One of my favorite all-time books is the great American novel Of Mice and Men. This year I’ve been on a bit of a John Steinbeck binge. I’ve picked up some of his classics that I enjoyed in year’s past and I’ve picked up a couple that were new to me. I picked up Of Mice and Men for the first time in twenty-five years and dropped myself into the world of George and Lennie. It was just as immersive and heart-wrenching as the first time I read it as a fifteen-year-old. No, it was better. As perfect a novel as has ever been written.
I’m not a big crier, but my eyes welled, and then tears streamed down my cheeks as George has Lennie close his eyes and imagine their life on their own farm in the closing scene. Maybe you remember the emotional wallop or reading that final scene? Maybe you cried as well?
I went to Goodreads, where I rate and review books I’ve written (if you have an account, friend me!). My jaw dropped. On a 5 star scale, Steinbeck’s masterpiece has received a 3.86 rating with over 1.7 million ratings. A 3.86 for one of the finest pieces of writing on the planet. As of this writing 51,618 people rated Steinbeck’s novel a 1 out of 5 stars. 51,618 people, more than the population of Prescott, Arizona, decided that Steinbeck’s novel wasn’t just average or disappointing… no, it deserved the worst possible ranking they could give a book.
Confession: I handle criticism poorly.
By “handle criticism poorly” I don’t mean that I don’t receive criticism or seek it out. I do both. What I mean is that I tend to hear criticism in BOLD and CAPS LOCK. My default is to overstate the criticism, to universalize it, and to see too much merit in the criticism. I can slide into doubting my calling and gifting.
Fellow discouraged traveler, remember, 51,618 people gave Of Mice and Men 1 star.