The Author’s Big Mistake: A Case Study

Once upon a time, I was asked to review an interactive book. I wrote the review, posted it, and that was that. For a few weeks.

Then the book’s author discovered my review. And he even thanked me for it. At first.

Then, he didn’t. Within hours, he proceeded to commit, in a torrential series of responses to the review that dwarfed the review itself in sheer volume, what Paul Fussell described in his 1982 essay, “The Author’s Reply as Literary Genre,”: “the A.B.M. — the Author’s Big Mistake—that is, the letter from an aggrieved writer complaining about a review.”

It was, in a weird way, a beautiful thing to behold as the aggrieved author posted comment after comment (revising each several times [I got an email from the server each time he revised a comment]), spinning ever more wildly out of control with each submission. Some people tried to talk him down gently from the ledge, but he would have none of it. I stayed out of the fray, remembering both the wisdom of Sir John Falstaff and a poster that a friend of mine had back in the 1970s which read, “Never wrestle with a pig: you’ll both get dirty, and the pig likes it.”

The comment storm continued for the next week, but it eventually died down. Then, someone else found it and posted a series of screen shots, with commentary, to Imgur. And that, in turn, spawned a reddit thread.

Before the author chose to “prove” that my review was wrong, the review had gone largely unnoticed, but once the author engaged, hilarity and mockery ensued. And the attention that the author’s rebuttals attracted, and the scorn that was subsequently heaped upon him, is why Fussell calls such responses the Author’s Big Mistake—and Fussell didn’t even have the Internet to provide him with examples!

One thought on “The Author’s Big Mistake: A Case Study”

  1. Hello! Managed to google my way to this personal site of yours, though I certainly hope your aggressor doesn’t 😛 May I express my respect for the self-control and foresight you showed in not responding to his face! And I’m sorry for you and all these tidbits regulars who had to be subjected to him. 🙂
    If one good thing’s come out of this for you, I did end up trawling through a few of your other pieces and liked them very much (your early ebook dev at voyager was a fantastic read!). I can’t say I’ll remember to be a regular fan but I hope it means something that your work is appreciated. Keep doing what you do. 😀

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