I always used to find writers kind of ridiculous, self-regarding, vain and over-sensitive in their receptions of reviews of their books. Until I got some myself. And then I became ridiculous, self-regarding, vain, and over-sensitive.
So I am not sure how to even begin to give a fair account of the three reviews my debut novella has received.
They are all from people who I know personally, as online friends. One, Mark Simpson, is also a writer who I have read avidly and not a little critically. Not to mention including him as a subject in the fiction itself. So he would have had more right than most to lay into my little girl. He didn’t. He wrote a generous review, but it is what he doesn’t say that I am sure is more true and more meaningful than what he does. What he doesn’t say, is what made him a subject of my writing. If there is a space, I am always inclined to fill it. And now what Mark Simpson doesn’t say grows and expands and stretches over space. So to me, his review looks like a blank. I can’t see anything in it.
Elise Moore took my book and used it as a starting point for a discussion on the themes it refers to-homosexuality, and women’s relationships with homo-men. She also acknowledged how reading a piece by someone she knew, about someone she knew was disconcerting. I know she liked the book, but again, what she doesn’t say stands out to me more than what she does.
Fenner Pearson I think actually says what he actually thought when he read the book. And I found his words easiest to digest as a result. I don’t think he leaves anything out. And, like Elise, he acknowledges the weirdness of reading fiction by someone you kind of know, but kind of don’t, via the internet. My favourite bits of his review were where he referred to being a Dad himself, and feeling bad when he is ‘absent’ from his kids, not physically, but by being off somewhere in his head. And also when he mentioned the final scene of the book, where a ‘man’ and a ‘woman’ have a conversation on a clifftop.
Maybe that is the scene that caused the most trouble, as it is where someone who tends not to say things, actually speaks. It is the truest but also the most ‘fictional’ scene in the story. Because I know full well it will never happen in a million years. Which is why I had to make it happen. That’s what writers do. They turn that awful, crippling, dull, depressing inability that humans have to communicate with each other, and they transform it into meaningful language. Thank goodness.