Wednesday, 30 March 2011
Why do we laugh when a man carrying a ladder turns suddenly and knocks some poor unsuspecting sod into a man hole? Or when the business man slips on a banana skin and lands ignominiously on his behind? Part of us loves to relish the humiliation of others. Of course it's not at all funny when it happens to us.
This week every writers' board I frequent has been buzzing with talk about the reaction of author Jacqueline Howett to a review of her book The Greek Seaman. I'm not going to post links because if you haven't already heard about this you must be living in a sensory deprivation chamber and if so you can easily Google her name to find it. To summarise, she was less than gracious that the reviewer pointed out spelling/grammar mistakes in her work and after an increasingly bitter row told him to F*ck Off.
Had that been the end of it nothing more need be said. But the ensuing reaction of the writing community was on a scale of Japan's recent tsunami. A flood of self-righteous condemnation, both on the blog and on writers' boards and Twitter, sent this story into the digital stratosphere. It's astonishing that one little book could create such a buzz, and for all the WRONG reasons. No doubt Ms Howett has sold a few more copies of her book as a result, but I'm not really interested in her per se. The reactions of others is far more interesting.
Why on earth were normal decent people mobbing a complete stranger like this? Does it really matter how good/bad/indifferent her book is? With the market awash with books who cares what a reviewer thinks of this one? No, this wasn't about the book. This was pure slapstick. This woman who had the temerity to put her work out there for review then reacted the way all of us would like to react to criticism and made a spectacle of herself. If we'd done it we'd be feeling awful, but this was someone else so it was alright to sneer and snigger. And all that sniggering added up to a tidal wave of indignation.
I can't help wondering how many of those doing the mobbing have even written a book, let alone published one.