As one of EW’s book reviewers, I’ve written dozens of critiques, both laudatory and negative. And, admittedly, some of my reviews have been so negative, they’ve bordered on being a tad snide. But aside from an email here and there from an author kindly refuting my reviews, I’ve been treated rather well by my subjects (and that includes the wonderful Adam Davies, an author so appreciative of my B+ review of Mine All Mine, he sent me a nice, hand-written note that still hangs on my office wall to brighten bad days. So thank you, Adam!).
But one Boston Globe reviewer, Roberta Silman, has found herself in a bit of a pickle thanks to novelist Alice Hoffman, who was not very pleased with the reviewer’s negative write-up of her latest novel, The Story Sisters. After Silman’s piece ran in the newspaper, Hoffman took to Twitter and began lashing out at Silman over the course of several tweets: “Roberta Silman in the Boston Globe is a moron. How do some people get to review books? And give the plot away.” “Now any idiot can be a critic. Writers used to review writers. My second novel was reviewed by Ann Tyler. So who is Roberta Silman?” “No wonder there is no book section in the Globe anymore — they don’t care about their readers, why should we care about them”
Okay, so freedom of speech, right? But then Hoffman’s next tweet bordered on harassment: “If you want to tell Roberta Silman off her phone is [Silman’s number here]. [Silman’s email here]. Tell her what u think of snarky critics.” Now, Hoffman is free to form her own opinions about her reviewers. But at what point does she go too far? Releasing the email and phone number of a reviewer to her fans? Is it acceptable for novelists to exact revenge on their reviewers, especially considering the fact that Hoffman is already a successful author who hardly needs to rely on good reviews for sales?
And get this: For the most part, Silman’s review was hardly negative. The Globe writer included several sentences full of praise for the author, like: “There are some wonderful passages as the book winds to a close,” and “One of my favorite books is her Illumination Night, which amply displays her gifts of precise prose and the ability to create sympathetic characters.” In fact, the worst Silman seemed to write about Story Sisters was that the novel “lacks the spark of the earlier work.” Looking at those passages, it seems to me that Hoffman’s vengeful rant will only hurt her image in the long run. And it looks like Hoffman might be having second thoughts about her reaction—her twitter page has been down as of this morning.
So, PopWatchers: Team Hoffman or Team Silman?
UPDATE: Thanks to a tipster, we stumbled upon an interview with author Richard Ford, in which he admits to putting a gunshot hole through a book written by a writer who panned one of his books. The reviewer? Alice Hoffman. An excerpt:
“Robert Birnbaum: Are you going to go out and shoot it? Is that a true story that your wife took a pistol and shot a bad review Alice Hoffman gave you?
Richard Ford: Yes, it is a true story. Shot her book. Seemed so good to do. We had another copy so I went out and shot it. I don’t read my reviews anymore.
Birnbaum: Well, that might save you on ammunition.”