Wife-beater? Freeloader? Menace to society?

Restaurants are now suing newspapers for bad reviews claiming “defamation” and loss of business. But how should authors respond to bad reviews? Should they just be thankful for the publicity? Should they get into a slanging match with the reviewer and hope for the best?

Should they, as Shobhaa De, the author of “Superstar India” has done, get personal?

De’s latest book has got a poor review in India’s leading English magazines, India Today and Outlook. India Today‘s reviewer tore into the book calling it “the worst thing she has written” and said its subtitle “From Incredible to Unstoppable” made him wonder if it was commissioned by the ministry of tourism. Outlook‘s reviewer called it “quite mediocre” and said it read like a “teenager’s diary”. Etcetera.

But De, former editor of the film magazine Stardust (and the shortlived Celebrity), and the woman who has won titles such as Sultana of Scuttlebutt and “Maharani of Muck” with aplomb, goes below the belt in response.

In an interview with Arathi Menon of Deccan Herald today, De is asked of the unkind reviews that have greeted the book in India. Her response?

“The particular review you are referring to (in a leading magazine) is a personal attack on me. The person who wrote it is a wife-beater; a freeloader; a frustrated has-been and a menace to society. There are other ratings that have already put the book on the best-seller list. So do I really care about that interview?”

As the pioneer of bitchy page 3 journalism, Shobhaa De of course doesn’t name the reviewer or the publication, but if the reviewer/s had given a good review of the book, would De have been enlightening the world with such vengeance in public?

Is the reviewer’s past or present relevant to the debate at all? Or should she be answering the criticism of the reviewer?

Photograph: cortesy Newsline, Pakistan

Read the India Today review here: De turns into night

Read Shobhaa De’s interview here: 60 years young

Also read: Singer Sonu Nigam accuses reviewer Subhash K. Jha of “sexual assault”