Something I remembered today is this. About ten-plus years ago I purchased a galley of a novel by a debut author. You are not supposed to be able to do this, but you can, at certain famous city institution type bookstores, stores that in fact have entire basement rooms full of these advance readers copies and sell them for ninety-nine cents, often with the pitch letters still wedged in them. I read the book and I thought it was okay, just okay, and I wrote about it in my Internet diary. Now at that time my Internet diary was a self-hosted, sprawling affair. In 10pt Arial I wrote about everything that was happening, sometimes obliquely and sometimes specifically. I wrote about the people in my classes, in my dorm, the shows I went to, the Snapples I purchased. So writing about this book was no big deal, it was a thing I did and so it went into the Internet diary. What I wrote was something like, “I read this book by author, it was okay I guess, a little stupid, at least I only paid ninety-nine cents for it.” This is a fairly snippy thing to say, I realize, but buried as it was amongst breathy reviews of Broadway shows and anxiety about my social situation (nothing changes huh internet!!!), in a pre-Google time, who was gonna find it slash or care?
I’ll tell you who! The author, who I don’t know, self-AltaVistaed? Or something? And who found my comment and went ahead and wrote me a terse email sarcastically thanking me for reading the book and expressing a feigned relief that I had not paid full price for it. I was FREAKED. This guy was a grown man with a book deal, and I was a college freshman with course packet paper cuts, and he was being mean to me, so, I probably deserved it a little! Right? Wait, no. (My first reaction to conflict is always shame; my second, anger.) So I got mad. Because I had a paper to write, and I was a little homesick, and things were expensive all the time, and I couldn’t really tune in episodes of Buffy on my stupid tiny television, and the one pot I had to boil water had a super-janky handle, so, so, so who was this guy, anyway? And I wrote him back. I said sorry, fella, that you found that, I didn’t mean to harsh you. There were parts of your book that I actually liked, if that helps. Best of luck. See you.
He wrote back almost immediately, and he apologized for being rough, and we shook hands over the Internet, and I told him I looked forward to his next book. This guy has gone on to have a healthy Wikipedia page and to be a finalist for some awards and to have a blog, while I have gone on to learn how to make soup from scratch. So we are both fine.
Anyway I was thinking about this because today also I found that there are some snide comments on an old GoodReads review I wrote, like some person called me shallow etc. No big deal, not like someone is reblogging me a new one or anything, but still, stingy. And for a second I wanted to say a thing, but then I remembered an old Internet lesson, see above, and so I didn’t say anything, and I’m glad I learned it early, the thing about how there are actually people on the other side of this thing. People and lizards.