by thiszine

Alice Hoffman received some flack Tuesday for publicly criticizing one of her own criticizers.


Hoffman’s latest book, The Story Sisters, received warmly mediocre reviews from critics, including Roberta Silman at The Boston Globe. Hoffman reacted to Silman’s review by posting her e-mail address and phone number, so readers could let Silman know what they thought of the review. In addition to the information, Hoffman wrote several unsavory comments about Silman over Twitter, igniting a literary storm. Hoffman has since publicly apologized and removed her Twitter account.


Critics can be harsh, I agree, but Hoffman’s Tweets are just as unbecoming as an unflattering review. It’s the job of book critics to subjectively read and review books. It’s a tricky job because it’s so subjective and sometimes good books can get buried beneath a single bad review from a well-known and respected reviewer. Writing is art and art is open to criticism from both outsiders (readers) and insiders (writers). Hoffman isn’t new to the literary world and should know this. Hoffman is an established, professional writer whose very private job–writing alone, in a room–is made available to and open to criticism by the public. It can be tough reconciling the private/public divide, especially when women have been traditionally regulated to the private sphere and may not have the practice and informal mentoring to always negotiate successful public sphere interactions. What Hoffman forgot–or didn’t realize–is the social networking, quick-click Web 2.0 world moves fast and is often unforgiving. So maybe this isn’t a lesson in grace. Maybe it’s a lesson in an increasingly connected world.


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