Friday, March 31, 2006

A Few New Reviews and a Comment

Louie pointed me to this March 28 review on The Onion's A.V. Club, which reads in part: "Creator Brian Fies began it as an online comic addressing his mother's lung cancer, and he writes and draws in a newspaper-comics-friendly style that's inviting to look at and easy to read, but does nothing to soft-sell his family's difficulties." The A.V. Club graded Mom's Cancer an "A-minus."

Back on March 12, Florida's St. Petersburg Times ran a brief review by staff writer Margo Hammond that began, "This unflinchingly honest graphic novel is a welcome departure from the excess sentimentality that followed the death of Dana Reeve...." Though I didn't find the coverage of Ms. Reeve's passing as excessive as Ms. Hammond did, I appreciate her recommendation and am happy she picked up on my story's lack of pathos. I did that on purpose.

Watermark Books posted a March 22 review by Mark Bradshaw on its website, which reads in part: "The pairing of light-hearted medium and troubling subject matter works surprisingly well: Fies's sweet-faced characters are brave but a bit bewildered by their medical adventure, and they find that cancer treatment, like cartooning, can contain heroic efforts and absurd comedy." I'm grateful both for the review and for Mr. Bradshaw knowing that the possessive of "Fies" is "Fies's." A lot of Fieses don't even know that.

I also understand that Entertainment Weekly magazine reviewed Mom's Cancer in its new issue out today. I haven't seen it yet, but hear that I earned a "B-plus."

What is it with reviewers and grades? Are they all frustrated grammar school teachers?

I have a hard time with reviews. Even when they're good--and I haven't seen a negative or hostile review yet--I wonder why they weren't better (what would have gotten that B-plus up to an A?). A writer friend reminds me that I'm lucky to be reviewed at all, and he's absolutely right. The enormous majority of books come and go without raising a ripple. Most writers would kill for the press I've received and I'm genuinely appreciative.

I thought I learned long ago to separate myself from my work and take criticism like a pro. As a writer, I've worked with a lot of editors to dispassionately hack up my prose and make it better. It's part of the job. I don't take it personally. But Mom's Cancer is different. It is personal.

There's also the fact that, for better or worse, Mom's Cancer is cast. Even if a reviewer were to pinpoint one change that would improve the story 300 percent, there's nothing I could do about it now except say, "You know, you're right. That would have been a lot better."


Kid Sis said...

Really? It's not Fies'? Why the hell not?

And is it Lis' or Lis's?

Grammar is LAME.

Lynda said...

I think that if I wrote a book as personal as this, I wouldn't want to hear the reviews. Just because I would feel so sensitive about it all. But that is just me. :)

The only thing that may happen is that your editor may one day come to you and ask you to do a second edition, or a revised edition. I don't see that happening though. I think that is more for technical books. My husband deals with multiple editions a lot since he works in publishing.

Lastly, the most important review was from your mom and since she gave her full support behind it, I think that is the best review there is.

D.D.Degg said...

Hey Brian, here's the alternative
Nashville City Paper giving good words
to you (third one down):

Which makes me wonder if you've ever
linked to the your Abrams page?

Oh, and here's a mention in The Asbury
Park Press in their list of what's
new at the bookstores.
But I think they put it on the wrong
list. Fiction???

Lynne said...

uh..."brave, but a bit bewildered" uh..... yeah...cancer is fairly bewildering...... but ya gotta try to be brave....

that's not about the writing, it's about what it is

Brian Fies said...

Sis: You'll get different arguments from people, but a good rule of thumb is if you hear the possessive "S" when you speak it, you should write it. Just because a word accidentally happens to end in "S" is no reason to treat it differently.

Our name is tricky because it looks like a plural ending in an "S" (flies, pies, fries) but it actually isn't. Plural possessives take the apostrophe without the "S" (the pies' cherry filling). But we shouldn't.

One Fies. Fies's book. Two Fieses. The Fieses' house. Lis. Lis's screenplay. I think that's right.

Grammar's not lame. It's COOL!

Lynda, my editor and I have discussed a second edition and, if it happens, it will have only minor corrections or none at all. Certainly no significant edits to the story or art. If I had some amazing brainstorm that vastly improved the story without increasing the page count we could possibly make that happen, but I don't foresee it.

D.D., I remain awed by your resourcefulness. Thank you.

Lynne, I don't think the writer of that review would disagree with you. The way I read it, he said I portrayed the characters as brave but bewildered. That sounds about right to me.