POSs

The book American Gods by Neil Gaiman, follows the adventures of a man called Shadow as he travels across America. At one point during his voyage, he finds himself stranded in the middle of the Wisconsin, attempting to rent or buy a car.

As it turns out, there is nowhere nearby for him to rent, so he has to settle for buying. In an attempt to find someone willing to sell him a car, he tries talking to a woman manning the till at a gas station:

“Car died a few miles down the road. It was a pieceashit if you’ll pardon my language,“ said Shadow.

‘Pee-Oh-Esses,’ she said. ‘Yup. That’s what my brother-in-law calls ’em. He buys and sells cars in a small way. He’ll call me up, say Mattie, I just sold another Pee-Oh-Ess. Say, maybe he’d be interested in your old car. For scrap or something.’”

Eventually, Shadow meets the brother-in-law, and although he has plenty of money with him, at this point in the story he only needs to drive about 500 miles, so he tries to buy the cheapest car that could take him the full way. 

“The piece of shit he chose was a 1983 Chevy Nova, which he bought, with a full tank of gas, for four hundred and fifty dollars. It had almost a quarter of a million miles on the clock, and smelled faintly of bourbon, tobacco, and more strongly of something that might well have been bananas. He couldn’t tell what color it was, under the dirt and the snow. . . The piece of shit had a radio, but nothing happened when he turned it on.”

Nevertheless, despite the poor performance of the vehicle, Shadow was content with his purchase because it was cheap.

Marcel Reich-Ranicki

German literature, film and theater critics are particularly critical. They view everything with skepsis and are therefore considered by Germans – a skeptical people in general – to be more serious, more reliable. One German literature critic labeled a new novel the most impressive of the year, but still gave it four out of a possible five stars.

Marcel Reich-Ranicki was considered the most influential literature critic in today‘s Germany. He was known to tear apart the works of contemporary German writers both in his written critiques and on his television show. Active until 92 years of age Reich-Ranicki remained the most read critic in Germany precisely because of his very high standards of excellence.

Thirty minutes of Reich-Ranicki criticizing books.

“criticism my way”

“I like criticism, but it must be my way.” Mark Twain in his Autobiography

“I don’t mind what the opposition say of me so long as they don’t tell the truth about me. But when they descend to telling the truth about me I consider that this is taking an unfair advantage.” Mark Twain, 1879

Animorphs

In Animorphs, a children’s science fiction series by American author K. A. Applegate, five American teenagers suddenly become aware of a secret alien invasion of planet earth. As the only people with the capacity to stop the invasion, the teenagers decide to form a resistance and fight back. In very little time the characters form a clear chain of command with a specifically designated leader.

At one point during the series the leader leaves for a short period of time. Faced with a sudden mission, the Americans never consider the option of operating on a consensus basis – instead they immediately pick a new leader. Then, even though most of the group disagrees with the new leader’s decisions, everyone follows the decisions, because they were made by the leader.

Additionally, towards the end of the series, the leader is faced with the option of either killing his brother (who is under the control of the invading aliens) or giving the aliens access to extremely dangerous technology. The leader decides to kill his brother, but, fearing how this action will affect the leader’s future decision-making abilities, one of the other members of the resistance stops him. This insubordinate member is immediately reprimanded and demoted.

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway, an American author and journalist who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954, once lost a suitcase containing all but two of his manuscripts. The incident occurred when Hemingway was in Switzerland in 1922, before any of his fiction had been published.

The author had met with journalist and editor Lincoln Steffens who wanted to see more of Hemingway’s work, so Hemingway asked his wife, who was in Paris, to bring him his manuscripts. She packed all of the papers that she could find, but while she was waiting for her train at the Gare de Lyon she left her suitcase unattended for a short time, during which it was stolen.

When Hemingway complained about his loss to American poet Ezra Pound, Pound referred to the incident as a stroke of luck. The poet said that when Hemingway rewrote the stories, he would remember all of the good material, but forget all of the bad material. In this way his so-called problem would actually perfect his work.

Yea-sayer Nay-sayer

The Yea-sayer Nay-sayer is a so-called school-opera written by Bertold Brecht, Elisabeth Hauptmann and Kurt Weill in 1930. Initially it was titled The Yea-sayer, and the plot revolved around the question of whether an individual must be agreeable to sacrificing themselves for the good of society.

In the first version of the piece a boy gives permission for his own execution. After a sting of discussions with students and workers Brecht’s The yea-sayer was modified into a second version, where the yea-sayer is presented in contrast to a nay-sayer.

This nay-sayer calls the blind obedience of the yea-sayer into question. The function of the yea-sayer has seen a variety of literary interpretations; perhaps the most common interpretation being that the character represents the expression of a false obedience with regard to authority and social norms.

Indeed, the term yea-sayer has a negative connotation in the German culture. To be a yea-sayer means to say amen to everything. Not to resist. To accept anything. Better to be a nay-sayer in this case.

Nay-sayers may be more complicated and unpleasant for those around them, but at least they stand up for their own beliefs. An (initial) no could simply be a way of expressing oneself first.

“I won’t accept this prize“

In 2008 leading literary pundit Marcel Reich-Ranicki was supposed to receive the German television award for his life’s work. Reich-Ranicki also came to the awards show and listened to the laudation by Thomas Gottschalk. However, in his thank-you address he had little thanks left for the award that he a just been presented with.

Instead, he explained, that he had already received many important prizes in his life, and that it had never been difficult for him to say thank you. But today, he was “in a very horrible situation“, as he was forced to “somehow react” to the prize which he had received, and was asked to be “not too harsh”.

“I don’t want to offend anyone. No, I don‘t want to do that. But I would just like to come out and say that I will not accept this prize. If the prize had come with money I would have given the money back, but it didn’t come with money. I can only fling this object […] away from me, or throw it at someone’s feet. I cannot accept it! And I also found it terrible to have to suffer this event for five hours.”

Reich-Ranicki’s speech left his audience perplexed. During his speech the cameras continued to capture shocked expressions amongst the members of the audience, here and there and embarrassed grin, a few laughs. Reich-Raniki was bold enough to call the German Television award, which many of the attending actors and producers used to sing their own praises, ‘rubbish’. Freely and without restraint. Controversial. Typical Reich-Ranicki.

Gothic horror author Anne Rice

Just as Germans are inclined to have more respect for the reviewer if there are some critical remarks posted under an overall good review, there are some Americans who simply cannot handle the criticism even when it is in their own interest to do so.

For example, gothic horror author Anne Rice has never been one to take criticism lightly. Although her Novel Blood Canticle received a five-star review on Amazon.com, which could only encourage readers to buy it, she lashed out at all of the negative comments posted below it by individual readers in a 1,200-word diatribe post.

Her claims were that her readers were “interrogating [the book] from the wrong perspective.” Aside from calling them “arrogant and stupid,” she also took time to personally target specific reviewers who had made harsher statements such as:

“Anne, you really should have an editor” (In fact, the book does contain a few grammatical errors). Then, she provided a spoiler description of the novel along with a commentary on exactly how brilliant it really was.