Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The author’s reply to unjustified criticism

In this terrific piece by Stephen Budiansky about book reviews, he quotes Paul Fussell’s essay “The Author’s Reply as a Literary Genre” (Harper’s, February 1982):
He or she reads the unfavorable review, which is of course a shock, since author, editor, family, and friends have been telling each other repeatedly how great this book is. Finding out there a stranger who doesn’t think so, the author takes pen in hand and dashes off a letter of protest, quite forgetting Harry Truman’s maxim “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.”
Fussell in turn quoted Edna St Vincent Millay:
A person who publishes a book willfully appears before the populace with his pants down. If it is a good book nothing can hurt him. If it is a bad book, nothing can help him.
And also EM Forster:
No author has the right to whine. He was not obliged to be an author. He invited publicity, and he must take the publicity that comes along.
Tell that to [insert name of over-sensitive author other than oneself].

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