Ibsen wrote, "To live is to war with trolls." I've always loved that quote. But I would hasten to add, "To live as a novelist is war with the short-bus trolls."
To wit, a review of Murder of Angels in the October issue of Fangoria*, which was only just brought to my attention yesterday. On the one hand, this is easily the worst published review I've ever gotten, the only truly negative published review I've ever gotten (to my knowledge), but on the other hand, that's only a small comfort. Long ago, when I was just a little baby writer, docbrite advised me never to respond to my critics. But even she seems to have abandoned that policy. So what the hell. I'm in such a sweet mood today that I just want to frelling share.
*A caveat: I do not read Fangoria. I stopped reading it way back in the early nineties, as the zine just seemed to get dumber and dumber and dumber, and I've never really been part of the boobies and blood crowd. This is only the second time Fangoria has bothered to comment on my writing. The first was a lukewarm review of Silk. I have been grateful for their disregard.
Mr. John Philpott writes:
There's much to admire about the way Caitlín R. Kiernan writes, her work belies an artful care. Meticulous horror that aspires to be eerie rather than dumb deserves as wide an audience as it can find. For all that, this novel is redolent of comic books, a failing that fatally undercuts the author's strengths and makes her Lovecraft-describing-MTV passages piss-elegant. She might get away with it if she weren't so serious in her author's note. Do we really need to know what Bob Dylan songs she listened to while typing? Save that stuff for the press release.
Murder of Angels centers on rock star Daria Parker who keeps a home in Alabama with a paid guard to watch over her insane friend Niki and prevent Niki from sliding into what I'm guessing is the Qliphoth of the Kabbala. (That'd be "hell" to you and me.) Eventually, Niki reaches this place and finds the beings there address her as the Hierophant. Often Kiernan's dialogue, like her writing in general, tends towards a sophomoric cleverness. When Niki converses with beings in the other realm, however, the critters sound goofy. The latter half of Murder of Angels livens up a great deal, yet also features some tricksy "poetic effects" that are just corny. When a certain character dies and leaves this mortal plane, a series of single sentences and then phrases and finally individual words appear, one to a page, for ten pages. Huh?
Kiernan is a literary stylist, a master of her particular mood — and a poor storyteller. In general, her prose suffers from a static quality, because even when some event finally disrupts the angst, the action still feels empty and plotted. She creates characters in extreme emotional states, but it's not as if they change to become that way. We have no idea what these people might be like when thye're not desperate or insane, and this book doesn't read as though Kiernan does either.
What am I supposed to say in response to a reviewer who's reading comprehension is so low that he couldn't even catch the fact that Daria's house is located in San Francisco, not Alabama? How would I reply to someone with such an obvious contempt for poetry or any sort of experimental prose that he isn't ashamed to employ a phrase like "tricksy 'poetic effects'"? I just don't know. How about, "Asshole, meet Opinion. Opinion, meet Asshole"?
I have written my publicist and editors letters asking that they never again send review copies to Fangoria.
And Mr. Philpott, if you are out there ego-surfing one day and happen across these comments, just remember, though it might be trite of me to say so, an A- from Entertainment Weekly trumps an F+ from a titties and gore mag any old day of the week. In short, please feel free to kiss my sophomoric ass, that is if you can first manage to extract your head from out your own.
Also, my thanks to Spooky who hid in a corner at Borders and copied Mr. Philpott's foolishness down on two Priority Mail labels (front and back). I wasn't about to pay $8 for the pleasure of being insulted by this snide little idiot.