I sense that the question is being asked in an epistemological sense: that is, to gather knowledge. I sense that the questioner wants to hear opinions, but not really to adopt any of them.
Because who is anyone kidding? Writers work like Trojans at making a book, work like Trojans to get someone to like it and accept it and publish it, and then work like Trojans to do everything on earth to help publicize it. Media of all makes and models chop to bits anyone’s ability to concentrate on much of anything for more than five minutes. Therefore, any words from anyone, anywhere about our beloved book are going to take on, shall we say, a rather urgent significance.
Also, there’s practical husbandry to consider: we’ll need to cull the good parts, for quotation on our websites and jacket-flaps.
If reviews are good, tant mieux, as the canny French say. So much the better. Go ahead: be blinded by them temporarily. Become flooded by performance anxiety (how can I follow my own act?). Or conversely, let your ego balloon up to the size of a Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade float. It will all settle down again in a stunningly short time, and you’ll find yourself right back at the desk, filled with confusion, hopefulness, and self-doubt, same as always. And then at some point (exactly when, you’re unable in retrospect to pinpoint), you’ll be caught up in an interesting line on the page or screen, some thread or description that will, thank merciful heaven, lead you back into the work at hand.
If reviews are mixed or lousy or downright unfair, tant pis. Too bad. Go ahead and do whatever you must. Drink, eat an entire box of doughnuts, swim miles, run miles, cry, bury your face in your partner’s neck or your dog’s neck. Then: in an amazingly short amount of time? Yes. Right back at the desk, with the (gingerly resuming) dreams.
There’s a deep satisfaction, finally, in the razing of both states—elation, despair—replaced at last by the supreme relief of regaining invisibility, silence, and peace, working on the next project.
Astonishingly, you find you needed that, and wanted it back, most of all.
Joan Frank is the author of five books of fiction, and a recent essay collection called Because You Have To: A Writing Life, just nominated for the ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award in Nonfiction. Joan holds an MFA in creative fiction from Warren Wilson College, is a MacDowell Colony Fellow, Pushcart Prize nominee, winner of the ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award in Short Fiction, Richard Sullivan Prize, Dana Award, and is the recipient of grants from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation, and Sonoma Arts Council. A two-time nominee for the Northern California Book Award in Fiction and San Francisco Library Literary Laureate, Joan has taught creative writing at San Francisco State University, and continues to teach and edit in private consultation. Joan also regularly reviews literary fiction for the San Francisco Chronicle Book Review. She lives in Northern California.