The Washington Post

Cheryl Strayed ‘zaps’ her critics

Cheryl Strayed, "Wild" (Knopf) Cheryl Strayed, “Wild” (Knopf)

Bestselling writer Cheryl Strayed told her friends on Facebook Wednesday night that she can’t understand what motivates the most vituperative critics of her books.

“I pity them,” she writes. “I marvel at the ugliness it takes to gather one’s forces in the direction of what one loathes rather than loves — to go out of one’s way to say to a writer: YOU SUCK.”

Within eight hours, her post had garnered more than 3,000 “likes” and hundreds of supportive comments.

Strayed doesn’t indicate which “hater” inspired her dismay. But certainly her fans outnumber her critics. Her second book, a memoir called “Wild,” was published last spring and became a No. 1 bestseller for many weeks. Oprah chose the book to relaunch her bookclub. Reese Witherspoon is playing her in the upcoming movie version. And last night “Wild” was chosen as one of the 35 books to be distributed during the US World Book Night in April 2014.

But all that success can’t completely insulate an author from the pain of a negative comment.

“I don’t expect everyone to love my books,” she writes on Facebook. “In fact, I frankly expect the opposite. (In the history of books, there isn’t one everyone loves.)”

So how does she deal with the haters?

“I send out a little silent non-God-connected prayer to the jackass who felt the need to share his or her jack-assed-ness with me. And then, without comment, I zap them forever from this page.”

That sounds healthier than Alain de Botton’s method. He once told a critic, “I will hate you till the day I die and wish you nothing but ill will in every career move you make.”


Ron Charles is the editor of The Washington Post's Book World. For a dozen years, he enjoyed teaching American literature and critical theory in the Midwest, but finally switched to journalism when he realized that if he graded one more paper, he'd go crazy.



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Ron Charles · October 24, 2013