The Value of Subjective Opinions

All art is subjective, and all opinions are valid, but subjective is an interesting concept. For example: what one person enjoys reading, another person cannot stand. A subjective opinion is a statement that has been colored by the character of the speaker or writer. It often has a basis in reality, but reflects the perspective through which the speaker views reality.

In addition, a subjective opinion cannot be verified using concrete facts and figures.

Regarding The Concubine Saga, the first two reader reviews on Amazon.com of the Kindle version of this novel earned five stars. Then the third reader review on Amazon.com arrived from “carol al-awadi” who seems to live and work in Kuwait in the Middle East.

Al-Awadi gave the novel a one-star review and wrote, “This ‘historical fiction’ was the most inane piece of writing that I’ve ever read! There was no depth to any of the characters, I culled very little about Chinese history or Chinese life at the time of this saga, and the maudlin “love story” of Robert and Ayaou could have been something taken out of a discount store paperback romance. The story of this supposedly influential and intuitive Robert Hart is related in a very superficial and lame manner…and that’s a pity because if this man was really the person we are told he is, then his legacy has been cheated. And one last thing….I can’t believe how many time Hart had “tears in his eyes” over anything from a compliment to listening to his 5 year old bang out a piece on the piano. Sorry, folks. I’ve read many historical fiction books, and I have to say, this is definitely the worst!

 

Curious, I did some research and discovered that there is a Carol Al-Awadi living in Kuwait—possibly an American married to a Kuwaiti citizen, and the individual with that name is listed as the Curriculum Coordinator at the Fawzia Sultan International School.

Then, this morning (May 9, 2012), another subjective opinion arrived awarding “The Concubine Saga” an Honorable Mention in General Fiction for the 2012 San Francisco Book Festival. This time I have no idea who the judge or judges were that made this subjective decision.

Carol Al-Awadi is not alone in her subjective opinion of my novel and her view is valid as all opinions are.  In fact, since “The Concubine Saga” first appeared as “My Splendid Concubine” and then later in the sequel, “Our Hart, Elegy for a Concubine“, there have been many opinions of this work.  I keep track of the reviews and awards for these novels and the tally, so far, runs 64 positive to 12 negative, so Al-Awadi’s opinion joins the 15% that did not enjoy the novel.

Numbers such as 85% and 15% are concrete facts represented by figures. For example, “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee has sold over 30 million copies so far. In fact, on Amazon.com, Mockingbird has 2,250 customer reviews (at the time I checked) — but 85 had earned one-star reviews, 50 earned two stars, and 1,663 earned five stars.

Those numbers are facts that Harper Lee has been taking to the bank each time a royalty check arrives.

One of the one-star subjective opinions on Amazon.com of Lee’s book said, “I waited 52 years to read this book. I should have waited 52 more. A real snoozefest. I don’t see what all the fuss is about.”

However, the most popular five-star review started with, “It hardly seems like 50 years since I picked up this book late one rainy night when it was first published, after my mom had been raving about the book for weeks, trying to get me to read it. Well, what the heck, the late movie was boring that evening and there was nothing else on the TV… next thing I knew, it was two o’clock in the morning and I had just turned the final page on what was the most magical reading experience of my entire life…”

In conclusion, it is obvious that individual subjective opinions do not hold much value by themselves, but when there are many subjective opinions that can be converted into concrete numbers, which are facts, value is added to the equation.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

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