I just finished Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad, a novel in stories about an aging record executive and the young woman who works as his assistant. I hesitate to read books that have collected as many awards as this one has, because I always feel I’ve failed somehow if I don’t like them. But no fear this time. I loved the wry-edged ennui, the leaping structure, the warmth and complexity of the characters—and the language. Gorgeous language.
After I’d finished, I rated it on Goodreads and browsed through to see what everyone else thought. So many one-star reviews, which leave me baffled. I understand we all have differing opinions. We each come to a novel with a unique and personal set of expectations. But one star? One star to me means the book is unreadable. Fifty Shades of silly. I don’t understand a reader screaming Garbage! at a novel that, whatever else it might be, is clearly not garbage.
There’s a big question here, related to the psychology of internet behavior and the unsettling things it reveals about us. Honestly, I don’t have the energy for that one—it’s 5am for god’s sake—though you’re welcome to bat it around. I only wonder what sort of coping mechanisms you have developed.
How do you deal with hostile forms of criticism? Do you read reviews of your work?