The Self-Annihilation of Credibility – Part 2/6

The second challenge (another example of defamation) to the history that flows through The Concubine Saga came from the Reader’s Cafe in a June 2012 review written by Tilly. This book review site has no search-engine traffic rank according to Alexa.com (at the time I checked) and has only 10 members but according to its Blog Archive it was launched in 2006.

Is this an indication of the popularity of reviews written on this site?

Anyway, Tilly proclaimed for all the world to read as long as the Reader’s Cafe remains an active domain that:

1. The time it took for Robert Hart to sail from  England to China was unrealistic.

2. Tilly claimed that Robert Hart could not have been raised to respect women as equals in Victorian England.

3. Robert Hart could not have believed that paying 33 pounds for a concubine was cheap.

4. Tilly called Ayaou, Hart’s concubine, a harlot.

5. Eunuchs were not castrated before they were hired to work in the Forbidden City.

6. Tilly claims there was no such thing as the Santai Dynasty

7. According to Tilly, there was no way that Robert Hart could not have known about the Taiping Rebellion in detail before he learns about it in the novel.

In reply to number one, I never mentioned how long it took Robert Hart to sail from England to China. The original first edition of The Concubine Saga opens as Hart arrived in Hong Kong after a long voyage from England.  Hart’s next voyage takes place a few days later from Hong Kong to Shanghai and I assure you that I followed the time span it took to make that voyage from Robert Hart’s own journal that covers his first year in China. He goes into detail about that trip even mentioning the pirates that chased the ship he was on.

The Concubine Saga (a revised and edited version of My Splendid Concubine combined with the sequel Our Hart, Elegy for a Concubine) says in the third paragraph on page 3, “A month earlier, his ship had reached Hong Kong on July 25…”

Maybe I should have said, “his ship from England”.  You see, Robert Hart first arrived in Hong, where he stayed for a few days before sailing to Shanghai where he stayed with the Lay brothers before sailing to Ningpo about 100 miles south of Shanghai.

It’s all in Hart’s journals—every step of his journey after he arrived in China. In fact, Hart’s journal does not mention how long it took him to sail from England to Hong Kong other then he was seasick most of the voyage. However, he goes into detail about the voyage from Hong Kong to Shanghai.

Tilly’s next example of defamation was to claim that Robert Hart was not raised to respect women as equals. To make this error meant she probably didn’t read the novel carefully or has attention deficit disorder or short term memory issues.

Continued July 10, 2012 in The Self-Annihilation of Credibility – Part 3 or return to Part 1

_______________________

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.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

The Self-Annihilation of Credibility – Part 1/6

I have been accused of a crime—the crime of historical inaccuracy in my novel, The Concubine Saga. I was tried and convicted without a trial by Tilly, a reviewer at The Readers Cafe.

However, the facts say otherwise and in a trial with a jury of my peers, I’m convinced that I would have been found innocent on all counts, as I shall prove in this series of post.

There is a conundrum to this issue—reviewers and many readers feel that an author has no right to respond to criticism of his or her work  even when a review boldly makes accusations and false claims, but I do not agree.  If an author believes he or she has been defamed, then it is the duty of the author to speak out in his or her own defense unless a loyal fan does it first.

Today, the Internet makes it possible for anyone to write a book review. In fact, it seems that the Internet is becoming the only go-to-place of research for couch potatoes.  However, I doubt that every word written in every book in the world may be found through a  Google search.

Furthermore, this isn’t the first time the historical accuracy of “The Concubine Saga” had been challenged. The first example of defamation came from China in 2008.

If you are unsure what defamation means, here is the definition: to attack the good name or reputation of, as by uttering or publishing maliciously or falsely anything injurious; slander or libel; calumniate: The newspaper editorial defamed the politician.

In 2008, a book review of My Splendid Concubine (the first half of The Concubine Saga) appeared online for Beijing Today, an English language newspaper produced by the Communist Youth League of China, and the reviewer claimed the historical accuracy of the novel was questionable because the opening chapter mentioned there were clocks in the Forbidden City.

The Beijing Today reviewer claimed that the Qing Dynasty was too conservative to have clocks.

However, in our extensive personal research library of  China sitting on shelves in our home there is a book that mentions the Qianlong Emperor’s collection of clocks (the book also had photos of a few of the clocks).

I sent an e-mail to Beijing Today with the ISBN number including pull quotes with page numbers from that book proving that there were hundreds if not thousands of clocks in the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace during most of the Qing Dynasty.

I never heard back from Beijing Today, and I shrugged it off. After all, how many people in the rest of the world outside China will ever read that negative review of my work in a Chinese Communist English language newspaper with a circulation of 50,000?  In fact, when I went on-line recently and used Google in an attempt to find that review, it did not appear in any search results.

The Qianlong Emperor was the sixth emperor of the Manchu-led Qing Dynasty and the fourth Qing emperor to rule over China. He ruled China from 1735 to1796, and he wasn’t alone in his love of clocks.

“The Kangzi (ruled China 1661 to 1722) and Qianlong emperors of the Qing Dynasty were fascinated by European clocks, which were often presented as tribute gifts by envoys.”  Source: The Emperor Looks West, Peabody Essex Museum

I have visited the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace in Beijing more than once since 1999 and with my own eyes, I saw a few clocks on display that belonged to Qing Dynasty emperors—not many since most of the Imperial treasures and China’s treasury were looted by the Nationalists as Chiang Kai-shek fled China for Taiwan in 1949 after losing the Civil War.

Continued on July 9, 2012 in The Self-Annihilation of Credibility – Part 2

_______________________

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.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

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.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”