Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Monday, July 09, 2012

Novel-slaying: a clarification

Amusing account of the semi-botched NYT review of Patrick Somerville's new book here ('Thank you for killing my novel.") One might say that this is an account of making lemonade out of lemons on a grand scale. Of course, even a pan in the NYT is something of note, although I have a friend who cried mightily for several days over hers. And why not? A piece of her life was captured in the book, and I'm rather afraid that the reviewer had a distaste for Southerners in general.

The Somerville case: the truth is that an error in a review led to another mention (hurrah!) in the NYT for correction, and then to a correspondence with a NYT writer (hurrah!), and then to the Salon article (hurrah!) and others (more hurrah) about what happened, including this little post. So it's all a happy ending in the guise of an unhappy ending.

What is not a good outcome and slays novels is something very different than what is known as a "mixed review." A bad outcome is to be simply ignored by reviewers, and not to have anything to be botched or corrected or mentioned or bewailed in an amusing fashion. That's the really bad outcome.

4 comments:

  1. Sometimes bad publicity is good PR because, at least, they are thinking about us more than we are thinking about them. A few Mae West quotes may apply here:

    "I believe that it's better to be looked over than it is to be overlooked."

    "When I'm good I'm very, very good, but when I'm bad, I'm better." (I like this one)

    YO

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  2. Miss Yo-Yo,

    Very apt! Mae West had a Westesque way of twisting the language, didn't she?

    Some of the facebook comments were about Amazon reviews being more important than NYT... Of course, it's nice to have both.

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.