We're all for telling it like it is in book reviews, but this Sunday's review of Harry, Revised by Troy Patterson in the New York Times, seems extraordinarily mean-spirited, even unusually so. Among many things, Patterson mentions that the book "does not seem to have been reread, never mind revised," that its author Mark Sarvas writes "about 'old money' in a fashion indicating that he's never met anyone in possession of it," that it contains "a kind of coarse banality that may have found a new exemplar," and (drumroll, please) "that you are reading a review of this novel in these pages is a testament to the author's success as a blogger." A backhanded compliment, that last one! We had to ask author Sarvas: did he, like, do something to piss off Troy Patterson, who is a TV critic for Slate and a film critic for Spin?
Patterson writes in the review,
Harry bears indignities of the gut, bladder and bowels throughout the book. We see his face slammed by fists, his clothes muddied by a sheepdog, his lunch violently coming back up. At one point, trying to prove his rigor to Anna by working out on a stationary bicycle, he slips and suffers a faint-inducing crunch of the testicles. The effect is of the Farrelly brothers shooting a remake of "About Schmidt" and leaving it to be cut together by an unemployably cynical editor.
Sarvas, wisely, chose not to engage in speculation, telling us only, "In general, I find very little upside in engaging with bad reviews - it seldom redounds to anyone's credit. I'll content myself with saying I'm confident that anyone reading the review will see that it says a good deal more about Troy Patterson than about my novel."
Huh. We were hoping there'd be more of a pissing match. Guess those are what don't happen when authors behave gracefully!