So I just read a scathing review of my first book, “River of January.” This reader really hated it, and made a real effort to express her distaste. To say she went out of her way to revile the story doesn’t do justice to the term ‘condemnation,’ and continued to blast me as the author.
So how exactly does a writer react to such a scorcher of a reprimand?
I’d like to get upset and obsess over the two measly stars and every berating word in the post. But I can’t seem to throw myself on that grenade. And much as I’d like to feel mortified and humiliated, I don’t. All that reacting is just too much work–takes too much energy. Besides, if the aim of a book is to elicit an emotional response, then, I suppose, my book has found a kind of success.
Three years ago this review would have destroyed me, almost as if someone had pointed out that my beautiful new baby is actually ugly, and that I’m a blind fool. But as a writer I’ve let go of that kind of perfectionism, and any illusion that I fart roses.
This true story is what it is, and I happen to think it’s damn good, and count myself lucky that it came into my life.
So what now?
I turn on my laptop and compose this blog. Writing is what I do. And some will connect to my voice and identify with this quandary. Others have already clicked cancel.
I suppose that’s why cars come in different colors.
Gail Chumbley is the author of the two-part memoir River of January and River of January: Figure Eight.