I was surprised to read about the recent drama over a review of Alice Hoffman’s latest novel The Story Sisters, in The Boston Globe. After reading a negative review of her book written by critic Roberta Silman, Hoffman lashed out on Twitter, publishing the reviewer’s phone number, and encouraging her fans to harass her. I witnessed similar behavior from Hoffman last week on Facebook, where she lashed out at a reviewer during an online interview about her book in a way that made me uncomfortable, and left me wondering if Hoffman;s success had truly gone to her head. The reviewer had made the obviously unpardonable sin of getting one of Hoffman’s character’ names wrong during the interview, and Hoffman went momentarily insane. So, although I was surprised to see her recent behavior on Twitter, I wasn’t shocked. It does seem strange though, that an author with a career as long and as successful as Hoffman’s would react this way, encouraging her fans to attack a 70 year old woman, and harass her at home. It’s one thing to disagree with a review, but quite another to throw a public temper tantrum and act like a overindulged, spoiled brat.
In this economy, and with the business of publishing the way it is right now, I am grateful that anyone is reading or reviewing my books at all. A little humility might do Alice Hoffman some good. After all, she has a career as a bestselling author that many novelists would kill for–myself included. Not everyone can, and will be a fan of your work, and one shouldn’t write simply to be praised–or loved universally. That’s what family and children are for—not literature. Now, truth be told, I’m not the greatest at taking criticism myself, however, I would never dream of publishing a blogger or reviewer’s phone number or address over a bad review, although I have access to both. To do so simply because a reviewer as less than thrilled with your work is unreasonable, not to mention downright immature. I have had my differences with one or two reviewers over certain negative reviews of my work, and have in fact regretted contacting them privately over it. But, then again, I’m a young novelist at the beginning of her career–not a seasoned veteran who should know better. After all these years in publishing, and almost universal praise for her work, Hoffman’s behavior is baffling–and to this reader anyway, patently offensive
*Update: Hoffman issued a statement through her publicist today apologizing “if” she had offended “anyone” through her actions. Bad move, Alice, and strikingly insincere to boot. First off, it is Silman that Hoffman needs to apologize to–not nameless, faceless Tweeters. Secondly, take some responsibility for your actions–don’t say “if,” but call it like it is and admit that your behavior was, in fact, offensive and wrong.
I’ll climb off my soapbox now . . .