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Picking Things to Pieces

Honesty is easy. Bracing for fallout isn’t.

Disclaimer: the following grumble is not aimed at anyone in particular. I’m writing a lot of reviews these days, and the pressure builds up.  Some think it’s easier to be honest than kind, but I don’t. Honesty is easy. Bracing for fallout isn’t. Writing out my thoughts shores up my emotional defenses.

Okay, full disclaimer: honesty isn’t easy, it’s an imperative.  Lies are too painful a burden to carry. Prevarication drains the life from me. It makes me ache.  Truth can hurt, but lies hurt twice.

Here are some truths about me.

Point One: for me, liking a thing doesn’t mean turning a blind eye to its flaws. It means I analyze the shit out of it. The more rough points I find, the more I will rub at them, but that never means I dislike the thing as a whole. It means it’s pressing on my big red perfectionist itch-triggers. Analyzing a thing to bits is my way of getting to know and appreciate it as it is.

It’s a demonstration of affection. Birds regurgitate their meals on you, cats leave dead mice on pillows, (or hide pork chop bones under the bed…) and I worry at every crooked stitch, poke at edges, and highlight every odd word until I’ve nested comfortably with my new possession.

I grant it’s a potentially catastrophic way of showing love.  (ask me about the pork chop shenanigans someday)   But it’s how my brain is built. As well ask a horse to sit in a chair as expect me to pretend joy in a thing unless I’ve kicked all its tires and torn the guts out of it.

Point Two:If you would rather not know what I think, do not ask me. I can be supremely tactful. That said, putting an item up for sale is an open invitation for the world to offer opinions. If I pay for an item, I have purchased, implicitly, the expectation that I will evaluate the thing and share all the consequences outlined in Point One.

Point Three:  I hate eating shit sandwiches, so I don’t make them. I don’t carefully wedge bits of bad news between stale layers of platitudes and weak praise, I don’t sugar-coat bitter pills. I don’t equivocate or strain to find something good to say even if the very nature of the positive comment implicitly condemns the rest.

Why not? See Point One. I try my best to not hit down, but pulling punches in a fair fight pulls my brain out of joint. I will always present the good before the bad, but if I don’t like a thing, I will say so, and why.

Point Four: facts are up for discussion. Opinions are not. My position is my intellectual property, the product of thought and analysis. You can disagree all you want, but there is no debating it on merits. It is not an invitation to proclaim the superiority of your own either explicitly (“You’re wrong.”) or implicitly with appeals to personal authority. (“I don’t see it that way.” “Oh, come on, just try it.”)

Sample opinions: Red type on black background makes signs useless to me. Squid smells disgusting and tastes worse (unless breaded and deep-fried with garlic.) Mission to Mars is a train-wreck of a movie riddled with clumsy product placement and plot points based in bad science.

Those opinions are founded in facts. Red and black are colors. Shellfish have an odor. The flaws in Mission to Mars are public record.  Interpretation is where things get personal, and that’s where the dangers lie. I know people who love MtM. I know designers who love the visual impact of red on black. Seafood is more popular every time I turn around.

All I’m asking is that no one holds my opinions against me or attempt to show me the error of my ways. Eat all the mariner’s stew you want. Just don’t put slimy tentacles on my plate, I will throw up on them.

Truths are what I have to give. Dead mice maybe, but those mice were stalked and slain with honor and offered with sincerity. I don’t expect appreciation. Just–please, hold the squid.



By K. M. Herkes

Author, gardener, and cat wrangler.

One reply on “Picking Things to Pieces”

There seems to be a growing inability to distinguish statements of fact from opinions, which leads to inappropriate reactions to both of them.

For example, I can state that Alice Walker’s novel “The Color Purple” is written using non-standard grammar and spelling in many sections. That’s a fact. You can pull the book down from the shelf and read for yourself, then compare it to the grammar textbook of your choice.

Now, I can suppose that Alice Walker did that deliberately, for effect, rather than through ignorance. That’s conjecture, based on her educational background, which I believe is fairly extensive. You can argue the point, but it would be rough.

Lastly, I can state that I, personally, was deeply affected by the (presumably deliberate) non-standard style of the narrative, and that I felt drawn into the narrator’s worldview and this made me identify closely with her. For me, the choice to write the book in a way that reflected the narrator’s lack of education worked very well. That’s my opinion, and my personal experience. You can say that it didn’t work for you, and I can’t argue with that. Neither, however, can you tell me that I didn’t experience the novel in the way that I did–you are not in my head. (For which you should be grateful.)

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