I drained a fair amount of energy today writing what was, essentially, a lengthy negative review of the Hunger Games series. Somewhere between my third and fourth draft I realized that one cannot critique a work as widely acclaimed as Suzanne Collins’ without seeming at once a bit sensationalistic and jealous of her success (and let’s be real, who among us writers isn’t a little bit jealous?), but apparently I had a bone to pick. Truthfully, I set out to write an essay comparing the narrative structures of dystopian novels from the past and now (inspired by this article on The Giver by the AV Club. I loved me some dystopian novels in my youth!) and the Hunger Games series just happened to be the most recent example I’ve read. And while I do have a few basic criticisms of the series, overall I enjoyed them. Who didn’t? So why did the essay come out sounding so negative? And why did I get so sucked into expressing that negativity so thoroughly?
Negativity, it seems, is addictive. It’s like spending hours on facebook: eventually you don’t even remember what was enjoyable about it, but it’s easier than logging off and doing something productive. At some point I finally had to stop editing and just say to myself, “Okay, enough already. Walk away from the computer.” I complied. I went for a run and tried to justify why I should be allowed to post my article. I had spent a lot of time writing it, and despite being critical it was decently written. But writing it had made me feel exhausted. It would probably exhaust people to read it. Maybe if I were an actual book reviewer – a gatekeeper of all things cultural – but I’m not, and so my insistence that “my opinions aren’t meant as a literary review” should have clued me in that I had stepped out of my self-appointed role.
Am I censoring myself? Yes. I’m allowed to do that. We could all stand to censor ourselves a bit. Personally, I don’t want to spend my energy critiquing various things – if it’s not a best selling YA series it’s a political campaign or some celebrity nonsense or an irritating advertisement and on and on. How Andy Rooney managed to complain poetically each week without losing his mind is beyond me. I’m no Andy Rooney. He’s over here.