone pays us hardly makes us professionals.

Lastly, nowhere do I attack you for your opinions, as you claim I am doing. I would say that nothing in the excerpt I quoted from your review or my commentary about it has to do with your opinions whatsoever, but rather the manner in which you describe gypsies. Perhaps if you had made it clear that you were talking about the gypsy stereotype, instead of inadvertently implying that gypsies are magically powered thieves and murders, we wouldn't be having this discussion.
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[User Picture]From: jenlight
2009-01-27 05:07 pm (UTC)
The best thing about when people delete their posts is we can claim they said something else entirely.


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[User Picture]From: nick_kaufmann
2009-01-27 06:15 pm (UTC)
I'm surprised she deleted her comment. I wasn't expecting that.
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[User Picture]From: jenlight
2009-01-28 08:27 pm (UTC)
Well after what she said about donkeys and pirates who can blame her?
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[User Picture]From: badgerbag
2009-02-02 10:11 pm (UTC)
damn, I missed it. Do donkeys send shivers down her spine, too?
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[User Picture]From: nick_kaufmann
2009-02-02 10:14 pm (UTC)
No, jenlight was just joking. Let's try not to create any more drama than there already is, folks.

And where are all the new commenters like yourself coming from? Did someone link to this entry?
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[User Picture]From: badgerbag
2009-02-02 10:18 pm (UTC)
I was joking too, and I clicked over from rydra_wong's current link list.

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[User Picture]From: nick_kaufmann
2009-02-02 10:32 pm (UTC)
Cool, thanks for the info. Now I just need to figure out how she found me!
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[User Picture]From: badgerbag
2009-02-02 10:35 pm (UTC)
Hive mind superpowers 8-P Nearly all the names here in your comments are familiar to me, and I've come across your posts before, so I didn't feel odd about joking around in your journal. Sorry it came off wrong.
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[User Picture]From: nick_kaufmann
2009-02-02 10:59 pm (UTC)
No worries. Glad to have you.
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[User Picture]From: marydell
2009-02-02 08:04 pm (UTC)
Maybe it was stolen by gypsies?
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[User Picture]From: nick_kaufmann
2009-02-02 08:07 pm (UTC)
Snap!
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