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Yann Martel is the author of The High Mountains of Portugal and Life of Pi, the #1 international bestseller and winner of the 2002 Man Booker (among many other prizes). He is also[…]

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.

Question: How do you deal with bad reviews?

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

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

Recorded April 13, 2010