On Critics and Criticism

Export to PDF | Export to DOC

I’ve been taken to task, more than once you will not be surprised to learn, for being a mean, hateful bully and troll. Contrary to such opinions, those who sit near me when I am reading in public know that I am frequently given to laughing out loud and smiling goofily at babies. Other than drivers who should never be allowed to operate a motor vehicle in public, I rarely get angry at people. Frustrated, stymied, curious — but not angry. Mad as hell at the evil some people support, but not angry at the people who are often deceived into supporting evil.

I may be an almost unique feminine example of someone who enjoys arguing tough issues, using strong words and meaning them, and still able to love and laugh with those same people. For example, I’ve recently published a tough assessment of a book but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t love a chance to get together with the author. So often men understand this when women do not. Perhaps curiously, I’ve found that the women least able to handle tough criticism and yet remain friends are the feminists.

However, if I am to be honest, there is one thing other than stupid driver syndrome that makes me angry. It’s duplicity. Hug, hug, kiss kiss – but you better watch out for that knife aimed at your back! This is why I find it bitterly amusing that a certain writer has, for the second time since she sent me an anonymous nastygram, published a piece about how criticism is often good and necessary and that we shouldn’t shy away from publishing such pieces.

Neither of her pieces were bad, in fact I’d like to be able to recommend them. But because her private criticism was focused on judging me for things she couldn’t possibly know and calling me names on that basis, she has revealed herself as duplicitous by acting privately in a manner contrary to her public persona. That’s why I would not recommend the pieces.

It’s dishonesty that makes criticism bad or unjust, not disagreement or strong words.

I wish more writers understood that.

*If you’re wondering how I know who sent an anonymous nasty gram, my correspondent followed it up with a copy of the same note which was signed and sent from her publicly verifiable email address.