Sorry, Giulia

Last night

Blogger Giulia Melucci said...

When insulting someone's work, your argument loses weight if you spell their name incorrectly.
Giulia Melucci

September 9, 2009 4:38 AM

Hi Giulia,

I am not a professional book critic. I am a blogger. I do not have a copy editor. I am a copy editor so my spelling mistake is a big embarrassment. I've since corrected the spelling of your name on my "review" of your book. Still, does that mean my review now carries any authority or validity? I think not.

There are about two people that read this blog. Only one of them will really read the whole post. Maybe you didn't read the whole post and just pressed CTRL+F after googling your book and found yourself on one little blog, a lowly grad student's after-school hobby. I don't know but you shouldn't take it to heart. It's not personal.

Now, if I had written a book and gotten it published, it would mean a lot to me. I wouldn't appreciate someone painting my work, my heart and soul, with a crude caveman strokes. You sound like a lovely person, really. Sorry for trivializing your relationships and your heartaches. I apologize. Maybe I'll take down the post.

I'm thinking about criticism right now. Real criticism. If you read food or book blogs, you've probably been inundated with praise and publicity for Frank Bruni's Born Round. They're all good and fine but I really liked the exit interview from Eater.com. If you've ever read Bruni's restaraunt reviews (Giulia, you have, I'm sure), you know that Bruni is thorough, he's a brilliant writer, and he takes being a critic seriously. In the interview with Eater, Bruni talks about what a really negative review means to the reader.
FRANK BRUNI: ....one of the really difficult things about being a food critic is, nobody sees all of the things you don't write about. And nobody sees the worst that you see. I ate at so many out-of-the-way, outer-borough restaurants. But I ate in so many terrible restaurants because I wanted to try to discover something. You can never tell people that because they're such out-of-the-way restaurants, off-the-radar restaurants, that if you bring them to people's attention only to say that they're terrible, it seems pointless and borderline immoral.
That's a really good point. When I was reading Nick Hornby's book (Shakespeare Wrote for Money) yesterday, initially, I was shocked that the editors of the Believer magazine would "censor" his opinions (Hornby often writes about books he didn't like but doesn't name the author, title, or anything else that would give the book away, and cites the Polyphonic spree's stringent protocols as the reason for this). Now in retrospect, I'm thinking this decision was probably in the interest of getting people excited to read, keeping the magazine's legal bills small, and for the sake of the reader, who doesn't care that you've spent your time with a book you didn't care for. After all, it's your problem that you read it, not theirs.

So, Ms. Melucci. My apologies. I still maintain my right to blog about whatever I want but I'm not going to post any more negative reviews without appropriate evidence and I will double check my spelling. That's just good practice.

Lesson learned.


P.S. Readers and Giulia - a lot of people like the book. Positive reviews are all over the Internet. You can decide yourself if it's any good. And finally, I have no idea whether or not Mario Batali actually liked or read the book. He very well could have.

earlier: A Review


Ish said...

Puh-leeze. The logic here is baffling. You were reviewing content. Misspelling someone's name has nothing to do with whether or not you reviewed their content well. If you hadn't read the book, then you could be criticized for that, but misspelling hardly invalidates your argument.

Negative reviews are good for writers. They make them into better writers. If Guilia doesn't expect any criticism she either thinks she's the best writer in the world or she never wants to write again.

Michael said...

I think Bruni and the Believer's stance is ultimately the best and most honourable one, though with a few minor caveats.

First is that both of those sources (Bruni at the NYT) are professional outlets. They've got limited page space and major costs to balance, so yes: there's no point in plucking some young writer or restaurant out of obscurity just to pummel them.

I review books for a newspaper in Vancouver, and my editor has a similar approach. There are many negative reviews that make the paper, to be sure, but more often than not he'll send me an obscure book and say, 'Take a look at this. If it really catches your eye, we'll run a review. If not, don't bother.'

It's only when a writer is big enough, with a media presence and established audience, that it's constructive, I think, to be brutally honest about their newest work. There are too many books out there for people to waste money on the bad ones.

Second, of course, is that this blog is--as you say--a hobby. So write whatever you want. Sure, it's public, and therefore Google-able, but an intelligent reader airing their opinions does nothing but good for the discourse. After all, if you didn't blog about it, you could write a reader review on Amazon. Or tell everyone you know not to read the book in person. Same diff.

Deanne said...

Oooh, I've been thinking about this all summer! I could write an essay.

It has become policy for many newspapers to cut out negative reviews, because bad news about entertainment products is boring. We need something short, cute, fun, and something that can get people buying. (Oh, hai, advertisers, I didn't see you there.)

What's lost is a real, critical discussion about art. Darryl and I talked about the superior artistic and philosophical intelligence in Holland, and Europe at large, as opposed to what we have here. Their critics have to have masters degrees in art history before they step into a gallery exhibit to review. They tend to be mean, but their criticism is grounded, and it's intended to inspire even better from artists the next time.

Crack open the Georgia Straight and everything's great: the food is great, the museums are great, the books are great. No news this week? Well, we'll just pick something to write about it, and by default, it's super great!

But the indiscriminate consumption of art is bad for you, and the loss of the ability for a common person to determine poor art from good art is bad for society. Art criticism moves art forward—to this end I recommend Oscar Wilde's "The Critic as Artist."

Oh, I could go on all day! Do what you must with the blog, but I really miss good, biting, well-educated criticism.

And it goes without saying that Giulia's response was vain, petty, and demonstrates that she has the time to improve on her craft, but she'd rather spend it on the internet with the rest of us.

Brandon Gaukel said...

You blog is getting so literary salacious, I can't handle it.

Daniel said...

Free speech is important. Crappy books are not.

Dolphin girl said...

eh eh eh eh eh eh eh eh eh eh eh

Veronicahhh said...

Obviously it's regrettable that her name was misspelled in your review.
However, this lady should take a valium.

ps know that I am one of your "two" very dedicated readers.

love, and keep up the (apparently) controversial work!