Yesterday I finished reading Norah Vincent’s Self-Made Man. I loved it and thought it brilliant, but when I read mean reviews of it on Goodreads, I was as shocked and hurt as I had been when I read similarly scathing critiques of Claire Messud’s book on Amazon. In both cases, I’d adored the book and felt devastated when I found that not everyone shared my approval. I skimmed some of the Vincent reviews, then reminded myself, per Don Miguel Ruiz’s second Agreement, not to take it personally — and that really helped, as up until that moment I hadn’t realized that I was taking it personally.
At that point, I was able to step back and see the reviews with a bit more objectivity. Some of the reviewers professed not to have been able to finish the book, and of course that precludes a fair review. Others took issue with her “male apologia,” but I think that’s unfair, and speaks more to the reviewers’ own biases than to Vincent’s. Really, many of the reviews did seem awfully revealing about their writers; they were filled with such vitriol that they had to be coming from buttons the book only pushed and didn’t create!
It interests me that certain books which I find incredibly insightful and entertaining don’t seem so to other people. I’ve learned this not just from reading reviews for these two books, but also in book club. I used to think that this made me a less astute reader than most, but since these books I’ve so loved have also enjoyed high praise from other quarters, it’s clearly no failing on my part alone. I was thinking, today, that this might mean that when I write books, they will also get very mixed reviews, since I’m likely to write the sort of books that I myself would most enjoy. But perhaps these experiences with other authors’ mixed reviews will prepare me for that reception of my own, and reassure me that this is natural or even desirable. And, above all, I shouldn’t take it personally!