Update, February 10, 2014: I've just changed the first sentence of the post below, because I was informed--and rightly so--that a word I used could (easily) be construed as racist. I should have been (much) more careful about my word choice. I would have objected to Ms. Allende's statements just as strongly if she were a caucasian male.
by Erin Mitchell
I was going to title this post, “Why Being a Nasty Jerk to Readers is Not Good Marketing.” But that seems a little too long. Still, it’s true.
Yesterday on All Things Considered NPR did an interview with the author Isabel Allende. You can listen to it here. Go ahead; I’ll wait.
Ms. Allende’s new book, RIPPER, is some kind of thriller, which is a departure from her usual magical-realism-literary-fiction. Now that you’ve heard the interview, you know that she has what can only be described as disdain for crime fiction and those of us who read it.
I’m angry about this interview as a reader and a marketeer for a bunch of reasons. Among them:
“I’m not a fan of mysteries,” says Ms. Allende. What a shock. Perhaps that’s because your mind is too small, your world too narrow, to appreciate the genre.
Ms. Allende is “surrounded by young people” and her book hinges on the “online world,” and yet she doesn’t participate in anything online (she has a Twitter account she doesn't use). But she claims to be keen on accurate research. I’m sure someone with Ms. Allende’s enormous brain can figure out what’s wrong with this picture.
Ms. Allende seems to think that using a teenage nerd as detective and setting a thriller in San Francisco are somehow innovative. She would think this since she doesn’t read the genre, save a couple of Steig Larsson and Jo Nesbo tomes. Had she bothered to do any, um, research, she would have known this is nothing new.
Look, if Ms. Allende wants to sneer down her nose from her stepstool at the rest of us, that’s her prerogative. But this interview insulted a lot of people, many of whom are influential when it comes to recommending books. I first heard about it from McKenna Jordan of Murder by the Book, who was so put out by Ms. Allende’s attitude that she has returned the store’s order of RIPPER, thereby saving the many readers who depend on her store for recommendations from it.
Is crime fiction formulaic? Yeah, some of it is. Is it violent, funny, beautiful, and insightful? Yep.
That All Things Considered gave Ms. Allende airtime is deeply disappointing to me. Yes, the show as a whole can at times revel in its pretentiousness, but the list of authors who would have contributed something to the general discourse is long…and Ms. Allende isn’t on it. I hope their producers consider (see what I did there?) their choices a bit more carefully in future.
Perhaps Ms. Allende’s agent should change her tack, as her attitudes are most obviously far past their sell-by date. Her snotty elitism has no place in the reading universe.