Friday, November 13, 2009

Point and Counterpoint

Another Author Strikes Back controversy.

On October 15, George Packer reviewed Mark Danner's book Stripping Bare the Body: Politics, Violence, War for the New York Times Book Review. Read that review here.

On November 4, Danner wrote a 1,400-word Letter To The NYT Editor, protesting the review. While it's not news for an author to protest a review, it is news for the Times to print such lengthy letters in their entirety. Read it (and Packer's response) here.

Greg Mitchell of Editor and Publisher wrote an article on the point-and-counterpoint duel here. And The Huffington Post picked up on the story, reprinting Mitchell's article.

I have come to believe that responding to critics and criticism is not a useful pastime. Below are my favorite quotes about critics:

Writing criticism is to writing fiction and poetry as hugging the shore is to sailing in the open sea. --John Updike

Do what you feel in your heart to be right. You'll be criticized anyway. --Eleanor Roosevelt

Abuse if you slight it, will gradually die away; but if you show yourself irritated, you will be thought to have deserved it. --Tacitus


Colleen said...

I work in PR and agree with you 100 per cent. Responding gives the criticism longer legs. There is, of course, that little nugget about no publicity being bad publicity and that too can be true. (James Frey is still working, right?) The problem with responding is that it makes you seem defensive and, often, petty. There are instances in which a response is necessary, but those are few. It's good to keep in mind, that what someone writes about you is only personal to you. Other people will rarely think it's as bad as you do.

Maya Reynolds said...

Colleen: Excellent points. It's nice to have that validation from someon in the PR industry.

At our regular jobs, we quickly learn to be professional and not to take things personally. However, our manuscripts are VERY personal, making it harder to develop that "professional" distance, which permits us to accept criticism without feeling wounded.