AMAZON REVIEWS: On the Haters Trail

/Beth Wareham

I own a publishing company (with the magnificent Lisa Hagan, write books, edit books, work on film treatments and develop  television shows. It’s a living, sort of.

I find myself in my first role – that of publisher – checking Amazon reviews and rankings frequently. I build author pages for them. When it comes to amazon, I’m around.

So, imagine my delight when I bumped into the one-star review of the above book by one Barry Burek on amazon. One star?  Almost thirty years of criticism, interviews and reporting in the greatest newspaper on Earth gets one star? What is Mr Burek sniffing?

Unfortunately for him, he was like a cat hiding behind the curtain with his tail sticking out. A quick click on his name showed a trail of meticulous, often mentally-disturbed, reviews of an hilarious range of products.


He gives one star to Bernard Holland’s thirty years at The New York Times because Holland was a “professional leech”. This would be news to his employers who received 4600 reviews from him, including several Pulitzer Prize nominations. Sorry, Barry. No go on that one. He calls Mr Holland a bunch more names, which made Mr Holland laugh. As he  said, “haters mean I’m doing my job right.” So, according to Barry, don’t buy that book. According to Mr Holland, get a Barry Burek and feel like you’ve arrived.

Did I tell you Barry Burek creates an alter ego named “Lola” to answer himself? When he dolls out a single star, Lola backs him up. Barry is picky, and kind of a coward, it seems.

An organic sea salt got a whopping 5 stars from Barry because it tasted good and was EASY TO USE. I worry now that Barry has flippers instead of hands.

Intimately aware of his shoe size after reading his shopping history, the Santa Cruz slip-on-loafers were pretty good – 4 stars – but lost that star because, after arriving on May 20, Barry pushed his big toe through one on July 18. His perforated garden clogs lost one of their stars because they were not the originals, they were way cheaper. (And this is the clogs fault because….?) Barry’s Pali Hawaii Classic Jesus Sandals (brown, 12) take a direct hit of a few stars because Barry is really a 10 1/2 D and the 11 he ordered was TOO SMALL. He then ordered the 12 and it was TOO NARROW. What a world, Barry!

On a book about dementia, Barry let loose in the vein of his diatribe against Holland. (Classical music and deteriorating neural pathways are Barry’s hot spot?) His one star was followed with a cascade of name-calling and vitriol. The sane came out of the bushes and said “You need help, Barry. Please get it now. There is no shame in mental illness.” Predictably, Lola showed up to defend Barry.

Remember the next time you read those heaps and piles of unchecked reviews on amazon, most of them are silly. They are about the emotions and prejudices of the writer and not productive criticism. That is a skill and an art in itself that people like Barry Burek can’t imagine.

But he did like the wine stoppers and cat litter he ordered. Take note.

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You Can’t Go Home Again, Writers

/beth wareham 

th.jpegI have always wondered why people like Hemingway fled to Europe, why writers end up in bare rooms by the seaside in Greece. I think I now understand their flight: they had to find a place where the truth was safe. Truth could be put on the page without immediate threat. They had found a lie-free spot to work on their writing.

I recently wrote about about race and went into shock when some of my oldest friends on Earth read it and said, “I don’t want anyone to think you slept with a black man” or “I gave you permission to use that passage but I want it removed even though the film has been sold” or, worse yet, not one word of humor or praise or pride over my writing.

This of course has led me to contemplate the nature of friendship. Again. I have out grown them. They do not understand how the writer’s mind processes reality. They are provincial. They gossip and no one knows what vague innuendo and bizarre  untruths swirl around their gatherings. They love Trump. They liked Zimmerman and refused to acknowledge he murdered a young man.  Democrats lay low. This is Texas. I must leave them and their piles of guns behind.

I am not so much disappointed as disillusioned by the rules and regulations others put on friendship. Amongst the group, most of the marriages are long dead. Mine keeps ticking and at the 20-year mark, I will renew my vows on a beach in a long flowing gown on the other side of the world. At 10 years, he and I recommitted on the side of a mountain over the Zambesi in Africa. Our wedding dinner was on an island in mid-river glowing with oil lamps. He was a man my friends told me not to marry, he was too old, it wouldn’t last. He is the best thing that ever happened to me.

I choose my talent over everyone but my husband and my God. I will be gossiped about, called names, and sworn at by those “friends” that don’t think I’m doing it right.  They might as well be yelling down a hole for all I care.

I am a wife. I am a writer. Racism is particularly abhorrent to me and I fight the fight my Mother fought over 60 years ago.  I am what I want to be, I am a person I am proud of. I am making a Hollywood film of the book, a comedic portrait of the hilarious differences and similarities between whites and blacks, all wrapped in a happy ending. I am so proud of the work, the sensibility, the huge talent it has attracted for the film.  I wrote it for my Mother. I loved her spirit and her ideas. I will cry the day it opens because she will not be able to watch it.

I say to those women, those “friends” of mine, think about what you do. Think about who you hurt. Think about the course of your own life and leave mine alone. Stop ganging up on people, stop hating other women. Stop being afraid of every shade of skin darker than your own. Stop making assumptions about the motivations of others. No one died and left you Queens. Connect yourself to the world and not your tiny circle of gossip. Act like an adult citizen of the world which, if you haven’t noticed, seems to be aflame.

You should have been teaching a child to read in the time you spent whispering about me. I am ashamed of you.

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Chat #BookVersusMovie with Us on 10/3!

This week, Shadow Teams is putting #ebookchat on hold temporarily to have a lively discussion with @BookVersusMovie, a team of two women, both named Margo, who have a great podcast that will help you give the real smackdown to adaptations. Which is better? Now you’ll know! Come chat with The Margos about their favorite books, movies, and digital tools. Friday, October 3, 12-1 Eastern time, with the hashtag #bookversusmovie. We can’t wait to see your smiling avatar there!

Here’s how to participate:

– Make sure you have a Twitter account. Don’t know how to set one up? Here are some simple instructions.
— If you don’t plan on using an application like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, remember that you can put the hashtag #ebookchat into Twitter to search for messages. Even easier: Use (there are other sites like this), as it allows you to open a window with just the #ebookchat tweets, nothing else.
— Share tweets, with or without your own comments, but try to include the hashtag so everyone knows where to turn for more information, or to join.
— Almost anything goes in a Twitter chat, but one thing that doesn’t: Self promotion. Please don’t make this about you; it’s about a community.
— Speaking of community, let your own Twitter followers know that you’ll be participating in a chat. People then know to skim your hashtagged tweets, or can “mute” you for a while. There’s a Chrome extension that can do this, too.

#Ebookchat will return on October 10th at noon. Are you interested in being a guest for #ebookchat? Email