12 November 2007

Ted Hughes on the danger of good reviews

So I’ve doing a bit of a study on Anne Sexton and her poetry lately. In her biography I found an interesting quote about how good book reviews can bad for you, from a letter Ted Hughes wrote to Anne Sexton after she had received some bad reviews in England.

Knowing that she was smarting over the bad reviews, he wrote her consolingly, saying don’t worry, good reviews are bad for poets. He went on to compile a catalogue of the harms produced by favourable reviews: "they tend to confirm one in one’s conceit - unless they praise what you yourself don’t like. Also they make you self-conscious about your virtues - just as when you praise a child for some natural charm. Also they create an underground opposition: applause is the beginning of abuse. Also they deprive you of your own anarchic liberties - by electing you into the government. Also, they separate you from your devil, which hates being observed and only works happily incognito." (Page 283, Anne Sexton: A biography, by Diane Wood Middlebrook.)

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