Alice Hoffman exacts Twitter revenge on reviewer. But why?

Storysisters_l As one of EW's book reviewers, I've written dozens of critiques, both laudatory and negative. And, admittedly, some of my reviews have been so negative, they've bordered on being a tad snide. But aside from an email here and there from an author kindly refuting my reviews, I've been treated rather well by my subjects (and that includes the wonderful Adam Davies, an author so appreciative of my B+ review of Mine All Mine, he sent me a nice, hand-written note that still hangs on my office wall to brighten bad days. So thank you, Adam!).

But one Boston Globe reviewer, Roberta Silman, has found herself in a bit of a pickle thanks to novelist Alice Hoffman, who was not very pleased with the reviewer's negative write-up of her latest novel, The Story Sisters. After Silman's piece ran in the newspaper, Hoffman took to Twitter and began lashing out at Silman over the course of several tweets: "Roberta Silman in the Boston Globe is a moron. How do some people get to review books? And give the plot away." "Now any idiot can be a critic. Writers used to review writers. My second novel was reviewed by Ann Tyler. So who is Roberta Silman?" "No wonder there is no book section in the Globe anymore — they don't care about their readers, why should we care about them"

Okay, so freedom of speech, right? But then Hoffman's next tweet bordered on harassment: "If you want to tell Roberta Silman off her phone is [Silman's number here]. [Silman's email here]. Tell her what u think of snarky critics." Now, Hoffman is free to form her own opinions about her reviewers. But at what point does she go too far? Releasing the email and phone number of a reviewer to her fans? Is it acceptable for novelists to exact revenge on their reviewers, especially considering the fact that Hoffman is already a successful author who hardly needs to rely on good reviews for sales?

And get this: For the most part, Silman's review was hardly negative. The Globe writer included several sentences full of praise for the author, like: "There are some wonderful passages as the book winds to a close," and "One of my favorite books is her Illumination Night, which amply displays her gifts of precise prose and the ability to create sympathetic characters." In fact, the worst Silman seemed to write about Story Sisters was that the novel "lacks the spark of the earlier work." Looking at those passages, it seems to me that Hoffman's vengeful rant will only hurt her image in the long run. And it looks like Hoffman might be having second thoughts about her reaction—her twitter page has been down as of this morning.

So, PopWatchers: Team Hoffman or Team Silman?

UPDATE: Thanks to a tipster, we stumbled upon an interview with author Richard Ford, in which he admits to putting a gunshot hole through a book written by a writer who panned one of his books. The reviewer? Alice Hoffman. An excerpt:

"Robert Birnbaum: Are you going to go out and  shoot it? Is that a true story that your wife took a pistol and shot a bad  review Alice Hoffman gave you?

Richard Ford: Yes, it is a true story.  Shot her book. Seemed so good to do. We had another copy so I went out and  shot it. I don't read my reviews anymore.

Birnbaum: Well, that  might save you on ammunition."

Comments (39 total) Add your comment
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  • Ceballos

    “But at what point does she go too far? Releasing the email and phone number of a reviewer to her fans?”
    Ummm, yeah. If this piece is accurare, Hoffman’s first couple of whines are immature and whiny at worst. I mean, her feelings were hurt by a “negative” review, so I’m not going to begrudge her that.
    However, giving out the critic’s email and ESPECIALLY her phone number = Too much!

  • sylvie

    Alice Hoffman is the moron. Won’t read her book now!

  • Sara

    Hmm, it depends on the email/phone # thing – are these her professional contacts? If so, that’s not that strange – I’ve definitely been informed about negative articles and encouraged to contact the author to refute their claims. If it’s the personal # or email, that’s different.

  • Julie E.

    Team Silman, for sure. Alice Hoffman’s behavior is not only unprofessional, it’s totally baffling. Hoffman has been writing and publishing for a LONG time–surely she’s experienced a bad review before? And surely she understands that when she puts her work out there, not everyone is going to love it, and that’s the risk you take?
    The review was negative but not mean, personal, or unreasonable. Hoffman’s behavior is offputting. I’ve read a couple of her novels and, frankly, she’s not a good enough writer to expect positive reviews every time. Maybe she needs a vacation or something.

  • JennBell

    I’d be pissed if the plot was given away in a review. Did that happen here?

  • Julie E.

    Also, this is interesting: “No wonder there is no book section in the Globe anymore — they don’t care about their readers, why should we care about them”
    Well, clearly, Alice Hoffman, you DO care, or you wouldn’t be making a fool of yourself this way!

  • KB

    Alice Hoffman is an arrogant cry-baby diva. As a well published author, she certainly has thin skin. I have read most of Hoffman’s books – some I thought better than others. But that is my opinion which I am entitled to, as is the reviewer. Will I buy this book? Probably not unless it turns up in the bargain bin.

  • Sara

    This story made me think of XKCD, but I think they did it better. http://xkcd.org/591/
    Team reviewer, by the way. Multiple angry tweets don’t make you look good, and they don’t win you any sympathy. When you lash out publicly, you’re fighting two fights – a battle, and a war. The battle is what you fight with your opponent, the war is what you fight with the public. Even if she’d won the battle (she didn’t), her reaction is almost guaranteed to make her lose the war.

  • Jimmy

    Hoffman may be over the top but did she give out personal email and phone information or business email and phone information? If it’s the latter, that’s rather public information anyone can find. Even if it’s the former and Ms. Silman’s number is in the phonebook then again there’s no breach of privacy. If she somehow got ahold of Silman’s private number, that’s a different story. Regardless, Hoffman has made herself look foolish where the whole world can see it.

  • Josie

    Wow, well I just read the review and if there is anything to be upset about it’s the amount of details given out by the reviewer! It’s fine if she doesn’t like the book, but holy moly, SPOILER ALERT! should have been the title of the post. I’ve never read Alice Hoffman’s books so I can’t say whether the bad review was on the money or not. I guess the reviewer will learn her lesson for next time!

  • John

    For those wondering whether or not Alice Hoffman released the reviewers home phone number and email address, the answer is, yes, she did. Given how difficult it is to get a book reviewed these days — and given that Hoffman’s work is always on the NY Times bestseller list – she (Hoffman) comes across as someone who’s not only out of touch but ungrateful. Most writers would kill for her career. Meanwhile, she’s wringing her hands that everyone — and I mean EVERYONE — hasn’t called her a genius. Sorry, honey, but you ain’t no genius.

  • Leslie

    I read the review, and it did seem to give away A LOT of plot information. Nevertheless, it was unprofessional of Hoffman to act out like she did; if she had a problem she should have written to the reviewer, & should not pout on twitter. It just makes her look immature.

  • Groo

    Team Silman. Hoffman has a legitimate gripe when it comes to reavealing too many details. Otherwise she needs to grow the hell up. Not everyone is going to like your work and calling them a moron for no other reason is, well, moronic.

  • Anne-Kari

    Hoffman behaved like a spoiled little brat. Of course any author has the right to defend their work, but unless you don’t ever want to be taken seriously again, that defense shouldn’t take the form of multiple, childish, uninformed rants on Twitter.

  • jas

    As a big Alice Hoffman fan I have read almost all of her books including the new one and having read the Globe review I agree with the reviewer. I truly wanted to like this book but just couldn’t and now I have lost so much respect for Hoffman because of her absurd inability to handle criticism.

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