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Neil Gaiman on reviews

I love Neil Gaiman, as a writer and as a person. He always said the right thing, things I would like to hear from another human.

 

Here is what he said about Anne Rice reaction to reviews as a writer. 

 

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Several people wanted to know my opinion on Anne Rice's recent outburst on Amazon.com. (Here's a summary from the Toronto Star.) [Edit, link fixed] (Here's a link to the book for the adventurous. You'll have to go and find Anne Rice's review in among the reviews.) 

I think that unless a reviewer gets their facts completely wrong, the author should shut up (and even then, the author should probably let it go -- although I'm a big fan of a letter that James Branch Cabell wrote to the New York Timespointing out that their review of FIGURES OF EARTH was bollocks*). As Kingsley Amis said, a bad review may spoil your breakfast, but you shouldn't let it spoil your lunch. 

I suspect that most authors don't really want criticism, not even constructive criticism. They want straight-out, unabashed, unashamed, fulsome, informed, naked praise, arriving by the shipload every fifteen minutes or so. Unfortunately an Amazon.com reviews page for one of the author's books is the wrong place to go looking for this. Probably best just not to look. 

(On the other hand, the statement "You read it wrong" is not an entirely meaningless one. When I first read Gene Wolfe's PEACE, aged 17, I thought it was a bucolic and sort of pointless set of reminiscences by a sweet old man. When I read it again, aged 26, having spent some years as a writer and critic, I found myself, rather to my surprise, reading a deeply chilling and murderous novel narrated by one of the darkest characters in literature, who was a ghost to boot. But Gene Wolfe isn't going to make people who didn't like or get PEACE suddenly like it by going on Amazon and telling them it was too good or too clever for them, even if it was.) 

When you publish a book -- when you make art -- people are free to say what they want about it. You can't tell people they liked a book they didn't like, and there is, in the end, no arguing with personal taste. Different people like different things. Best to move on and make good art as best you can, instead of arguing. 

I think Anne Rice going on Amazon and lambasting her critics was undoubtedly a very brave and satisfying thing for her to do, was every bit as sensible as sensible as kicking a tar baby, and, if ever I do something like that, please shoot me."

 

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I like Anne Rice when I was young, dislike her when she got back with the church, and then like her again a bit when she left the church again. I like her attitude toward Christopher Rice, her talented (yes, I read his books too) gay son. 

 

But I think she is wrong in reacting to reviews. 


I hope she is more like Neil Gaiman.