When authors attack

alice-1vvincent02

I’ve written four books, and all of them have received some very good reviews and some fairly terrible reviews.

It comes with the territory of subjectiveness. This isn’t mathematics, where an equation either works or doesn’t. Reactions to writing are 100-percent opinion. Some love, some hate, some are indifferent. It is what it is.

That said, I hate—hate—hostile reviews. I haven’t received many (knock, knock), but when in doubt (or when you’re feeling unjustifiably cocky) go to Amazon, where everyone is free to post their own. Among the dandies about my work:

1.0 out of 5 stars Was this written by a high school student?, April 16, 2009
By J. D. Wooden (Colorado) – See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)

I’m very surprised to get such a badly written story from Jeff Pearlman. Maybe he should stick to short articles in Sports Illustrated…
It doesn’t matter what your opinions are on Roger Clemens or the state of MLB, this book was badly written, extremely ambiguous, the author drew conclusions from unrelated evidence and conjecture, used personal opinions and generalizations as facts (sometimes even when the information was obviously false or disputable), and from paragraph to paragraph the author would contradict his own opinions and statements. I wouldn’t recommend anyone spend money on this book.
Conversely, as a fan of baseball I did appreciate “reliving” The Rockets life, career, ups and downs, and some of MLBs biggest moments. Pearlman obviously hates Roger Clemens, which is fine: it’s his opinion and his book, I respect that. But basically the author took advantage of an opportunity to bad mouth a person (and then turn around and celebrate him at times… hmm).
In conclusion, I also hate steriods in pro sports, I hate cheaters, but I also hate bad writing. Don’t waste your money, just go Google the stats and stories.

•••

1.0 out of 5 stars weak, October 8, 2008
I purchased the book to learn the down-and-dirty of the Cowboys. The book started out that way talking about Michael Irvin stabbing a teammate in the neck, but there was no follow-up to that story, and excuse me, but there is a little too much info about Charles Haley and his third leg. The book talks about the run to three super bowls, we already know about that, what we don’t know is the dirt. That is why I purchased the book.
•••
To use a Mets phrase, “It’s amazing” that Jeff Pearlman can make a living focusing on the dark side of people. Baseball players are people – period. They have talent to swing a bat, run, throw a ball, but this does not make them enlighted, beyond temptation or anymore newsworthy than my father, an insurance executive who drank too much, was abusive to his family and as great as he was at work, could have been so much more.

This team is a microcosm of the real world and there are companies out there that make the story of the 1986 Mets pale in comparison.

Yes, Gooden and Strawberry could have been Hall of Famers, but they were strong at baseball and weak at life. This makes them human, not tragic.

We do love to put people at pedestles, simply to knock them off and watch them fall.

The 1986 Mets are my favorite team of all time. They had heart and they went into the season with the highest of expectations for them, and won.

What more did you really want from them?

Spend your money on a book with an ending that you don’t already know.

******
With that experience in mind, I was fascinated/confused by the recent actions of Alice Hoffman, the well-regarded novelist whose recent book, “The Story Sisters,” was panned by critics. In particular, Hoffman was apparently enraged by a review by the Boston Globe’s Roberta Silman, which included the statement, “this new novel lacks the spark of the earlier work. Its vision, characters, and even the prose seem tired.”
Did Hoffman ignore the review? No. Did she complain to her friends? No. Did she laugh it off? No. Hoffman—against all better judgment—used her Twitter account to slam Silman. Among her Tweets:

• “Roberta Silman in the Boston Globe is a moron. How do some people get to review books? And give the plot away.”

• “Now any idiot can be a critic. Writers used to review writers. My second novel was reviewed by Ann Tyler. So who is Roberta Silman?”

• “Girls are taught to be gracious and keep their mouths shut. We don’t have to.”

• “My single bad review in my hometown. This is a town where a barking dog is the second top story on the news.”

• “No wonder there is no book section in the Globe anymore – they don’t care about their readers, why should we care about them.”

Hoffman bottomed out when she printed Silman’s email address and her phone number and advised followers to tell Silman what they think of “snarky critics.”
Glub.
Believe me, I hate being criticized. Hate it. You inevitably read a bad review and think, “What the f%$# did you ever write?” But then I think about it—if I can slam Transformers 2, why can’t a non-author slam me? All’s fair …
I don’t know Hoffman. I’ve never read her books. But I do have to sorta question a person who writes “Since that remarkable beginning, Alice Hoffman has become one of our most distinguished novelists …” on her own website. Come day’s end, we’re not doctors or firemen. We don’t cure cancer, save kittens from trees, stop crime. We merely write. A great profession, no doubt. But just a profession.
In other words, my advice to Hoffman: Chill.

5 thoughts on “When authors attack”

  1. What is even more amazing about the Alice Hopffman story is that the book in question was already a New York Times bestseller. I’m a fan of Hoffman’s, but this was so bush league. What next— public stoning of bad reviewers? Hmmmmm… Not such a bad idea.

  2. Never heard of Hoffman until now. After reading this, that is probably for a reason.

    It comes with the territory. I would delighted just to get reviewed in the Boston Globe!

  3. I’m not a writer, or at least, I’m not a writer in the sense that you and some of the other commenters here clearly are. I’m an appellate lawyer, which involves a great deal of reasoning and writing.

    Anyway, I lost a case in the court of appeals today, and it was a complex case that I was sure I’d won. I just stumbled across this blog entry and really enjoyed it. I appreciate the perspective it gives. We’re all, when it comes to it, just working a job.

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