The openness of the internet is a double-edged sword to be sure, but I love that literary scandals and cat fights are now reported online for us, the hoi polloi, to read. The spats often reek of playground petulance, but I do think they serve as a BIG FAT REMINDER that the internet is actually made of molasses, not tubes, so everything you post online will stick even after you’ve deleted them, thanks to screen caps and witnesses by the thousands.
Recently, two writers turned to the internet to retaliate against less-than-positive reviews of their books. For Alain de Botton, it was a matter of making his feelings known on the reviewer’s website:
… it is a review driven by an almost manic desire to bad-mouth and perversely depreciate anything of value. The accusations you level at me are simply extraordinary. I genuinely hope that you will find yourself on the receiving end of such a daft review some time very soon - so that you can grow up and start to take some responsibility for your work as a reviewer. You have now killed my book in the United States, nothing short of that. So that’s two years of work down the drain in one miserable 900 word review. You present yourself as ‘nice’ in this blog (so much talk about your boyfriend, the dog etc). It’s only fair for your readers (nice people like Joe Linker and trusting souls like PAB) to get a whiff that the truth may be more complex. I will hate you till the day I die and wish you nothing but ill will in every career move you make. I will be watching with interest and schadenfreude.
I’ll give de Botton his right to respond to criticism and blow off steam, but surely a writer of his stature can come up with something more elegantly vicious than “I will hate you till the day I die”?
Less amusing, however, is writer Alice Hoffman’s wrath over a fair review of her latest book in the Boston Globe. As reported by Gawker, Hoffman sneered at reviewer Roberta Silman’s qualifications and heaped buckets of ad hominem sauce on both Silman and the Boston Globe in a series of poisonous Tweets. Worst of all, Hoffman revealed the phone number and e-mail address of the reviewer, calling upon her fans to tell Silman what they thought of “snarky critics”, although she has since apologized (to everyone but Silman and the Globe, it seems) and deleted her Twitter account.
Lessons? Well, nobody ever comes off as mature and rational when one sulks, but I doubt that de Botton and Hoffman have lost any readers over their rants, so perhaps there are none to be had. But it’s always useful to stock up on goodwill, and always useful to be viewed as a sane adult. I guess I should burn the drafts of poison pen letters to the Nobel committee in the event they reject my fifteen unwritten books as a valid contribution to world literature. *dons strait jacket dutifully*