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.
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.