- A book critic from the Los Angeles Times (who had previously worked as a theater critic for the New York Times) wrote an extremely hostile review1 of Moon Palace. Not just a negative review, but an out-and-out assault. [... Perhaps a year later, a New York Times op-ed page editor and I went to a restaurant,] and when the lunch was over and we were about to leave, he spotted the reviewer from the L.A. Times, his former colleague in New York. "Look, there's X," he said. "Let's go over and say hello." I didn't have time to tell him that X has written a nasty review of my novel and that I had no desire to meet him. When the op-ed page editor announced my name to X, the man's face went white, and I saw fear in his eyes. He looked like someone expecting to be punched, and I confess that for a brief instant I felt tempted to oblige him. But only for an instant. It seemed far better to pretend that I had no idea who he was, had never heard of his name, had never read the review, and therefore I politely shook his hand and told him how happy I was to meet him. He looked both shocked and relieved - there was no punch, after all - and for those few moments I felt a strange sense of power (never felt before, never since), knowing that I was in complete control of this man's fate, that he was utterly in my hands. I had behaved beautifully, I thought, and I left the restaurant basking in my moral triumph.
Now I'm note sure I did the right thing. Years passed, many years, and eventually X returned to the New York Times as an occasional reviewer of books. [...] Last year (fall 2008) I opened my morning copy of the Times to read over breakfast, and there, to my surprise, was a review of Man in the Dark by X. [...] Another blistering attack by the man I probably should have punched twenty years ago. One sentence has stuck with me and will never be expunged from my mind: "Paul Auster does not believe in traditional fictional values."2 What on earth does that mean? It sounds like something a right-wing politician might say during an election campaign.
- Anyway, bravo to you for your forbearance, and boo to the critic in question for failing to be ennobled by your example.