Thursday, August 25, 2016

Criticism’s Sting: The Author Curtis Sittenfeld on Book Reviews


Credit Illustration by Brian Stauffer
I only recently became a book critic. In 2014, when my own book came out, I remember living in deathly fear of the person I now am. How many jobs involve submitting your work to the scrutiny of a paid corps of strangers? It seemed, at the time, like someone’s idea of a cruel joke. And I instantly understood why Nathan Zuckerman fantasized about quitting the novel-writing business and becoming an obstetrician in Philip Roth’s “The Anatomy Lesson”: “He catches what comes out and everyone loves him. When the baby appears they don’t start shouting, ‘You call that a baby?’”
Now, as a person who writes reviews for a living, I am curious to know: How do professional authors handle unsparing criticism, written in just a few days or weeks, of something they’ve toiled over for years? I decided to ask Curtis Sittenfeld, author of “Prep,” “American Wife” and most recently, “Eligible,” a modern retelling of “Pride and Prejudice.”

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