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July 1, 2009 12:04 PM   Subscribe

Negative reviews prompt author meltdowns: Alice Hoffman. Lee Oi-soo. Alain de Botton. Ayelet Waldman. Previously on MeFi.

They should all probably take a deep breath, then read one of these articles.

Ayelet Waldman's outraged comments on Twitter were made over Jill Lepore's negative review of her book "Bad Mother." This hilariously contradictory and ironic tweet (language, NSFW) was quickly deleted from her feed.
posted by zarq (30 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
The quote in that last link may be my favorite quote, ever. :)
posted by zarq at 12:07 PM on July 1, 2009


The deleted post was funny on purpose, right? Right?
posted by roll truck roll at 12:12 PM on July 1, 2009


In a really great example of how NOT to do this, the composer Nico Muhly used his own blog to address reviews of a recent Times review of a Grizzly Bear concert (his posts in order: one, two, three). By setting a thoughtful, amused tone from the get-go, Muhly -- who collaborated with the band on their new album -- managed to touch off a lively discussion about music criticism that wound up non-toxically spilling over onto other sites.
posted by hermitosis at 12:18 PM on July 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


De Botton has a history with this kind of thing.
posted by nasreddin at 12:21 PM on July 1, 2009


Looks like Alice Hoffman's Twitter account got deleted.
posted by Kimberly at 12:22 PM on July 1, 2009


Waldman's is especially strange, given that Lepore's article barely gets around to mentioning the two books purportedly under review.
posted by escabeche at 12:25 PM on July 1, 2009


People have a hard time differentiating between criticism of the work and criticism of the person. The few authors I've met seem to be a little light on people skills (understandable in any line of work spent behind a desk wrestling with your imagination). When you mix the ability for authors to broadcast their thoughts instantly over the various online media, a metatalk-style flameout seems nearly inevitable after nearly any negative review.
posted by jenkinsEar at 12:32 PM on July 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've been following the AdB brouhaha quite closely (I follow his Twitter feed, and our professional spheres sometimes intersect although I have never met him myself). He now seems very chagrined about the whole affair.

Only once have I been contacted by the subject of a negative review. And that was entirely civil.
posted by WPW at 12:34 PM on July 1, 2009


What the heck, Ayelet Waldman? That was less a review of your book and more a history of parenting guides in general - why would you want the author to burn in hell for that?
posted by smartyboots at 12:35 PM on July 1, 2009


What the heck, Ayelet Waldman? That was less a review of your book and more a history of parenting guides in general - why would you want the author to burn in hell for that?

Obviously it's because Lepore didn't satisfy Waldman's raging narcissism by spending half of the review talking about her.
posted by nasreddin at 12:42 PM on July 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Linking to tweets? You know you can just quote them and you'll be giving us the same information, right?

Why don't you just link every word in your FPP to its dictionary definition?
posted by Afroblanco at 12:45 PM on July 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


What the heck, Ayelet Waldman? That was less a review of your book and more a history of parenting guides in general - why would you want the author to burn in hell for that?

Have you never read any of Waldman's essays? She's a professional narcissist. Or solipsist. Whichever.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:55 PM on July 1, 2009


I only see three links to twitter posts out of fifteen in the main post. Am I missing some?

Linking to tweets (as much as I dislike the medium) at least guarantees the quote will be accurate.
posted by hippybear at 12:58 PM on July 1, 2009


Linking to tweets? You know you can just quote them and you'll be giving us the same information, right?

When I post information, I like to include a source.

Also, I felt it was more polite. Post text shows up in rss feeds, and some people might not appreciate profanity while they're reading a feed at work.

Why don't you just link every word in your FPP to its dictionary definition?

Thanks, but my posts are link-filled enough. There were 17 in this post.
posted by zarq at 1:03 PM on July 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why don't you just link every word in your FPP to its dictionary definition?

And yet zarq somehow forgot to link to the Guardian piece which begat his/her post.
posted by a little headband I put around my throat at 1:05 PM on July 1, 2009


Waldman's was a pretty mild meltdown IMO. I've tweeted (ie, screamed from my bike) much worse after being cut off on Walnut Street.
posted by Mister_A at 1:05 PM on July 1, 2009


Hoffman's non-apology in the csmonitor link: "I’m sorry if I offended anyone." The worst sort of statement around.
posted by boo_radley at 1:09 PM on July 1, 2009


And yet zarq somehow forgot to link to the Guardian piece which begat his/her post.

For whatever it's worth, that article didn't "beget" anything. I'm only just seeing it now. But thanks for posting it. It's interesting.

I saw most of the articles (and tweets) I linked here on different blogs I read over the last 24 hours and thought they made up a weird trend. I also posted the Waldman story on my own blog last night.
posted by zarq at 1:14 PM on July 1, 2009


These kinds of meltdowns are amusing but Hoffman stepped over the line by posting the reviewer's phone number and e-mail address. That's so far beyond what's acceptable.
posted by Kattullus at 1:28 PM on July 1, 2009


You know how sometimes a great band or a great film director will put out a work towards the end of their career, and you're like, "wow, that is SHIT!" and then you get to thinking about all the work of theirs that you do/did like, and it makes you see their entire body of work in a new light, an unflattering light, until all you can think about is their new, totally worthless piece of shit album/film/book/whatever, and subsequently their old, classic, at-one-time great works are forever tainted by your newfound perspective of their work?

I've felt that way about Michael Chabon ever since I learned he's married to Ayelet Waldman. It just seems like there must be something wrong with him to have married her.
posted by billysumday at 1:38 PM on July 1, 2009 [11 favorites]


Caleb Carr's NYT review of The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work was simply brilliant. Far from killing the book, Carr may have given it a kind of immortality.
posted by Faze at 2:15 PM on July 1, 2009


Waldman's was a pretty mild meltdown IMO. I've tweeted (ie, screamed from my bike) much worse after being cut off on Walnut Street.

viva berkeley!
posted by liketitanic at 2:27 PM on July 1, 2009


The gawker article about Hoffman had a (rare) interesting paragraph:

For all the criticisms that exist about writing on the internet, this situation is a bright, shining example of one of the best things about writing on the internet—After a while it thickens your skin to the point where you're easily able to easily differentiate between valid criticism and hateful venom-spewing. At some point, the hateful venom-spewing fails to even faze you any longer, while the valid criticisms are accepted and processed rationally and learned from. Too bad Alice Hoffman never had a blog to help her overcome her hypersensitive ego. She'd be a better writer because of it.

i'm not sure i agree about "better" but i definitely have experienced this as a writer of net thingys.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:56 PM on July 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Alain de Botton, tell us how you really feel: 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.
posted by Locative at 3:49 PM on July 1, 2009


The few critics who have been unfavorable are those who intrigue me most, the ones from whom I expect more: however, I have not been lucky enough to have received a negative critique which is both serious and in-depth, one which teaches me useful things. I did receive an article by Enzo Giachino, when The Path to the Spiders' Nests came out, a total, absolute dismissal of the book, a real hatchet-job, but also extremely witty, which is perhaps one of the best articles written about my books, one of the few which every so often I like to reread, but not even that taught me anything really: it attacked only external aspects of the novel, which I could have improved by myself. (Italo Calvino; Questionnaire, 1956)
posted by timeo danaos at 4:51 PM on July 1, 2009


News to authors: CRITICS DO NOT EXIST TO MARKET YOUR BOOK.
Critics need answer to no one.
You want a sell-out critic then get your publisher to pay off some hack [or a friend] that will fawn and drool all over your work.
If you don't want people to criticize your work then don't put it out in public.
It is intellectually dishonest to use critics to sell your book and then damn them when they don’t toe the line.
There are many bad critics and some are legendary for tearing down works they don't like. But that is part of the game. And no one should expect a newspaper or magazine editor to assign some milquetoast critic for everything that comes along.

End of rant./
posted by Rashomon at 6:38 PM on July 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Caleb Carr's NYT review of The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work was simply brilliant. Far from killing the book, Carr may have given it a kind of immortality.

I think you mean Caleb Crain. I only correct this because Caleb Carr doesn't have a writing style I would call particularly brilliant -- his books seem to have a kind of shallow best-sellery fell to them. So after reading your comment, I thought, hey, maybe horror/crime fiction just isn't his thing, and what he shines at is literary criticism, so I went searching for his review, only to be disappointed. He's actually used as an example in that Salon article of being equally overly histrionic towards his reviewers employing the popular all capital letters literary technique.
posted by bluefly at 6:54 PM on July 1, 2009


MeFi's very own ed interviews Alain de Botton about the debacle. In addition to the interview de Botton provided an essay on responding to critics.
posted by Kattullus at 8:56 AM on July 2, 2009


Alain de Botton is an example of just how good a career you can get by doing nothing noteworthy except coasting on the intellectual cred of a French name.
posted by nasreddin at 9:07 AM on July 3, 2009


Jealous, nasreddin? Or just jaded at the ripe old age of 22?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:53 AM on July 6, 2009


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