For Love and Sass

My favorite author, Patrick Rothfuss recently came out with a new book on October 28th.

When he announced it, I ran around for a few hours feeling like my heart was pumping helium around my body. That is to say that I was lighter than air, walked too fast and barely felt as if I was walking on my feet, and my voice was three octaves too high as I told every one I knew. I did not feel any of the strange, adverse, and horrible effects of my veins being filled with a gas instead of a liquid.

I read his first two books (The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, the beginning and middle chapters of The Kingkiller Chronicles) just after I graduated from college. After months of sweating through an Honors Thesis and reading the sort of thick things that get assigned to senior English majors, I took a sweet run inside his world. I also happened to be vacationing in southern California at the time, but I might as well have been in Antarctica for all that I noticed the beautiful weather.

I spent every morning in over my head in those pages. Both books are brick-sized, and could adequately be used as weapons in a zombie apocalypse. They’re written with the sort of density that makes every word a shiny thing worth tucking into your pocket and running off with, though it’s impossible to run past the next word and the glint coming off of it. I was charmed and disarmed. I was swallowed whole. On the few times I noticed how deep I’d gone while I was reading, I only looked up at the surface in stupidstruck awe.

Patrick Rothfuss has come out with two short stories since. I might make a joke here, tell you that my only complaint was that they were too short, but it wouldn’t be true. Both of them ended in just the right place, satisfyingly full of what they were.

And now, after another book has been in public hands for nine days and I haven’t even touched the binding, I’m starting to get the jitters. My friend, Kate messaged me yesterday to tell me it was good. I started to imagine the taste of ambrosia, the quick sweetness that wraps around the tongue before this flimsy mortal form is poisoned by the pure perfection that is meant only for the gods.

And I had to stop myself right there. I expect this book to be good, but even great things can be ruined by the expectation of better.

I went online, and I searched specifically for this book’s one-star customer reviews. I needed to be tempered back into a darker reality, and I needed to distract myself.

I accomplished the former after a handful of the featured reviews, started to breathe again, and regained the patience I needed to receive my own copy. I accomplished the latter over the next few hours as I blinked, snorted, cringed, laughed and began to sass back.

One-star reviewer: This book is not Book Three.
Me: No. No, it is not. It is a side story for a side character.

One-star reviewer: This book is not Book Three.
Me: It is also not Hamlet, Macbeth, Ivanhoe, The Prince and the Pauper, The Fault in Our Stars, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the… Let me get a drink. This is going to take a while.

One-star reviewer: This book is not Book Three.
Me: Congratulations, you are the tenth person in a row to point this out! You have won a slinky, half a jar of mustard, and a parrot that likes to swear.

One-star reviewer: This book is not Book Three.
Me: There are no prizes for coming in eleventh.

One-star reviewer: The months that I waited did not magically turn this book into Book Three.
Me: That’s because “sitting with your hands under your butt” is not given as a productive step in any magicker’s manual. To do it properly, you’ll need the help of a Master Namer, though none that I know would be complicit in any action that attempted to change a thing’s true name.

One-star reviewer: This book is not about Kvothe, the main character from Patrick Rothfuss’ other books.
Me: It is also not about Hamlet, Macbeth, Ivanhoe, the Prince, the Pauper, Hazel Grace Lancaster… I think I’m going to need another drink.

One-star reviewer: “I expected Kvothe’s next thousand-page irritatingly roundabout tale. Instead I got a dreary, barely readable tale.”
Me: … This sounds like a personal problem.

One-star reviewer: This book was not written by Brandon Sanderson.
Me: Oh my goat, who told you?!

One-star reviewer: This book was not written by J.K. Rowling.
Me: No. No, it’s not. But I can see where there might have been some confusion after the Cuckoo’s Calling situation.

One-star reviewer: This is an obvious rip-off of the Kingkiller Chronicles.
Me: And I heard that Patrick Rothfuss was going to sue himself, but then he had to do the laundry.

One-star reviewer: This is not a book, but an overly elaborate magic trick to make ten dollars disappear.
Me: It doesn’t seem very elaborate. What is it, three steps? Open book, insert bill, snap book shut and, voila, it’s out of sight! It would never make it in Vegas, but I can see it lasting a couple shows at Grandpa’s kitchen table.

One-star reviewer: “After finishing the story, the reader wept for having spent money on it.”
Me: It does seem like the sort of thing that you should have paid for with a forge’s fire inside a butterfly wing and a pear that dreams of being a wildflower…

One-star reviewer: I chose to buy this instead of waiting to borrow it from the library. I didn’t like it, and now no one is offering me my money back.
Me: We have had a few problems getting our Automatic Refund Robotics off the ground. It’s mostly been a funding issue. If you just shoot us like fifteen bucks, I think we could get you your ten dollar refund.

One-star reviewer: I didn’t read what this book was about when I ordered it, so when it got here and it looked funny, I just returned it.
Me: Okay.

One-star reviewer: Patrick Rothfuss hasn’t become susceptible to my mind control and I’m having trouble making him do my bidding.
Me: Did you put an empty Mountain Dew can on his head? Because it really doesn’t work without a proper antenna, and the extra caffeine in the Mountain Dew helps exacerbate the radio waves as they enter the metal alloy.

One-star reviewer: The mental processes of this fantasy character are painfully close to real human thoughts.
Me: I can see how that might be alarming to you, a member of the Fae. It can be very disconcerting to see a human mind, all fraught and frayed in its conflicting desire. I could support a petition to ask Mr. Rothfuss to make his work more friendly to other species.

One-star reviewer: This book is just parts of the alphabet out of order and rotated through various formations with spaces in between.
Me: That’s how you make words, Jim.

One-star reviewer: This book is so dumb, but I will use a reference to this book to tell you how dumb it is, because it was clever, and quoting it will make me sound clever.
Me: You confuse me. And now I want to read the book a little more than before. Thank you.

One-star reviewer: I just read The Emperor’s New Clothes and I’m pretty sure the moral of that story was that if someone tells me they loved this book and I don’t understand, I can call them a cloying, pandering idiot because they’re obviously a cloying, pandering idiot.
Me: I think the moral of that story was that you shouldn’t ever let fear of proving yourself mundane keep you from offering your opinion, whether you are an Emperor with all the responsibility in the world or a child with none. Either that, or that if you’re going to try to fleece an entire kingdom, make it a kingdom without anyone under the age of five or you’ll get caught for sure.

One-star reviewer: This book is not Book Three.
Me: Your powers of observation astound me.

Part of my sass was in defense of my favorite author’s honor. I will freely admit that, though he is a grown man and doesn’t need my help.

But most of it was in defense of the One-Star Review’s honor.

There’s nothing wrong with disliking something. There is great courage and generosity in being willing to take the time to explain why. There are so many one-star reviews written with eloquence and care. They’re worth reading. They’re worth considering. Occasionally, they’re even worth being persuaded by.

But, for the love of Pete the Goatherd, and all his wacky wards, they shouldn’t be buried under these.

38 thoughts on “For Love and Sass

  1. Absolutely ridiculous. “Barely readable”? Anything Patrick Rothfuss writes is effing-fucking-readable, I’m pretty sure this has been scientifically proven. That being said, the book IS a tad pricey for a short-story. But it’s Patrick effing-fucking-readable Rothfuss, which means it is totally worth it.

    • Obviously, I don’t have the book in my hands yet, but I didn’t bat an eye at the idea of spending ten dollars on a 170-page book. The truth simply is that hard-copy books are priced more to accommodate overhead costs from the publisher (editing, copy-editing, proofing, marketing, distribution, etc.) which don’t markedly change with the size of a book. You still have to pay all the people involved with getting the book from Pat’s brain to our hands. But I can understand the frustration for those who expected a much longer volume.

      And yeah, Pat’s writing is beautiful. :)

      • Oh yes, buying Pat’s work is and always will be worth it, even if it’s priced at $100 per book! I’m just saying there are full novels out there from equally prestigious writers, which cost less than that. Not saying it was a wrong pricing decision, but for a short-story it is a bit pricy. Not that it matters, because I’m buying it anyway. Loved your post!

      • Sad though that the Kindle version (in Australia at least) is $14.99.. when the 1st and 2nd of the Kingkiller Chronicles are $11.99. It does say the the price is set by the publisher, but honestly, for an electronic copy it seems like a bit of a gouge..

  2. Oh yeah, Rothfuss is the worst. You can’t read his books because they end. Many novels you read you say, ok 200 pages down 500 to go. But Mr. Rothfuss’, no. You say, crap 200 down already and only 600 to go! I need to slow down, how can I be 1/4 through?! But you can’t. You can try leaving the book on the shelf, but you can feel it staring at you if you’re in the same room. It’s waiting to pull you in, take you for a ride and then the roller coaster ends. The only option is to get back in line and wait your turn for the next run. You hate the wait, but you love the ride.

    • Witty repartee regarding an interesting look at Auri, helps to understand her underlying emotions which in turn control her actions.

      The chapter in George R. R. Martin’s anthology ( best of the best) has Pat writing/filling in the blanks on Kvothe’s inn assistant, Bast. Wonderous story telling…fun, too! Let’s not forget The Princess and Mr. Wiffle…both books are brillant storytelling. Much admiration for one of my favorite authors remains steadfast.

      I got to hear Pat speak about the process of writing & The Name of the Wind here at our little university in Wausau, WI. My loyalty has never waivered.

  3. Wish I could have half of your wit! My favorites were “Oh my goat, who told you?!” (yep, totally gonna have to start using “Oh my goat” in future conversations!), “There are no prizes for coming in 11th.” “It does seem like the sort of thing that you should have paid for with a forge’s fire inside a butterfly wing and a pear that dreams of being a wildflower…” (seriously, just loved that one!) and “That’s how you make words, Jim.” I did read the book and – though I may be biased b/c PR is my favoritest author ever (the king he dethroned was none other than Robert Jordan) – Auri is my favorite side character in the trilogy and I loved getting to read more about her life and the Underthing. And I especially loved Rothfuss’ end note :-) Hope you got to see him on his tour!

    • I didn’t get to his tour, but I managed to catch him at PAX Prime, and it was a brilliant evening. I highly advise that anyone who wants to see him in person, do so. He’s definitely that English Professor that everyone loved to take lectures from.

      Thanks for reading, and stroking my ego a bit. :) I always love hearing what people’s favorite lines are.

  4. This is the kind of stuff that goes through my mind when I see/hear people just ripping into things without being constructive. I like this person and I love that you brought this to us, Patrick effing-fucking-readable Rothfuss. (You need to print business cards with that name on them!)

  5. Oh my goodness, this was an amazing post. I loved your descriptions of reading the first two books; it sort of felt like you were in my brain describing my experiences. But your comments to those reviewers was priceless! Loved it. And I will have to adopt “For the love of Pete the Goatherd, and all his wacky wards” into my conversations from this point forward. Thank you.

    • I imagine that falling into Rothfuss’ work is similar for a lot of people. I’m just glad I wasn’t the only one to fall so hard for these books.

      And I will look forward to the day when I hear “For the love of Pete the Goatherd” come back around to me. Together, we can take over the world. ;)

  6. I just want to be the first to comment, if you haven’t realized yet, that the magnificent Patrick Rothfuss has shared this glorious article in Facebook. You’ll be famous. You deserve it. I cracked. I am still laughing at “That is how you make words, Jim”. You, too, are great at writing. You deserve my follow :) cheers from México!!

  7. Until Pat linked this, I did not know you existed; rather than believe my life has been lacking until now, I will accept this as a wonderful enhancement and source of joy. I like your sass.

    • Also, I’d rather have paid for the book with, perhaps, the rightness of three perfectly rolled dice and two pizzas. Not with anything in particular in ’em. Because pizzas. Unfortunately, this system of barter is not likely to come to happen.

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  11. This made me love you for a brief time. It made me laugh. Your wording is brilliant and the sass was exceptionally sassy. I humbly approve. Thanks for the laughs.

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