I’m sure I should write a post digesting the critical and readers’ responses to The Romantic and all that kind of morbid self-reflective thing (which I have made, indeed, a career out of) but frankly I can’t be arsed. At least not now.
The short version: baffling. People hated it who I thought would like it, and people loved it who I thought would be indifferent. ‘Feminists’ gave me a particularly hard time, which is frustrating since I am a feminist and I wrote the book with a feminist consciousness. Much attention on the sex, which is also frustrating since, though there is quite a bit of sex, it’s not because I am a slut or because I love sex. In fact, if you read the book, you’ll find the contrary. A sense of bemusement from reviewers that the book isn’t just like In My Skin, generally agreed to be a much more agreeable book. Resentment, too, from reviewers that my book was either too much like the ghastly and world-consuming Eat Pray Love or not enough like it. Acknowledgement in most reviews that The Romantic is nicely written.
On the other hand, the public is apparently buying it, bookshops stocking it and reordering, people personally telling me that they’ve enjoyed it very much, and online reviewers, noticably more than print reviewers, catching the cadences of irony and sorrow in the book instead of getting caught up on how many dildos and how many men I go through.
All in all it seems like years and years since the book came out. I can’t say I’m not disappointed, in the sense of frustrated, at how it’s been critiqued, because I think it’s actually a better-conceived book than In My Skin, more tightly written, more subtle and more challenging. But then I never have really understood what people saw in the first book! And the people who ‘get’ The Romantic are all getting elephant stamps and Christmas cards, they deserve it.
You writes your book, you publishes your book, you lives with your book, you moves on from your book, you writes the next.