That's my all-time favorite anonymous Barnes & Noble review of TLOLL. Especially the last sentence. If you're going to trash my work, aim for a memorable closer. It's so much more fun than mere petulance.
Honest dislike of my work has become a very easy thing for me to live with (as differentiated from dishonest/incomplete readings of a text and false/stupid personal accusations, which will always hit my small thermal exhaust port) because I have embraced a little magic spell that goes like this: De gustibus non est disputandum. Nothing in the history of human art has been universally popular or acclaimed. Nothing. Educated people of good faith and taste are still arguing the merits of War and Peace, for crying out loud. You think it shocks or offends me to discover that not everyone adores The Lies of Locke Lamora? Fucking get real.
Naturally, a certain percentage of the book's critics are barely capable of using flush toilets and shouldn't be allowed out in public unless rolled in three layers of Nerf for their own safety. Another portion are the sorts of narcissists who are genuinely shocked each time someone else writes a book without their permission and oversight. And yet I think the vast majority of the book's critics are probably on to something... either sincerely incapable of interfacing with the work or accurately noting certain defects that preclude their enjoyment. Accurately? Yes indeed. Over the years I've come to strongly agree on several points with many critics of TLOLL.
It's only natural to look back at something written seven-odd years ago in the light of how I'd write it now (or, no doubt, years from now). That isn't to say I'll ever do so. I happen to think that's another crippling variety of auctorial insanity. The Lies of Locke Lamora reflects the state of my craft and my person in 2004-5, and for better or for worse, it always shall. Much as I'd love to smooth it out, rewrite some of the rougher patches, clarify certain things, and slightly adjust a few of the characters, I think actually engaging in that sort of behavior is a trap. It's not my fucking job (and it shouldn't be my privilege) to keep old books in a state of perpetual revision. They're out! The children have left home. The text has been read. You've seen it, readers, and you can't un-see it. George Lucas is clearly going to be changing piddly, trivial, ridiculous shit in the original Star Wars films until he drops dead... and while I'd love those piles of money, I don't want that baggage. That myopia.
So The Lies of Locke Lamora is going to look as it does now... forever. There will never be an Author's New and Amended Edition, reflecting how I write and feel when I'm 35 or 40 or 96, if I still have a pulse when those milestones roll past. Only in the most extreme circumstances would I consider that sort of thing, for a work that I considered fundamentally damaged or published contrary to my vision. "In the Stacks," for example, will be given a revision and an expansion, due to the fact that it was composed during the very darkest days of my untreated depression. As lovely as the response to it has been, I think it deserves better than I was able to give it (and meant to give it). The Lies of Locke Lamora, on the other hand, suffered from no lack of enthusiasm or energy during its composition. Its failures are honest and unmitigated ones.
Let me share a few of my thoughts on the defects of my work with you:
Nam castum esse decet pium poetam
ipsum, versiculos nihil necessest
Loosely translated: It's good and proper for a poet to be moral, but in no way necessary for his poems. Interestingly, if you read the entirety of that poem framing that sentiment, Catullus 16, you'll find that it's eye-scorchingly vulgar. Catullus, like Martial, wrote stuff that would make any latter-day moral scold have a coronary. Keep that in mind next time some self-righteous windbag starts bloviating about the upright virtues of the classical world... those old Greeks and Romans bowed to nobody when it came to blazing vulgarity.
I suppose that's much more of a self-defense than a self-criticism, so I will say that there are many places in the book where I would, with deeper reflection or more developed aesthetic sense, not have scattered obscenities quite so haphazardly, but reserved them for greater impact and more creative conjunctions.
I give a shit about this in the context of TLOLL because it creates an incongruous visual impression of what I meant the Therin city-states to look like. There are far more dark-skinned cast members from Red Seas on, and as a result of my inattention in TLOLL, it looks like it suddenly started raining black people between books. Had I been on the ball, I would have clued readers in to the fact that they were there all along.