Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I got my first real review for Self Storage, from Publisher's Weekly. When I saw an email from my editor with "first review!" as the subject line, my heart started pounding a million miles a second--I wasn't expecting a review to come in so soon. I am hesitant to post it here because it gives away more of the plot than I would like to share. If I can find a link, I'll post it here so anyone who's curious can take a look. My agent and editor assure me it is a good review (it calls my main character "endearing" and "juicy", which makes me happy) but there is one negative sentence and it's a doozy. It just about knocked the wind out of me. It calls the political musings in the book "unsatisfying and banal." Unsatisfying and banal! Yikes! I think this cut deeply because the political aspect of the book (not to mention my life) is very important to me. Ah well. My agent told me she has a friend who references all his bad reviews when he does readings, and always gets a laugh. So if I say something along the lines of "I'm reading from my politically unsatisfying and banal book" at a reading, you'll know why! It's crazy how those few negative words can burn into the brain while all the lovely ones fade away so quickly! is featuring an essay today written by a first time author struggling with bad first reviews. As my editor assured me, the trade reviewers (PW, Kirus, etc.) tend to be a little cranky. I hope the author of the essay will find some more thoughtful reviews elsewhere--his book sounds wonderful. Plus, I need to keep reminding myself that my PW review is not bad; it just has that one whopper of a sentence!

The sting of that sentence was alleviated greatly by the fact that I received an amazing blurb from Barbara Kingsolver today. Barbara read an early draft of the book and was very honest with me about all of its flaws and all the work I had ahead of me. She said she would only write an endorsement for a book she truly believes in. I'm so delighted that she believes in it now. Here's what she wrote:

"With fluid skill, bold as brass, Gayle Brandeis has revised the "Song of Myself," reconfiguring "self" as an open circle. This is a novel of passion and consequence, identity and accountability. I love the narrator, her children, her wild ride, and this truly American story of getting mad and getting wise."
Her feedback means so much more to me than any anonymous reviewer's!

In other review news, Google Alert recently pointed me to this lovely review of The Book of Dead Birds, written by the fabulous author Damian McNicholl. Thanks so much, Damian!


Andi said...

I agree with Barbara! It's a wonderful book. And don't give a second thought to that review. (Says the author who was just called a bad writer, "a bore," and "no Ann Lamott" by one of the fine, fine anonymous Amazon reviewers. Not that I'm caring about it. In the least. How could I? I'm a bore, after all...)

gayle said...

Aw, thanks so much, Andi (who is the farthest thing from a bore I can imagine!)


Distressed Jeans said...


It's a wonderful book and a truly satisfying read. Keep thinking positive and realize the critic was probably not held much as a child.

I love Self Storage!!

gayle said...

Thank you so much, Cindy! I like the idea of looking at reviewers that way--it makes me want to give the reviewer a hug instead of a scowl. :) I really appreciate all your sweet words.