Some of you may recall how, when I reviewed Sophie's Choice, I offered at least a 2/3 rating to any of the Top 100 books that included a Saskatchereference, and suggested that the authors of those books should revise their novels accordingly. I was of course being facetious. Still, every now and then I've paused to wonder how I'd feel if one of the authors of one of the books I've reviewed were to see what I've said.
Usually I dismiss those thoughts as ego-stroking, since I'm pretty confident that I actually have about five readers, and all of them are my IRL friends.
However, I always check my site stats on Sundays when I'm preparing the week's blog post. And this morning I noticed a little spike in the number of visitors on July 22. To cut this really long story short, I did some more investigating via my Google Analytics and discovered that Anna DeStefano read my review of her book.
Needless to say, I'm a little astonished. I wasn't sure whether or how to respond. I wrote my review of Ms. DeStefano's book early in the project, before mellowing to the tropes of the romance genre, and it's admittedly pretty scathing and mean.
I feel like it would be dishonest of me to backpedal, so I'm not going to do that. It seems to me that Ms. DeStefano interpreted my review as an attack on her and her readers, though, and that was never my intent. I was extremely frustrated by her novel, and expressed myself in a stylized way to convey my frustration. I don't mind her criticism of my word choices, because I was criticizing her writing as well.
Although I've never explicitly stated this before (and the engineer thing could be a bit misleading), I am in fact a woman. I'm not a man mocking women and their sentimentality, I'm just a person who doesn't like this genre, but thought I'd explore it alongside the Top 100 books. (By the way, it's proving to be an interesting contrast between my reactions two types of books that are generally thought of as inaccessible to most people, the one because it's aimed primarily at women, the other because it seems comprehensible only to the type of academic snobs who compiled the list in the first place.) When I say that I think romance novels are "erotica for people who are too shy to realize that erotica is what they want," that's exactly what I mean. I'm not saying that women who read romance novels are prudish housewives, I'm saying that as a young woman I feel like maybe other women aren't really in touch with their sexuality and their options for expressing it in our society. I have no idea who generally reads Harlequin romance novels, but a very nice young woman was reading one in the seat beside me on my flight home from Mexico this winter.
Furthermore, I promise that I read every single word of every novel I review on this blog. I don't think I've ever skimmed through a book in my entire life, and there are only a handful that I've been unable to finish. I don't think it would be fair of me to draw any conclusions about these books if I didn't read them all in their entirety.
In any case, I just want to say that it's easy to lose sight of the person behind the work. I've actually been thinking about this sort of thing a lot lately, i.e. whether art is separate from the artist (for example, if Roman Polanski makes The Pianist and then gets charged with raping a 13 year-old girl, is The Pianist still a great movie?). On the other hand, I don't feel like there's much question of whether the artist is separate from the art. Meaning that while I'm not sure if great art can be considered out of context from its creator, I'm sure that the creator feels a connection to the work. So whereas I may review a book without thinking of the author, the author would be totally justified in taking it personally, and I suppose I should've thought a little bit more about that and how I feel about it before I started this project.
So now I'll throw this out to all (five) of you readers. What do you guys think about all this? Also FYI I'm going to be sending Ms. DeStefano a link to this post.