Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Responding to Criticism

I love Alice Hoffman's writing. Even when it concerns sentimental matters, she resists (for the most part) my gag reflex - the one that acts up when I'm reading something that is cliche or ridiculously implausible. She writes about magical things, and in turn, her writing is magical.

But I've got to say, after her reaction to a critical review of her latest book The Story Sisters, I respect her a bit less.

I will admit, I am biased because I myself occasionally write reviews of the works which I read, but this incident is disheartening.

When a person is a writer, and she gets her work published, or puts it on the internet where everyone can see it, there is going to be criticism, whether good or bad, and probably both. The nice comments are uplifting to the heart and soul. The bad comments hurt. But both of them have to be taken with a grain of salt.

I don't think that literary critics tend to want to hurt the feelings of authors. However, in order to do the task which they intend to do effectively, these critics need to be honest. If they didn't like the book, they can point out its merits, but ultimately, must admit that that book was not for them.

Yet they shouldn't be attacked. It might be cliche, but two wrongs do not make a right, and hurting the feelings of the literary critic will, in turn, just result in more bruised hearts. And if the critic is not strong enough to turn the other cheek, then a circular pattern of abusive comments can begin, in which neither party gets anything good out of the interaction.

We all have our asshole moments, so I'm going to pass this off as one of Hoffman's, which was  unfortunately made public. And I'm still going to read her work. But it's been a disheartening moment in time, nonetheless.

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