Bestselling novelist Alice Hoffman has ventured off into an electronic exile where she will spend the next three months in "a place with no Internet" -- this according to her latest posting on Facebook. Hoffman's message to her friends and fans is starkly different and much softer than the words that shot like a cannon from her keyboard this past Sunday. The prolific author of more than 20 books fired off more than 20 angry tweets and Facebook updates following a mediocre review of her latest tome, The Story Sisters, in her hometown newspaper the Boston Globe.
"Roberta Silman is a moron," sniped Hoffman after the critic wrote the book "lacks the spark of the earlier work." Hoffman also blasted Silman for revealing too many plot twists. As a fellow author, I first chuckled at Hoffman's reaction. All writers have secretly dreamed of ways to exact revenge on a critic following a bad review. Giants like Ernest Hemingway long considered the rivalry between writer and reviewer nothing less than a blood sport, calling all critics, "the lice who crawl on literature."
Hoffman's first salvo was followed by a barrage of tweets targeting not only the reviewer's competence but also the inherent value of the Boston Globe itself. Her harmless insults soon took a bizarre turn however when she posted Roberta Silman's phone number urging her fans to "tell her (Silman) off" and "tell her what u think of snarky critics." The writer's rants set a bad example for other authors who would cut off a foot (not a hand of course) to be in the position that Hoffman holds now. "This is a highly competitive business," acknowledges novelist C.J. West. "Thousands of authors would be glad to read a similar review of their work in the Globe." Facebook is now virtually littered with postings by readers who call Hoffman's stunt "appalling" and question whether newspapers will bother to review her books in the future.
There's no telling if Silman received any nasty phone calls on Hoffman's behalf, but the potential for danger is there. The writer has since offered a lukewarm apology via a written statement that read in part; "I'm sorry if I offended anyone." Hoffman did not address the fact that she released Silman's telephone number to the masses and clearly doesn't understand the hazardous position she placed the critic in for merely doing her job. It seems silly to even say but who knows what a rabid Alice Hoffman fan could be capable of?
Many of us have fallen victim to sending that e-mail we shouldn't have, but Alice Hoffman sent 27 tweets, spewing a little more venom each time. We've all seen what negative impact these public displays of bad behavior have had on popular people. Russell Crowe and Tom Cruise both saw their careers slide after acting like complete dopes. Will the same now happen to Alice Hoffman?