I have tried to keep this blog positive (the internet has enough snarkiness and wise-cracking), but this ugly bit of business deserves some airing. On Sunday the Boston Globe printed a rather critical review of Alice Hoffman’s latest novel, The Story Sisters. (The reviewer does express admiration for Hoffman’s earlier work, and even parts of this book.) Hoffman was particularly incensed at how much of the plot the review revealed–a valid concern for a writer (and one I try to consider in my own reviews). But Hoffman (via her Twitter account) just lost it, and launched a personal attack on the reviewer, Roberta Silman: calling her a “moron,” listing her phone number and e-mail, and encouraging fans to “tell her off.” (This article on Gawker reproduces some of Hoffman’s tweets–her Twitter account has since been discontinued.)
Happily, the posted phone number was incorrect. Silman diplomatically referred to Hoffman’s outburst as “perplexing.” Before publicly asking, ‘Who [the hell] is Roberta Silman?’ Hoffman should have taken the time to find out herself. Had she done so, she would have found out that Silman has been publishing fiction and criticism steadily for 35 years (in the New Yorker and Atlantic Monthly among other places), and that her work has been recognized by a number of prizes and nominations.
Today, Hoffman issued an apology, albeit tepid and defensive: the issue had been “completely blown out of proportion;” she “didn’t mean to hurt anyone.”
p.s. The plot thickens… It turns out that Hoffman herself once wrote a review that famously enraged a fellow writer: her 1986 review of Richard Ford’s The Sportswriter prompted Ford to shoot a hole through Hoffman’s latest and send it to her. Hoffman’s review (requires NYTimes registration) stands out in two respects: Ford describes it as “nasty” (it isn’t–much as in the latest incident, it expresses great admiration for Ford and his work); and it reveals a number of critical plot-points, Hoffman’s big bone of contention about the review of her own book!
Three words: thick skin; graciousness.