So, in the last week, a couple of well-known and popular writers have responded with surprising venom to negative reviews. Well, can you blame them? What with the publishing climate as iffy and spooky as it is right now, a negative review must feel like that first snowflake felt to the Donner Party.
Part of me thinks this refreshing honesty is awesome. I wish we heard from more writers about what they think of reviewers. Because though I do a little bit of each, writing and reviewing, I identify with writers. And man, it grates, to think of those critics -- with their day jobs and their regular pay checks -- ruining the careers of us creative types because they feel like it, because they can, because it's cool!! (Hold on, I need a drink.) Also, who doesn't love a good dust up?
But at the same time... what exactly are those writers thinking? To react like that, to argue with a reviewer, you kind of have to think that the critic has no right to an opinion and is, in effect, a lesser being. Even if you secretly think that, you'd think it would be embarassing for people to know that about you. In the days before blog comments and Twitter, there would have been time for Good Judgement to sail in and prevent this sort of thing.
Writers: the solution is Don't read reviews! The time for feedback, positive or negative, is before the galleys come in. Yeah, it's probably impossible not to read the New York Times Book Review, but if you're lucky enough to get in it at all, you have to cowboy up and take it like a hero. And thank the gods for blessing you with a such a career.
Anyway, positive reviews can make you feel almost as bad, if they like the wrong thing, or if they think you're something you're not. And what happens if you go around believing your good reviews? Then you become an insufferable jerk. You can't win, reading reviews.
And do we really want a world where critics are nervous about writers' reactions? Cripes, no, we don't. While we could do without bitterness and backstabbing in critics, we also don't want timidity. Give reviewers the space for passion, craziness, mistakes, love, and hatred. It's a wonderful thing that they're taking books seriously at all, these days.