I’m surprised it took this long to happen.
This weekend author Alice Hoffman took Roberta Silman’s book review to heart and attacked the Boston Globe reviewer through Social Media. On Sunday night (apparently at about 4 am) Hoffman began a 27 tweet string of vitriol-laced updates to her Twitter account (which was deleted as of this morning) blasting the reviewer and attacking her credibility, her position, and even the reviewer herself. One of the more shocking tactics that Hoffman used was publishing Silman’s email and phone number for “fans” to respond to the critic in a Tweet that read:
“If you want to tell Roberta Silman off her phone is (redacted). (Email redacted). Tell her what you think of snarky critics.”
Since the account was deleted, the string went into the void along with it, but the author didn’t move fast enough. You can still read her string of attacks, along with interesting takes on the events, at Gawker, Mediabistro, Entertainment Weekly, The National Post, and the NY Times Entertainment section. It’s clear that Hoffman realized that she, perhaps, went too far and whether it was through the advice of colleagues, lawyers, or agents, she deleted her Twitter account (@AliceHof). Smart move, perhaps, but the damage was done. In this age of instant gratification information systems, her attacks were read and re-posted and re-tweeted almost instantly, and everyone knows that once you open Pandora’s box you can’t delete the box and hope the bad things (i.e. personal attacks, off color humor/statements, unprofessional behavior, etc.) you let out disappear on their own. No can do, sister.
So what’s the big deal? Authors have been raging against critics for ages. Very few, however, took to open forums to attack a critic for doing her job. The review itself is far for scathing, and Silman mentions her admiration for Hoffman’s previous works. So the review wasn’t what Hoffman wanted to read. So what….
In another Tweet, Hoffman lashes out:
“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?”
Idiots “Average people”–otherwise known as YOUR READERS–have always levied criticism of their own. The difference now is that with the explosion and ease of blogging and social networking sites like LibraryThing and even Facebook, EVERYONE is a critic, and EVERYONE can post reviews for the world to read. But instead of embracing this opportunity, authors are finding this threatening. More opinions can be heard. More negative reviews can be posted. Forget that more positive reviews can be posted too, and that fan page after fan page can be posted. Forget that this gives authors, agents, and publishers a unique insight into the worlds and minds of the readers. None of that matters when compared to the fragile ego of the author.
Writers used to review writers? True. But there have always been literary critics who weren’t commercial fiction writers, or writers at all. Do you seriously think that all film critics or all food critics made movies or were 5 star chefs? Get a grip and come down from your pretentious high horse. You’re not writing academic criticism for a small, very specific group of readers. You’re writing for the masses. To make money. Your objective is to write what people will buy (and want to buy) for a living. Everyone, artists included, receive criticism on a daily basis and the reality is that it’s not always sunshine and puppies. You can’t please everyone, and when you lash out it makes you look like a child. It makes other reviewers not want to read your books for reviews–good or bad–and what happens then? You fall into obscurity or you are driven to go ask those “idiots” online to give you a review, any review, for the love of all that is holy I need my work to be talked about to sell copies!!! And guess what… When you come knocking to the doors of people who watched you attack a critic publicly, and personally… no one is going to answer.
And for the record, Roberta Silman is a writer, in every sense. She’s a critic and published author.