3-16-09: The Magic Middle
One of my favorite episodes of the TV show Taxi is the one where Jim (Christopher Lloyd) burns down Louie’s (Danny DeVito) apartment. To make amends, Jim tells Louie that his father (who is quite wealthy) will pay for the damages, all Louie has to do is name a price. There follows one of the classic comedy bits where Louie tries to figure out what the perfect price should be. It can’t be too high or too low, but somewhere in the middle. Louie picks a price ($34,000, I think) and Jim calls his dad, tells him the figure, and then hangs up the phone. “What did he say?” Louie asks. “He said OK. He was afraid you were going to ask for $100,000,” says Jim. The look on Louie’s face is priceless.
I thought about that bit today when Chris and I got to talking about some of the early reviews of Hourglass Door. Most of the notes I’ve received have been from friends and family and have been along the lines of “I just started it and I love it!” “I’ve read the first two chapters and I’m hooked.” “I can’t wait to see how it turns out.” But Chris had one response that was apparently a laundry list of flaws in the story. He didn’t tell me who sent him the review or even let me read it, which I’m okay with. (Though part of me wants to read it just so I can get my first bad review over with. Crazy, I know.)
Here is a truth: Not everyone will like my book. I know that. I’m expecting that. It’s impossible that I could have written the first book that everyone who reads it loves it unconditionally. I’ve been reading books my whole life and I haven’t loved every book I’ve read. Some I have loved and cherished and recommended to everyone I meet. Some I have liked, read once, and moved on. Some of them I’ve downright hated. That’s the great thing about books—about any art really—there is enough variety that everyone can find something they like.
Of course I hope the reviews are good—maybe even better than good—but I also hope I can keep a healthy perspective about them. You know, not let the good ones go to my head; not take the bad ones personally. Maybe the best thing is to think of reviews like figure skating scores and toss out the top score and the bottom score. And, then, like Louie, I can find happiness somewhere in the middle.