Revealing Reviews

It may be axiomatic that there is no bad press, but two reader reviews have been welcome for more than the book discussion they have started (Full disclosure: I have met neither reader, but did invite each of them to post a review upon learning they owned The Samurai Poet). The first reviewer liked the first part of the novel, but had no use for the second part, calling it "comparatively directionless." On the other hand, the second reviewer saw the first part as something to be read through with "patience," with the reward being the latter part of the novel in which the main character's reflections acted as a catalyst for the reader's own.

The criticism did not bother me—in fact I welcomed their openness. If anything, it made the complimentary portions of their respective reviews seem all the more sincere. What fascinated me was the possible underlying gender dynamics that might have been at work. Allow me to explain.

The novel is divided into three Books: "Yang/Activity," "Yin/Quiescence," and "Unity." While writing the novel I realized how cliched it might look for a Western author to hone in on the Yang Yin dichotomy and deploy it in a superficial manner. Given my readings in Chinese and Japanese philosophy, I felt like it was an idea the novel explored in a nuanced manner and which was appropriate to the worldview of the main character, so I committed to it.

While I have no intent to provide a thorough summary of Yang and Yin, it is necessary to note that historically Yang was sometimes associated with males and Yin with females. Given this traditional association, I couldn't help but wonder if it was a coincidence or not that the male reviewer preferred the "Yang" section and that the female reviewer preferred the "Yin." I don't want to make too big a deal about it or fall into the trap of essentializing anyone, but it does make me curious to read more reviews and see what a larger reader community makes of it. Is it destined to divide people based on taste? Will readers emerge that like how the style of each Book changes to suit the content of the section? Or do the three Books contrast too much to fulfil the ambition I was hoping to realize?

It's a question I can't answer, but I can still hope it finds a large enough audience that a consensus emerges for me to reflect upon. If you would like to add your voice to the discussion, I encourage you to share a few words at Goodreads and/or at the site where you purchased your copy. Thank you in advance.

N.B. In related news, I have added a Goodreads review widget to The Samurai Poet page of the web site so that you can see the full reviews for yourself. Here's a hot link for quick access—just scroll to the bottom of the page for the reviews.