Alain de Botton tells New York Times reviewer: 'I will hate you until I die'
Alain de Botton, the philosopher and author, has launched an extraordinary internet attack on a book reviewer, telling him: "I will hate you until the day I die".
The outburst followed a poor review of de Botton's book The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, by Caleb Crain in The New York Times.
The author, whose books include Essays in Love and The Consolations of Philosophy, lost his temper during a posting on Crain's blog, Steamboats Are Ruining Everything.
"In my eyes, and all those who have read it with anything like impartiality, it is a review driven by an almost manic desire to bad-mouth and perversely depreciate anything of value," he wrote. "The accusations you level at me are simply extraordinary."
He went on: "I genuinely hope that you will find yourself on the receiving end of such a daft review some time very soon so that you can grow up and start to take some responsibility for your work as a reviewer. You have now killed my book in the United States, nothing short of that. So that's two years of work down the drain in one miserable 900 word review."
The author, who has written widely about the pursuit of happiness, concluded: "I will hate you till the day I die and wish you nothing but ill will in every career move you make. I will be watching with interest and schadenfreude."
The posting came after Crain's review on June 24, in which he accused de Botton of indulging in a "kind of mockery" of those he had interviewed; of "losing track" of the book's aim and reaching "superficial" judgments about people.
Accusing de Botton of being a snob, he highlighted one episode in which de Botton noted that the career counsellor's home office he was visiting smelled "powerfully of freshly boiled cabbage or swede".
Asked if he wanted to apologise to Crain for his comments, de Botton said he would do so "because it does not cost me anything" but continued to criticise the New York Times review.
"I'm very happy to apologise to him but I think his review steps beyond the boundaries," he said.
Admitting he had lost his temper and that to do so from time to time was not a bad thing he said: "What particularly annoyed me was that he started blogging about his review, about how wise and judicious he was."
Consequently, de Botton said he posted a response to the blog, that was intended for Crain alone to read.
"It was a private communication to his website, to him as a blogger," he said. "It's appalling that it seems that I'm telling the world."
However, he said authors had a right to be angry with unfair reviews.
"Authors should not always turn the other cheek," he argued. "Authors are totally powerless in the face of reviewers. Someone can go into print and say 'This person has published the worst book on Earth' and basically the author can't do anything about it."
He said: "There's an onus on the reviewer to be halfway fair. Essentially, give the reader a sense of what's going on, try and give its merits and demerits."
But some reviews "are just not fair" he lamented. He implied that declining circulation at the New York Times had led it to publish the review.
"The New York Times is in its declining years. They don't really care, they quite like to cause a storm."
The paper had an added responsibility to be even-handed in its reviews, he said, because of the position of unusual dominance it held over the American book market.
He also posted a message on Twitter, saying: "i was so wrong, so unself-controlled. Now I am so sorry and ashamed of myself."
The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work has received mixed reviews in Britain, with The Times' Naomi Wolf saying she was "ready to hurl it across the room" after 40 pages and The Sunday Telegraph's Anne Bilson concluding "Thank God for Alain de Botton."
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