May 16, 2007


JP Smith

When I first started out as a novelist, my mentor (who'd been publishing for years by then) gave me two things always to remember:

1. that a review--any review--is better than silence, as long as they get your name and the title of your book right; and

2. never respond to a bad review unless it contains inaccuracies.


Eileen Battersby is something of an exceptional case, though. There are many writers wandering around Dublin and the wider world who still must be wondering what they did to deserve being interviewed by her.

The horror stories are numerous, legendary, and in some cases sub judice.

Jimmy Beck

I see this as part of the wider Save The Book Review strategy: publish lots of Dale Peckish reviews and then sit back and watch the shitstorm roll in. Why else would the letters section of the NYTBR be devoted mostly to writers pissing and moaning about their reviews? Thin skin is in, baby.

daniel olivas

Oh, it can be tough getting a bad review especially if the review indicates, on its face, that the reviewer did not read the entire book and that the review was based on some kind of personal dislike for the subject matter or even the author. I still cringe when I think about a 2003 review published in the Dallas Morning News that really stuck it to me on one of my short story collections in a nasty little piece. I held back and did not write to the reviewer or his editor but I stewed and stewed. Anyway, a few weeks later, the L.A. Times gave the same book a rave review by a writer I respect, Jim Sallis. So, as George Herbet said, "Living well is the best revenge." One thing I learned as I've become a book critic: I do not make personal attacks or snotty little asides; I think some book critics love to show just how clever they are and the easiest way to do this is in a bad review.


I do agree with JP - setting straight inaccuracies is probably the exception here. However, even that's not always worth it - I remember John Banville's hilarious rejoined to John Sutherland's "correction" about his NYRB Saturday essay. JS pointed out that JB had gotten the outcome of the squash match wrong, and JB began: "Summoned, one shuffles guility into the Department of Trivialities."

tod goldberg

I have to say, that although I might not have done it publicly (or, who knows, I might have), I understand Alexie's anger over the reviewer's supposition concerning the book's release as a trade paperback. It has nothing to do with the content of the book itself, probably has very little to do with the publisher's thoughts on the book, and simply felt like a cheap shot after she'd already -- with perfect clarity -- explained the book's shortcomings.

My first book was published by the MTV Book line at S&S and I can't tell you how many times reviews noted that it couldn't possibly be any good because MTV was involved with it -- that it wasn't any good, in fact, had nothing to do with the fact that MTV books ultimately purchased and published it, as it's not as if Martha Quinn was over at my house all day asking me to make changes. I never had a problem with people saying the book wasn't very good provided it was judged on what was on the page and not by who happened to pony up the money to publish it or the form in which said publication took place.

The fact is, Alexie's fiction probably doesn't sell as much as we'd like to think (or as much as he'd like) in hardback, which makes a trade paperback a very wise decision to get the book into more hands from the initial jump. But there's no room for that in a review of the content of his fiction.

Andrew Scott

Tod, so this means you don't know Matt Pinfield, either?


TPB's can reach more readers, with much less risk. Richard Russo's first novel came out as a Vintage Contemporary paperback, with a run of 35,000. People ate it up. At the hardback price, who knows how many people would have given that book a chance? But the run would have been less than 6,000 -- and I think it's important to give more people a chance to find the book.

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