We’re thrilled to welcome Jacqueline Brocker, on tour today for her latest release, Body & Bow.
Artistic Temperaments and Bad Reviews
Thanks, Adriana, for having me here today!
This is not yet another post for writers on ‘how to cope with bad reviews.’ In fact, I wouldn’t really recommend the reactions to bad reviews as displayed by my musicians in Body & Bow. Instead, I want to explore a little the idea that bad reviews provide an excellent starting point as a source of tension (in fiction, that is – they are something we prefer to avoid in real life!), particularly when you have two characters to compare and contrast. In this case, we have a musical duo – the loud, exuberant American cellist Leonard Sanderson, and the quiet, almost shadowy figure of the violinist Marco Lambrosini.
Bad reviews come with the territory in the world of the arts. The hard fact of putting yourself out there is someone will – inevitably – be less than kind about your writing, your printing, your singing, whatever it is you do. Sometimes critics are just plain bored with your work. Sometimes outright mean or so spiteful you wonder if you killed their grandmother in a past life.
But sometimes, critics are downright funny about it.
Body & Bow has one such music critic. Klarissa Archer, we learn even before she appears on the page, writes reviews that are designed to score the maximum amount of laughs per word. I would defy any of us – even the most sensitive – to say they have never delighted in the schadenfreude of a hilarious review of an awful film, even if, when you think about it, someone has put a lot of effort into creating it in the first place. It is to this mind-set that Klarissa subscribes, and she does so with great relish. The reader, however, soon discovers that Klarrissa might have other intentions. Especially regarding the duo featured in Body & Bow… but to tell more would be a spoiler.
So how do each of our musicians respond? In quite opposite ways. On the one hand, Leonard is not best pleased by Klarrissa’s review. Ok, best pleased is an understatement. He goes through the proverbial roof, and one fears he might even deck Klarissa if given half a chance. Marco, on the other hand, appears to take it in his stride, cooly accepting that bad reviews are a matter of course, and that the opinion of one critic, intent on getting a strong reaction, is not worthy frothing at the mouth over. Of course, this easy reaction belies a more devious turn of mind, one which intrigues and surprises both Leonard and Klarissa…
It is an interesting question though, how do different artists deal with bad, even mocking, responses to their work. Do they erupt in rage, railing at the critic and wishing a thousand curses on their head in an open letter, blog post, or tweet, that will follow their career like a bad smell? Do they quietly seethe, claiming the moral high-ground but keep it all bottled up and unleash the bitterness at someone who doesn’t deserve the ire but just happened to be there when it finally happened? Do they take the advice of Adam Gopnik, and be almost terminably polite about it that the critic will be left with a sense of confusion and perhaps quiet terror? (See his amusing podcast here on the topic, How to Cope with a Bad Review: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01jxw57) In the case of Body & Bow, the review and Leonard and Marco’s reactions to it, serve as a catalyst for opening up further tensions between the duo and their critic (Marco and Leonard are on the verge of ending their partnership, and one has to wonder if the Klarissa’s words might have a ring of truth in them) – how they all react reminds us that sometimes we need a bit of kick in the face to make a change, and that bad reviews are an inevitable part of what it is to be an artist.
And if we can’t learn from the review itself, let’s hope that we can learn something more about ourselves in how respond to them when they come.
Leonard yawned as he entered the Hilton breakfast room. God, he thought, you play, you fuck, you barely get time to sleep. He wouldn’t normally have been stumbling through the warm pastel rose-coloured room so damn early, but he was aiming to find the morning paper, and the review of last night’s performance.
The blonde he’d carried back to the hotel room the night before had slipped away before dawn. Probably a good thing; always better if it was just him and Marco to crow over the praise.
Damn, they did good last night. Good enough that the pretty blonde had come to the stage door and thrown herself at Leonard, edging just ahead of three other possible ladies. Of course, that hadn’t stopped him from taking down their numbers, and he wondered what the fetching lady with the black hair and wide hips was doing later that night. Thank God their free Thursday gave Leonard time to savour the ladies of London before their Friday and Saturday concerts.
Marco was already there, sitting alone at a table, eyes staring dully across his used plates. He nursed a cup of what must have been espresso, and only raised his eyebrows in good morning to Leonard when Leonard sat opposite him.
“Right, buddy, where’s the—ah, swell.”
The broadsheet was still on the front cover, it looked like Marco hadn’t touched it yet.
Leonard’s fingertips pried at the edge. “Read it?”
Marco shook his head. “Waiting for you.”
“Right.” Leonard turned the pages crisply to the Arts and Entertainment section, and his eyes scanned for their piece. He smiled when he saw their photograph; it was one of their typical publicity shots, Marco standing next to him, violin poised in hand, and Leonard with his head thrown back. His hair looked good in it. Ok, his hair always looked good, but that one was damn fine.
In the next second, though, Leonard read the headline, and his eye twitched. By the time he’d finished reading the whole piece, his neck was pulsing, and he wanted to tear the paper in half.
“That tone-deaf bitch!”
Patrons at the other tables jumped, and shot horrified looks in his direction. Marco’s eyes flicked upwards to meet his, but he didn’t jerk his hand and spill his coffee. How could he not? Leonard fumed, smacked the paper down, and pointed to the headline.
Marco leaned forwarded, read the headline, and merely raised his eyebrows.
Leonard spluttered. “How can you be so damn calm?”
“It is not the kindest headline we have ever had.”
“‘Chamber music? More like torture chamber!’ Kind doesn’t come into it! This is pure trash!”
“Is it Klarissa’s work?”
“Klarissa Archer. You recall Sven’s review – hammering at the keys like a Viking clubbing baby seals?”
Leonard snatched the paper up again. He found the thumbnail of the reviewer’s picture – yes, it was this bitch, Archer. Who was she anyway? He glared at the photograph, trying to place her. Maybe he’d seen her at a function? Most likely. There were enough floozies at those places anyway.
“Well, she wasn’t entirely wrong about Sven. But us! Listen to this:
“When one attends an evening of Baroque chamber music, one expects elegance, delicacy, the finely tempered sounds of constrained passion. With Leonard Sanderson and Marco Lambrosini, this audience member found herself twisting internally from a truly cacophonous clanging that suggested a strenuous wrestling match between two drunks covered in cowbells. How Sanderson (cello) and Lambrosini (violin) are able to pull this off is quite a feat, if not exactly the makings of an entertaining or even bearable evening.”
A cart came past them, and Marco said, “Croissant, Leonard?”
Blurb and where to buy
Upon reading Klarissa Archer’s scathing review of their latest performance, cellist Leonard Sanderson and violinist Marco Lambrosini have very different reactions. Leonard is filled with rage. Marco invites Klarissa for drinks. Pleased that she has so upset the arrogant Sanderson Klarissa accepts Marco’s offer, unaware that he has something in mind for her, Leonard, velvet ropes and the bows of cello and violin. (M/F/M)
Body & Bow can be bought from Forbidden Fiction at: http://forbidden-fiction.com/library/story/JB1-1.000094
Jacqueline Brocker is an Australian writer living in the UK. She has published several short erotic stories with various publishers, and also self-published several works. Her first erotic novella, Body & Bow, is published by Forbidden Fiction, from whom she has two short stories forthcoming later this year. When not writing, or Scottish Country Dancing, she can be found reading by the banks of the River Cam.
I have a special board for Body & Bow too! http://pinterest.com/jacquib19/body-bow/