You Have Not Got A Clue

Sep272007

You know, for the most part, readers are wonderful people and we love them. But as with any group there are some that are less wonderful. And from them we get letters. I’ve had my share of “you’re going to hell, you blasphemous slut” letters, those that accused me of not doing my research (my fave was from the woman who read Crazy For You and said, “You could at least have talked to a real teacher;” I wrote back and said, “Fifteen years in the Beavercreek School System, baby,”), even those who have accused me of not being me (“Whoever is writing your books these days, she’s not very good . . .”) and aside from that one about researching public school teaching, I usually write back, “Thank you for sharing, best wishes, Jenny Crusie.” But a pal of mine–no, really a pal of mine, not me–just got a letter that had us both in stitches. The letter is below with my pal’s name Xed out in case the letter writer is doing an internet search for her although given the content of the letter, I doubt it:

Hi, X, I picked up your book at the library and started to read it but was quickly disgusted by two things, your use of foul, vulgar language and disrespect for the quilting sisterhood that remains very strong today. We are a group of women who care about each other and would do anything for each other. And, we do not take the Lord’s name in vain as you do. Please do not put your name on anything with the word, “Quilt” ever again.
Quilting is a fine art and should not be sullied by people like you. And, of course, I should have know better than to think this would be a good book when I read that you are from New York. You have not got a clue how other people in the USA live and feel and think. Thanks, Y

Gotta love Y, who speaks for quilters and Americans everywhere against the godless upstate New York liberal commie blue-state romance novelists. I particularly love the “Thanks, Y” signature.

But even more, you gotta love my pal, who sent back this:

Dear Reader!

Thanks so much for writing! I am sorry, but because of all the fan mail I get, I can’t respond to every letter individually. But please know I do read them all, and I’m so glad you loved my books!

Best,
X

Is there any wonder I adore X?

Filed in X (Everything Else)

94 Comments to 'You Have Not Got A Clue'

On September 27, 2007 at 7:01 pm Louisa said...

Not every book is for everybody. Everyone has some hot buttons, and for this gal, they are quilting and cussing. Sad to say, I personally am much better at cussing that at quilting. Quilting is hard, but it’s useful. You get bedcovers out of it, recycle old clothes, express some artistic feelings. Never personally got any prognostications, but a girl can dream. Cussing, though, is easy. You just roll through life, and new cusswords and phrases settle on you like dustbunnies or liver spots. But, sometimes artistic, too.

I adore X, too.
Why am I the first comment? This is all wrong.

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On September 27, 2007 at 7:13 pm Phyllis said...

“But please know I do read them all, and I’m so glad you loved my books!” LOL!!!

No, Y is absolutely right! EVERYONE who quilts is a God-fearing Christian who would never in a million years take the lord’s name in vain. Every single one. All of us. Yep. Literally hundreds of customers who come through the fabric store where I work. You can’t even buy a sewing machine without a church membership card.

Never a harsh word against other quilters either, most of whom are missing a kidney as they have donated it to another quilter. Not to anyone who doesn’t quilt, of course, since quilting is the only criterion for doing “anything for each other.”

So X’s quilter who is a psychic and whose ex had a sex-change and somehow she comes to terms with that? NOT A REAL QUILTER.

I mean, besides that she’s a fictional character and all.

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On September 27, 2007 at 7:26 pm Louisa said...

Golly, Phyllis. I think we found another hot button in aisle 3! Very well expressed, too.

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On September 27, 2007 at 7:45 pm Rosie said...

Flummoxed by that letter. Unreal. Funny, in a sad ‘Why am I laughing at this?’ way. Glad X has a sense of humor about it all. Never put X’s name with the word ‘quilt’ again. Who monitors that I wonder? :)

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On September 27, 2007 at 7:55 pm Cynthia said...

Okay, that letter had me nearly spit my tea at the computer screen.

I could rant for days, no really, about how little quilters love each but I won’t. I’ve been a quilter for over a decade and have seen first hand just how badly they can behave.

X’s response is absolutely why we all love her. She gets a big gold star for being that nice.

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On September 27, 2007 at 8:04 pm Jenny said...

Actually, X is cackling because somewhere Y is screaming, “I didn’t love your book, you bitch!” and then realizing, horrified, that she just used Bad Language and has thus become a Non-Quilter, cast into outer darkness. With the knitters.

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On September 27, 2007 at 8:10 pm McB said...

Oookay. I read that book with ‘quilt’ in the title and don’t remember it being so vulgar language filled. Dang, now I’ll have to go back and reread it to find the stuff I missed.

But seriously, I agree with Rosie. Funny in a very sad way. Of all the issues out there that need voices raised, she chooses X’s book to get righteously indignant over. Maybe Bob’s right, maybe we are doomed.

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On September 27, 2007 at 8:12 pm Louisa said...

Is Y the quilting standard?

And can a person really get an autograph just for sending a fan letter?

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On September 27, 2007 at 8:17 pm Cynthia said...

Wait, you mean swearing isn’t a part of quilting? Damn, I swear almost every time I pick up a needle, and don’t get me started on the language I use in the direction of my sewing machine. Trust me, the first time you sew yourself to a piece of fabric, you’re going to swear – out loud, a lot.

Sadly however, there are oodles of Ys in the quilting world – which is the exact reason why I’m not part of a guild.

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On September 27, 2007 at 8:41 pm X said...

Hee. Tee hee. Tee hee hee.

It’s perverse, how much fun that was.

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On September 27, 2007 at 9:07 pm JulieB said...

Y is in the wrong quilting club. ‘Round these parts, if you don’t cuss like a sailor, you can’t be in the club.
I Love X. And I found her thanks to you. In fact, I gave that very book to a friend who’d been towered for her 50th birthday.

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On September 27, 2007 at 9:16 pm Louisa said...

Y must have been very disappointed to be so mad.

She must identify with the sisterhood of quilters–many quilting groups make quilts for AIDS victims, flood victims, people whose homes have been lost to fire, people involved in accidents. There’s really a lot of good work done by quilters. Not by me. My nine-patches are too lumpy for quilt tops, but the kids liked making dog-kerchiefs of of them.

So, Y sees this book in the library, and it has a beautiful cover, and it even has the world quilt in the title. She thinks, “That’s the very thing.”

Only, it’s not. She’s put off by the cussing, which I don’t really remember all that well, either. But Y got her hopes up–look at that! someone has taken notice of women like me.
Not!
So, rather than just dropping the book off at the desk, she takes the trouble to write out her hurt and frustration. Sure, the way she expresses it comes out as piety and judgmentalism. But, really, it’s disappointment. She’s really mad because she’s been really dissed (in her opinion) when she had expected to be included.

Not going to feel all superior to Y.

Still adore X.

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On September 27, 2007 at 9:17 pm Louisa said...

Just, maybe if we gave as much thought to real people as we do to our characters. Oh, okay, I understand real people only by viewing them as characters, but still.

Spending too much time at pickthebrain, I guess.

Just, sometimes you pick up a book, thinking, yippee! and it turns out to be filled with spring-loaded boxing gloves.

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On September 27, 2007 at 9:36 pm Jenny said...

Some People do not know how to keep a Secret Identity.

You know, that’s not disappointment up there, that’s judgment and bullying. Inept bullying, but still. If you’re disappointed, sure you get angry, but it takes a special kind of person to say, “I don’t like this and therefore I forbid you to write about this again.” And that’s before we get to the assumption that everybody in America is like her, except for those people in New York. Which must mean the city, forget the vast tracts of bucolic wonder upstate which is where X does her dishes.

I’m not a fan of bullying and intolerance. Even when it’s completely ineffective, it sets a bad example. And one of the best ways to combat bullying and intolerance is to show how ridiculous it is. In fact, this would be a very high-minded, public-spirited blog post if X would quit chortling.

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On September 27, 2007 at 9:51 pm X said...

Chortle.

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On September 27, 2007 at 9:57 pm robena grant said...

Perfect response, X. Heh. Would love to see the puzzled expression on her face when she receives it.

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On September 27, 2007 at 10:06 pm Louisa said...

Hey, X. Chortle.

I can’t help it. You know that kid in THE SIXTH SENSE? He sees dead people. I see third graders. Some folks’ third grader is right out there swinging. Others are stealthier. But still there for anyone who cares to pay attention. And possibly useful as characters in a future project. X has a book coming out in what? Two weeks? I am so stoked!

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On September 27, 2007 at 10:23 pm Jan D said...

You casting nasturtiums at knitters, Jenny? And X, I just read a book with a quilt motif. There was some expressive language. In fact, it was full of very expressive use of the English language. I absolutely loved it. Go X!

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On September 27, 2007 at 11:05 pm RfP said...

At least she’s an up-front crazy. “Hi, I hate you and I know you’re harboring those Martians in your garage” is so much easier to deal with than “Hi, I’m normal… here, sit down and relax… isn’t this pleasant? … all normal… all norm- YOUMARTIANLOVINGSLUT!”

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On September 27, 2007 at 11:13 pm CC said...

X- You love martians? Hmmm, do martians like to quilt?

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On September 27, 2007 at 11:45 pm inkgrrl said...

RfP, have you been talking to my neighbors?

X, you keep on keeping on with the not only foul but also vulgar language of the sailors, girlfriend.

I think the outer outer darkness is where we crocheters lurk. Those of us who eschew the casting and the purling are known for our inability to maintain long relationships with Aran cable patterns, despite our secret longings to be the handmaidens of the pointy and the stabby. Surely we would subject innocent, unvarnished quilting hoops to unnatural (and possibly illegal in at least 14 states) abuse in pursuit of a little quickie hook-and-twist of the wrist action. Shame on us for dreaming the impossible dream – that we too may one day stand in the presence of fine needlework whilst clutching our perversely bent, unsharpened tools of goddamned yarn-splitting loopiness and neither bow our heads in shame nor weep.

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On September 27, 2007 at 11:49 pm DownUnderGal said...

So, you’re not a real teacher and X’s not a real quilter….

For pete’s sake – you dont like it Y, throw it at the wall. Dont presume to speak for me. (not that I’m a quilter mind but if I was you can bet there’d be a few four letter words flying around)

Packing my bags for New York City. Sounds like my kinda place.

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On September 28, 2007 at 12:14 am kelita said...

Just sending hugs and smooches to X who (whom?) I adore and who sounds nothing at all like the aunt I thought you’d sound like – why I thought you would sound like a housewife from IL, I’ll never know. Keep that wine coming!

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On September 28, 2007 at 1:10 am Robin said...

My favorite example of the rhetorical strategy employed by X is in King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail: “Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work.” That invocation of both rhetorical and social power is stunning in the context of the setting (“While confined here in the Birmingham Jail…”).

Beyond the civil rights context, though, it’s sort of an interesting meditation on the power relations — or the perceptions of power relations — between authors and readers. Who has the power? When it comes to reader reaction to an author’s work, IMO the author always has the power, because she’s the one who has put her work out into the public sphere and who ultimately sets the tone and controls the dynamic with readers, whether it be through the book or through her direct interaction with readers. So any response like that X wrote (and some of X’s online comments over the past few years — well, more a year or so ago, maybe — made the note a bit surprising to me), no matter how clever, no matter how smart, no matter how on target and insightful, always feels a bit defensive to me in the way of a broom sweeping through a cobweb.

Of course, snark is not my talent, which means that I likely see it as more a weapon than those who excel at it and who know just how much pressure to exert before it becomes mere sarcasm. Still, though, Y’s letter struck me as conceding a fair amount power to X rather than as bullying. Regardless, it’s a reminder to me of how rough the terrain between readers and authors can be.

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On September 28, 2007 at 2:25 am Jenny said...

I think of it more as spheres of influence.

In my sphere of influence as a writer, I write the book I need to write.

In my sphere of influence as a reader, I read the book and pass judgment on it, recommend it or tell people to stay away, decide to buy again or not.

But as a writer, I can’t say, “You should read this” and as a reader I can’t say, “You shouldn’t write this.”

People have every right to object to the language in my books by telling other people the language is there and by refusing to buy my work again; they don’t have the right to tell me not to use that language.

I think the blurring of the lines comes because reading is a collaborative activity. The good writer leaves a lot of white space for the reader to lay in her own preferences and fantasies. Problems arise when some of the content makes that impossible and the reader gets frustrated because she literally can’t get into the book, whatever the content is that upset her, it’s blocking her. And the solution to that is to find another writer/collaborator which is what the vast majority of people do. Or as people in my critique group sometimes say when confronted with fantasy, “I’m not your reader.” Crossing the line is saying, “And nobody else is your reader, either, because they’re all like me, so stop doing that.”

Somebody asked me in an interview once what the responsibilities of the writer and the reader were. I knew the responsibilities of the writer inside out, but I’d never thought about the responsibilities of the reader; to me, anybody who paid money for my book was pretty much fulfilling her responsibility. But it was a job interview, so I thought about it and decided that the responsibility of the reader was to read the book with an open mind, to not read the words “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,” and say, “I don’t believe that.” To give the writer a fair shot at inviting her in, to maybe broaden her viewpoint some. If all a reader wants is fiction that repeats her own world view, she’s asking the writer to reinforce her,not entertain and illuminate.

In other words, the writer is the reader’s partner, not her servant.

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On September 28, 2007 at 3:22 am Robin said...

If all a reader wants is fiction that repeats her own world view, she’s asking the writer to reinforce her,not entertain and illuminate.

I couldn’t agree with this more. But I don’t see it as a reader’s responsibility, even though I absolutely view it as an ideal (in my world view, anyway).

People have every right to object to the language in my books by telling other people the language is there and by refusing to buy my work again; they don’t have the right to tell me not to use that language.

But is this really a question of rights? There’s a way in which this discussion strikes me as the inverse (or is that the obverse — I always get those two mixed up) of the Eileen Dreyer ‘rape in romance’ argument. I think Dreyer has every right to make her case, even though I disagree with her and will argue against her position as, IMO, untenable and restrictive. Y’s saying that quilters don’t behave a certain way and that X shouldn’t write about them that way. Dreyer’s saying that Romance doesn’t include rape and so books that include it shouldn’t be part of the genre (i.e. if you’re a Romance writer, you can’t write rape). That Dreyer’s position is infinitely more nuanced, differently intentioned, more conscious and conscientious doesn’t, IMO, eclipse the sense I have that readers and authors and editors and publishers speak all the time about what books should and shouldn’t (and sometimes even can and can’t) do. IMO it’s part of the great moral core of genre fiction (i.e. that genre fiction has an implicit morality, even if we might argue about what it is, exactly), and, perhaps, of reading more generally. We all do it, IMO.

I’m not going to defend Y’s letter or the content, but I think that if we reduce this to an issue of rights, she and her sisterhood have every right to say anything they want — within legal reason, of course (like if they threaten your dog or harass you or defame you). Just as the author has every right to write whatever book she wants (and more power to her), as well as the right to answer any reader any way she wants. At which point, IMO, the question becomes one of how to engage — or not — the renegade reader.

Obviously, in Y’s case, there are likely no future books by X in her future, so sending that note makes no difference to Y. But if the point is somehow for X to declare her independence of Y’s judgment, to assert her lack of indenture to Y’s expectations, to me, another reader, there is a subtext that works against that declaration. Certainly the response makes no claims for partnership with Y, and, as someone said above, what it invites from me is collaborative in a different sense (i.e. aren’t WE sane and clever). Not that reading X’s response would stop me — as a vicarious recipient — from reading X’s books if I find them worth reading. But in the battle of X and Y, I feel that X would have won hands down by not responding at all, because Y’s letter put her so clearly in control and showed that she so obviously had the advantage to begin with.

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On September 28, 2007 at 3:33 am Gini said...

“….cast into outer darkness. With the knitters.”

Hey, not me,I’m a holy knitter.

K1,P1,drop one,K1,P1,drop one, and ta-da a Holy Knitter is born.

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On September 28, 2007 at 3:58 am X said...

But in the battle of X and Y, I feel that X would have won hands down by not responding at all, because Y’s letter put her so clearly in control and showed that she so obviously had the advantage to begin with.

You know, this is honestly usually how I feel. I don’t respond to nasty reviews, and I don’t engage Crazy. As a matter of fact, Jenny will tell you that one of my classic responses when dealing with Crazy, either myself or for my friends, is, “Don’t poke the crazy bear.”

That said, I see nothing wrong with what I did here, and here is why.

As a writer, I provide a product. Readers are welcome to respond to it in any way they want. As a matter of fact, when receiving a letter saying, “I didn’t like this book so much,” my typical response is to thank them for trying me and, based on the reasons they gave for not liking my book, give recommendations of authors they might like. Honestly, I don’t care if someone is not my reader. Not everyone can be my reader, and that is a ridiculous and egotistical expectation.

That said, I’m not anyone’s punching bag, either. Y took the gloves off by coming at me with swinging fists of Crazy, and at that point, this was no longer a reader-writer thing. She got off easy, even with the mockery here, which she’ll probably never know about anyway. And there’s no anonymity on my part, which I would find unfair, although playing the part of X is exotic and fun.

Look, I don’t care who you are, reader or writer, there are certain ways you are simply not justified in talking to people, and Y deserved to be taken down a notch. And I did it in a way that was very kind – especially when you consider how she came at me. I respected her by not using a single foul or vulgar word, and I was cheerful and exuberant in the process. All I did by responding in this manner was to neutralize the Crazy. Considering the number of ways that I would have been wholly justified in responding, I think this was more humane and respectful than she’d earned.

And baby, it was fun.

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On September 28, 2007 at 4:06 am X said...

I do feel bad that I get to play X and Y has to be Y. That’s unfair. I hate anonymity online. I think it’s cheap and cowardly. When I gave Jenny permission, I should have thought about it more and asked that both Y and I be just Writer and Reader, because she deserves more protection than me, as she did not make the choice to put her words out in public… although, when you send an e-mail, you takes your chances where it’ll end up. I’m not trying to protect myself by being X, honestly; I was trying to protect her and now I wish I’d done a better job of it. On that level, I will fully cop to being out of line here.

But I stand by my response. Chortling, I stand by my response.

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On September 28, 2007 at 5:36 am Caryle said...

X, baby, chortle away. I know many fine sisters of the quilting world that swear their way through many a project. And as a person living in Iowa, I clearly also have no idea how the rest of the world feels and thinks; it must be all that fresh air. And the corn.

You’re fabulous, and a damned fine writer, too.

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On September 28, 2007 at 6:07 am Louisa said...

X–

Your response is fine. It satisfied you, entertained us, and will go right over Y’s head. With any luck, she won’t send you a reply carefully explaining that she did not love your books. If she does, just block that address and continue to write.

And podcast!

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On September 28, 2007 at 7:05 am Naked Under my Clothes said...

In all these decades of reading, and fewer of writing, it never occurred to me to deconstruct the metaphor of “I’m not into it.” But yeah, there’s a literal sense to the figurative sense. And yeah, it’s not just me acknowledging a lack of interest–some writers’ worlds, for whatever reason, don’t leave me enough room to participate. Thus I can’t “get in.” No mesh. Wow.

Man, I love a day when I can learn from a comment stream. Of course, it’s Jenny’s comment stream. Guess that explains it.

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On September 28, 2007 at 7:44 am Lynn said...

Wonder if she knows the woman in Maine who checked out two copies of a book she didn’t like and informed the library she would not be returning them? Alas, I do not have the required talent, skill, or patience to quilt. Even if I did, she need not presume to speak for me. I can handle that on my own.

Guess she’s never read Daniel Pennac’s “The Rights of the Reader;” number one is the right not to read. If she didn’t like the book, no one forced her to finish reading it.

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On September 28, 2007 at 9:08 am Marcia in OK said...

Never a dull minute around here.

Love the blog. Thanks for sharing Jenny. It is always interesting to see the way we meander our way through issues.

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On September 28, 2007 at 9:16 am Louisa said...

Lynn–
That is the same argument some make in favor of violent or sexually explicit or otherwise “unsavory” television content. They say, “If you don’t like it, turn it off.” Sorry, but that is a lame argument. I can turn my TV off. I have that power. I can keep the children in my household from seeing programs I find objectionable.

But, then, you know what? The kids in my household have to go out into the world and interact with children whose parents can’t be bothered to oversee them. Out there, the kids of my house are called “Hos” because they are girls. And that’s only the beginning of the crap they have to deal with from other kids and from low-functioning adults who mistake stupid, gleeful hatefulness for independent or revolutionary thought. So, yes, I can protect them from lousy TV & video games & music in my home, but I can’t protect them from the feral kids they encounter every day.

So, do we feed Y to the lions tonight, or just brand her with RWC and turn her loose in the woods?

Sometimes, I see third graders with torches and pitchforks, and that’s what makes me very, very sad.

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On September 28, 2007 at 9:21 am McB said...

Inkgrrl – I, too, am happier hooking than stabbing. I’ve always considered crochet as the underground cult of hobbies, and we the disciples who toil away in happy obscurity.

Jenny, I like the idea of writers and readers being in partnership. It’s the perfect symbiotic relationship! And yes, I have the right to read or not read, to recommend or not. And while I might criticize the quality (although not, of course, yours) I don’t have the right to criticize the content. If someone asks me about a book I didn’t like, I have the right to state why I didn’t like it; but I don’t have the right to challenge it. I think bananas are horrid, but it’s not my place to prevent anyone else from eating them.

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On September 28, 2007 at 9:31 am McB said...

Louisa said … The kids in my household have to go out into the world …

This reminds me of a story my mother likes to tell. When she was a child her father caught her reading Mickey Spillane. Pap was horrified because Spillane was considered pretty risqué stuff in those days. Gram’s response was that she preferred my mother to learn about that world from a book rather than out on the street.

And that’s pretty much the argument I make against anyone who wants to challenge a book. If you ban a book because of the content you are also banning the free expression of ideas. Once you ban ideas, you promote ignorance.

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On September 28, 2007 at 9:50 am Cary said...

As someone who spent a long time under the ham-handed fists of Crazy, I say you go, X! Sometimes, you just have to challenge Crazy. And you did it perfectly.

As for Y, (ahem, pardon me) Gentle Reader, we know that she is a reader, a quilter, a defender of the gentle language, and someone capable of expressing her own opinions. Sounds like a good woman, with the unfortunate habit of Presuming to Speak for Everyone. (Don’t we all share that flaw from time to time?)

Writing is an expression of self. You cannot control how others perceive it or you, you can only control how you present yourself (or your work). And X does that beautifully.

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On September 28, 2007 at 10:00 am X said...

McB wrote:
And while I might criticize the quality (although not, of course, yours) I don’t have the right to criticize the content.

Actually, you have the right to criticize whatever you want. Free country, free thought, free will. It’s where all the good stuff comes from.

What you don’t have the right to do is personally attack someone. When that happens, it’s no longer about readers and writers; you took the gloves off, and you then reap what you sow.

Everyone has the right to hate my books, to tell other people not to buy them, and to not buy me in the future. They even have the right to write to me and let me in on their disappointment. That’s fair, and what those people get from me are my respect and my best recommendations for work they might like. What they don’t have the right to do is be nasty about me personally. I won’t ever argue with a reader’s opinion; that’s just stupid. And if someone comes at me with fists of crazy swinging, most of the time, I’ll just ignore it. This time, I had a little fun. Y came at me, and earned what she got. Actually, I think she got off pretty light.

Whoops, there goes that foul language again. ;)

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On September 28, 2007 at 10:10 am inkgrrl said...

Ban banning books! Not to be proscriptive or anything. Thank the goddess you can’t kill an idea.

It’s never occurred to me that the relationship between writer and reader could be anything but a partnership, both parties doing their part to create a bubble of illusion filled with truth that hopefully lasts beyond turning the final page. As much of a control freak as I am, I guess I always figured that if the writer didn’t do it for me, I’d be better off doing it myself than brooding bitter at the world’s inability to fetch and carry at my whim. There’s an odd sense of ownership coming through in that letter, as if in Y’s mind, the act of purchasing a copy of the book invoked her entitlement to agency with not only the text (which I agree with in the limited sense of partnership per the above) but also the writer. I think over on the Cherry Forums there was a thread about reader input on characters/stories recently? I’ll have to go dig around, but this is an interesting tangent to that.

(McB, I do love the stabbing, just feel safer keeping that particular activity limited to bladed weapons, as I can’t keep knit straight from purl without carnage.)

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On September 28, 2007 at 10:15 am RfP said...

When it comes to reader reaction to an author’s work, IMO the author always has the power

If you want to frame it as power…. Power dynamics aren’t fixed or unidirectional. When a reader tries to interfere with an author’s work, that’s an aggressive power grab. If the author feels the need to redress the balance, all I feel like saying is, Do what you need to–and thanks for sharing the humor.

in the battle of X and Y, I feel that X would have won hands down by not responding at all, because Y’s letter put her so clearly in control and showed that she so obviously had the advantage to begin with.

It’s not “clearly”. It’s up to X, not you, to say whether it makes her feel that way.

The kids in my household have to go out into the world and interact with children whose parents can’t be bothered to oversee them.

Exactly: that’s not the fault of the media; it’s the fault of bad parents. Compensating for bad parenting by controlling the media won’t work.

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On September 28, 2007 at 10:42 am Pam W. said...

Please do not put your name on anything with the word, “Quilt” ever again.

X–I’m gonna remember this next time you ask for title help!

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On September 28, 2007 at 10:47 am Wendy Roberts said...

OMG this post just cracked me up LOL! I just about peed myself when I read:
“I should have know better than to think this would be a good book when I read that you are from New York.”

Thanks for starting my day off with such a laugh!

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On September 28, 2007 at 10:50 am WapakGram said...

Will someone please email me and tell me who X is? She sounds like my kind of person and would love to read the damn book.

I’ve never had the nerve to write to Jenny and tell her she is MARVELOUS, let alone complain to an author. It is his/her book written in their voice. Lord knows I use my voice every day. To me, it is Don’t Kill the Messenger. If you don’t like the message, fine. Don’t attack those who presume to think differently than you. Attack ideas if you must, but not the people.

Lots of Y’s in my world now…working on a political school issue….they come out of the woodwork.

TGIF everyone!

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On September 28, 2007 at 10:52 am Robin said...

That said, I’m not anyone’s punching bag, either. Y took the gloves off by coming at me with swinging fists of Crazy, and at that point, this was no longer a reader-writer thing. She got off easy, even with the mockery here, which she’ll probably never know about anyway. And there’s no anonymity on my part, which I would find unfair, although playing the part of X is exotic and fun.

Look, I don’t care who you are, reader or writer, there are certain ways you are simply not justified in talking to people, and Y deserved to be taken down a notch. And I did it in a way that was very kind – especially when you consider how she came at me. I respected her by not using a single foul or vulgar word, and I was cheerful and exuberant in the process. All I did by responding in this manner was to neutralize the Crazy.

X, you can write any kind of note to any kind of reader you want, and clearly, I’m the minority voice here. And you’re right: you didn’t say anything in appropriate or unseemly to her.

I have to deal with and respond to Ys to the 10th power all the time, and I don’t know how that affects my own take on this, but when I read Y’s note, it seemed so out there, so ridiculous, that I’m surprised you took it as a personal attack. But obviously you did, given your statement about “neutralizing the crazy.” Because you know you didn’t really neutralize anything in Y — you neutralized something in yourself, that sense of anger and unfairness, by responding to her (because if she won’t even get the mockery, she can’t really be neutralized in any way, right?). And from that perspective, I can see why you did what you did.

Y came at me, and earned what she got. Actually, I think she got off pretty light.

Well, as you pointed out, Y probably won’t even get it, so in a sense I think you paid yourself back for having to read that note more than you actually paid Y back (because, let’s face it, the Y’s rarely get it). You certainly told her she doesn’t matter, but I think she already felt that way, thus the note, lol. I’m sure this kind of thing goes on all the time from authors and readers, and I’m simply not privy to it. But by posting the note publicly, I became, as I said, a vicarious recipient, and the note had an impact on me, as a reader, too, which is sort of what I’m grappling with here.

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On September 28, 2007 at 10:57 am Jenny said...

It’s a very slippery slope responding to readers at all, We’re good with criticism, but there’s a huge difference between “I don’t like what you write” and “You can’t write that any more.” And there’s a difference between saying, “I disagree with what you’ve written” and “You have not got a clue.” That letter is, although ludicrous, insulting, a personal attack on the writer. And while I agree with X about not poking the crazy reader, I think it’s also true not to poke the crazy writer. Or your letter ends up on a blog.

I agree on reflection, I shouldn’t have put Y’s name on there. However, the only things we know about her are her name, she quilts, and she doesn’t live in NY. And that the chances of her reading my godless, blue-state blog are nil. But I also think it’s good that this kind of thing sees the light of day; the letter writer thought she’d put X in her place, she was overbearing and bullying because she was angry and it was safe to say it because it was in e-mail; she didn’t have to look X in the face or bear any consequences, she could fire from the underbrush. If she’s willing to stand behind her words, then there’s no problem with the letter being here and all of us discussing it. If she’s not willing to stand behind what she said in a public venue, then she shouldn’t be lobbing bombs at public people, people she doesn’t know personally and can have no expectation of privacy from. My guess is that she’s probably said the same thing loudly to the people in her quilting group. Possibly they agreed with her. And now X has shared it with her group to varying degrees of response.

Of course, I may have a harsher view of this since people have been lobbing stuff at me for a long time. You kick me in the knee now, I’m going to do more than look at you pointedly, I’m gonna mention it.

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On September 28, 2007 at 11:21 am Lynn said...

“but there’s a huge difference between “I don’t like what you write” and “You can’t write that any more.”

Exactly! Wonderfully said :-)

Crazy writer? Nah, not so much. What’s that line from Steel Magnolias? You’re not crazy, you’ve just been in a very bad mood for 30 years.

I would not presume to tell someone what they should or should not read or watch on television. I do not have that right. And lame or not, if I do not like it I turn it off because enough people doing the same will change things. Because in a broader sense, people who are brave enough to stand up for what they believe in change the world.

As to the books – It’s my job, even responsibility, as a librarian to develop a well rounded collection of quality resources supporting a curriculum (academic for me now). In a public library the collection has to serve a larger population and broader spectrum of interest. However, the same goes; quality resources, usually adhering to a collection development policy, should be purchased. If they are not to a patrons liking there are steps to take. But just because I don’t like it is not reason enough to remove it from the collection.

(Stepping down from the soap box …)

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On September 28, 2007 at 11:22 am K.L. said...

We each have an obligation to stand up for what we say and do. If Y really believes what she wrote, she should have no problems with it being published like this. And if it happens that her opinion doesn’t stand up to the light, well that is hers to deal with. E-mail is never truly private, nor are any letters written to any kind of public figure. I am a firm believer in people taking responsibility for their own actions and behavior, and in treating others with respect. In my opinion, X did that, and Y didn’t.

And WapakGram, whenever a name is in red, you can click on it and go to her website. Just go up to Xs comment and click on her name.

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On September 28, 2007 at 11:28 am Robin said...

It’s not “clearly”. It’s up to X, not you, to say whether it makes her feel that way.

Yes, I agree with you. But as a vicarious recipient of that letter, I, as someone who has read X’s work, also become implicated in that dynamic, and I responded from my take as someone invited to share in the collaborative slam on Y (and back-patting for X). All of which makes me uncomfortable for the reasons I articulated.

When a reader tries to interfere with an author’s work, that’s an aggressive power grab.

Well, if X saw it that way, then that’s what it was for her. As I said, it’s just difficult for me to reconcile the X I see online with someone who would actually feel assaulted by Y’s note (whether it was meant that way or not). So I’m a) trying to work that into my own perception of X as someone who wouldn’t be put down by Deby and b) trying to work through (as an ongoing project) the way this whole conversation impacts my own perspective on the author/reader dynamic.

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On September 28, 2007 at 11:30 am Mary Stella said...

Quilting is a fine art and should not be sullied by people like you.

Reading is a gift. Too bad it’s sullied by people like Deby. *g*

Personally, I’m a sequiner. I do a few dozen sequined pins for charity every year. We have our own secret society — never curse, yell, drink or indulge in any vice. Certainly would never tell a big fib like that in a blog comment.

The sequinning part isn’t a fib. :-)

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On September 28, 2007 at 11:31 am Mary Stella said...

*sniff sniff* This blog program hates me again. It keeps eating my comments. *le sigh*

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On September 28, 2007 at 11:32 am Diane (TT) said...

Well, on the subject of someone removing books from the library because they didn’t care for them – chances are, the library will just re-purchase the books, thus increasing the author’s sales and having a slightly different effect than the remover intended!

I found myself in possession of a book that I found so objectionable that I did not want to give it away, because I did not wish to promulgate its ideas. I kept it for many years, because it is not usually possible to recycle books and I have an inhibition on damaging them, but I think I did finally put it in the recycling bin when I moved. I hope the fiber was recovered without any infection by the content!

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On September 28, 2007 at 11:32 am Mary Stella said...

Oh sure. It kept the self-pitying comment and tossed the one where I attempted to be funny. *sigh*

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On September 28, 2007 at 11:35 am Deborah said...

Beware the Quilting Mafia…

ROTF LMFekkingAO

Deb

(a good Deb, not an evil, quilting one)

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On September 28, 2007 at 11:47 am Robin said...

Of course, I may have a harsher view of this since people have been lobbing stuff at me for a long time. You kick me in the knee now, I’m going to do more than look at you pointedly, I’m gonna mention it.

Yeah, I know it takes a toll; I was a lot fresher ten years ago than I am now, a lot more optimistic about people’s motives and sensibilities.

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On September 28, 2007 at 11:58 am X said...

What I love is how every discussion on Jenny’s blog eventually turns intellectual. God, I just freakin’ love it! A happy sigh as I recall the Dissertation of the Glittery Hoo Hah…

Jenny – you’re right about the anonymity thing, it’s really fine. It’s not like we published her e-mail address or anything. I just feel unbalanced because my name isn’t as blatantly out there, and I hate web anonymity. But it’s not like everyone here doesn’t know exactly who I am (or can find out by clicking the X) and I really just want to keep Y from finding this discussion because… well… that’s poking the Crazy Bear, and my motto is never poke the Crazy Bear.

Of course, in retrospect, my name is all over your website, so if Y comes looking for me, she’ll find it eventually. But still, the secret identity thing tickles me, so I’ll play it out for this thread.

As I said, it’s just difficult for me to reconcile the X I see online with someone who would actually feel assaulted by Y’s note (whether it was meant that way or not).

Look, the X you see online is the only X there is. I’m not easily offended or upset, I don’t attack readers who don’t “get” me, and I don’t whine because not everyone in the universe thinks I fart gold feathers. Y provided me with an opportunity to have some rare fun, and I took it. It is out of character for me to make a joke at someone else’s expense, especially a reader’s, but this was just too ripe a plum not to pluck. What can I say? I’m human.

And I’m not really upset with Y, to be honest. I don’t feel hurt, or picked on, or victimized. But if you feel vicariously offended by my response, how can you possibly think I shouldn’t consider myself assaulted by her initial lob? That’s what boggles my noodle.

From my perspective, this is all light-hearted fun. I laughed my ass off the moment I got that letter, and I joyfully responded, and that’s really all it is. I’ll respect differing opinions – hell, I’ve even been known to defend differing opinions and the owner’s right to them – but I’m not gonna be anyone’s victim. You strike at me, then you’ve taken the gloves off, and you get what you deserve. Not to be too full of myself, but of all the ways I would have been justified in putting Y in her place, I think I chose a fairly kind path. Given the chance to do it again, I would. In a heartbeat.

Actually, I kinda love Y.

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On September 28, 2007 at 12:33 pm Jen Talty said...

This is just one of those topics I just can’t sit quietly on, and really, I probably should, be quiet that is. I’m tired, sick, and grumpy from being sick all the time, so I will probalby just sound like a bitch.

I’ve always believed that when it comes to books it’s not our job as readers to tell a writer what to write, or how to write it. Use of language, sex, violence, demons, whatever, that is the writers job. My job is to buy what I like, enjoy it, or not and then move on. As readers, we make our voice and opinion known by what we buy. I think that says enough.

I’ve always taken offense to readers publically being negative about how a writer has chosen to tell their stories. I’ve always find it bothersome, unless of course it is your job and you get a paycheck from it, to critize and be mean about something in a book because it “bugs” you or goes against some thing you believe in or a word offends you. Shit, lots of stuff bugs me, but F*&^ me silly, it’s freaking fiction. We read it for entertainment. Everyone has different tastes and thank whatever for that.

With that said, I don’t think it’s wrong to say, you know, I was disappointed by that book because, or it wasn’t my favorite because. But just because you took offense to some of the content, doesn’t mean the world will and sure as flies on shit, doesn’t give you the right to tell someone they “shouldn’t” write that or be assoicated with a word because you took the assocation a certain way.

I’ve picked up a lot of books over the years thinking they were one thing only to find out their were something else. Funny thing about that, I found some great new reads that way, and being an open-minded western NYer that I am, well, found some new genres I like. I’ve also picked up books that I didn’t finish and probalby wouldn’t try that author again, but I’m not going to e-mail and tell them that. What’s the point? That would be like me e-mailing some blueberry farmer and telling them I don’t like blueberries and I find them offensive (which I do, I hate blueberries) and they should stop growing them and grow strawberries because they are my favorite (which they are). That is ridiculous. Someone out there likes blueberries and is damn grateful for that blueberry farmer. And I’m sure there is someone growing strawberries, somewhere.

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On September 28, 2007 at 12:53 pm Robin said...

But if you feel vicariously offended by my response, how can you possibly think I shouldn’t consider myself assaulted by her initial lob? That’s what boggles my noodle.

Did I say I was offended, or is that how it came out? Actually, I’m glad you admitted that you were basically just poking at her, because all this intellectual talk about reader/author partnerships was starting to sound out of whack in relation to the exchange between you and Deby (although it’s absolutely a valid discussion and one we maybe should have more often online). Am I uncomfortable with that poking fun at the reader thing? Yeah, if only because I don’t think Y was funning you, and it seems a bit like a giant pummeling a gnat (which is also why I don’t think the logic of my reaction to your response being synonymous with your reaction to Y holds). And yeah, while it’s not hip or cooperative, I also feel uncomfortable with the vicarious pile on. But then I also hate practical jokes because I rarely see them as innocent or good-natured. Did you have a right to do what you did? Of course. But as Crusie said, once it’s posted publicly, it becomes part of a public conversation, one that implicates all sorts of questions around the reader/author dynamic.

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On September 28, 2007 at 1:27 pm Deb said...

You know, some people just always have to be negative. Personally? I loved that book. And that author. And while I’m not technically a quilter (in my family, we make quigglies, which are tied), neither am I from NY (although my best friend is). I also don’t think this complainer quite understands that there is quite a bit more to NY than just NY City. But the author’s response? Perfect! Of course, I would expect nothing less from her. Like you said, just one more reason we love her!

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On September 28, 2007 at 1:31 pm Melissa said...

X- really you should have directed her to a book called Time Off For Good Behavior. I love this book, I’m not sure if you know the author, but she’s wonderful.

But then once Y got 1/4, maybe less, into the book that would have been considered poking the crazy bear. Your way was much more funnier.

Robin said, “But then I also hate practical jokes because I rarely see them as innocent or good-natured.”

To me X wasn’t doing a practical joke. X was being a smart ass. Two different things.

Robin said,” Am I uncomfortable with that poking fun at the reader thing? Yeah, if only because I don’t think Deby was funning you, and it seems a bit like a giant pummeling a gnat ”

And that is why the post is called, You have not got a clue. This woman stands by a questionable belief that New Yorkers are godless heathens.

Y said, “Quilting is a fine art and should not be sullied by people like you.”

The woman took the gloves off and being a smart ass is the nicest way X could have responded when she chose to respond. Yes, she could have taken the high road and not posted the e-mail or replied to the letter and went on about her life. But being a smart ass myself at times that impulse is just a little hard to ignore when faced with the Y’s of the world.

Thanks, Melissa

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On September 28, 2007 at 1:34 pm Eileen said...

Dante’s next circle of hell= the knitters.

snort.

Based on the beauty of the snark, I’ve got a hunch who X might be. Yet another reason for me to love her.

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On September 28, 2007 at 1:36 pm Jill said...

“that she just used Bad Language and has thus become a Non-Quilter, cast into outer darkness”

The darkness being upstate NY ?

“My guess is that she’s probably said the same thing loudly to the people in her quilting group. Possibly they agreed with her. And now X has shared it with her group to varying degrees of response. ”

Those quilters probably rushed out to buy the book to see what all the fuss was about.

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On September 28, 2007 at 1:52 pm Jane said...

Just so I can get the dynamic straight here. It’s not okay for the reader to have sent the email, but once sent, it’s okay for the recipient to publicly mock it?

Somehow I doubt that Y is “‘is screaming, “I didn’t love your book, you bitch!’” She’s likely telling her next 10 best friends what a nasty email she received in return from author X, all of whom reply, “well, I won’t buy her books.”

To which author X says “I don’t need you right wing red state fundamentalist readers anyway.”

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On September 28, 2007 at 1:58 pm McB said...

The thing that bothered me about it is Y’s assumption that she was speaking for all U.S. citizens (except, apparantly those in NY) and other quilters more specifically. I don’t quilt, but I live in the USA (although admittedly not NY) and I found X’s book to be amusing, not offensive.

Y, if you chance upon this blog and read these comments, you should know that “you have not got a clue how other people in the USA live and feel and think” either.

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On September 28, 2007 at 2:04 pm Melissa said...

Jane-That’s X point. Y wasn’t her reader to begin with. So the ten best friends Y is telling probably would have never liked her book either.

But then again look at Claiming the Courtesan.

I’m finding the reasons against the mock strange. If it was a praising letter and X responded in like (in praise) then this post would be a blip on most people’s radar. But goodness forbid X responds by chortling and sharing why she laughed it’s wrong. Why the double standard?

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On September 28, 2007 at 2:13 pm Robin said...

I’m finding the reasons against the mock strange. If it was a praising letter and X responded in like (in praise) then this post would be a blip on most people’s radar. But goodness forbid X responds by chortling and sharing why she laughed it’s wrong. Why the double standard?

If Y’s note had been one of praise, then would anyone care that it was out there? To me this boils down to a question of whether it’s ever a good idea for authors to mock readers, either directly or publicly. What’s served by it, especially when Y’s forum is nowhere near as public or influential as that of either X or Crusie? Y may have her ten friends, but X and Crusie have devoted readerships and Internet platforms. IMO the author already has the power here, and the mocking, well, again I’d ask what (and whose) purpose it really serves.

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On September 28, 2007 at 2:16 pm McB said...

Keeping in mind that Y said “Quilting is a fine art and should not be sullied by people like you” (emphasis added) I find it puzzling that some of these comments seem to find X’s response the more offensive. Y took a rather nasty pot shot and X responded with tongue firmly in cheek. She could have lowered herself to Y’s level but chose humor instead.

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On September 28, 2007 at 2:31 pm Cary said...

The purpose it serves? As someone who deals with Crazy-land on a regular basis, I can tell you, every once in a while, you just have to hit back at Crazy. If only to remind yourself how far gone Crazy really is.

As for posting it, well, as someone above said, Y chose to send the e-mail. She knew she would have no control of that dialogue after she hit “send”. And now, it is aiding in the furtherance of knowledge as we all learn some different point of view…

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On September 28, 2007 at 2:41 pm Jen Talty said...

“To me this boils down to a question of whether it’s ever a good idea for authors to mock readers, either directly or publicly.”

Why? Readers mock authors all the time. Not that I think mocking is a good thing, because I don’t. I don’t like being mocked at all and genearlly speaking, I don’t mock and I’m not mocking, I’m just asking why. Readers are constantly judging and mocking writers/authors and imposing their values and opinions on authors by saying “shame on you, you shouldn’t write that, it’s smut, or dirty, or immoral” or “how dare you. What gives you the right to write something about something I love and adore and I think you mock ‘me’ and what I love.” Sorry, that is taking a piece of fiction personally and expecting the world to think exactly like ‘you’.

I find what was said to X to be rude. I find what X said to be kind of like ‘killing them with kindness’. I find it sensable and humorous. X could have just said what I think I would have said and I don’t think I should repeart that here.

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On September 28, 2007 at 2:49 pm Melissa said...

So you can only make fun of people with ignorant beliefs if there is a level playing field?

What’s served by Y writing a letter demeaning X’s choice in writing? And going further and subjecting her to an offbase judgment. You have to look at both sides.

Robin said, ” To me this boils down to a question of whether it’s ever a good idea for authors to mock readers, either directly or publicly.”

Now you’re breaking it down to “writer’s ethics”. Really they are word of mouth rules of what is becoming of an author. I guess our difference stems from I don’t take much stock “word of mouth rules” because for me things differ in their execution. Did she give Y’s e-mail adddress to harrass her. No. Did she give the woman’s full name? No. The letter and response was posted. Us, faithful readers took it from there and saw the idiocy. You cannot come to decision for things out of context, because the details change everything.

Either way, that’s not going to stop the Internet brush fire this discussion has started.

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On September 28, 2007 at 2:58 pm RfP said...

Yawn, here we go again.

Headline: Author bashes reader!

Discussion:
1 That sucks!
2 No, reader bashed author!
3 Author shoulda sucked it up!
4 I love authors!
5 I love readers!
6 I love blogs!
7 Did y’all actually read the letter? I think we should reframe
8 I wrote a letter like once!
9 You should only write letters that suck up
10 Why can’t we all just get along?
11 Because of mean people!
12 Mean people suck!
13 Authors suck!
14 Readers suck!
15 Blogs suck!
16 I’m disappointed in all of you!
17 Have we been here before?
18 Suck! Suck! Suck!
19 You started it!
20 I’ll never read again!
21 Don’t worry, be happy. Sing along now, people.
What have I missed?

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On September 28, 2007 at 3:04 pm Robin said...

Now you’re breaking it down to “writer’s ethics”.

Actually, I was starting from a baseline question of promotional strategy. Authors have books to sell, readers don’t. Also I wonder: if an author who you didn’t like or respect, whose books you hated, had done either level of the mocking (1- the original response, 2- the posting of both), would it all seem so sensible and kind and humorous? And I ask that as someone who has enjoyed the work of both authors in this circumstance.

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On September 28, 2007 at 3:06 pm Jane said...

The fact is that an author, Ms. Crusie, choose to publicly share a smack down and so she smacks back. How is Crusie on a higher moral ground? In some sense, Crusie and X (although why we are even fostering this ridiculous anonymity issue) invite criticism of their actions by posting publicly more so than Y did in writing the email.

If she’s not willing to stand behind what she said in a public venue, then she shouldn’t be lobbing bombs at public people, people she doesn’t know personally and can have no expectation of privacy from.

I just wanted to make sure that we know where we stand with people who receive emails. I know from this that I can’t share anything with Crusie or Rich because emails sent to them don’t have any expectation of privacy. That is the first issue that I see.

The second issue is that it is okay for an author to make public swipes at a reader. Therefore, it should also be okay for Y to have a) made those comments and b) for any other person to make criticisms of the original post and c) for readers to make swipes at authors publicly.

I’ll remember that for future blog posts. After all, if Crusie can make fun of a reader, the emailer’s political affiliation, possibly her religion, the contents of the email, the emailer’s supposed hypocrisy, her manner of closing the email, her mental state of mind etc., then a reader, publicly, should have the right to make those same assertions back at an author.

As long as everyone is abiding by the same ground rules, then sure, it’s all fair, but if we are being asked to have readers behave with respect toward authors why shouldn’t the same be in turn? Because the reader was bad first?

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On September 28, 2007 at 3:13 pm X said...

Jane wrote:
Just so I can get the dynamic straight here. It’s not okay for the reader to have sent the email, but once sent, it’s okay for the recipient to publicly mock it?

Um… yep. If she hadn’t sent the e-mail, we wouldn’t be talking about it. But she did, so we are. I hate to sound like a third grader but… she started it. :)

Robin wrote:
What’s served by it, especially when Y’s forum is nowhere near as public or influential as that of either X or Crusie?

Okay, A) reports of my fame and influence have been greatly exaggerated. B) seems to me that Y has the exact same forum – we even posted her entire position for her, which I think was darn swell of us, and she’s got people jumping to her defense. Y’s getting an okay deal. And C) what’s served is just having some fun. Y was nasty, and we all had a good healthy laugh about it. I see nothing wrong with any of it.

And for the record, it’s not okay for anyone to send nasty personal attacks to anyone; reader, writer, whatever. Some people seem to think it’s okay as long as the snark only flows in one direction, and it’s a baffling double standard. For the most part, I’m of the “shut up and take it” camp for authors, not because it’s right for authors to be treated that way, but because for the most part, it’s just not worth it. But Y? Oh, baby. Y was worth it. I wasn’t kidding. I really kinda love her.

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On September 28, 2007 at 3:16 pm Robin said...

I see nothing wrong with any of it.

Which is what boggles my noodle.

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On September 28, 2007 at 3:22 pm Yvonne Lindsay said...

X rocks!

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On September 28, 2007 at 3:36 pm X said...

Well, Robin, we’re going to have to be noodle boggled together, then. :) I think we will always kinda just see things differently, but I have to say, I always like what you add to a conversation. You see layers I never would have picked up on, and while I don’t always agree, it’s always interesting.

And, just for the record, I’m only talking about nasty personal attacks and mean-spirited blog snark, most of which I think authors should ignore anyway. Unless you get a Y and you just can’t help yourself. But reviews are off limits. Authors, please, never argue with a review (unless it’s factually incorrect or spoilery, in which case, don’t argue, respectfully correct and walk away) because opinions CAN’T BE WRONG and it drives me CRAZY when authors argue with reviews. This is different.

And Jane, if you send me an e-mail, I pinky swear I’ll keep it private. But just remember, due to the amount of fan mail I get, I can’t answer everything personally… :)

All in good fun, people. All in good fun.

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On September 28, 2007 at 3:43 pm Melissa said...

Robin, dear, if I don’t like an author what am I doing on their website? And if they did I already hold them in low esteem finding them making mock of a readers letter won’t change my opinion of them much. That’s not arguing for either side, that’s being honest.

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On September 28, 2007 at 3:47 pm Melissa said...

Almost forgot. RfP, no you didn’t miss much.

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On September 28, 2007 at 3:53 pm McB said...

E-mail or snail mail … once you send it, it is no longer your property but the property of the recipient who can do whatever they wish with it. If you want your thoughts to be private, you don’t share them … period.

And just to be clear, I have no issue with Y disliking X’s book, or with her willingness to say so. I might disagree with her righteous stance, but she has a right to her opinion. She does not, however, have a right to attack X and an attack is what it was. That “people like you” comment was nasty and unprovoked.

And finally, there is a point, I think, to sharing the exchange with the wide world. Y’s attack was a form of bullying, and the best way to deal with bullies is to show them for what they are. Expose them to the light of day and you take away a little of their power.

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On September 28, 2007 at 3:58 pm Robin said...

And, just for the record, I’m only talking about nasty personal attacks and mean-spirited blog snark, most of which I think authors should ignore anyway.

Thanks for making this distinction, because it crystallizes why this whole thing bothers me. It reminds me a little of the fun Katie MacAlister had mocking reader letters on Romancing the Blog a couple of years ago. Oy, that was quite a post. Had she been mocking public statements made by readers, I may not have liked it, but I think there’s a much stronger case for ‘the reader asked for it’ defense. It may just boil down to the email/private letter aspect of the situation that bugs me. As I said, it’s not enough for me to stop reading either your work or Crusie’s, although I’ve yet to pick up a MacAlister book. But even that has more to do with the whole ‘historical authenticity’ thing.

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On September 28, 2007 at 4:10 pm RCanuck said...

Here’s another approach to confronting bullying:

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/nova-scotia/story/2007/09/18/pink-tshirts-students.html

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On September 28, 2007 at 4:10 pm ZaZa said...

For me, Y sounded like she was well on her way to crazy. People who feel they have the right to not only express their displeasure but also to forbid a repetition of what displeased them, well, they’re not living in the real world (or they’re parents). Those are always people to take a wide path around, IMO.

I don’t think I’ve ever not read a book because of the language, and, if the language had offended me to that extent, I would have STOPPED reading it. There’s something inherently suspect in a person who reads on when they are purportedly offended by language or content. Makes me think of, what was it, Susannah and the Elders??? Or maybe not. Y seems to have kept reading to feed her anger, not because she was titillated by the feelthy language.

Anyway, X making her response sound like a “form letter” was great. For all Y knows, it’s an automated response to every reader letter. But still, that is poking the Crazy, if she’s one of those people who earnestly feels she needs to correct your erroneous impression of her intent. Maybe in person. Maybe I’m just paranoid. Lock your doors. /;+)

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On September 28, 2007 at 4:20 pm Lou said...

WOW – quite a response from a short email and an even shorter answer.

Personally, I thought X took the high road with her answer – she could have been nasty back, but of course, for what purpose? Or she could have ignored the message, but it was probably “the straw that broke the camel’s back” after possibly receiving other negative messages over the years. Not everything slides off one’s back. Some things have burrs that cling.

Living in California, we get the same kind of comments about our state that Y made about New York (land of the fruits and nuts). In fact, when I called Social Security to let them know my Mom had passed on, I got a snarky comment about Arnold being our governor (which I ignored). Since the right and left coasts take a lot of heat for being different, I could say that the lack of fresh salt air in the middle of the country kills brain cells… but I won’t…

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On September 28, 2007 at 4:21 pm Lou said...

Of course, the previous comment about the middle of the country does NOT apply to any Cherries or Cherrybombs!!

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On September 28, 2007 at 4:28 pm X said...

Had she been mocking public statements made by readers, I may not have liked it, but I think there’s a much stronger case for ‘the reader asked for it’ defense.

I get where you’re coming from, Robin. And, I will admit, I have felt slight niggles of guilt over that point. It was a personal e-mail, not a public blog attack. Ironically, if it had been a public blog attack, I wouldn’t have said anything. Those blogs speak for themselves. This, honestly, was just good fun, and a way of showing authors that you can fire back without stooping. I was much nicer to Y than she was to me, and, perverse as it is, I actually enjoyed the letter very much. We’re in mountain/molehill territory right now, but that’s okay, because I get educated whenever I participate in discussion. And for those of you who think I’m a big asshat, you’re welcome to that opinion, and I won’t argue with you. Sometimes, I really am.

So… I stand by it, up to and including this public discussion. You fire the first shot, you get what you get. You can’t expect to have carte blanche to talk to anyone any way you want to without cosequences just because you’re the reader, although I know of a few who have just that expectation. What’s life without dissent?

(And when I say you, I mean the generic you, not you you, Robin. Wow, what a sentence, huh? Talk about noodle boggling!)

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On September 28, 2007 at 4:32 pm ZaZa said...

If she’s not willing to stand behind what she said in a public venue, then she shouldn’t be lobbing bombs at public people, people she doesn’t know personally and can have no expectation of privacy from.

But, as someone, many, have said, she’ll probably never see this post, so she has no way to defend, or even clarify, her position. Y has her defenders here, or those who defend her right to her screed, but she doesn’t have the ability to respond on her own behalf.

the best way to deal with bullies is to show them for what they are. Expose them to the light of day and you take away a little of their power.

But is Y a bully, or is she someone who has no power of her own, and this email of hers was a weak attempt to try and regulate SOMETHING, please God??? I don’t see Y as a an attacker. I think she was flailing out in defense of what she saw as an attack on her world, and a world which is probably on very shaky ground to elicit such a strong defense.

Do I think she had the right to forbid this author to write what she wants? Well, heh, yeah because that’s the way Y deals with perceivede attacks. And go her! Does she have any right to expect her wishes to be granted. No. But this seems like overkill to me.

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On September 28, 2007 at 5:09 pm K.L. said...

What I find amazing and totally cool, is how our own point of reference brings out so many different thoughts on what was intended as a merely a passing comment on a rude reader. I love this blog.

Now I’m off to read a vampire story that already promises to be less fulfilling that I want it to be, but that I’m totally addicted to.

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On September 28, 2007 at 5:47 pm Jenny said...

I’m moving this discussion to the next thread. Not shutting it down in any way, we’ve just have a lot of comments here and it’s slowing things down. So comments resume on the next post.

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On September 28, 2007 at 6:00 pm micki said...

(-: I quilt a little. And I cuss a little. Of course, I’m a crazy-quilter, so that might put me in a different category.

I loved FQuilt, and yes, I found out about Author X through this blog. So, just to make it clear, not all quilters are like Reader Y here. X, you are right, she did get off light. She thinks she got a form letter, not an irony in a velvet glove. But, if you’re going to write a book, you accept the unexpected consequences. And if you are going to write a crazy letter, you have to accept the unexpected consequences from that, too.

I’m not sure if I believe in Fate, but if there is such a thing, maybe it’s just her Karma that her letter struck you so strongly, and that it gets published on the web. I’m sure glad I got the chance to read the discussion that came from it.

Also, thanks, Robin, for King’s letter from Birmingham Jail. King had a wonderful way of thinking, and really knew how to express it in a dignified manner.

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On September 29, 2007 at 9:17 am Linda Sherwood said...

I just wanted to make sure that we know where we stand with people who receive emails. I know from this that I can’t share anything with Crusie or Rich because emails sent to them don’t have any expectation of privacy. That is the first issue that I see.

If you operate anywhere within the vicinity of any writer, you should not expect privacy. I write and everything that happens in my life eventually becomes fodder for the mill.

If you want privacy, do not befriend and/or fall in love with a writer, or heaven forbid have the bad fortune of being the child of a writer. For confirmation, you can ask my husband, children, the lady at the bank who was rude…. the list grows daily.

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On September 29, 2007 at 10:14 am Kim said...

If Y had written X a letter that said, “I’m disappointed in your book because all the ladies in my quilting circle are God-fearing women who don’t cuss and you used the name of the Lord in vain” that would have been a valid comment. But no. Y told X not to put her name on anything with the word “quilt” again. She has no right to do that.

Then, she insulted X and the entire state of NY, while placing herself on a moral highground because of where she lives. She all but invited the chortling for making such a stupid blanket statement.

X responded very nicely. No cussing, no “rude New Yorker” language, and no insults. Just a short, sweet comment so Y knew she’d received her e-mail. X is a class act. So are her books. The book in question is on the top of my TBR stack. I look forward to reading it.

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On September 29, 2007 at 2:53 pm Desperate Writer said...

That letter was rude. Writers are people, too! :)

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On October 2, 2007 at 12:43 pm an author said...

“That said, I’m not anyone’s punching bag, either”

Out of everything, this is what I want to applaud you on, X. I am an author who does NOT participate on line. I am no one’s punching bag. I’m extremely easy going, like to clown around, consider myself a pretty cool person, etc…but I’ve got one helluva temper when seriously riled. I don’t engage the crazy ( I LOVED that line!) because to do so, I get down on their level, and that is something I promised myself I would never do. Love my stuff, hate my stuff, call me whatever you want, speculate on my career…whatevah. I don’t really care. Just don’t expect me to engage your crazy behind. That will NEVER EVER happen.

Kudos to you ladies for not being anyone’s punching bag. And I think the way you handled it, not saying names, etc, just posting the note was just right.

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