Yes, I just bought a Lynn Shepherd novel, and not ironically either. I bought in it good faith, and will start reading it as soon as I finish my current read. When I’ve finished it, I’ll post a review here.
Many of us are probably aware of Shepherd’s post at HuffPo suggesting J.K. Rowling get out of the way and make room for less well known authors. Authors such as … herself.
Along with many others, I saw that post as ill-considered, especially in light of Shepherd’s declaration that she hadn’t even read Rowling’s work. In her comments she displayed an all too familiar ignorance of and arrogance toward young adult literature. She was snotty and dismissive toward millions of readers—many of whom are also writers—and received a great deal of legitimate criticism. I myself tweeted a bit of snark during the height of the fooferaw.
— Bill Cameron (@bcmystery) February 24, 2014
I’m far from alone in that I found her post ridiculous and wrongheaded and worthy of criticism. She played the “literary” card, and the “books for children aren’t for adults” card, and despite trying to innoculate herself against charges of sour grapes, ultimately came off as suffering from the sourest of genus Vitis1.
This being the Age of the Internet, nothing is ever measured or appropriate. For every thoughtful critique, there have been a hundred (or maybe a thousand, or ten thousand) raving ragestorms of rebuke. People flocked to Amazon to 1-star her work. Given that she’s a woman on the internet, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn she’s received rape or death threats (I’ve not seen evidence of this, but then I also haven’t gone looking). A week later, I’m still seeing Lynn Shepherd tweets and posts.
So why did I buy her book?
I feel some empathy for her. As someone who also has behaved badly on the internet2, I know how easy it is to say something which seems clever or edgy in the moment, but in retrospect turns out to be raging assholism. And as a writer who’s struggled to build a career, I can appreciate that sense the deck is stacked against you.
I still think Ms. Shepherd’s post was wrongheaded and ill-considered, but that doesn’t mean I think she should suffer abuse or be 1-starred into the mud. (And I’m not alone.) People are angry she criticized Rowling without actually reading her work. That’s fair. But the fair response is not, in my view, to do the same to her.
So I bought Murder at Mansfield Park with a mind to read it and judge on its merits, and not on the basis of one post3. (I chose it over other offerings because Jane Austen!) I’ll let you know what I think of it.
I’ve seen Shepherd’s apology in the aftermath of her post, and I admit it struck me as a bit of non-apology apology. You may have read it differently, either more critically than me, or less. I agree it is difficult for writers to find an audience, and that’s frustrating and often disheartening. But I don’t agree with her assessment of the marketplace for books.