Monday, March 03, 2008

WAR on Critics

There’s this bizarre tradition – I’m sure the critics invented it – where writers are not supposed to respond to bad reviews or negative criticism. It’s just ‘not done.’ We’d be seen as tacky or inappropriate or ridiculous or whatever. Maybe we are meant to be above it all? Nonsense. We’re human and we’re being attacked, for godsake. (And if we’re Irish and being attacked, where’s me hurley stick, there’s heads to be broken!) Look, everyone else gets to defend themselves. It's a basic right. I’ve always wanted to start a journal called WAR – Writers Against Reviews. Writers could send in their favourite horrible review and proceed to tear it to shreds with all the creative genius and biting sarcasm they have in their arsenal. Rebuttal with butt. And the less literary and more personal the writer gets about it, the more interesting it would be. Example: Anne Enright, who won the Booker Award for her amazing novel The Gathering, was attacked by an Irish Times critic on the very day of the announcement of her award. She, of course, could not respond to this enemy action with the obvious riposte: "I've just won the Booker. You have published how many award-winning books? What? None? Who, I ask you, is The Winner here and who, The Loser?" And of course writers can never, God forbid, respond to their child critics online on amazon.com. One children’s writer told me he has to sit on his hands to stop himself from writing back, "Oh yeah? Well you suck too, kid, and at least I can spell!" Here’s what I have promised myself. As soon as I turn seventy, I am going to become one of those batty old battle-axes who says exactly what she wants to say, whenever she wants to say it, and hang the consequences. Yeah, I know I'm already edging in that direction, but believe me I hold myself back. Wait till I really get going. Woo-hoo. Fun times ahead.

8 comments:

Susan said...

Ah, god bless you Orla! Our interview is going to be fun. When my first book came out and garnered a couple of scathing (and wretchedly spelled) reviews, I did respond at length. I knew it was "inappropriate" but it felt great. Then I posted particularly idiotic bits of the review along with my good reviews. Ah, good times.

Hilly_wa said...

OH NOS! WATCH OUT! CRAZY OLD LADY WIELDING HURLY STICK!

Anonymous said...

Right on! :-)

OR Melling said...

Thanks guys, I love when people agree with me. Of course I have rejected all the negative and critical remarks. Just kidding. I dare ye's. Gowan. Bring it on.

Anonymous said...

Oh, reviewers are fair game. Authors are only obliged to be polite and civil if reviewers make the effort to be fair and competent.

When they find real problems, you have to accept the criticism, but when a reviewer tries to make him or herself look clever by sneering at your book, while spelling the characters' names randomly, missing the blatantly obvious, inventing things that never existed in the book and then criticizing them as flaws, and so on, then the author has every right to humiliate the reviewer in front of their editors and the public. In fact, one might even go so far as to say that authors have a duty to knock such parasites down a notch, to prevent them maliciously damaging the careers of other authors.

OR Melling said...

But the truth is, authors are not supposed to respond to specific reviews and, generally speaking, they don't. It's a strange thing, because most authors do read reviews - we are all dreaming of that '20 minutes of well-reasoned praise' - especially reviews in the main newspapers and literary journals. And even the big names can't pretend they don't see them, as publishers usually forward reviews to their authors.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sis, it's the usual. Take the good with the bad (and ignore the bad :))
Big Dog

OR Melling said...

But we don't want to ignore it, bro', we want to give out stink! More fun.