THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING?
You can’t unwrap this gift, and you can’t wear, or eat, or smell it. But you can read it and mull it over. Often a surprise, sometimes welcome, sometimes not, a critic’s review of your book really is a gift even when saying what you don’t want to hear. Especially then for that’s most likely a critique that speaks the truth.
The question, of course, is do you want the truth? Would you rather have someone say that you look beautiful, or that you have spinach in your teeth? Personally, if the spinach is there, I want to know.
A version of this question was tackled by Robert De Niro in the November 18th issue of The New York Times Magazine when he was interviewed by A. O. Scott. In response to Scott’s, “What is your relationship to critics? Or to your own reviews.” De Niro answers,
“. . . if you didn’t have critics—even though they can annoy you and
upset you—if you didn’t have a critic, who would tell you how it is?
Because people won’t tell you. When you do a movie and you’re
showing it to people or audiences or friends, they’re never going to
say that they dislike it. Because they’re with you and they know
what you went through. So they’ll always find a positive thing to say.”
Here’s a master at his game welcoming criticism so he can hear the truth about his performance. Terrific! While I’d rather learn that my Murders by Design Mysteries are delightful romps with a spunky, unforgettable heroine playing amateur sleuth, I agree with De Niro that “. . . the people who you’ll get real feedback from are critics.” Then he hedges his bets by adding—and I love this—“Especially good critics.”
And therein lies the subject of another blog. Happy holidays, everybody!