Hoffman apologizes

Well bully for Alice Hoffman. She apologized, albeit poorly (through her publicist, for crying out loud!) for her outrageous behavior to Roberta Silman. I’m certain her publisher told her to either apologize or find herself looking for another publisher. As things go, she may find herself looking anyway. My email was flooded with people saying they would rather invert their bellybuttons than buy her new book – or something to that affect.

At the center of this mess is Roberta’s idiotic choice in revealing way too much of the book, which was a bonehead thing to do. Had I been the author of that book, I would have gone ballistic . . . in the privacy of my own gin tub. Then I would have called my editor, who, if she has any brains, would have contacted Ms. Silman at the Boston Globe and her editor to complain. I’ve done this because I see this as a part of my job. I didn’t do it because of the review – the review itself was favorable – lucky us. But the reviewer did the same stupid thing; gave away far too much of the book. I politely gave the reviewer of the newspaper (and the editor) a WTF?  Oh, geez,  sez they, really, really, really sorry.

Now, did I believe giving away too much would affect sales? No, and had Ms. Hoffman possessed a firing synapse, she would have realized the same thing. Ms. Silman’s review was an in depth analysis of the book, and people would still buy the book – until this happened.

Ms. Silman’s transgression hardly justifies having her personal email and phone number blasted across TweetLand. Authors get reviewed and critiqued all the time, and they MUST shake it off. They don’t write public letters meant to humiliate the reviewer. They wince, have a few margaritas, and freaking move on. Hoffman’s teapot lid is screwed on a bit too loose for my taste, and were I Silman, I’m not sure how forgiving I would be. I would also question its sincerity.

The Non-Apology:

And this brings me to another rant. Whatsup with the quality of apologies these days? Ms. Hoffman’s is a shining example of the crap apology. In case anyone forgot, the idea of an apology is to face the aggrieved party and say, “I’m sorry for my outrageous behavior. I regret that my actions hurt you. I realize I was wrong.” And they don’t do this through their damned publicist.

But today’s non-apologies are anemic. This is the usual fare: “I’m sorry if I offended anyone. I never meant to hurt anyone.” Folks, this is not an apology. They’re apologizing that YOU were offended, and it’s a sneaky way of saying, “the problem is with you, not me.” There is zero ownership, regret, or responsiiblity that their  actions were plain wrong. And people actually buy this garbage as sincere.

I think this all comes down to an over-developed ego. Pride prevents them from digging deep into their hearts to acknowledge that they did a very bad thing and actually regret it. Apologies can’t be flippant. As an editor, I’ve been on the receiving end of too many non-apologies, and I’ve put out a fatwah on insincerity. No apology is better than a non-apology. At least it’s honest.

Dear, dear authors, no matter how much pain you’re in over a crit or review, please don’t jepordize your career over something that won’t amount to a hill of beans in the grand scheme of things. The earth will keep spinning on its axis, politicians will always be bums, the beagle will never stop drinking, and the written word will never die. Remember that, against the giant odds, you got published or critiqued. That’s far better than most ever get. Be grateful, be professional and for crying out loud, remember that above all else, you love to write. If you do go overboard, apologize for your aberrant behavior and beg forgiveness. Anyone can be a bonehead. Just make sure it isn’t you.

5 Responses to Hoffman apologizes

  1. Nicie says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with your post…except for one thing. I truly doubt that many people ever believe those kinds of apologies are sincere. I think we’ve just gotten complacent about it and now it’s kind of like anything goes as far as apologies are concerned.

  2. I truly doubt that many people ever believe those kinds of apologies are sincere.
    That’s my point. People are all to ready and willing to suggest that a lame “apology” such as Ms. Hoffman’s is legit. We are promoting insincerity by mistaking this for the real McCoy.

    What about those times when the shoe is on the other foot, and that same type of non-apology is aimed directly at you [not you, personally; I’m talking the collective “you]. Suddenly it becomes personal, and with it, a bigger tendency to analyze a bullshit attempt to the real thing. It would be much more powerful if people began standing up and saying, “No, I don’t accept this pathetic excuse of an apology. Give me a meaningful apology, and then I can reassess.”

  3. Lorelei says:

    I was lucky with my reviews. The only negative feedback I got was an anonymous bomb on Barnes & Noble. Anonymous then found a private blog of mine and repeated their not-so-kind words. But I think I know who probably did it. One of two writers to whom I had given notes and not had them received well. So I just said “thanks for reading!” and moved on. Anonymous returned to my blog a few times with weird little blasts at me, and I just thanked them for thinking of me, and they finally went away. I perkied them into submission. The funny part is that the “review” they left behind didn’t relate to the book, which made it a bit obvious that it wasn’t about the book.

  4. Is it just me? I’ve been following this story on various blogs and whilst I agree that Ms Hoffman behaved very badly indeed in many ways and did herself no favours in the process AND that her apology was no better than no apology BUT I am not about to stop reading her books because I like her writing. Always have. I do try and separate the writer from the text although having said that if I found out that my favourite author was a child molester I would not only stop reading his books but throw them all in the fire as well.

    What has AF done after all? She’s not killed anyone or parted the vulnerable from their life-savings. She made a stupid mistake. Yes, she should have known better, yes she compounded her stupidity by spreading personal information on the Internet but, hand on heart, have none of us ever done anything crass that seemed like a good idea at the time? I have and I still blush with shame even though some of my worst moments happened many years ago.

    Perspective. That’s my new mantra.

  5. Sally, you have the marvelous ability to separate bad behavior from the writing, and I applaud you. I’m not sure that her fans will stop reading her books – the jury is still out on that – but I think she’ll attract far fewer new readers with her temper tantrum.

    Many of us – myself included – like the authors we read, so when they prove themselves to be mentally unbalanced our sympathies tend to nosedive. For me, that is my perspective; if I detest what someone has done, I can no longer support them. Probably a character flaw on my part, I’m sure.

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