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December 17, 2012: The Critics Speak

Today I took all five horses for a walk. Actually, Pete assisted me in getting Hrimmi and Siggi down to the road. It’s hard sometimes to get both going – they would much rather hang out in their condo and continue to chow down. Like yesterday, it was clear, sunny, and cold. And like yesterday, my feet stayed warm the entire time I was out, which was about four hours. I did begin to feel chilled towards the end, as I was finishing up afternoon chores.

I like walking because then I have time to think. Sometimes, particularly when Pete isn’t here, I run things through my head

obsessively. I call this Mobius Strip Thinking. For instance, I have been wondering why close family members and friends haven’t purchased Raudi’s Story. Heck, it’s cheaper than a bran muffin and cup of Starbucks coffee. Mobius Strip Thinking is not such a bad thing, if at some point one takes their virtual scissors and cuts the strip. Not today.

This morning I received an email message from Nancy Marie Brown, who is the editor of the Icelandic Horse Quarterly. My heart sank as I read her message. She’d previously asked a woman named Stephanie to review Raudi’s Story. Stephanie then told her that Raudi’s Story was so bad that she couldn’t write a review. She added that it was a “mistake” to write the story from the horses’ point of view, and that (in my words) the narrative stance was unclear. The question that immediately crossed my mind was, is Raudi’s Story really all that bad? If so, this is damning because I didn’t just dash off this book --- I spent several years working on it.

I obviously had something major to think about as I lead my equine charges around the loop. The first of several tangentially-related thoughts was that was that it’s easier to write about life from a dog’s perspective because dogs are usually in the thick of human goings on. For example, the knowledge base of the canine character in The Fine Art of Dancing in the Rain was television. And the knowledge base of the canine character in Timbuktu was street life. Horses though, aren’t in the thick of human goings on. So I repeatedly had to take this into consideration when writing Raudi’s Story.

It next occurred to me that no review is worse than a bad review. So those who get bad reviews of any kind should be glad to have made the first cut. I’d in fact be thrilled if Raudi’s Story got a bad review in the children’s section of the New York Times Book Review.

I also considered the fact that I failed Chris, who did the illustrations, and Pete who did the formatting, by writing what this non-reviewer considers to be a “flawed” text. And for this reason, I should find another line of work. I then acknowledged to myself that this isn’t a sour grapes point of view. I’ve worked very hard at writing for many years, and am tiring of the more thankless aspects of it.

So, what to do? Pete, amazingly, still believes in this book and is enthused about looking into having it printed up and distributed. Go figure. Either he’s blind to this book’s flaws or sees something that the non-reviewer is missing. I am going to go with the former, and after I finish revising Raising Raudi: A Returning Rider’s Search for the Perfect Horse I’ll return to Raudi’s Story and revise it, with the intent of eliminating and all point of view ambiguity.

And what does Raudi think of this? I ran the above thoughts past her as we did our walk. She said that, like Pete, she didn’t have any problems with this book. She added that I should hurry up and clarify what needs to be clarified--this way I’ll have the time to start working on her Facebook page. Life is sure tough living with a literary Diva.

Nexg: 371.12/18/12: Input from a Guest Commentator