Last month I read a blog post on 101 Books about an interview that author, A.S Byatt had given a few years ago where she basically was not only insulting J.K Rowling but also those of us who read her work. Yes, apparently we’re all total idiots who can’t handle anything deeper than a trashy tv show or cartoon! Not that she’s actually read any of J.K’s work, of course. And then my friend sent me an article where another writer said that J.K. Rowling ‘sucked the oxygen from the entire publishing and reading atmosphere’ and that she shouldn’t be trying to venture into another genre when she was already so successful. J.K’s venture into crime was supposedly stopping other writers from being successful. Seriously??!
Now, I don’t have a problem with people not liking an author or series that I like – we all have our own tastes after all – and I’m even prepared to overlook the fact that they’re clearly making snap judgements based on things like media reports or popularity levels, rather than the actual content of the books themselves. Who hasn’t formed an opinion at one time or another based on very little actual evidence? We’re only human after all.
What bothers me about these authors mouthing off about J.K Rowling (and other popular authors like her) in the press - is that no one seems to have taught these people that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. That might seem hypocritical from a blogger who isn’t afraid to share her opinion on here but I’m not a world renowned, award-winning, well respected, professional and successful author speaking in the national press about another author for no apparent reason.
I don’t know if A S Byatt was maybe asked her opinion of J.K Rowling or not and that’s what lead to that article but the simple way to get out of that would have been to simply say she hadn’t read any of her work so couldn’t comment. So why did she feel the need to say these things? She doesn’t need the publicity for herself. She isn’t a struggling author jealous of the success of Harry Potter. Is it snobbery perhaps? Does she not think JK is ‘literary’ enough? There does, after all, seem to be a snobbery in certain areas of the book world when it comes to things like awards, for example. I’m sure that the books nominated for the prestigious literary awards that exist are all well-deserving of the honour but it does often seem, in recent years anyway, that unless there’s a heavy-hitting issue in the book, it doesn’t get nominated. Even if the book is beautifully written and truly unique or imaginative. So maybe A.S Byatt belongs to that camp.
As for the crime writer who believes that J.K should stay out of her genre and give other writers a chance… does she really think that writers should stop after a certain level of success to give other writers a chance? Would she follow that advice herself? Or is it more realistic that her books haven’t come close to the level of success that J.K has achieved and she’s scared of the extra competition?
But basically my point, at the end of this very long and all over the place rant, is that these two writers are supposed to be professionals and grown-ups, and instead of acting like it, they’re taking the chance to bitch about a fellow writer to the press. And in the case of A.S Byatt, insult her fans as well. No matter what line of work you’re in, there will always be people that, for one reason or another, you just don’t like, but if you’re a professional, you would never dream of throwing a hissy-fit tantrum and bitching about them to the wider public (maybe just to your friends!). All that these writers have succeeded in doing is to show themselves in a very poor light and most likely put a lot of people – myself included – off ever reading any more of their work. Nice work, ladies! Now why don’t you grow up and remember that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!