Bad Reviews

A Universe from Nothing got a scathing review in the New York Times.  Jerry Coyne finds the courage to pile on, although he disagrees with the reviewer’s remarks about religion (rightly, I think — I really couldn’t make much sense of those remarks).  Krauss responds in the comments.  Peter Woit at Not Even Wrong (no supporter of Krauss, apparently) points out that the reviewer is the recipient of a huge grant from the Templeton Foundation, widely despised in some circles for throwing vast amounts of money at people for trying to reconcile religion and science.  Does the reviewer have a hidden agenda?  How could we possibly know?

This got me thinking about reviews.  The older I get, the less attention I pay to reviewers I’m not familiar with; life is too short to care about the opinions of strangers.  I trust Jerry Coyne, because I’ve been reading his blog for a while (and I read his book and enjoyed it a lot), but I’ve never heard of the Times reviewer.  Doesn’t mean he’s wrong, of course, and I have no way of judging arguments over cosmology or quantum mechanics.

I have sympathy for writers (like Krauss) who have clearly put a lot of effort into their work, only to have it savaged.  Writing is about as solitary an occupation as you can imagine, but sooner or later most of us try to inflict the results upon the world.  And then we face rejection and criticism and (most depressing of all, perhaps) indifference.  It ain’t easy!

Oddly, my books have never received any really bad reviews–at least, not any I remember.  It’s entirely possible I blotted out the memory.  Lots of rejection, on the other hand…

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