Sunday, July 5, 2009

Alain de Botton is Contrite

To recab what happened last week for those of you who haven't heard, Caleb Crain wrote a mostly negative reivew of Alain de Botton's The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work in the June 28th NYT Book Review. After de Botton responded to the review with angry comments left on Crain's blog, the dispute went viral. After the fallout, Edward Champion interviewed de Botton, who says he "felt very bad about his outburst."

Apparently, de Botton was caught off guard by the public attention given to his comments on Crain's blog. He has since learned an important lesson on how the internet works:
I think that a writer should respond to a critic within a relatively private arena. I don’t believe in writing letters to the newspaper. I do believe in writing, on occasion, to the critics directly. I used to believe that posting a message on a writer’s website counted as part of this kind of semi-private communication. I have learnt it doesn’t, it is akin to starting your own television station in terms of the numbers who might end up attending.
De Botton's comments on the "quasi moral responsibility" of book critics are also interesting:
Books will sink without review coverage, which is why authors and publishers care so acutely about them — and why there is a quasi moral responsibility on reviewers to exercise good judgement and fairness in what they say.
The entire interview is worth reading. Also, look for a review of The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work here at Literary License in the next week or two.

1 comment:

Lit and Life said...

Before the internet, an author could write a nasty letter in response to a bad review and then decide, perhaps, that it really shouldn't be mailed. Writing that letter, getting it in the envelope, finding a stamp, taking it to the mailbox all gave a person a chance to calm down a bit. Now it's just so easy to let it all out before you have time to think. Then you end up, like de Botton, having to make public apologizes.