Dealing With Bad Reviews

Man Booker Prize-winner, Life of Pi
When your novel gets a negative review, "it’s your entire being that is negated. And that hurts." But you have to learn to let it go.
  • Transcript


Question: How do you deal with bad reviews?

Yann Martel:  It’s hard.  Just today I got a bad review of my book in the New York Times.  The day it comes out, I’m in New York, the Goddamn New York Times gives me a terrible review.  It hurts.  But there’s no secret to it.  I imagine Shakespeare hated getting negative reviews, and you know, there’s always going to be somebody who doesn’t like what you do, always, no matter, you know, Tolstoy, Shakespeare, Dante, I’m sure there are people who told them their stuff sucks.  It hurts.  You know, you give everything to art, as I said, we are story animals, so when your story is rejected, it hits you right here.  You know, if you’re a dentist, if you’re an accountant, you can have bad days at work, it’s just your job, it’s not who you are.  Art, just like religion, it’s who we are.  So when you get a bad review, it’s your entire being that is negated.  And that hurts.  Not that you do it for approval, you’re not pandering for approval.

You don’t do it for approval, you have to let go.  But in people that you care for, you know, you want, you know, you want to impress the people close to you.  You know, you don’t want to have written a novel and then your wife, your girlfriend, you boyfriend, your parents, would have, then sort of have to sort of, you know, lie.  You don’t, you know, so, you know, art is profoundly social, so you want at some level your gift to be accepted.  I say that, but at the same time, it is a free gift, you have to let go.  You have to have that Buddhist attitude of passionate detachment.  Which I generally had, and I just got that review today, so that kind of sucks, but you have to let go.

Recorded April 13, 2010