Here's what has happened to me several times in the past month or so: I publish or present something, and get a bi-polar (or even tri-polar) reaction from the audience. One guy enthusiastically says a particular work is very scholarly... then another puts even more enthusiasm into his criticisms of how unscholarly it is. Are either of them right?
Or how about this: a single article is alternatively described, with great conviction by all parties involved, as hilarious, chilling, or thought-provoking by some people (a confusing enough range of reactions), then it gets a tepid response by some others, and elicits a strong negative reaction from a third group, who say it's not creative enough, not saying anything new, not clear, excessively cynical, etc.
How can one piece of work be a comic masterpiece and a boring waste of time... all at once? How can it be the height of creativity and the depth of unoriginality, or an encouraging bit of cynicism? OK guys, am I on candid camera? Is someone just messing with my head here?
Of course, I prefer hearing people say they like my stuff, but the truth is I really like hearing from critics too. In fact, my favorite bit of "fan mail" contained the line "You guys should be ashamed of yourselves." I hung that letter on my office wall for months.
But I have to admit I'm not quite sure what to make of a situation where I paint a wall red and one person loves how blue it is... while another hates it for being green. Argh!
Like I said, I am beginning to understand now why some people never read their reviews... and I am reminded of something the great American philosopher John Travolta once said, "I wasn't that good, and I'm not that bad..."