Having a just published a book (Memoir: A History–thanks for asking!) I naturally am interested in getting it reviewed as widely and favorably as possible. That explains my mixed feelings at just getting the following e-mail:
“I enjoyed your book on memoir–hence my pending friend request. I’m reviewing it.” (emphasis added)
So what should I do vis a vis the pending Facebook friend request?
I don’t have time to wait for Randy Cohen, the New York Times Magazine Ethicist, so I am asking you(se).
Update, later that same day:
Thank you for your sage advice (in the Comments, below). What I may not have made clear is, first, my possibly paranoid sense that this person was saying, in effect, “Be my friend or I will rip your book.”
The other thing I did not express is my Facebook ambivalence. The first time I heard about it was four-plus years ago, was when my then-student and now friend Nicole Sarrubbo wrote an article about it for my feature-writing class. Sometime after it migrated from college students to old people, I was friended by someone and I joined. That was where it stood for a while. Eventually, I started getting more involved and actually friended Nicole. I still recall her reply: “Four friends and no picture. Pretty pathetic.”
At this point, I have … well, one of the numerous annoying things about Facebook is its insistence on quantifying, so never mind how many FB friends I have. (I have never been friended by, nor would I ever friend, a current student–so I found it interesting to read today in the Chronicle of Higher Education about an Illinois State prof who requires that his students friend him. Writing that sentence, with its odd verbs, reminds me that the New Oxford American dictionary has just puckishly chosen the even odder verb “unfriend”—used by Andy Cassel in his comment to this post—as its Word of the Year.) The updates and comments of some of my friends are great–they’ve gotten to be regular and enjoyable part of my day. It’s cool to be friends, even this nonintimate and very particular kind of friend, with Robert Lipsyte, whose New York Times sports columns I devoured as a youth. And I like periodically throwing out my own Larry King-like apercus. (Today, for example, I announced “Rebecca Roberts: The Best ‘Talk of the Nation’ host since Ray Suarez!”)
But other aspects are weird. Some friends, whom I’d like to hear about, never seem to post anything. Others have set the bar of update-worthiness alarmingly low. Others seem to use Facebook as a forum to mechanically promote their own work on other platforms–and I sometimes wonder if I’m guilty of that myself.
At this point, Facebook is like a room in my house that it feels worthwhile to walk around in once in a while. Definitely don’t want to knock down any walls to expand it. Thus I add to my FB friend roster only (real) friends, or people whose work I know and admire.
Since my future reviewer is in neither group, his request will get no response. Along with everything else, as Chris Yasiejko suggests in his Comment, it’s strange and inappropriate for a reviewer to contact reviewee pre-review. As for his eventual assessment of my book, I’m thinking anything more positive than a hatchet job will be a win.