The New York Times panned my book, then had to correct the review to fix all their errors. So why am I not angry?
“It’s not positive,” she began firmly, and I pressed my head deeper into the couch, trying to get to its springs and asphyxiate. My wife, the sole adult member of our family, paraphrased the review: “Lack of purposefulness” was the first representative phrase she picked, and she next moved on to “jerry-built,” “desperate measure” and finally circled back around to “soggy.”
“No,” I said. “It does not say soggy.”
“It says soggy,” she repeated. “It does say soggy.”
As I am an atheist, I made noises directed at no one and nothing. I then, without removing my face from the couch-hole, picked up a throw pillow and gently placed it on the floor, blind.
My wife said nothing. It was 90 degrees in our living room, and the fan oscillated gloomily. Our cat, pleased, sensing a complicated kind of emotional dissolution in the works, jumped onto my back and sat down.
“It seems like she’s misread some things, though,” my wife said, and I was not able to hear her words quite yet.
I was busy being mad at myself. I’d set myself up for this, I knew that even as I unstuffed myself from the couch and went past my wife and the computer and directly toward the alcohol, but such is the unique combination of feelings I associate with the publication of a book, of any book, regardless of what it is, regardless of how long it took to write it, and (I would imagine) regardless of who the author is. I have some writer friends who claim to read none of their reviews, and some who claim to be indifferent, and although I can prove nothing, I believe that they are all, every one of them, lying through their teeth. It’s too easy. The Internet is too easy. “This Bright River” is my fourth book, but it’s been the same for each one, and they all have their distinct crucibles, and I’m sure it’ll be the same if I ever make it to 20: I read the reviews of my books and I am greatly affected by the reviews of my books. I can’t help it. They matter, both artistically and commercially. They scare me and I love them. How other people react is a part of storytelling. What reviewers say affects the book’s life. And because of this, the week before the reviews come, I am catatonic, greatly troubled by the storms of anticipation.