Nonsensical Jibber-Jabber: the Joy of One-Star Reviews

My good friend John Scalzi believes that we authors should all own our one-star reviews. I am with him. It is good and wise to toughen up and learn to, if not love them, at least enjoy them. To this day one of my fave punter reviews ever is from the Barnes & Noble site and declares that Magic or Madness is like a bad Australian episode of Charmed. Never fails to make me giggle.

Some days though I find bad reviews of my own work a bit hard to take. When that happens I turn to the one-star reviews of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice which are the best therapy in the universe and never fail to cheer me up.

Here are a few faves:

Like others, I really did want to like this book. I tried and tried to read it, but it was all nonsensical jibber-jabber. I may try again, but doubt it. It’s torture!”

“Nonsensical jibber-jabber” is now my favourite phrase of all time.

Me no could read that book good. It too slow. Me like better book. Me like Tales from the Crypt. I no think any one should read. I would not read again. If you like torture read book. If you smart spend money on beacon soda.

I’m pretty sure this one is on-purpose funny. I salute it! I too enjoy Tales from the Crypt.

It appears that the odds are against me since most people love this…I don’t even know what to call it. And that is perfectly fine we are not all a like and have a right to our own views and opinions. Nevertheless, I must speak out and let my opinon be heard even though most of you who can’t say enough about this book wouldn’t want to hear.

I am forced to read this book for my lit class and I find this book repulsive. I have never read such a novel that is completly incompetant, complete nonsence, the smallest talks of all the small talks in the world, it is about nothingness, and how several nothings trying and wanting to get married to other nothings for all the wrong reasons in the world. It is about people pretending to be inteligent and pretending to be civilized. It is a book where they compliment women as being handsome and men as being well…also handsome. It is quite contageous I might add because I find myself helplessly imatitating the language that it was written in. I am offended by every paragraph that I read. I have never felt such contemt for any work that I read. I pasionately despise this novel and I could write an entire paper on why. The 17th century English aristocracy and the way the people cary and behave themselves and think so highly of themselves and so low of anybody who is different, is offensive and without merit. You may think “that I simply don’t understand this work” well I don’t and I am not going pretend that I understand this “classic” Perhaps I am incapable of comprehending this novel. I do know however that there are a lot finer book writen in the 17th centuries and earlier and after, which are better, more meaningful then this book and are also classic but some of them are notoverated enough as much as this book is.

Tee. I can’t fault them for getting their centuries wrong. I myself am quite inumerate and am constantly reversing numbers. 17th century, 19th century. What’s the diff? Also I am a pretty poor speller myself. It would be hypocrisy of the first order were I to mock the spelling. And yet . . .

I tried to read it, but I couldn’t. I put it down at about page 100. From a fan of IMMANUEL KANT, this was too boring. Honestly, after I put it down, I had to study the Diamond Sutra and the Book of Job to get the vapid feeling out of my head. Someone on here wrote something to the effect of “as Blake saw the world in a grain of sand, so did Austen see the world in a drawing room”. To this, I’d say that there is a vast difference in seeing the world in a drawing room, and thinking that the world IS a drawing room.

*cough* I will say nothing . . .

I HATED THIS BOOK. I READ IT IN HIGH SCHOOL, ABOUT 9 YEARS AGO AND I STILL REMEMBER HOW MUCH I HATE THE PUFFY PATHETIC NARRATIVE OF WHINY WOMEN IN WANT OF HUSBANDS. It is with deep anguish that I note that there are books on how to teach this book in classes, thereby continuing the legacy of pain to innocent students of this day and age.


Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, is a book about the life of a girl, Elizabeth Bennet. She has five sisters and lives with her mother and father in 18th century England. The story tells of her sisters’ loves and marriages. Elizabeth’s youngest sister gets married to a man of questionable character, who happens to be the friend of the man that Elizabeth herself loves, Mr. Darcy. Of course Elizabeth’s love isn’t that simple, since she first has to hate Mr. Darcy and then blames him for everything that her sister is going through. Jane, Elizabeth’s oldest sister, falls in love with another of Darcy’s friends. All the trouble that any of Elizabeth’s not-quite-normal family has is blamed on Mr. Darcy.

Basically, the whole book is about an 18th century girl whining about her upper middle class life. Of course, at the end, she gets exactly what she wants and everyone lives happily ever after. There is credit to be given to Jane Austen, since she wrote the book in an American household in the early 1800s, with no support from any of her family. She had to hide her writing under knitting or sewing whenever someone approached. She then had a friend publish the books she wrote, without telling her husband. Considering all that, the story really isn’t that bad, but in general, if you were looking for a book by Jane Austen, Emma would be a better read. If you want a predictable love story, “Pride and Prejudice” is a good book for you.”

Bless! How foolish we all were thinking that Jane Austen was English and unmarried and her books were set and published in the 19th century.2 Amazon reviews are educational. Yes, that last review does have a most amusing comment correction thread in response.

The point being that there is no book or author that is universally loved. We all of us have our foibles and preferences, blind spots and, well, prejudices and it is through them that we perceive the world and the books in it.3

All of which makes the world a rich and interesting place. There’s room for Jane Austen haters and lovers. There’s even room for the Jane Austen indifferents.

  1. Actually, I quite like The Great Gatsby and am a bit of an F. Scott Fitzgerald fan, but it’s fun to see John Green and English teachers freak out when I say I hate it. []
  2. I know! I know! Those pesky numbers. []
  3. Except for me, of couse, my hatred of Moby Dick and the writings of Henry Miller, Patrick White and Norman Mailer is completely rational and anyone who likes them is just flat out wrong. []


  1. Rebecca on #

    I HATE MOBY DICK TOO!!!!!! *pants* *grins*

  2. Marisa on #

    Oh wow, I have tears streaming down my cheeks. This post was a TREAT!!

  3. Tony Wiliams on #


    Great post, Justine.

    It reminded me of a book review I wrote for Slashdot of “Online! The Book” back in 2003 ( I rated it three out of ten (roughyl equivalent to a one star Amazon rating) and ripped it to shreds. A week afterwards I received an email from the author’s wife who said, in part, that she was ready to send me a rude email until she checked and discovered all my criticism was true. The most amusing thing, sales of the book went UP after my review.

    Of course it didn’t compare to “Pride and Prejudice.”

    // Tony

  4. Lauren on #

    These reviews remind of stiff I’d written on Shelfari. not that I’d say so many fancy words like nonsensical jibber-jabber, but I have definitely stated the truth about books. I meant hats why book critics are either good or bad, its about uncovering the truth in the book and yourself. Choose the side you despise and change it and make it to where you like both sides, but they will still have undefined lines between good and bad. just listen and carry the review with you because it’ll make you a better writer or a better _____ (enter hobby/talent here)

    Thanks Justine!

  5. Katie on #

    I’m glad we feel the same on the very important topic of Moby Dick.

  6. JJ on #

    It’s the English major in me, but I can’t really rip a book to shreds. Even if I HATED book I read at university, I had to write papers about it in an “objective manner”. Of course, I can rip a book to shreds in an objective manner. That’s okay.

    Well, I’m sorry to say I just can’t get into Pynchon. Even though everyone says he is a writer I would like. (And based on his subject matter and themes, yes, he is.) But I don’t care–I JUST CAN’T GET INTO HIM, OKAY?

    But I love James Joyce and ULYSSES. Go figure.

    Also, despite being an English major, I have never once read MOBY DICK. Never. I’ve read everything else by Melville, including his (somewhat decent) poetry. But I guess my professors assumed I had already the Great White Whale by the time I reached college. Never did. I read BENITO SERENO in high school instead.

  7. J .T. Dutton on #

    I laughed when I read this review of reviews. It made me feel better on a lot of levels. I also actually liked the long negative review Pride and Prejudice because whoever wrote it attempted to describe the source of their distaste and put the book into the context of other literary schools of thought. A paper comparing P & P to the Book of Job could be interesting. I’d love to see more reviewers/readers participate in this kind of critical thinking. I love Jane Austen. I am learning to love reviews that only give one star. Thanks for this.

  8. Diana Peterfreund on #

    I just got my favorite bad review ever. Not a one star — but a two star — on Amazon. It describes me as a narcissist because I talk about the Roman virgin goddess of the hunt Diana in my book (shocking really, given that my book is about female virgin hunters in Rome) and my name is Diana.

  9. Julia Rios on #

    Must register dissent re: Moby Dick, but can totally see how others might find it unpalatable.

    I think my favorite thing in all of this is the alternate history version of Jane as a cowering American housewife, hiding her writing under embroidery. Just try to imagine how one might pull off that kind of concealment. I mean, really, try! Assuming she could even manage to set up a writing surface on her lap (difficult at best, I should think), the ensuing deceit would be ludicrous.

    “Jane, I notice your needlework is rather blackened.”

    “I assure you, dear husband, it’s the first stare of fashion. Everyone in Paris is decorating with ink these days.”

    “And the papers?”

    “Are, um, there to catch drips.”

    “And the pens?”

    “For… punching larger holes through particularly touch sections of linen…?”


  10. Pam Adams on #

    A co-worker was struggling with reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The problem was that she, poor child, had never read the original, so didn’t know where the parody started. Sigh.

  11. sylvia_rachel on #

    ::falls about laughing::

    Thanks, Justine — I really needed this today 😀

    I have a friend who detests Jane Austen. Really detests — this is not mere indifference (which, really, who cares?) but dislike so active that whenever the topic comes up at all, he feels he must try to persuade me that I am WRONG. Which is v. odd, since he is otherwise, in general, both a kind and a clever person, and you would think we could just agree to disagree. I finally pinpointed the problem: whenever Ms Austen is being totally snarky and completely taking the piss, he thinks she is being serious. And you can see how, if one interpreted the books this way, one might indeed come away with a rather different impression from mine.

    Also, it pleases me to know that though we will never see eye to eye on the vital issues of coffee and chocolate, we are in 100% agreement about Moby-Dick and Henry Miller.

  12. Swati on #

    Thanks for this! This all new to me so I didn’t feel okay about loving one. It criticized an ARC for 5 grammatical errors. Aside from the notice about Uncorrected Proofs, there was the fact that she had about 5 errors in her short post.

  13. Megan on #

    Reading one-star reviews of my favorite books/movies/shows is one of my favorite things to do when I’m bored and need a laugh. Some of them have legitimate reasons for disliking it or make it clear that the book just wasn’t to their taste, which are fine with me. But then you have the ones like that fourth (?) review, where they had to read it for school and hate it on principle regardless of the book’s actual quality, or the people who just don’t have any idea what they’re talking about. There was one reviewer of Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart who was convinced that she’d ripped off Harry Potter somehow, and somebody else thought the eponymous Stargirl was “perhaps autistic” which “might have been interesting if Jerry Spinelli were trying to explore mental illness.” (Okay, I admit, that last one made me more furious than amused, but still.) And don’t even get me started on a bunch of angry BSG fans who apparently hate Firefly for stealing their spotlight…

    (And I hate Moby Dick too, hooray! Having a published writer share my opinion makes me feel better.)

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