>In yesterday’s Huffington Post, author Leslie Bennetts complains about a New York Times piece, which, using Bennetts’ new book The Feminine Mistake as an example, speculated that the sales of hot-button books have been compromised by their authors’ endless talk show rounds: readers figure they already have enough of a gist for their purposes. This is a valuable argument, but Bennetts says that the article’s real point was to attack her; she also works in a rather impressive amount of self-congratulation and glowing quotes from reviews, which I suspect is her real point.
From my own one skirmish with trade book publication (Hearing Us Out, Little, Brown, 1994) but also from conversation with writer-friends, I’d have to say that Bennetts is exhibiting the classic signs of an author with a new book. It’s the best high in the world. But: no amount of attention is enough, no criticism can be taken lightly, the world is divided into two kinds of people: those who have Read My Book and Loved It, and ignorant pigs. Anne Lamott writes funnily about this phenomenon in Bird by Bird: when publication date arrives she expects flowers and candy and congratulations; she practices modestly digging her toe into the dirt in expectation of all the compliments and attention she’s about to receive. Nothing happens.
I think it’s a completely understandable and forgivable attitude. For so long, your whole world has necessarily been that book and it becomes natural that you believe others will feel the same. It passes, thank God, or we would all be insufferable, but I wish somebody had told Bennetts that no matter how valid her point is (not, in my opinion), now is not the time to complain about being attacked. When the only response you will find truly acceptable is “you are wonderful,” you can’t win. Don’t play.