Sunday, February 13, 2011
Joshilyn Jackson: Publicity v/s Bad Animals
Really? A novelist being a presence on a site where REVIEWS of their own books happen seems weird and counter-intuitive. Like pouring olive oil and aged balsamic onto a perfectly good strawberry shortcake. I will admit that these things----books, reviews---can both be fun and nourishing, but who wants them in the same dish? The very thought makes me a little queasy.
It’s the first thing we are told---it is not professional to respond to reviews. Period. PERIOD. Not even the good ones. You don’t cozy up and snuggle with the reviewer who gives you the rave; they may not love your next book with such vim, and it is their JOB to say so. Certainly we also must not respond to bad ones. The book has to stand up for itself; if the reviewer is wrong, plenty of readers and other reviewers and your own strong beating heart will know it.
There is no way for the writer to emerge from a response to a review with ANY grace. You look either smug or hypersensitive. And perhaps you are both. You are, after all, a writer, and so we must presume you own a herd of mental illnesses.
No, when reviews are posted, for good or ill, and the writer LONGS to respond...I say you chain those beasts up and point their savage yearnings directly at that damnable blinking cursor, you let them fill the screen with the next story----the next story is an act of proactive beastery. You can’t waste bad animal on reactive review responses.
But I don’t see how a writer can reasonably keep these beasts in check on a site where people talk and speculate so openly about the book---and you, because story is an extension of self. The book is the story that rises up unstoppable in the space between one’s deepest ugly hurt places and one's most secret beautiful hopes and pleasures. So the only way to win, Matthew Broderick, is NOT TO PLAY.
Forget the writer, though. The site is not for them, after all. Think about the READER. Do you WANT the writer there, Oh Gentle Reader? Would Gentle Reader (and Not So Gentle Reader) feel as free to speak his/her mind if the author is watching? If no, then something is lost, and if yes, God help us all. To expand:
And then there is always a sprinkle of Something To Prove Reader Who Needs To Show The Internet It is Smarter Than The Room By Writing Hilarious Scathing Criticism. If the author becomes human, then the blithe vivisection of a text becomes the blithe vivisection of a person...Perhaps reality TV is giving us a taste for this, but it doesn’t mean writers should participate by showing up to publicly paw through their own guts.
And those Reader-Types are the fringe. The majority of the population is made up of Sincere Reader Who Wants To Honestly Discuss A Book Fully, Both The Good And The Bad, Perhapd To Evangelize For Beloved Books And Vent About Angry-Making Books.
So.Why would readers want us there? Do you? If you write, are you there? How? Is there an upside I am missing? Is this publicity or masochism, and is there a difference? And WTH does this have to do with Happy Valentine’s Day, other than the fact that thinking about publicity has made me desperately want to go face down in a heart shaped box of Godiva Chocolates?