Worst Review Ever, Twilight Fun, and Cakewrecks

Elizabeth Bluemle -- June 24th, 2009

I find the best websites when I’m procrastinating working productively. Usually they come courtesy of another writer friend, via email or Facebook links — seductive little snippets with irresistible headlines. So when Lisa Yee (Absolutely Maybe) pointed some fellow writers to a cathartic website aimed at easing the pain of bad reviews, I had to check it out.

The Worst Review Ever blog was established by YA author Alexa Young (Faketastic) in a spirit of self-preservation and camaraderie with her fellow writers. It provides hilarity and healing for beleaguered authors licking their wounds from scathing reviews — reviews found on Amazon, Goodreads, blogs, and even (occasionally) from professional review publications. Any negative statement in a review is felt with outsized sensitivity by writers (whose job, after all, requires a degree of sensitivity); it is like someone pointing out that one’s baby has a smashed nose or mutant feet.

Where else can you find horrifying (and horribly funny) wholesale pans like this one-liner, which calls a book by a well-respected YA writer "[a] candy-coated turd." Or provides another author with his nightmare of a reader response: "The plot sees [sic] to drag on and on with only one every [sic] slightly exciting section in the middle that also fizzles out." What makes it feel perfectly okay to laugh at these is that the authors themselves have sent in the reviews. There’s a kind of power in taking the bad reviews and using them for one’s own purposes.

Young goes one further in the empowerment train: she follows each "worst review" with quickie author interviews, asking where, when, and how they encountered the review and what they did about it. Then, to keep it all in perspective, she jauntily invites readers to rate how bad it really is: "And now let’s rate [sad author]’s pain:

1 star = That wasn’t so bad
2 stars = Yeah, that would hurt
3 stars = Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!
4 stars = Beyond harsh, cruel, and unusual punishment
5 stars = Definitely the WORST. REVIEW. EVER."

It’s a fisherman’s pub, an adventurer’s lounge where the participants can brag about their narrow escapes, compare scars, laugh in the face of tragedy, and be bought beers by their compatriots. And the one who gets the very worst review ever, each season, wins a prize—which I think should also include a gift certificate to an independent bookstore. Ahem. These are authors, after all, and they need books. *cough*indiebound.org*cough* Just sayin’.

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A while ago, I linked in ShelfTalker to Twilight the Musical, an amateur film. So how could I resist when a recent friend, Misrule‘s Australian blogmaster, Judith Ridge, alerted me to this enticing entry: Buffy vs. Edward (Twilight Remix). See? You know you want to watch it. Very funny, and a justifiable time-suck, given your profession as a bookseller/author/children’s lit fan/publishing house person/etc.

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Finally, there’s Cakewrecks, one of my all-time favorite places to go for some actual, take-you-by-surprise belly laughs. The main part of the website is devoted to egregious errors in professional cake decorating, photograph after photograph of hideous frosting foul-ups, lettering gaffes, and strange concoctions that reduce an innocent viewer to incoherent babbling: "My eyes! My eyes!"

You will not believe some of the atrocities therein. Here’s just one, and it’s not even that bad by Cakewrecks standards:

Blogger Jen Yates, writes: Coulrophobia is the fear of clowns. Plenty of adults have it these days, and this vintage photo from Jessica E. may explain why:

Ah, yes: the great clown massacre of ’77.

Can you handle more creepy clown cakes? Go here.

But the site also celebrate fabulous cakes, too, in entries called Sweet Sundays. A recent entry showcased confectionary paeans to children’s literature, including these familiar figures:

 

The best part of Cakewrecks is Yates’s hilarious commentary, tucked modestly in between the photos. She’s a sharp, concise, playful, terrific writer whose site has won numerous awards: 2008 Bloggies: Best Writing of a Weblog, Best New Weblog, Best Food Blog; 2008 Weblog Awards: Best Food Blog; and 2008 Blogger’s Choice Awards: Best Humor Blog. Andrews McMeel is publishing a book in September born from the site: Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong. I already know I’m going to love it and leaf through it as often as I do James Lilek’s Gallery of Regrettable Food (please don’t let this book go OP, Crown! I’ll order more right away), or Wendy McClure’s Candyboots.com collection of Weight Watchers recipe cards from the 1970’s (the pictures are grotesquely riotous, but as with Cakewrecks.com and Regrettable Food, the best laughs come from the accompanying commentary. Think David Sedaris eviscerating — and celebrating — poor taste and misguided good intentions, and you’ll have a sense of how funny these writers are. All three have made me cry from laughing at one time or another. All in all, not bad payback for an afternoon’s procrastination.

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