Review: Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded by John Scalzi

Published February 3, 2014 by Shannon

Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded

On September 13, 1998, John Scalzi sat down in front of his computer to write the first entry in his blog “Whatever” — and changed the history of the Internet as we know it today.

What, you’re not swallowing that one? Okay, fine: He started writing the “Whatever” and amused about 15 people that first day. If that many. But he kept at it, for ten years and running. Now 40,000 people drop by on a daily basis to see what he’s got to say.

About what? Well, about whatever: Politics, writing, family, war, popular culture and cats (especially with bacon on them). Sometimes he’s funny. Sometimes he’s serious (mostly he’s sarcastic). Sometimes people agree with him. Sometimes they send him hate mail, which he grades on originality and sends back. Along the way, Scalzi’s become a best-selling, award-winning author, a father, and a geek celebrity. But no matter what, there’s always another Whatever to amuse and/or enrage his readers.

Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded collects some of the best and most popular Whatever entries over the history of the blog, from some of the very first entries right up into 2008. It’s a decade of Whatever, presented in delightfully random form — just the way it should be.

I don’t know what random impulse got me to purchase Your Hate Mail Will be Graded. I think it was something like this: I was reading posts on Whatever and realized, “Hey, he compiled lots of his blog entries. Now that everyone has e-readers, I betI can get this accessibly.” Sure enough, I could, and spent the whole day reading.

What I Liked: John Scalzi is articulate, witty and entertaining. He doesn’t always write about things that interest me, and I don’t always agree with him, but I do think he’s worth listening to. This collection is a thorough sampling of his work, and I think, if you’ve never read his blog before, you’d know right away if he’ll work for you.

What I Didn’t Like: This is totally on my own head, but Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded is a collection that’s meant to be dipped into randomly. I glommed it in a single sitting. I never got a good sense of one piece flowing into another. I know that blogs don’t flow together, but honestly, I’d probably have a better sense of cohesion had I just trolled through the Whatever archives myself. Also, while I like Scalzi’s writing, sometimes he got a little too smug for my taste. I probably wouldn’t have noticed aforementioned smugness had I read the book more slowly, but taken all together, it made me bristle.

Who Might Like It: Fans of Scalzi. People whose views skew just a little to the left. Fans of bacon.

P.S. I am so glad we have moved on to not using people’s sexual orientations as nouns. Every time Scalzi, who generally means well, mentioned “the gays” I bristled. It sounds demeaning to my 2014 ears, though I’m sure I didn’t think much about that word choice issue even back in 2008.

2 comments on “Review: Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded by John Scalzi

  • I have always hated “the gays” and devoutly hope you’re right that it’s over.

    Your complaints sound eerily similar to mine about Dan Savage’s recent book.

    • I read that Savage book, too. Yup, similar complaints about that one, too.

      I like Savage, generally, although again I don’t agree with him on a lot of things, namely his take on bisexuality, but yeah, again, the smug was just so thick and pervasive.

      I wonder if I’d feel that way about a similar collection of essays by a feminist I admired?

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