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Worst Book Promotion Ever: “Don’t Buy The F***ing Book”

October 19, 2015
I would put up a picture of the book cover, but the author might drop an f-bomb on me. (image via wikimedia)

(image via wikimedia)

I don’t talk about the word “f***ing” very often.  I’m a polite guy, and f***ing” is not a topic that comes up in polite conversations.  Every once in a while though, “f***ing comes up in literary conversations.  A few years ago, author Elizabeth Gilbert started a literary debate by declaring that writing was “f***ing great.”    A couple weeks ago, Chrissie Hynde told people not to buy her “f***ing book.”

Perhaps some context is necessary.  Chrissie Hynde, lead singer for The Pretenders, just wrote a memoir Reckless: My Life as a Pretender and said something controversial in her book that critics disagreed with.  I’m not getting into what she wrote or whether or not I agree or disagree because that would be for a different blog post.  At any rate, Hynde defended what she wrote in her memoir during an interview when she said:

 “You know? I’d rather say, just don’t buy the f***ing book, then, if I’ve offended someone.”

"...don't buy the f***ing book," but you can still look at the cover.

Even if you’re offended by what she said/wrote, it’s okay to look at the cover.

Maybe it’s the kind of thing only a famous person could say.  If I said in an interview “…just don’t buy the f***ing book,” a bunch of readers would say “Fine” and nobody would buy it.  Maybe Hynde is engaging in reverse psychology.  Or maybe she doesn’t give a f***.

I’m not outraged by what she said, but if I were in her position, I’d be thrilled that somebody had actually read my book and was making comments about what I’d written.  As an amateur writer, I know it’s tough it is to get people to read your words, especially when they have to pay a few bucks.   Maybe Hynde doesn’t understand how many authors would love to write something that gets critics fired up.

Even so, I appreciate her approach to book promotion: act agitated and say something controversial.  I just don’t think it would work for most authors.  It might not even work for her.

One thing I’m curious about, though: What did Chrissie Hynde mean when she used the phrase “f***ing book”?  Is she insulting her own book?  Maybe not, because “f***ing” is not always an insult.  It depends on how “f***ing” is used.

When somebody uses the word “f***ing,” it’s usually obvious what they mean.  Everybody knows what “f***ing” means as a verb.  If you don’t know, I’m not telling you, (or drawing you a picture or sending any photographs).

“F***ing” as an adverb usually means “very” or “really.”  If somebody comments on my blog saying “You’re f***ing stupid,” I know that “f***ing” means “very.”

It’s when “f***ing” is used as an adjective that its meaning can be somewhat murky.  As an adjective, “f***ing” can be very good or very bad.  For example, I was once told that I was a “f***ing genius” at work, but before I could develop a superiority complex, somebody else called me a “f***ing idiot” on my blog.  “F***ing” can go both ways.

When Chrissie Hynde said not to buy her “f***ing book,” she might have meant “stupid book,” not because she thinks her book is stupid but because she thinks the issue her critics are focusing on is stupid.  Or maybe she didn’t mean anything by it.  Maybe she called it her “f***ing book” because it sounded better that way.

Add “f***ing” to anything, and it just sounds better.  Who cares what it means?

I don’t know if this was the worst book promotion ever.  Maybe this was better than no book promotion at all because people like me are talking about it.  Maybe no book promotion at all is the worst book promotion.  So when I write a book and don’t promote it, I’m actually doing a worse book promotion than Chrissie Hynde.

*****

What do you think?  Does “f***ing” have a real meaning?  Or do people say it just because it sounds good?  Would you buy a book from somebody who said “Just don’t buy the f***ing book”?   Is it worse to have no book promotion than telling people not to buy your f***ing book?

17 Comments
  1. Yeah, I think it’s used in all the ways you say and both with meaning and just because it sounds good (and that can be meaning too). But there’s something explosive and violent about the word with the way our lips and jaws work together to pronounce it. It bursts out and draws attention no matter what the context is. But with the context, it can be magnetic, or it can repel us. I wonder these same questions in teaching. I tend to avoid the word when I teach because I’m the one setting the tone of the environment (and I really want that tone to be professional and inviting), but I’ve been in classes when it was used effectively to lighten the mood.

    Ha! I’m so used to avoiding it, I’ve even used an unclear pronoun here to refer to it…

  2. We should all take her advice and avoid buying her book. I think it would be hilarious if all of the corporate bigwigs that handle her image, the public relations people that call media outlets and pressure them to publish ms. Hynde’s quotes and all of the people that handle everything from Ms. Hynde’s quotes to her regularity that this was a campaign that we have heard, and we will not buy this infantile book no matter what anyone says.

  3. F******* can mean a lot of things. Sometimes people use it if they try to be cool. it doesn’t matter any way. words are complex. They can mean anything. They can mean the other way around. But if I’m ask if I’ll buy her book, “I wouldn’t waste a single cent.”

  4. I think she was being real when confronted with a politically correct question. I cannot fault her for that. In fact I want to praise her.

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  6. In my opinion, “f**king” as an adverb is basically a literary equivalent of MSG, a chemical added to enhance the taste of the food.

  7. Heard her interviewed on the radio when the book was released – she sounds like she has a lot of regrets. Maybe the whole thing’s a catharsis for her.
    I don’t have a problem with her f*****g swearing about her f*****g book and she’s totally right – if none of us want to hear her un-PC views on certain subjects, then we’re at liberty not to read.
    I doubt her swearing will affect sales either way – she’s a musician, people expect her to swear. But you’re right, if any of us amateurs tried the same trick … I ain’t no Chrissie Hynde, man.

  8. I think f****** as a word has lost it’s meaning. Semantic Satiation is what they call it. Yes, it does sound rather good these days and some people think it to be cool, but f*** is no longer what f*** was.

  9. That’s a word that’s way overused and unfortunately far too common these days. I use it sometimes, but only in private, with people I know. To throw it around publicly is just … ugly.

  10. I don’t use the word at all, since there are so many others to choose from. However, being English, I would say Chrissie was not using it to refer to her book at all, but to express anger and contempt at those who were pettifoggingly criticising it. She was saying, it a rockstar sort of way – who are you, anyway? Do I care what you think?

  11. Well it has got people talking and blogging 😀 What’s the saying? ‘No such thing as bad f*cking publicity’ is there?

  12. Dina permalink

    I use the word f***ing. More out of habit, and somewhere deep inside like that it’s not polite. I wouldn’t buy the book, wouldn’t care how f***ing good or bad it was – based on those comments and it’s a shame, I loved some of her music. I know… I know… this is not the place…. 🙂

  13. Using the “f” word, f-bombs gets you no where, not on the street, not in entertainment, not in writing. What the hell does it mean?

  14. All I know is we watched “The Breakfast Club” and “Stand By Me” this week and they were littered with F words. I don’t recall them being in those movies, but they are, and now I bristle. I think as I age, I can tolerate it only briefly and if the situation requires that level of suckfest. Like “Miley Cyrus is an f-ing freak.” Because I CANNOT emphasize that enough. But saying it over and over again negates the point.

  15. bindmoggled permalink

    I, too use the word not so sparingly. I’m not much of a people person as it is, and it seems these days we are surrounded by morons, selfishness, self-centered snobs, careless drivers and general idiocy. Not a day goes by when I don’t find myself muttering “f**king idiot!”. I would read the book. I live vicariously through autobiographical music industry-related books. Just my two cents…

  16. I think this is an absurd subject for someone to comment on that at the same time still makes sense. What I mean is that I don’t think that many people would approach a comment on the author’s words in a similar way. However, it is still a very logical thing to say, because it is indeed f***ing absurd to tell your potential readers not to buy the book you wrote with the sole purpose of selling it to them…

  17. well…..whatever she did worked didnt it? i mean you wrote a blog post about it, lots of people are commenting and reading. isnt that the point? the fact that people are talking about this

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