During the long, long years that I worked on my various novels, I often fantasized about what it would be like to get an offer from an editor. I also daydreamed about what the cover of my book would look like, who would be cast in the movie version, what songs the soundtrack would include and even, on one particularly unproductive afternoon, what it would be like to win the Nobel Prize. But somehow, in all this fantasizing, I never once considered what it would be like to have a book reviewed. Quite honestly, it seemed like such a monumental accomplishment to get a book published, that it never occurred to me that there would be something to worry about after that.
Imagine my consternation then when one evening I was driving to a meeting at my church and my cell phone rang and there was my agent, calling to tell me that the review in Publisher’s Weekly had come out. I had no idea I should even be worrying about reviews yet because The Fiction Class is not out until February 26. Automatically I said, How is it? And he said, Great, which, after a year and a half of knowing this man I have come to realize means that I am in trouble. Every time he says “Great,” I should duck.
Actually, the review was not that bad. If it were a grade on a report card, I would say it was a B. (I’m not going to reprint the review here, because why should I aggravate myself, but if you want to see it you can go to the amazon site, and then, if you’re feeling merciful, you can always pre-order my book.) But even a B is upsetting if you’re hoping for an A, and frankly, what I’ve come to realize is that I don’t deal with criticism well. I know you are not supposed to take these things personally, but I don’t believe that. I draw so much on my own experiences in my writing that it is hard not to connect the review with the person, which is me. Which is probably not healthy.
My family jumped into the fray immediately. My sisters-in-law, who are lovely and supportive, (and have read the book) both sent me emails saying that the review was completely uncalled for and wrong. My brother, who is even more supportive, said that it had never occurred to him that anyone could find anything wrong with the book. My daughter pointed out that there are millions of people hoping to get a book published and I shouldn’t complain and my husband asked me if there was anything I could learn from the review and use toward my next book. Then he went online to see if I’d been reviewed anywhere else.
The good news is I was reviewed by a number of other places, and all the rest of the reviews were terrific, especially the one by Booklist, which is also on the amazon site. (I will just quote some relevant words, which are “surprisingly touching” and “poignant yet amusing.”) So all is good, for the moment, except that I know somewhere out there is some miserable reviewer who has just had a fight with his wife, ate bad Chinese food, and had too much to drink last night, and he is about to sit down and read my book.
So how about you? Have you ever been reviewed? Or critiqued?