Friday, July 24, 2009

Quote of the Day: Composer Max Reger

"Sir: I am seated in the smallest room in the house. Your review is before me. Shortly it will be behind me."
That perfectly composed letter is attributed to the German composer Max Reger (1873-1916), in response to a critic. It's been cited by two British newspapers this month, The Telegraph and The Times, both in summaries of writer Alain de Botton's outraged responses to Caleb Crain's negative review in The New York Times.

Crain, in his review of The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, writes that de Botton mocks working people, and calls his treatment of one of his book's subjects mean-spirited. He concludes:
"'The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work' succeeds as entertainment, if not as ­analysis, when de Botton allows himself to geek out, as when he flies to the Maldives to follow a tuna’s journey to a dinner table in Bristol, traipses after a painter who has devoted years to an oak in East Anglia or rummages through a graveyard of mothballed airplanes in the Mojave Desert. The misfires seem to come when he steps into an office. Whether that means he desperately wants to work in one or couldn’t abide to is for him and a career counselor to determine."
De Botton went ballistic. One response came in the comments of Crain's blog. Part of it reads:
"You have now killed my book in the United States, nothing short of that. So that's two years of work down the drain in one miserable 900 word review. You present yourself as 'nice' in this blog (so much talk about your boyfriend, the dog etc). It's only fair for your readers (nice people like [other commenters] Joe Linker and trusting souls like PAB) to get a whiff that the truth may be more complex. I will hate you till the day I die and wish you nothing but ill will in every career move you make. I will be watching with interest and schadenfreude."
It gets even more interesting from there. One commenter expresses shock at de Botton's immaturity. Another questions whether or not authors should stay silent about bad reviews, given the possibilities of the Internet.

Another still points to a recent article on Salon.com called Hey, authors, don't tweet in anger! Author Alice Hoffman used Twitter to call Boston Globe reviewer Roberta Silman a moron and an idiot. And then she tweated the reviewer's phone number and e-mail address, urging her followers to harrass Silman.

There are more great stories about authors going nuts. Salon mentions Stanley Crouch's encounter with reviewer Dale Peck in a NY restaurant. As fellow author ZZ Packer recalls, Crouch shook Peck's hand and...
"Then Stanley, who was still holding Peck’s hand in a frozen handshake, slapped Peck with his other hand, TWICE, on both cheeks, and said, 'Don’t you ever do that again. If you do you’ll get much worse.' Stanley let loose Peck’s hand and pointed at him, 'I should spit on you. Now, we can settle this outside . . . '
A moment later, he said he regretted it.

And then there's the time that Richard Ford spat on Colson Whitehead.

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