Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “Jacqueline Howett”

The Right to Respond

The world is changing. The Internet allows anyone to comment on anything, anytime, anywhere.  Last month, a blogger wrote a negative review of The Greek Seaman by Jacqueline Howett.
The short side of this story is that the blogger was extremely critical, Ms. Howett took offense and there followed an extended argument over the Internet and blogosphere that has captivated the writing world and many others.

As a disclaimer, I wish to say that I do not know the blogger, Big Al, or the author, and have never read her novels. I have no desire to join the debate of whether he is right, she is right, or they are both wrong.
I also have to admit, that I am uncomfortable with the reaction of the writing community (or much of it, I should say). It feels like one of those afternoon TV shows where they bring together people who have hurt each other to ‘discuss it’ and the audience gets off on their pain, anger and tears.

The question I want to dwell on is: should an author have the right to respond or defend themselves when a critic takes them to task?  In the past, polished reviewers gave polished reviews, giving little digs and comments, perhaps, but all within the boundaries of good taste. Today, anyone can write anything … and they do.

Having received one harsh review, I have to say that it hurts. You put so much into writing a book. You are ready for some people to put it down after a few pages because it is not their scene. But to see cutting criticism in black and white (or whatever color those pixels are) is tough. Been there, done that, and I feel for you Ms. Howett.

But I question whether we, as authors, have the right to argue with someone who hates our work? I think we do, but we need to keep it professional and short. We need to stay dignified and always seem magnanimous in the eyes of those who are reading it.

Thousands of people have read Ms. Howett’s responses. It might have given her book sales a boost, but I have my doubts. If this was a ruse, and the possibility did cross my mind, it is a hard road to travel. I think I will settle for fewer people reading The Accidental Activist, but reading it for the right reasons.
Have you ever had a bad review? How did you react?

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

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