Could do better…

An article about authors’ responses to bad reviews in the Sunday Times has given me pause for thought. I have written my fair share of bad reviews in my time (not just on this blog) because, well, if one reviews a book, one surely has a duty to anyone who might read the review to express an honest opinion of it. Most books have some merits, and I usually try to find them, but what’s the point in writing a review that’s full of smarmy agreement with the author? It seems, however, that some touchy authors are starting a backlash against critics who diss their books. Now, I see that it’s tough to have your work slated in a public arena – but that’s what it is: a public arena: if you publish, you open yourself knowingly to public opinion. Recently, Alice Hoffman took exception to a critic’s comment, and twittered the critic’s phone number. More spectacular was Bevis Hillier’s response to A.N. Wilson’s abuse of his biography of Betjeman – he faked a love letter to Betjeman, which so fooled Wilson that he included it in his own biography of the poet. The article includes a list of other vindictive authors who feel they have been wronged. Clearly Barthes’ “death of the author” hasn’t touched any of our living writers yet – their playground responses demonstrate that they are alive and kicking (scratching and biting).

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