It would have been all too easy for my publisher or me to arrange a balancing contribution anonymously. And it certainly was seductive to pretend it had never happened.
But neither of those positions is honest or transparent. My recourse? This blog (and a link to it on the Guardian website).
I know that my writing style doesn’t appeal to everyone. But then, whose does? In all the conversations about Grosse Fugue, I’ve sought to discover a book that everyone loves and have so far failed to do so. Fortunately for me, my publisher APP was very much drawn to it.
One of the interesting effects of my novel is that people are entirely inconsistent about what features they like. The Guardian reviewer commented on the Intermezzi, particularly #1. Others like #2; some hate them all! Some have remarked on how interesting a lot it is; more have said how moving it is. This reviewer discerns ‘long, pompous passages about European history and culture’; a number have commented on how informative they found it.
This all goes to prove that reading is inevitably subjective. Can one improve? Of course. Does this review spur me to be better? Damn right it does. Should it discourage people from trying Grosse Fugue? Ah, there’s the rub. It probably will do, but has no right to. If people are drawn to the subject, attracted by the interlacing of catastrophe and great art, and want to get drawn into challenging debate, then I would argue they should try it.
The review eschews all that, focusing on style (perfectly legitimately in the context of a literary prize). A few have commented on it and on a passage lifted from Amazon’s ‘Look inside’ facility. Criticising any book based on a very narrow selection does seem unreasonable to me.
Of course I’m disappointed with this review. Who would not be? But I’m also grateful that the book has been read attentively. I am saddened that the intention to move the Holocaust debate on from causation and suffering to legacy has been missed, as have the, no doubt futile, attempts to share my passion for Beethoven and his late quartets.
My only hope is this additional exposure does encourage more readers to consider the book and read the reviews on Amazon that offer a different perspective.