Funniest literary moment of 2008?
Gossip-column stuff perhaps, but it really was funny; Anne Rice, the established vampires rising-again/Christian born-again novelist, giving a justifiably sour-grapesish review of (rant at, really) the hugely popular children’s book series about vampires, Twilight, in the Sunday Telegraph. Bastards haven’t kept it online, she doesn’t have it on her own website, and I, foolishly, haven’t hung onto a copy of the article, in which Rice suggested that perhaps if she, like author Stephanie Meyer, wrote about cardboard characters in a clichéd romantic plot with little narrative interest, then maybe she’d make millions of dollars as well. Tone can be better appreciated by reading her response to negative ‘comments’ on one of her books published on amazon.com. Here the author asks the amateur reviewers, “who in the world are you?” and informs them, “you have used this site as if it were a public urinal to publish falsehood and lies”. Finally, and most memorably, “Be assured of the utter contempt I feel for you”.
Compare this to the late Harold Pinter’s rather lovely response to a negative piece of criticism towards a play by his friend Simon Gray, telling the critic in question, “As we are friends…perhaps you should be more considerate.”
Investigation into authors’ use of the internet to respond with rather less class to reader responses led me to another popular vampire author, Laurell K Hamilton (what is it about this genre and authorial prickliness? As worryingly, why am I finding this so fascinating?) who responded to negative amateur reviews by telling her critics, magnanimously, “Let me say that all of you that hate the books, and have decided not to read them anymore, I am happy for you” and then, less so, “There are books (out there which you can read instead) that don’t make you think that hard. Books that don’t push you past that comfortable envelope of the mundane.”
Hamilton goes on to express her view, in a Sarah-Palin-esque philosophy, that there are “negative readers” and “positive readers”. It is the reader’s responsibility, according to Hamilton, not to criticise a book if it’s not their specific cup of tea. Popular relativism at work?