Monday, March 23, 2009

The High Road Award--Philip Lee

Like many bloggers, I pride myself on honesty. I don't tend to be snarky, but I don't see the point in gushing over every book that was just Pretty Good, either. Some authors understand this; others get hurt feelings. I've seen author comments that made my toes curl. The commenter never does himself or herself any favors by curling people's toes. Word spreads around the internet and the negativity associated with the author's name lingers long after the review would have been forgotten.

Today Philip Lee left a really thoughtful comment on my review of his memoir. I liked the book, but pointed out several ways in which it wasn't what I'd hoped it would be. Lee took the high road, cordially responding to every criticism I had of Bittersweet, in a nondefensive way, that made me think.

Memoir is such an interesting and often controversial genre right now. In a time when some writers have been called out for embellishing the truth, Lee made every effort to be accurate and to protect the privacy of the other people involved in his story. Me? I was bummed because I wanted more dialogue and details. As Lee says, that's not the book he set out to write. In his words, Bittersweet is,
in part a memoir but also an exploration of marriage, love, families, and how to get happy. My narrative holds the book together but the subject matter is universal (I hope).
Please read his full comment, here. After reading Mr. Lee's excellent points, I wouldn't change my original post--but I'm so glad he took the time to respond in a constructive way that adds more depth to my review, by contributing a perspective that's quite different from my own. No, hold on--I would change my post. I'd add this: Every criticism I have can be boiled down to one thing: it wasn't the book I thought I was sitting down to read.

I'm giving the High Road Award to Professor Lee. I created this new award, for authors who take the time to leave meaningful comments on less-than-glowing reviews of their books. Feel free to bestow it on other authors, any time it's called for.

What author would you offer the High Road Award to? Has your opinion of a book ever been swayed by a comment (or another review), after the fact?


You can learn more about Bittersweet, on the Goose Lane website or the author's website, The Mysterious East. If you're interested in a journalist's exploration of marriage and relationships, written in a style so personable that you'll wish you could have the author and his whole family over for dinner, I highly recommend giving Bittersweet a try.

*thanks to for the image macro generator that added text to the public domain image I used for the award graphic.


  1. Way to go Philip Lee! I've never had a negative response from an author. One author thanked me for reviewing her book and my review was lukewarm. I thought a lot of her after that.

  2. Wow, Ali! What a wonderful post. I've never understood why an author would "attack" someone for a review. I went and read Philip Lee's whole comment to you, and I was so very impressed. It made me want to go find his book...a book I probably wouldn't have been interested in no matter how many glowing reviews I'd read. Simply because it's just not my type of read. But the respect and appreciation he just showed makes me think that he's the type of author I'd like to support. Thanks for sharing that, Ali!

  3. What a great post, and a great idea. I think Mr. Lee showed a lot of class in this instance.

  4. Nice post Ali, I'm glad you did this. We spend a lot of time pointing out snarky and toe-curling people, it's nice to have the chance to point out classy people too. Reading your review, his comment, and this post made me smile.


  5. cool! I'm going to re-read that post/comments now. :)

  6. I am so impressed with his response, Ali. He deserves recognition for taking the high road. Very cool.

    By the way, I gave you an award! Come check it out!

  7. I do want to read his book now- it sounded interesting to begin with but now I have a sense of the author's intentions- which always enhances the reading experience.

  8. Great post! Kudos to Philip Lee for his polite and illuminating response, and to you for recognizing that and creating this award.

    I like what you concluded "it wasn't the book you thought you were sitting down to read".

  9. Thanks for sharing this. I think Mr. Lee will be holding on that award for awhile.

  10. Thanks to all of you for all the feedback on this one, every one of you made me smile! As did Philip Lee's post about it on his blog. You'll be glad to know, he accepts the award in the spirit of goodwill with which it was intended.