Last night, the kids and I watched the New Hampshire primary returns together. Yes, because I'm a terrible mother, I subjected them to Wolf Blitzer. It was great, though, because we got into a conversation about the election and who's running for president and what kind of person would make a good president. I tried my damnedest to remain neutral. They're their own people and I really don't want to indoctrinate them one way or the other. Though we did all agree that calling people vulgar names, even when simply repeating what someone else said, was *probably* not on our list of what makes an effective leader.
Anyway, my son pulled out his U.S. presidents placemat and I dropped all the trivia knowledge I could about the forty-four men on that piece of plastic. (My daughter did note that they were all men, and the three of us decided that was bupkis.)
One of my favorite things to do when I was a kid was to pore through my Aunt Nancy's chronicle of the presidents. I learned so many Jeopardy!-ready bits of info from that thing, like how Thomas Jefferson died of diarrhea, probably the most important fact any child can know. So I decided to buy my kids their own book on the presidents.
There were a few at the top of the list on Amazon, so I started to look through the reviews. Though, I mean, they're books on the presidents. How different could they be? A few facts here, a picture there. But, I forgot to consider how hard it is to distill four to eight years (less in some cases, more in others) down to one page of information.
(I suppose William Henry Harrison's entry is probably pretty comprehensive.)
The reviewers gave most of the books good grades for the basic facts. "These books know who the first ladies were! They got all the birthplaces right!" Things got tricky when it came to what actually happened during each presidency. One guy was pissed because the Nixon entry focused too much on Watergate and not enough on China or the end of the Vietnam war. Some thought the books made Clinton's presidency seem to rosy. Another guy didn't like that the book didn't mention how we wound up in Iraq the second time under false pretenses.
Regardless of the beef, it was always a matter of personal opinion. "I liked Reagan, so I didn't appreciate you not making his presidency out to be an utter fairy tale."
I think we can all agree that no presidency was without its scandals and its successes. No president was perfect. (Except maybe for W.H. Harrison, but even then there was the whole getting sick thing.)
So, what's the point of this post beyond my using it as a way to avoid doing other work?
I'm currently in the process of proofing the final copy of my novel (which will be released on June 7, and, hey, you can preorder it HERE!). On every page, I'm constantly pointing out the places where someone is going to think this book is garbage. They're going to call me out on something -- maybe they're a music expert and they think I got some aspect of that wrong. Maybe they don't think the romantic lead is hot enough. Maybe they think I use too many parentheticals.
No presidency is perfect. No book on presidencies is perfect. No book is perfect. No book will be universally beloved (or panned, so that's something).
One-star reviews only see the imperfections. When I used to give reviews, I gave a novel one star because it got so many things about baseball wrong. It was appalling. I couldn't see beyond that.
Just like how the dude who loves Nixon couldn't see beyond the fact that the book he was reading saw Watergate as a bigger story than China.
Just like how someone reading my book might not be able to see beyond the fact that one of my character's names is "Norman." You just never know.
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