Just as Alice Hoffman was catching flak for tweet-ranting about her bad reviews (before this morning’s non-apology), Alain de Botton, breezy author of Proust Can Change Your Life and, most recently, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, was busily not learning the obvious lesson. He paid a visit to Steamboats Are Ruining Everything, a blog maintained by Caleb Crain, who wrote a mostly negative review of Pleasures in this past Sunday’s Times Book Review. Crain linked to the review yesterday, then made sure to mention he’d reviewed Proust positively a decade ago. In the comments section, De Botton unleashed a doozy:
Caleb, you make it sound on your blog that your review is somehow a sane and fair assessment. In my eyes, and all those who have read it with anything like impartiality, it is a review driven by an almost manic desire to bad-mouth and perversely depreciate anything of value. The accusations you level at me are simply extraordinary. I genuinely hope that you will find yourself on the receiving end of such a daft review some time very soon — so that you can grow up and start to take some responsibility for your work as a reviewer. You have now killed my book in the United States, nothing short of that. So that’s two years of work down the drain in one miserable 900 word review. You present yourself as ‘nice’ in this blog (so much talk about your boyfriend, the dog etc). It’s only fair for your readers (nice people like Joe Linker and trusting souls like PAB) to get a whiff that the truth may be more complex. I will hate you till the day I die and wish you nothing but ill will in every career move you make. I will be watching with interest and schadenfreude.
The comments thread included one more self-justifying post from De Botton, a string of speculation on whether the poster was the real De Botton, then the revelation that De Botton had himself hit the Twitterverse to draw attention to the comment thread — before deleting his tweets, à la Hoffman. Much back-and-forth ensued on the justness of Crain’s review and De Botton’s response. But by far the wisest was that of David Jones, immediately following De Botton’s first post:
Read the whole deadening thread here.
Review of Alain de Botton’s “Pleasures and Sorrows of Work” [Steamboats Are Ruining Everything]