kottke.org posts about Patrick Somerville

New York Times critic pans book’s plot because of misread

posted by Aaron Cohen   Jul 06, 2012

Author Patrick Somerville recently received the bittersweet honor of a “soggy” review in the New York Times of his new book, The Bright River. As he read the review, however, he realized the critic, Janet Maslin, had misunderstood a critical plot point in the book’s prologue, thus coloring her understanding of the entire novel. Somerville wrote about this experience in Salon. The best part is since the character in his book has an email address, the New York Times used that address to fact-check the review (after it had been published), addressing the question to the character.

Dear Mr. Hanson,

Given the vagaries of fictional life, I understand that you might not be able to answer this question, which has come up after one of our readers read the review of “This Bright River” that we published. But - in the prologue, are you the person who is hit on the head?

-Ed Marks, Culture Desk

Somerville responds in character leading to my favorite part, a bit into the back and forth: “But that is just my opinion, and I am not real.”

*This post wouldn’t be complete without a general warning to authors to make sure your prologue does not convey important plot details in a manner potentially confusing to NYT reviewers. (via @alexanderchee)