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Anne Frank 'sexed up' for our modern times
June 22, 2010 1:23 PM   Subscribe

A row has broken out over Sharon Dogar's fictionalisation of Anne Frank's relationship with neighbour Peter van Pels, told through his eyes. According to the Sunday Times, the diaries include graphic accounts of Peter’s desire for Anne and intimate scenes between the two. Her surviving cousin, Buddy Elias, is not happy.

The book is out this autumn. The publisher's youtube video on the book is here. The original Sunday Times story is here, but King Rupert makes you login to view it.
posted by MuffinMan (159 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
No, nothing is sacred.
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:26 PM on June 22, 2010


WAIT...you mean a teenage boy was lusting after a teenage girl?

That borders on science fiction.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:27 PM on June 22, 2010 [11 favorites]


How utterly tasteless. And even worse is the excuse that she had a case of literary diarrhea:

"The problem is that a writer doesn't always choose what they write," [Dogar] said. "The idea of this book plagued me for 15 years. I tried quite hard not to write it, mostly because I had similar concerns; I couldn't do it justice, I wasn't sure it was legitimate, I didn't believe I had the talent to portray the horror of the Holocaust. But sometimes stories just come and you can't stop them."
posted by bearwife at 1:27 PM on June 22, 2010 [9 favorites]


I would just ask, Why? Why did Dogar write this? What could/does this add to Anne's story that wasn't conveyed by her diary?

I'm asking honestly, because I can't think of a reason for this to exist other than for the publicity she knew it would generate, and to line her pockets.
posted by yiftach at 1:27 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


"The problem is that a writer doesn't always choose what they write," [Dogar] said. "The idea of this book plagued me for 15 years. I tried quite hard not to write it..."

NOT HARD ENOUGH!
posted by mazola at 1:29 PM on June 22, 2010 [10 favorites]


Who gives a fuck what her cousin thinks? Seriously.
posted by unSane at 1:30 PM on June 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


"The problem is that a writer doesn't always choose what they write," [Dogar] said. "The idea of this book plagued me for 15 years. I tried quite hard not to write it, mostly because I had similar concerns; I couldn't do it justice, I wasn't sure it was legitimate, I didn't believe I had the talent to portray the horror of the Holocaust. But sometimes stories just come and you can't stop them."

This sounds more like a justification for Star Wars fan fiction, not an Anne Frank tale.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:31 PM on June 22, 2010 [14 favorites]


I care what Anne Frank's cousin thinks. Here's why:

Buddy Elias, Anne’s first cousin, . . . chairs a charity devoted to her memory. The 84-year-old, who lives in Switzerland, used to play with his cousin when they were youngsters.

He said he learnt a lot about her and Peter from Anne’s father Otto, who survived the war and had the diaries published in 1947. Otto died in 1980.

Elias has read an advance copy of Annexed, named after the annexe of the office building where the Frank and van Pels families lived in hiding.

“Anne was not the child she is in this book,” he said. “I also do not think that their terrible destiny should be used to invent some fictitious story.”

posted by bearwife at 1:33 PM on June 22, 2010 [14 favorites]


"Ohhhhh comelyyyyyyyy."
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:33 PM on June 22, 2010 [21 favorites]


Even if this is a story that Sharon Dogar felt compelled to write, nothing prevented her from altering the story so that it was about some other teenagers from that historical millieu. It could have been done more tastefully.

Even so, it's fiction, we shouldn't take it too seriously. You may remember Norman Spinrad's novel "The Iron Dream" which contains a novel called "Lord Of The Swastica" which is intended to show what Adolph Hitler might have written had he become a science fiction writer instead of a dictator. (Incidentally, science fiction writers can be very evil at times; look at the career of L. Ron Hubbard. But I digress.) It's an alternate history. So is the amorous Anne Frank.
posted by grizzled at 1:34 PM on June 22, 2010


(Favorite added for NMH reference, not to approve the underlying concept, here.)
posted by joe lisboa at 1:34 PM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


yiftach: "I would just ask, Why? Why did Dogar write this? What could/does this add to Anne's story that wasn't conveyed by her diary?"

Well, it's a well known fact that her father expunged sexual-related content of the same-sex variety from her diary before publishing it, so it's not like the diary as most people have read it is the pure, unadulterated truth of a young chaste woman to begin with.

Also, nothing is sacred, and what her cousin thinks is totally irrelevant to any discussion. Discuss the book on its merits.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:34 PM on June 22, 2010 [15 favorites]


Is it that hard to create characters? -- well, OK it is (I've tried to write fiction), but if you're going to write that is what you do. You can steal the setting, the events, even the personalities, and let it be know your story is based of a famous one to get the bloody publicity; why take the names and reputations too?
posted by Some1 at 1:36 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Okay, whatever, she might have had to write it if it was bugging her so much.

What's her justification for publishing it?
posted by mondaygreens at 1:38 PM on June 22, 2010 [10 favorites]


I'm fine with RPF and RPS in general, but even people in fandom know there's limits. (See, for example, this.) And trying to get it published?! Just incredibly idiotic.
posted by kmz at 1:38 PM on June 22, 2010


Speaking as a Jew whose parents took him to see The Attic: I fail to see the scandal here.

We are talking about someone who died more than 60 years ago. Someone made into an historical figure by concerted, sustained effort.

The book may be opportunistic crap but they've got every right to publish it.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:39 PM on June 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


Anne Frank fan fiction?

What's next? A riveting account of joining the mile high club on flight 93 before they stormed the cockpit?
posted by cjets at 1:39 PM on June 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


I would just ask, Why? Why did Dogar write this? What could/does this add to Anne's story that wasn't conveyed by her diary?

For the same reason that anyone writes fanfiction about historical characters. I mean, Christ, why did Philip Jose Farmer write about Alice Hargreaves getting it on with Sir Richard Burton? Probably because he found the historical figures to be compelling characters.

Anyway, we haven't seen this book yet, but the "sexual content" sounds exceedingly mild: "Peter does worry in the novel that he "will never make love to a girl", and there is a scene in which Anne and Peter kiss." God forbid. Teenagers never do that.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:41 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I would just ask, Why? Why did Dogar write this? What could/does this add to Anne's story that wasn't conveyed by her diary?

Being fascinated with the story and interested in exploring an aspect of it imaginatively, I suppose.

I didn't see an excerpt at any of the links, so I'm curious about what a "graphic depiction" is. That seems like language loaded to stir up controversy, but I'd like to judge for myself.
posted by not that girl at 1:41 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


it's a well known fact that her father expunged sexual-related content of the same-sex variety from her diary before publishing it

My sarcasm meter is broken today - is this true?
posted by AdamCSnider at 1:42 PM on June 22, 2010


> Who gives a fuck what her cousin thinks? Seriously.

Who gives a fuck what you, or any of us, thinks? Seriously.
posted by languagehat at 1:42 PM on June 22, 2010 [9 favorites]


I would just ask, Why? Why did Dogar write this? What could/does this add to Anne's story that wasn't conveyed by her diary?

I assume it's an attempt to make her relatable to her modern contemporaries. Post WWII, her diary was a symbolic voice to the world for children and teenagers who had been murdered by the Nazis.

Frank was 13 when she wrote those diaries, 15 when she died in Belsen. I agree that this seems tasteless and tawdry, and sullies her memory. However, we do know that her father removed references she had made to her sexuality prior to releasing her diary for publication. If this were an historical documentation rather than a work of fiction, I'd understand why that would be interesting to many people.

On preview:

Also, nothing is sacred, and what her cousin thinks is totally irrelevant to any discussion. Discuss the book on its merits.

What her cousin thinks is entirely relevant. He's the last living relative of hers who knew her while she was alive and can say with any authority whether the character written in Dogar's book properly resembles the real person she's based on. If you disagree with him, that's your prerogative, but dismissing his opinion doesn't seem right.
posted by zarq at 1:42 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


The book may be opportunistic crap

Sure sounds like it

but they've got every right to publish it.

and we have every right to say, wow, this is opportunistic crap and there is no way I am buying or reading it.
posted by bearwife at 1:43 PM on June 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


However, we do know that her father removed references she had made to her sexuality prior to releasing her diary for publication.

Huh. I wasn't aware of that. Have the censored sections ever been found and restored? I would be far more interested in reading a true and unexpurgated version of the original than what sounds suspiciously like Anne Frank slashfic -- a concept that sounds like it dropped right out of /b/.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:46 PM on June 22, 2010


So is the amorous Anne Frank.

Wrong. See page 162.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:46 PM on June 22, 2010


it's a well known fact that her father expunged sexual-related content of the same-sex variety from her diary before publishing it

I'd like to see a cite from you on this from an authoritative source. Shouldn't be hard to find if it's a fact that's so well known.

He did indeed expunge content from Frank's diary related to her sexuality. But I've never heard she was bisexual.
posted by zarq at 1:47 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


What's next? A riveting account of joining the mile high club on flight 93 before they stormed the cockpit?

Now envisions a horrible mashup of Titanic and Passenger 57.
posted by yeloson at 1:47 PM on June 22, 2010


Wrong. See page 162.

I haven't read the book in years. Don't remember that at all.
posted by zarq at 1:48 PM on June 22, 2010


zarq, check out my google books link. That' the edition I read as a teenager, and it seems that those familiar with other versions have a different idea of Anne Frank entirely.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:49 PM on June 22, 2010


> Who gives a fuck what her cousin thinks? Seriously.

Who gives a fuck what you, or any of us, thinks? Seriously.


>What's next? A riveting account of joining the mile high club on flight 93 before they stormed the cockpit?


I'll take 'who gives a flying fuck? Seriously.' for 200!
posted by mazola at 1:49 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Is it that hard to create characters? -- well, OK it is (I've tried to write fiction), but if you're going to write that is what you do.

Not in historical fiction, you don't. There are ten thousand novels like this, involving real historical figures whose immediate relatives are in some cases still alive; the only difference between this and any given Harry Turtledove book is that this is Anne Frank, and Anne Frank is "sacred".
posted by vorfeed at 1:49 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


That' the edition I read as a teenager, and it seems that those familiar with other versions have a different idea of Anne Frank entirely.

Yeah, I don't remember that either. Perfectly possible that I had either forgotten it or (ironically) read some sort of edited version.
posted by zarq at 1:50 PM on June 22, 2010


What her cousin thinks is entirely relevant. He's the last living relative of hers who knew her while she was alive and can say with any authority whether the character written in Dogar's book properly resembles the real person she's based on.

60 year old memories do not strike me as particularly authoritative.

But since we're discussing a fictionalization, the accuracy of the resemblance is completely irrelevant.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:50 PM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Needs more Kosher.
posted by buzzman at 1:52 PM on June 22, 2010


I can't think of a reason for this to exist

Books need a reason to exist now? They are all written out of necessity? It's a bit of historical fiction, I'm not sure what the big deal is. Does this somehow take away from the impact of her diary?

and we have every right to say, wow, this is opportunistic crap and there is no way I am buying or reading it.

without reading it? It doesn't even sound like there's any sex in it, just a kiss.

What her cousin thinks is entirely relevant. He's the last living relative of hers who knew her while she was alive and can say with any authority whether the character written in Dogar's book properly resembles the real person she's based on

They played together when they were young and he never met Peter, whose fictional "desire for Anne" seems to be getting everybody all worked up. Put me in the "not terribly relevant" camp.
posted by Kirk Grim at 1:52 PM on June 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


60 year old memories do not strike me as particularly authoritative.

Other than her writings and any statements left behind by her father, Mr. Ellis is all we have left. Whether you choose to agree or disagree with him is your prerogative. But (to repeat myself) to dismiss him entirely without so much as a discussion does not seem right.

But since we're discussing a fictionalization, the accuracy of the resemblance is completely irrelevant.

Why? Seriously.

Yes, we're discussing a fictionalization. Why should we not be allowed to discuss whether it is faithful to either its source material or to the person it's sourced from, based on the memory of the person best suited to say so?
posted by zarq at 1:54 PM on June 22, 2010


Sorry... "Elias." Not Ellis.
posted by zarq at 1:55 PM on June 22, 2010


*walks to stove, lights small fire

*throws in manuscript of The Secret Diary of Anne Frankenstein

*sighs heavily
posted by Shepherd at 1:55 PM on June 22, 2010 [41 favorites]


Joakim Ziegler: "...it's a well known fact that her father expunged ..."

I never said the Diary was unedited. I implied that it did a good job of conveying the situation of a 14-year-old girl in extraordinary circumstances in a way that makes her life accessible and allows subsequent generations of age peers and the general population to relate to her. All of which makes the Shoah/Holocaust more accessible; by definition, the magnitude of that event is somewhat beyond human comprehension, so something that enables people to relate to it on an individual level is a positive step in ensuring it doesn't happen again.

The Diary as published has proven itself as an enduring work of art that has a lasting impact on the world. It didn't need an annex.

Discuss the book on its merits.

I think it has none by definition, but that's my opinion. This is why I'm participating in this thread.
posted by yiftach at 1:55 PM on June 22, 2010


Just another in that broad category of things that you have every right to do, and your right to do so should be respected and protected, but if you actually make use of that right you betray yourself as an utter tit.
posted by runincircles at 1:57 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


That saucy Anne Frank:

Once when I was spending the night at Jacque's , I could no longer restrain my curiosity about her body, which she'd always hidden from me and which I'd never seen. I asked her whether, as proof of our friendship, we could touch each other's breasts. Jacque refused. I also had a terrible desire to kiss her, which I did. Every time I see a female nude, such as the Venus in my art history book, I go into ecstasy. Sometimes I find them so exquisitie I have to struggle to hold back my tears. If only I had a girlfriend!

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, Otto Frank and Mirjam Pressler pg. 162
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 1:57 PM on June 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


That saucy Anne Frank:

If you want to get even saucier, search for "kiss." That cad Peter begged her for them!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:02 PM on June 22, 2010


The Diary as published has proven itself as an enduring work of art that has a lasting impact on the world. It didn't need an annex.

Or a BBC serial or a stage adaptation?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:03 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Keep in mind that the "bisexual" passage wasn't the only one that was cut; Otto Frank cut other passages as well that weren't sexual. Including one that said unkind things about her mother; and another "boring" one that described in detail a ping-pong club.
posted by Melismata at 2:03 PM on June 22, 2010


The book might be exploitive crap, but it also might be a new and interesting take on a prominent historical figure/narrative. Who knows? Nobody here has read it. Making value judgments about it, sight unseen, seems really pointless to me.
posted by brundlefly at 2:06 PM on June 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


None of us know what the book is about, or how explicit or sacrilegious is really is, but don't let that stop you from calling it slashfic and arguing against it as if it was. The linked articles are pretty light on details, but this novel seems to have more graphic descriptions of thoughts and desires than of acts. The descriptions actually seem pretty tame to me. How many other historical figures deserve the "hands off" treatment when it comes speculative fiction?
posted by rocket88 at 2:07 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I thought Peter liked Margot.
posted by anniecat at 2:08 PM on June 22, 2010


> Making value judgments about it, sight unseen, seems really pointless to me.

Making comments at all seems really pointless to me. Why aren't we all out saving the world?
posted by languagehat at 2:09 PM on June 22, 2010


Hmm, let me defend my initial statement that this book is utterly tasteless, ergo not something I'll be willing to support with money or the time it would take to read it.

First of all, Dogar is claiming this book is accurate and she is the one who brought up Anne Frank's cousin, and even had a correspondence with him about the book. To quote her:

Dogar says she made every effort to portray the events and characters accurately, citing a correspondence with Frank's only surviving relative, Buddy Elias, in which she says she assuaged his initial doubts over the book

Second, although of course no person is off limits in the sense that a writer may not ficitonalize them, most people have the sensitivity and sense to avoid, for example, giving us their imagination about the intimate moments of people who are famous in part because of the way their lives were taken from them or destroyed. I'm not eager to read about sex scenes involving someone who died in the Armenian massacres or the teenage love lives of the victims in Kosovo, either.

Third, I'm personally amazed that Anne's voice, which so articulately describes her coming of age, family tensions, the frictions between people forced to live in intimate quarters, and the bewilderment and terror of knowing you are being hunted and face death for just being of a particular religion, survived. I think her memory should be honored, not defaced for money. Just my opinion.

And finally, I am so sick of the willingness to tie up sex and death to sell junk fiction. It's a formula, and there is something obscene to me about linking teen sexuality with Anne's extermination.

And that's why I'm not going to be reading this book.
posted by bearwife at 2:09 PM on June 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


Discuss the book on its merits? How do you define "merit" in the case of an as-yet unpublished book that is based on a real, incredible person (a child, no less) and has everything to gain from offending her last living relative?

I began thinking, whose story are they going to repackage next? Can't really think of a worse case than this. So to my mind, this is blatant opportunism of the worst kind - but maybe that's only because my imagination is much more limited than the publishing masterminds who have such single-minded commitment to selling a fucking book.
posted by mondaygreens at 2:11 PM on June 22, 2010


Cynicism 101:

Controversy = Publicity = ↑ $$$

Any questions?
posted by Sys Rq at 2:13 PM on June 22, 2010


Hm, yes:
The novel, which opens with Peter on the point of death, is told as a series of diary entries interspersed with the thoughts of the dying boy, charting the story of the time he spent hiding with the Franks in the Annexe at 263 Prinsengracht, his discovery and his time in the Mauthausen concentration camp. But it is the small part of the book that concerns Peter's teenage sexuality that has angered Walnes, and led her to accuse Dogar of "putting 21st-century mores on to young people" from a different era.
Better buy two copies in case you rend one in anger whilst reading.
posted by boo_radley at 2:13 PM on June 22, 2010


You cannot libel the dead.
posted by parmanparman at 2:16 PM on June 22, 2010


I'm fine with the book, but I thought the Anne Frank upskirt shot on Perez Hilton's blog was over the line.
posted by found missing at 2:18 PM on June 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I actually never read the diary during school, so I read it the first time a few months ago. The blatantly bisexual passage was in my edition.

What was kind of strange for me was that passage wasn't my first idea that she seemed bisexual; when she'd talk about her feelings toward boys at the beginning of the book, it reminded me eerily of my own have-a-crush-on-guys-because-that's-what-girls-are-supposed-to-do feelings from my childhood. She didn't talk much about actually liking boys, aside from maybe feeling a bit excited when they liked her. The only time she expresses any sort of outright desire it's that passage about the other girl. So when I got to the bisexual passage I wasn't surprised exactly, but a bit startled nonetheless because I had NEVER heard about any bisexual or lesbian stuff when people had talked about Anne Frank. I was also wondering what the motivation for keeping that under wraps was -- homophobia, or it seemed aside the point, or her father scrubbed it, or what? Seems like her father scrubbed it, I suppose.

When I brought this up to my husband (yes, I'm married to a guy; it takes a lot for me to be physically attracted to a guy but it happens) he was similarly surprised. The edition he read in school didn't have any of that in it either; he's right there with a lot of MeFites.
posted by Nattie at 2:18 PM on June 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


How do you define "merit" in the case of an as-yet unpublished book that is based on a real, incredible person (a child, no less) and has everything to gain from offending her last living relative?

If Karoline Leach is to be believed, it was only through his family's efforts to desexualize him via diary edits that Lewis Carroll is, today, commonly believed to be a pedophile. These attempts at sanitized portrayals have a real impact on how historical figures are understood.

Otto Frank's revisions of his daughters' diary--which were understandable, perhaps, if also not precisely admirable--removed content about her sexuality. I can tell you unequivocally that this is a very important part of identity for most preteen girls, and if you read "The Definitive Edition," you get a very strong sense that it was also an important part of Peter's life, as well. Again, I haven't read the book in question here, either--but I can easily see how the idea of coming-of-age and into sexual identity in an extremely cramped space without physical or emotional privacy would be compelling for a writer of young adult fiction. She's not "tying up sex and death"--she's talking openly about these parts of life that for the young adults in the annex were already inextricably linked.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:20 PM on June 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


I agree that this seems tasteless and tawdry, and sullies her memory.

I'm not sure how this sullies her memory. It's a fictional account of Peter's life, not Anne's.

most people have the sensitivity and sense to avoid, for example, giving us their imagination about the intimate moments of people who are famous in part because of the way their lives were taken from them or destroyed.

Was the whole point of publishing Anne Frank's diary not to provide us with private and intimate moments and thoughts of a Holocaust victim?
posted by Kirk Grim at 2:20 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


The sex thing is irrelevant - the fact that it's still what people/media jump to talking about first only signals that the writer was savvy.

Anne Frank's diary is unique, beautiful, courageous, historical. It is important, it unites people across ages and countries. I think everyone who reads it feels utterly glad that it survived and that we are able to read it, in whatever way her father was okay with.

In every way, this book is the opposite of that - I don't need to read it to know.
posted by mondaygreens at 2:23 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Roger Sutton, the editor-in-chief of the Horn Book (which is a very well-respected source of reviews of books for children and young adults), has reviewed the book for his magazine. Though his review won't be published until September, he speaks highly of it, and I tend to trust him. See his blog for more.
posted by cider at 2:23 PM on June 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'd already seen the censored version years ago. I don't consider it homoerotic as much as I would simply the curiosity of youth. Frankly the majority of women straight or otherwise do see the female form as erotic-I don't remember the study but there was one made. Maybe someone else out there can cite?

That doesn't mean she didn't -or did-have lesbian tendencies-you cannot extrapolate that from one small paragraph.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:23 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Was the whole point of publishing Anne Frank's diary not to provide us with private and intimate moments and thoughts of a Holocaust victim?

No. No. Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo...

Seriously, that may be most cynical thing on this thread yet.
posted by mondaygreens at 2:28 PM on June 22, 2010


(...) But sometimes stories just come and you can't stop them.

This is why we have editors and publishers.
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:28 PM on June 22, 2010


Was the whole point of publishing Anne Frank's diary not to provide us with private and intimate moments and thoughts of a Holocaust victim?

I think you are very clear that I was using the word "intimate" to refer to sexual moments, not merely private ones.

And I think you have just (inadverently?) articulated one of Otto Frank's reasons for releasing an edited version of his daughter's diary: to avoid having people miss how much more there is to it than a description of her sexual development.

Lastly, Anne's diary is true. Dogar's creation is nothing of the sort.
posted by bearwife at 2:29 PM on June 22, 2010


Human Sexual Response - "Anne Frank Story"
posted by Sys Rq at 2:29 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


That Anne Frank should have gone on to have a full life including romance it an important layer of subtext of her Diary. To fictionalize an account of that romance for the titillation of the reader is just bad taste.
posted by gallois at 2:31 PM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Roger Sutton, the editor-in-chief of the Horn Book (which is a very well-respected source of reviews of books for children and young adults), has reviewed the book for his magazine. Though his review won't be published until September, he speaks highly of it, and I tend to trust him. See his blog for more.

Thanks for that, cider; that was illuminating.

So, for clarification: no one has sex in this book, and nothing happens in the annex that doesn't also happen in Anne Frank's own diary.

I like this comment from Elizabeth Law, a publisher at Egmont who liked the book enough that she tried to acquire it (but was outbid): " . . . even after closely reading and considering for publication it never ocurred to me that someone would have trouble with the sexual tension between Peter and Anne. I guess after 25 years in the business I should finally learn once and for all that adults will always act shocked at the content when they finally pay attention to a YA novel--even if they don't actually read it. "
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:35 PM on June 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


No. No. Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo...

Seriously, that may be most cynical thing on this thread yet.


WTF? I don't think we're on the same page. Publishing the diary of Anne Frank, a Holocaust victim, helps people make a connection on a personal level and understand that the victims were normal, innocent folks like them who did no wrong and were arbitrarily subjected to the horrors of the concentration camps and the Nazis. You don't do this by publishing a bunch of bullet points about what happened, you do it by including her intimate thoughts and feelings and descriptions of events from her point of view. Cynical? Wha?

I'm getting out of this thread now. Y'all are flippin out and it sounds increasingly like few of you have bothered to so much read the descriptions of the offending passages in the FPP.
posted by Kirk Grim at 2:38 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


PhoB, I think you are being too kind. I also think we don't have the right to expect to know everything about a historical figure (two children, in this case). Does your privacy die with you? More importantly, should we allow it to, after you're gone?

If you've read her diary, you are as good a person as any to come up with your own answer for: would Anne have wanted this? But this is more complicated than that, because she was a child. And because why she died has everything to do with an individual's right to exist free from misinterpretation.

Your explanation is the opposite of those who're saying this is okay because it's fiction. That's a worse but more solid reason for this kind of, um, stunty crap.


(Maybe I've just been reading too much Kant. My younger sister never liked books growing up... the only thing she ever read, and re-read, was the Diary of Anne Frank. So maybe that's also part of it. But seriously, fuck this book.)
posted by mondaygreens at 2:40 PM on June 22, 2010


I've not yet read Anne Frank's diary, but have seen the 1959 George Stevens movie a couple of times. To me it's clear that his adaptation implies that there were at least tender feelings between Anne and Peter. So should that movie never have been filmed?
posted by blucevalo at 2:44 PM on June 22, 2010


So I guess the reply I was about to make to this FPP that began...
Dear Penthouse,

If this story hadn't happened to me, I wouldn't believe it was true. I was trapped in this attic for a year with these two sisters...
...would also be considered inappropriate.

Damn. It was pretty hot.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:46 PM on June 22, 2010


wow, ok. the most I can find about the questionable material is that the characters in the new book have "one truly intimate touch [which] was enough to stop them." what's the problem? I mean it, what's the uproar? I get it that her last surviving cousin doesn't like it, but the man's 80 years old and in charge of preserving her memory, so maybe we can acknowledge that his idea about the book might be a little bit charged and might not necessarily reflect any content that we as readers would really object to, right? it seems like there are an awful lot of conclusions being jumped to, here.
posted by shmegegge at 2:47 PM on June 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


If you've read her diary, you are as good a person as any to come up with your own answer for: would Anne have wanted this? But this is more complicated than that, because she was a child.

Anne wanted her diary published after she heard a call for accounts of the war and she herself edited it for publication. It's clear from the diary itself that she was comfortable with its content. Which included content about herself in a relationship with Peter. Seriously, did you guys read the book?

And because why she died has everything to do with an individual's right to exist free from misinterpretation.

It's also clear from the diary that Anne was a sexual young woman, which was part of her fearlessness and vitality. Denying her budding sexuality is revisionist, and a misinterpretation of who she really was.

People get upset about sexual content in YA novels because they like to imagine that their children are not sexual beings. People--including Anne Frank's family--try to deny Anne's sexuality because it's evidence that young teenagers are sexual beings. I think that's a shame, and does both Anne and her diary a disservice.

But seriously, fuck this book.

No. You haven't read the book. But then, I guess this is why banned book weeks are so popular in many high school libraries. People love to get up in arms about books they haven't read.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:47 PM on June 22, 2010 [43 favorites]


If people are going to be easily outraged and offended instead of just ignoring things they don't like into oblivion and cause all this stir and excitement and noise and nonsense about it, then they are fools not to expect other people to mine their outrage for all the gold that's in it.

This desire to be offended is money in other people's pockets. Y'all need to yawn instead of yell a little more. Nothing is sacred to everyone. Everything is commerce to someone. Outrage ups the value of crap. Why didn't she change the names? Would perfect strangers all over the planet be issuing forth her name from their lips and keyboards had she done so?
posted by umberto at 2:51 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh PhoB, I already mentioned upthread that I didn't care about the sex. Seriously, who am I to know what she was feeling? - and that was exactly my point: I'm no one to know that.

I'm glad the Diary exists. I wish that this wasn't being published, because her last living relative clearly has strong objections to its faithfulness to Anne's character and because his legitimate objections are going to make this more popular. Also that it is being published as fiction, which means - like I also mentioned upthread - that this isn't really an interpretation but a retelling, written in a way that capitalizes on / exploits what is best about the book - its verity. So I'm going to not read it, really really hard. That's all.

Also, I retract my comment about your kindness.
posted by mondaygreens at 2:59 PM on June 22, 2010


I am so tired of the "My writing is in charge, I'm just following along! Whee!" narrative. It always bums me out to see writers at any level saying that stuff, and so many of them do.

No one has magical voices telling them what to write. When you do interviews like this, you give younger writers the idea that they need to hear magical voices, so they either decide they can't write or they start pretending to hear magical voices, all the while feeling guilty about not hearing magical voices.

It's nice to pretend to be a sage, but there comes a time to grow up and be a writer.
posted by roll truck roll at 2:59 PM on June 22, 2010 [9 favorites]


I get it that her last surviving cousin doesn't like it, but the man's 80 years old and in charge of preserving her memory, so maybe we can acknowledge that his idea about the book might be a little bit charged...

"In charge of preserving her memory" reads to me like "in charge of protecting the copyright".

See Cynthia Ozick's "Who Owns Anne Frank".
posted by Joe Beese at 3:02 PM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


mondaygreens, how do you feel about other derivative works of her diary? The stage play? The movies? The BBC serial? The musical? I also really, really don't understand how a fictional POV-shift of a historical account/document (which is really what this is) could possibly be construed as exploiting the truthiness of the existing diary.

Also, I retract my comment about your kindness.

Well, no skin off my nose.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:02 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Its lack of faithfulness, I meant. As he perceives it.

umberto, have we gotten to the point where if someone says, "here's why I think buying this is not a good idea", people will rush out in droves to buy it before even reading the rest of the sentence?

And have we gone past even that to the point where the people who're saying it's a bad idea are the ones who should take responsibility for objecting and shut up? Or yawn?

Okay - that's exactly why I'm outraged, I guess. The fact that this was published means that if her last living relative objects At All, it's only going to sell more copies.
posted by mondaygreens at 3:05 PM on June 22, 2010


I'm getting out of this thread now. Y'all are flippin out and it sounds increasingly like few of you have bothered to so much read the descriptions of the offending passages in the FPP.

The problem is that a MeFite doesn't always choose what they say. The idea for my comment plagued me for 15 microseconds. I tried quite hard not to write it, mostly because I had similar concerns: I couldn't do it justice, I wasn't sure what I was talking about, I didn't read the article.

But sometimes comments just come and you can't stop them...
posted by mazola at 3:08 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Anne wanted her diary published after she heard a call for accounts of the war and she herself edited it for publication.

That's true. She also carefully edited her short stories, which I've also read.

But she didn't look for a collaborator. She didn't add fictional entries by Peter. In fact, it appears that nothing in her diary is fiction.

Anne Frank's story is pretty important. It didn't need to be fictionalized.

And I'm fine with sex in books, including sex in YA books. (Not big on the sex/death combo in any medium, though.) I'm not so fine with turning a real and significant story into a novel.

And I am not advocating this book be banned. Strongly criticizing the writer's tastelessness and poor choices and willingness to exploit is not the same thing as asking that her book be censored.
posted by bearwife at 3:11 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


So... I can't object to this particular book (or mention my reasons for disliking it) because other works based on Anne Frank exist?

I fail to follow your logic. Anyway, I've already said my piece. And also mentioned the personal/random reasons for feeling strongly about this. So... etc.
posted by mondaygreens at 3:13 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I also think we don't have the right to expect to know everything about a historical figure (two children, in this case). Does your privacy die with you? More importantly, should we allow it to, after you're gone?

The entire diary Anne makes it very clear that she intends for it all to be published. She purposely included the relationship bits, the bisexual bit, and whatever else ended up being scrubbed. It would be very odd for her to consider it an erosion of privacy. It would be like someone publishing their own memoir and then getting very upset that it was allowed to be published.

Generally speaking, I think my right to privacy does die with me, actually. It seems that ultimately we have privacy so people don't have to deal with emotional stress over things being public, and I don't see that possibly coming into play when I'm dead. Whether or not Anne Frank felt that way seems irrelevant, since it's not a question of "knowing everything about her," merely everything that she purposely wrote with the intent that it be published. I'm not sure what's controversial there.

If you've read her diary, you are as good a person as any to come up with your own answer for: would Anne have wanted this?

I'm not clear on whether you're referring to the bits she wrote in her diary that were scrubbed before publication -- in which case it's very clear that she wanted them published -- or the fictional book that's in discussion, which seems stickier at first. However, the fictional book isn't from her perspective so it's unlikely to reflect poorly on her, and either way, it's fiction.

There are shelves of historical fiction in the bookstore. No one ever asked those people what they thought about being characters in a book. I don't recall anyone attacking Salman Rushdie for violating the privacy of Machiavelli or Akbar the Great when he wrote The Enchantress of Florence because that would be absurd. And he had them fucking all sorts of tawdry people. Biographies skirt the same line.

So this seems to be touchy because she was a teenager, and a Holocaust victim, and maybe her story is too sacred to be marred by a boy having feelings for her. But why? What's so insanely offensive about teenagers having sexual feelings? Peter almost certainly did have sexual feelings toward her, in reality, so why is it considered insulting or inappropriate? Most of all, how could that possibly be viewed as a slight against Anne's memory? That seems incredibly backward and sexist, to think a girl is somehow less if a guy is sexually attracted to her. What century is this? And why do we consider sexual feelings so ugly that to suggest a Holocaust victim might have felt them is inappropriate or somehow ruining their memory? That whole line of reasoning is all very weird to me, I must confess.

Far from ruining anything, I think the question of being a teenager in Anne and Peter's situation with a possible love interest is something very human and heart-wrenching worth exploring. I didn't expect any confession of sex to appear in the diary, but I think it would be very odd for someone to read that and not wonder at all the things she and Peter must have been feeling -- and not in a prurient, sensationalist way either, which seems to be the only possibility some people recognize for the exploration of romantic relationships in books. I thought her relationship with Peter toward the end was one of the most moving things about her story because so many complicated emotions are wrapped up in it; they were in constant fear of death, Anne only sort of liked him but didn't have any other options so he grew on her somewhat, there was the question of attraction between him and Margot, they had little privacy or space to be like normal teenagers, and they were both scared and lonely. I felt sad and mildly ill and stressed out and happy in a bittersweet way and terrified and a whole ton of other stuff when reading those parts. It's entirely possible the fictional account will suck, but there's a lot there worth examining. I'll probably read it.
posted by Nattie at 3:39 PM on June 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


Other than her writings and any statements left behind by her father, Mr. Ellis is all we have left.

This is not true. Dutch public broadcaster KRO has a TV show, called 'The Reunion', in which 15 former classmates of hers where reunited for the first time since WWII, in December 2009. All very remarkable people.

Mr. Ellis is only important because he's read a proof of the book, and thus could react on it.

[And about the book, am I the only one who reads the title as: Anne x-ed'?]
posted by ijsbrand at 3:42 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dear future surving relatives: please do whatever you can to encourage novelists to write about teenaged girls lusting for teenaged me. Also, send more hell money.
posted by Zed at 3:50 PM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


What's so insanely offensive about teenagers having sexual feelings?

That ain't the issue for me here, it's historical fiction in general.

Lesser writers will use historical figures or settings as a shortcut to tap into a readers interest or emotions and often it just feels cheap, manipulative, and lazy.

I haven't read this book (obviously) so I can't say that's the case here, but it certainly is the danger. And while this danger is true when borrowing any real person/event for the purposes of fiction, it becomes amped up in the context of the Holocaust. Using the people and tragedy of the Holocaust as a prop for some other message just seems on the face of it as... well, not right.

FWIW, I felt the exact same way about the The Day the Clown Cried and Life is Beautiful.
posted by mazola at 3:57 PM on June 22, 2010


Nattie: "So this seems to be touchy because she was a teenager, and a Holocaust victim, and maybe her story is too sacred to be marred by a boy having feelings for her. "

I'm not arguing for or against the book here, but there's another key difference between this and most historical fiction: Anne Frank wasn't a historical figure in the same way that Thomas Jefferson or Napoleon or Hitler was. Her book is notable not because she did something historically important, but because she provided a consummately human perspective on notable events. So, it's different from writing a novel about Machiavelli, and it's understandable that there'd be a little more sensitivity around it.
posted by roll truck roll at 3:58 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nattie, that was serendipitous - I just added you as a contact because I read your answer on another thread. (Hope that's okay? I don't know what's the protocol on this kind of adding...)

Anyway, you're responding to one comment so I might repeat some things I said in others. First, I phrased the privacy thing as a question because I do think it's a question - I mean I know how I feel about my privacy (and what I'll do with my diaries before I die :) but I also know that the answer would vary from person to person. The fact that AF is long dead and that we can only glean her intentions from what we have access to obviously means there's no right answer, but I'm at no point saying that people who want to read this shouldn't (I don't know what gave the impression that I'd rather this book was banned - as someone else implied). I've just skimmed through this but it seems to be making the same point as you. Okay.

I think a much better word in place of privacy would have been dignity, but again - it would only be a question, and an entirely irrelevant one, given ... well, reality. That was what I was trying to get at (poorly) with the "Would Anne have wanted this?" - which may be better phrased as... um, does this (the banking on controversy, not the writing about her sexuality) sit okay with what Anne means to you? Please also note that it was not a question. I was saying that we all would have different answers to that. In that or another comment I mentioned that I really love that book (and have a very vivid image of Anne in my head, from reading her words - and also spent an entire summer in college reading about the Holocaust because of it), and that I'm reading Kant these days. You know... not using people as means and all that. So I already do know that my objections are entirely irrelevant to the book being published. Because ultimately my objection is against capitalizing on it, not against writing it - which is an entirely theoretical objection, but one that does guide me in what I buy / read.

In another comment I mentioned: this is not at all - at all - about the sex in this book or that one. In fact I'm just going to link to my relevant comments: 1, 2, 3, 4.

To summarize: this isn't about any slight to Anne's memory - there's no objective memory of her. The fact that this book is being published because the writer "couldn't help" but write it, and stands to gain from her relative's objections does offend what Anne means to me. And to maybe a couple of people I know. That's all. And I think that's okay.

I'm not against books. Or sex. Or freedom. Just against commercialism. Especially the crass kind.
posted by mondaygreens at 4:10 PM on June 22, 2010


Harry Mulisch once wrote: "We will know that the war is truly over when parents name their sons Adolf again."

Or this, I guess.
posted by clarknova at 4:21 PM on June 22, 2010


What a shitty, cheap stunt the author has pulled. Shame!
posted by five fresh fish at 4:32 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


it's a well known fact that her father expunged sexual-related content of the same-sex variety from her diary before publishing it

My sarcasm meter is broken today - is this true?


The diary as originally published was edited to remove some content, but not just sexual content; there were harsh remarks about her mother, and so on. The unexpurgated diary was published about ten years ago, I think, and includes passages such as a detailed description of genitalia and her musings on the clitoris ("Once I asked my mother what it was for, and she said she didn't know", which I suppose must be read with the kind of eyeroll only a teenage girl could produce).

The book in question-- this romance about Peter-- annoys me because the plot seems an obvious hook to draw attention to a work which likely isn't strong enough to stand on its own. There's no reason the author couldn't have written the story from scratch; it's almost as if she is so unsure of her own ability to create believable fictional characters that she had to start with familiar historical figures in order to give her novel any heft whatsoever. I won't be reading it, because I doubt it would be worthwhile.
posted by jokeefe at 4:33 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


What's her justification for publishing it?

Does she really need one?
posted by krinklyfig at 4:40 PM on June 22, 2010


So... I can't object to this particular book (or mention my reasons for disliking it) because other works based on Anne Frank exist?

No--but it certainly seemed that you were objecting to this as a work of derivative fiction, and a great deal of derivative fiction exists about Anne Frank already. Songs, poems, stage musicals--all incorporating unequal parts fact and fiction--and many of them as for-profit enterprises. That doesn't mean that they aren't valuable, though. I think the world is richer for "Holland, 1945."

The fact that this book is being published because the writer "couldn't help" but write it, and stands to gain from her relative's objections does offend what Anne means to me.

I do think the "couldn't help" argument is cheesy--but at the same time, it's really easy to see how and why the author felt like this was a potentially compelling narrative. Again, the relatives of historical figures are really often not the best people to judge what's appropriate in terms of either derivative works or preserving what's historically notable. If you haven't looked up Karoline Leach, who I mentioned upthread, I'd really recommend it, because the case of Charles Dodgson really stands as a cautionary tale about what happens when your heirs decide to edit your journals for propriety's sake.

As for claiming that the author is "banking on the controversy," I haven't seen anything to suggest that the author is doing so. In fact, in the articles, she seems really pretty horrified--she's stuck closely to the narrative of the journals, corresponded with the relative in question, and tried to present a story that is (from what a gather) giving voice to a historical figure who previously had none. I suspect that she thinks she's doing something valuable, both in terms of both education and art.

As for conflating those who complained about this with banned books, sorry--as someone who writes for teens, it's very difficult not to have a deeply emotional reaction to people who haven't read a book crowing about its inappropriateness. That's a very common reason, and line of reasoning ("I don't need to read this to know it's trash," essentially) for books being removed from the access of teenagers.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:41 PM on June 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


Lesser writers will use historical figures or settings as a shortcut to tap into a readers interest or emotions and often it just feels cheap, manipulative, and lazy.

Oh, I know, right? That's totally how I felt about Richard III.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:41 PM on June 22, 2010 [13 favorites]


> The book in question-- this romance about Peter-- annoys me because the plot seems an obvious hook to draw attention to a work which likely isn't strong enough to stand on its own. There's no reason the author couldn't have written the story from scratch; it's almost as if she is so unsure of her own ability to create believable fictional characters that she had to start with familiar historical figures in order to give her novel any heft whatsoever. I won't be reading it, because I doubt it would be worthwhile.

Bingo. I'm amazed so many people seem to think the only issue here is whether it is or is not OK to write about Anne Frank's sex life, and assume that the reason people object to the book must be based solely on that. It's a lazy writer piggybacking on the worldwide renown of the diary, and her bullshit about how she fought it off for years but it just had to be told only makes it worse. I'm sure she'll donate the inevitable Hollywood money to charity. /hamburger
posted by languagehat at 4:46 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


No one has magical voices telling them what to write. When you do interviews like this, you give younger writers the idea that they need to hear magical voices, so they either decide they can't write or they start pretending to hear magical voices, all the while feeling guilty about not hearing magical voices.

No one said they did, roll truck roll. She basically described what every creative writer I've ever met, myself included, has felt about the ambivalence between feeling like they've got a great idea and imagining that everyone else in the world will think their ideas suck. The only way you get beyond that nagging feeling is to just go ahead and but the stuff out there.

Congratulations on strawmanning inspiration, though, for chrissakes.

That said, this book will probably suck. Not because of subject matter or intent, mind you, but just because most books suck. Sturgeon's Law or whatever it's called. But the idea that a fictionalization of the time in time in the annex, from Peter's point of view, must necessarily suck, MUST be craven and tawdry, just strikes me as bullshit.

I can imagine universe in which this book is outstanding, and enters the cultural lexicon as a poetic and poignant companion piece to Diary of a Young Girl, and in that universe Mefites would be shouting that to ban it based on the fact that the two central teenagers in it have feelings like every other damn teenager has would be an outrage.

Yes, it will probably be crap, but to declare it crap sight-unseen is facile and ill-informed.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:49 PM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


If you've read her diary, you are as good a person as any to come up with your own answer for: would Anne have wanted this? But this is more complicated than that, because she was a child. And because why she died has everything to do with an individual's right to exist free from misinterpretation.

I was not aware of this right. How long after someone's death does this extend? Can we begin to examine histories without becoming personally offended, when? How about all the Shakespearean historical plays? Does he have the right to reinterpret the histories of important figures like Henry V?
posted by krinklyfig at 4:50 PM on June 22, 2010


I'm frankly amazed at all these readers declaring the book terrible without having cracked the cover.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:52 PM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's a lazy writer piggybacking on the worldwide renown of the diary

It might be that. It might also be a great writer who thinks they have an interesting take on a well known narrative. It might be something else. We don't know. We haven't read it.
posted by brundlefly at 4:53 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lesser writers will use historical figures or settings as a shortcut to tap into a readers interest or emotions and often it just feels cheap, manipulative, and lazy.

Holding up the Holocaust as an historical event which must be free from reinterpretation seems to me pretty hollow. Humans have done far worse to each other, truly.

Now, I'll try to come up with a reason people might call Shakespeare or Umberto Eco "cheap, manipulative and lazy."
posted by krinklyfig at 4:55 PM on June 22, 2010


Tell you what, we'll both put money in a pot; you win the pot if she turns out to be another Shakespeare, I win it if she turns out to be yet another in an endless recent series of lazy authors rewriting successful novels and/or movies from a "new angle." I like my chances.
posted by languagehat at 4:59 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have no idea if she's another Shakespeare. I'm not presuming to know.
posted by brundlefly at 5:01 PM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


one fpp about the sexualization of anne frank and another about neutral milk hotel and they're NOT related to eachother? wow.
posted by triceryclops at 5:01 PM on June 22, 2010


No... I'm not at all bothered that it's derivative - I don't even really agree with that word (especially its pejorative connotation), and have no problems that it's based on Anne's life or explores her sexuality. I implied in my very first comment that the "couldn't help it" argument was blah but it didn't address the (to me, much more relevant) question of why she chose to publish it. Does it help people understand Anne better than her own Diary? Does it have insights most people might have missed? Is it being marketed as a kind of "fan fiction"? Or is profit now such an obvious motive that "why" has become irrelevant? (As Kirk Grim upthread seemed to suggest.)

Basically my issue was that I, like some other posters, couldn't see any other reason for the book to be published, nor for the way it is written (from Peter's point of view) except that it might sell, because 1) the original is famous enough and 2) the possible controversy over the sex - and the author's own response to that question didn't shed any light on how she thinks the book might be valuable to others. If she has so little insight into her own writing process/reasoning/thesis, I honestly didn't put much faith in her insights into Anne.

Ad in general I am very wary of books that are publicized before they're released, because (and I know people in publishing, and authors trying to publish books, and am a sorta-writer myself) it's very hard for me to believe that this controversy is something that the publishers didn't foresee. As I was saying in a me-mail response just now: it's really really hard to make a book famous, even when it's good. Gimmicks have become necessary and common (this was not always the case - and not any significant part of what made the Diary famous), but that doesn't make them okay in my book (no pun intended). In any case every time a book seems gimmicky, I just reject it ... been burned enough already. Plus for my own sake, I try to hold books to higher standards, because otherwise I'd really have no impetus to try to write well.

But - I am happy to take your word that the author didn't have such ulterior motives, because I don't want to be thinking upsetting thoughts. Anne is a bit of a touchy topic, and possible gimmicks around her story do bug me - but mostly I just don't have a lot of trust left over in publishing or the media. So, I retract, also the "seriously, fuck this book" - and hope that this comment explained where I was coming from.
posted by mondaygreens at 5:06 PM on June 22, 2010


Hmm, okay, I think I'm seeing something in the arguments against the book which I missed before, which seems to rest on the motives (for lack of a better word; maybe something a bit broader) of writers of historical fiction. I see a thread of it in these bits:

mazola: Lesser writers will use historical figures or settings as a shortcut to tap into a readers interest or emotions and often it just feels cheap, manipulative, and lazy.

roll truck roll: Anne Frank wasn't a historical figure in the same way that Thomas Jefferson or Napoleon or Hitler was. Her book is notable not because she did something historically important, but because she provided a consummately human perspective on notable events.

mondaygreens: Because ultimately my objection is against capitalizing on it, not against writing it - which is an entirely theoretical objection, but one that does guide me in what I buy / read.

What I'm sort of getting out of this is -- and anyone correct me if I'm misinterpreting -- is the feeling that the author's primary motive in writing the story is personal gain, as opposed to feeling a real emotional connection to the story and wanting to explore it; i.e. it's a cheap way to make people emotionally invested in a story she has written, or it's taking what was a human story and and doing something to it that isn't about being human, or she wants to make money off of something and making money off of Anne Frank seems particularly exploitative. I can understand being bothered by that.

That's not my assumption, though. And to be clear, I don't think there's any way of knowing what the author really wants, deep down, and I'm just making a different assumption. I'm a writer, so maybe I tend to assume that the author wrote the story because she felt the same way I did when she read the passages about Peter. To me, writing about their relationship isn't a lazy or manipulative way to make people like a story, it's meaningful precisely because it might hit home to the actual emotions they felt. It's a fictional take on it because the author can't know, but it would be meaningful for similar reasons that the original diary was meaningful. It's taking something that was glossed over the diary but was no doubt very meaningful to the two of them, and it's asking the reader to back up and reflect on that moment in their lives. To me, it's not about taking Anne's human perspective on notable events and somehow mangling it or cheapening it, it's about taking her very human situation and doing it justice since the messier stuff wasn't discussed as much. Doing it from Peter's perspective in particular could make him more human than being a character on the sidelines in Anne Frank's life, which is the inevitable feeling you'd get from reading a story from any singular perspective; he was just as much a Holocaust victim with real feelings even if his diary didn't get published. He had his own life and feelings. I think you could explore that with a real sense of respect and reverence for what happened to them.

As for making money off it... I guess that's possible. It's just that writers don't make that much money, and given that she's already published a couple of books, I'm sure she knew not to expect much. I guess you could say that's precisely why she's trying something like this, and it's totally a stunt, but I have trouble buying that; teenagers nowadays want to read urban fantasy young adult novels, not depressing books about the Holocaust. Even with the controversy surrounding it -- maybe she's counting on adults buying it instead? -- I'd be surprised if she were banking on it to be a big money maker. I guess anything's possible, but in my experience it's always seemed that the public has a really mercenary view of writers and assume the worst possible motives. Like earlier comments in the thread seem incredulous that she could use "I couldn't not write it" as an 'excuse' or something, but that's exactly how it feels when you're very moved and compelled by a particular story. People seem to read that and think, oh, she's crazy on top of being tasteless! but it reads to me like sincerity from someone who truly found Anne and Peter's relationship profoundly moving and fascinating.

It's possible she's a stunt-pulling, money-grubbing monster who wants to exploit the memory of a few Holocaust victims. I don't even blame people for assuming that, honestly, especially people who haven't felt compelled to write stuff after being emotionally moved by something; I don't really expect anyone to assume otherwise. And it's something that's dear to people so protectiveness is expected too. I just don't feel comfortable taking that perspective without having read it. And hell, even if it's bad, it doesn't necessarily mean her heart wasn't in the right place; tons of sincere people can't write well. She just seems sincere to me.

I mean, did anyone think the movie Schindler's List was exploiting Holocaust victims for money? Or any of the works derivative of Anne Frank's diary? Or most artistic works based on the Holocaust? You could make the same assumptions for any of them. That's partly why I felt before that the reaction was largely spurred by the idea of teenagers having sexual feelings being particularly offensive, because otherwise why would those things be okay and this isn't? If it's really a case of people assuming artists are all in it for the money or attention or something, eh... I guess I'm a bit disappointed by the cynicism of it, though I can't hold it against anyone.
posted by Nattie at 5:14 PM on June 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


The argument that the quality of the work will be a judgment on her motives is ridiculous. She doesn't need to be Shakespeare to not have exploitative motives. There are plenty of crappy writers who are still in it for artistic reasons, and plenty of great writers who are primarily after money and fame. Talent has little to do with sincerity, though sincerity can help a little. Too many disparate skills go into writing -- organization, will power, sheer hours of staying still in one place, command of language -- to say that someone who sucks at writing must have hack motives.

Not that we even know it will suck. But if it does you don't win anything.
posted by Nattie at 5:22 PM on June 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


I read The Diary Of Anne Frank as a young girl, and probably felt the same way about it that young people have since it was first published - sad, angry, touched and shocked by the brilliant presentation of a life beyond my imagination at the time.

I read it again during the war in Sarajevo. Much of what I remembered about it from the first time I read it seemed to have disappeared. Those horrible Nazis, the endless fear of discovery, the deprivation. These all seemed quite minor now. What I noticed this second time was just a girl growing up. In an insanely awful environment, mind you. But what I recall today are Anne's ideas of romance, her occasionally sullen teenageriness, petty disagreements with her co-habitants but - most important - her refusal to lose her optimism and love of mankind, despite having ample excuse to do so.

Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.

It's that line, and its manifestations that cause people to love Anne, to speculate as to what her life might have been under happier circumstances, and to mourn her loss.

Anne, if she were alive today, would be 81. What would this elderly Anne make of a fictionalized (and seemingly pretty chaste) take on Peter's feelings during the time of her diary? She might be proper enough be a little embarrassed. She might be concerned with the feelings of Peter's distant relatives. She might find it quite funny that anyone would bother. She might have be devilishly curious to read it herself.

I have the feeling that she'd never have wanted to be seen as something of a saint; that to be perceived as anything but a fairly normal teenage girl, with fairly normal dreams and feelings, would only serve to diminish the basic points of her diary. In other words, I doubt she'd be as bothered by this new book as many of the people here seem to be.

I won't read it myself. I just can't seeing it adding much. But even at its worse, it's not going to alter anyone's view of Anne and her diary, is it?
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 5:24 PM on June 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


Nattie - I'm assuming that last comment was in response to me; if so, you've misread me. I nowhere said that the quality of the work will be a judgment on her motives. One has nothing to do with the other - at least not in any way that a reader would be privy to. I said she couldn't offer very convincing reasons for why the book was worth writing, which leaves me unconvinced about reading it. The gimmicky way this is working out in the media makes me wary, but I attributed that to the publishers, not to her... as I have no way of knowing what made her write, nor did her answer shed any light on the matter.

You're a writer, cool - so am I, and I agree that many writers are in it for artistic/personal reasons. But for me the absolutely biggest question in trying to get anything published is "would this be of any value to people who'll spend X dollars and/or X hours on it?" And sure, you can't always tell how people will respond to or interpret your book, but I do think you should have some firm belief in why it's worth soliciting other people's attention for. And I do think that as a writer, you should have some kind of grip on that belief - in words.

But that is just how I think about it / what I expect from other writers. None of what I said was really intended to be an argument; I was just explaining what I meant in earlier comments and why I'm (kinda vehemently) rejecting this book. It's mostly an elaboration of my personal reactions and not intended as an argument in the sense of "here's why you should agree".
posted by mondaygreens at 5:38 PM on June 22, 2010


triceryclops: one fpp about the sexualization of anne frank and another about neutral milk hotel and they're NOT related to eachother? wow.

I believe you've confused this with "The Dairy of Anne Frank."
posted by tzikeh at 5:42 PM on June 22, 2010


(Just a clarification: if you read the original articles closely, it seems that Elias is fine with the book, though he initially expressed doubts [he now "wishes" Dogar "well with it"]. It's Gillian Walnes, the co-founder and executive director of the Anne Frank Trust, who has raised objections.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:47 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


With all the talk about the editing and censoring of Anne's diary, and what she meant and wanted to be published, just wanted to mention that Francine Prose's book "Anne Frank: The Book, the Life, the Afterlife" is a fascinating (to me, anyway) look at Anne Frank as a writer, and at how much editing and re-editing she did herself of the diary when she began to think seriously of publication. Apparently one of the things she'd started doing was taking out a lot of the Peter stuff, as she'd gone off him to some extent.

I read the diary as a teen and do remember a lot of the stuff about her sexuality, but never thought that her desire to touch another girl's breasts, for instance, necessarily indicated her sexual preferences. Also, she does talk a lot about her boyfriends, and always seems to have had at least one or two boys that she considered as such -- or as potentials.

Either way, she was very aware and articulate about sexuality and it's kind of funny that people would be so horrified by the idea of this; maybe they've just forgotten about the many passages in which she talks about, say, kissing Peter, or maybe they've only seen the play or movie, neither of which is a really good depiction of Anne as a real person.
posted by OolooKitty at 6:00 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


In every way, this book is the opposite of that - I don't need to read it to know.

And with that little trite statement, mondaygreens sums up the worst of this thread, and of modern censors in general.

At least the Catholic Church assigned people to actually read & evaluate the works they put on their banned books list. For that alone, they are miles above in morality... although still below water.

No, you don't have to read the whole work to know. But you do have to read more than a sensationalized sound-bite from a reporter hoping to sell newspapers to "know" a damn thing at all about this situation.

The Real Anne Frank tried to touch girls' breasts. The Sensationalized, Crassly Commercialized Anne Phrank got kissed by a boy. See the difference? One is BAAAD. The other is GOOOD.

Wait, I think I got that backwards.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:06 PM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


As a YA author, I'm glad she wrote the book she felt she had to write, and the subject matter sounds entirely appropriate to me. But I have very mixed feelings about the book she chose to write.

I'm much more comfortable with remixing and interpreting history when it's well and truly history. The fact that there are Frank and van Pel relatives still alive makes me uncomfortable, in the way I'd be uncomfortable if someone wrote a middle grade novel about the Obama daughters. The subject matter doesn't bother me- just the fact that these are still living people to people currently living- that bothers me.

But art isn't about what makes me comfortable. And I'll probably read ANNEXED to find out if the book qua book is good or bad. As an author, it's not a choice I would have made. But until I read the book she wrote, I can't actually judge it.
posted by headspace at 7:30 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I really really truly don't understand the outrage here against this book. I read the unedited version of Anne Frank's diary as a teen and believe you me, Anne Frank was an extremely sexual young woman. I thought Otto Frank was, with respect, misguided to remove those passages from the originally published version because for me as a young girl they were some of the most evocative and resonant passages in the book. I savored and read those few sexual moments over and over again -- when Peter taught how to sex a cat, her curiosity about her own genitals (she speculates about how female genitals are so much more mysterious than male ones, since they're all tucked up out of sight and require a mirror to properly explore), Anne and Peter's first kiss and tentative sexual exploration, her subsequent obsession with Peter and later remorse about this obsession. To realize that this young girl in vastly different circumstances was experiencing much the same sorts of things that I was made the tragic ending all the more poignant and meaningful.
It doesn't surprise me at all that someone has chosen to explore the sexual side of Anne Frank and Peter Van Pels -- Anne's frank sexuality is something that ought to be celebrated not hidden away.
posted by peacheater at 7:36 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


IAmBroom, are books the only things that you think people should read before judging or does it apply to a poster's comments (on a single thread) too? I mean I'm okay with being the worst thing on this thread (at least everyone here can judge that), but saying I sum up the worst of modern censors in general... ouch.

I explicitly retracted my "screw this book" type comment because I realized that it wasn't what I was trying to say and it was totally (and understandably, after other posters pointed it out) open to misinterpretation. I'm still getting used to how fast conversation moves on the blue, and to how many ways an emphatic sentence can be interpreted.

I've done this before, but in the interest of being sure that you know what the "sum" of what I said is: here are my relevant comments: 1, 2, 3.

I am not a censor, nor am I in favor of censorship. All I have is the choice to buy this book or not buy it, and I won't buy it. I hope that my linked comments, in particular the second one, will explain why. If you still think I represent the worst of something, please do elaborate (me-mail works if you don't want to derail).
posted by mondaygreens at 7:40 PM on June 22, 2010


Does anyone know what her cousin thinks about a Dragonball Z/Anne Frank crossover fanfic?
posted by Wataki at 7:52 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think Nattie has it right -- no sane person writes a book like this with the intent of getting filthy rich. Some bullshit about sparkly abstinence vampires, okay. (Although, God help her, I am positive that profit was not Ms. Meyer's motive.) Holocaust girl? Come on. I mean, it's cynical to think that profit was the motive for this book, but it's also just moronic. If you were going to write something just to get paid, it would not be this.

Which leaves us with the notion that there are subjects and figures of whom we should not write. I don't think that's true. I'm not saying that writers should get a free pass, but I am saying that they deserve the benefit of the doubt. If you choose not to read this book because...well, if you choose not to read the book because you either haven't ever heard of the book or, having heard of it, don't really have any interest, that's one thing. Most people who never read this book will fall into the first category, even if this turns out somehow to be Harry Potter, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Twilight all rolled into one, because most people just don't read anything. But obviously everyone who objects to the book in theory does not fit either of those categories -- you're interested enough to vent about it, so it's not like you're totally disinterested. But if you're not interested enough to read the thing (and, personally, I'm probably not that interested), then maybe it's best to just not judge it, unless you really think that by definition any book like this is a bad and exploitative book. That is to say, if you can see no possible way that such a book could be anything else. If you read it and find it tasteless, that's another thing. I think that's fair, because such a book certainly could be tasteless. But if you really believe it must be, by definition, then I think you're just wrong.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:56 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think it's kind of interesting the contrast between the venom on display over the book, and the rapt adoration Neutral Milk Hotel tend to garner around here (including, non-coincidentally, in the next thread up.) I feel that way myself- that this book sounds like an appalling cash-in, like literary necrophilia, like an affront to the memory of someone who seems like she should be exempt from it.

But on the other hand I do love In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, and it certainly seems to be about Anne Frank - reimagining her, being in love with her, etc. Why is it different?

Maybe it's just the context. The very fact that we've heard of this book makes me think it's going to be somehow huge and unavoidable, which does make it sound like a marketing gimmick. If Neutral Milk Hotel was, like, Michael Jackson or something in terms of sales, maybe that would seem creepy too.

But hey, literary necrophilia is all the rage these days. That Jane Austen/trendy monster stuff, Wicked... say, how about a sequel to The Diary ... but from the viewpoint of the Nazis... no?
Fuck it, just throw some zombies in there. They'll eat *anything* these days...
posted by hap_hazard at 8:02 PM on June 22, 2010


Otto Frank didn't censor it according to this.
posted by mikepaco at 9:05 PM on June 22, 2010


I am surprised how many people had only read the censored book and didn't even know about the definitive edition. I have a bunch of different novels/faux diaries written by people in Anne's life, including a pretty dreadful one "authoured" by her sister. It is such a powerful bit of writing, I am not surprised other authours would want to tell the other side of the story. You can see that impulse here at mefi as people re-write other's comments based on the spaces between words and meanings.
posted by saucysault at 10:13 PM on June 22, 2010


So ... this is a fictionalized retelling of the Anne Frank story from Peter's point of view?

That's what everyone is so upset about?

... That? Really?

Huh. Well, I didn't much like "Ender's Shadow" either, but "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" was pretty awesome. Takes all kinds, I guess.
posted by kyrademon at 12:45 AM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am so tired of the "My writing is in charge, I'm just following along! Whee!" narrative. It always bums me out to see writers at any level saying that stuff, and so many of them do.

No one has magical voices telling them what to write. When you do interviews like this, you give younger writers the idea that they need to hear magical voices, so they either decide they can't write or they start pretending to hear magical voices, all the while feeling guilty about not hearing magical voices.


So basically they're all lying because they don't talk about writing in a way you personally agree with? And the main purpose of giving an interview is to encourage younger writers rather than to, oh, interest your readers?

Saying that you're just following where the writing leads doesn't mean you're saying you have magical voices whispering in your ear. It means you're making it up as you go along, taking decisions on the fly based on what you wrote today or yesterday, going by instinct rather than by conscious plan, and generally thinking on the page. Lots of writers do that.

And really, giving younger writers the idea they need to hear magical voices? If you give an interview and tell the truth about how things work for you, and a younger writer gets some bad ideas based on it, that's the younger writer's responsibility, not yours. Established writers aren't servant-tutors to aspiring writers; everyone has to work out how to write for themselves. You want to learn from a writer you admire? Read their books. That'll teach you far more than trying to work out the magic formula by reading their interviews.

On the subject of this book, I agree with the people saying that being unable to stop thinking about a subject doesn't mean you're unable to stop yourself from writing a whole book, sending it to the publisher and signing a contract. I can see why you'd do it - or at least, I can see why I'd do it, which would be because having spent a lot of billable man-hours writing something I'd find it very difficult to shelve it when I had the chance to sell it. I can also see why you might write the book, especially if you're stuck for a better idea at the time of starting. If the book actually is offensive or bad taste, I don't think those would be justifications.

I have no opinion on the book itself, though, because I haven't read it. Maybe it justifies itself on its own merits, maybe it doesn't.
posted by Kit W at 7:32 AM on June 23, 2010


Kit W: "So basically they're all lying because they don't talk about writing in a way you personally agree with?"

This question gave me pause. I may need to think about it more, but right now I'm prone to say yes. It's a trendy trope, so it seeps into the personae that artists build up for themselves. It has very little to do with the reality of the writing process.

Kit W: "You want to learn from a writer you admire? Read their books. That'll teach you far more than trying to work out the magic formula by reading their interviews. "

I wholeheartedly agree, and that's kind of my point. Some writers are very good at talking about how they write. Some are downright cruddy at it, so they revert to these narratives.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:23 AM on June 23, 2010


sparkly abstinence vampires

I don't mean to derail, but I really like this.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 9:27 AM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think you'd be better off talking about your own writing process and not what other people do or don't experience, roll truck roll.

Because I do, in fact, listen to random characters talking in my head, and I follow them around to see where they go. I do have compelling voices that make me write a book, and random ideas that don't come with that compelling voice never become books.

That doesn't mean I don't sit down every day and write my words and measure their sound and weight. It doesn't mean I don't revise with a critical eye, and think about function and form.

But I do in fact lay awake at night, listening to voices that aren't mine, talking to each other, in my head. I laugh at them, or get annoyed with them, and they are real and present enough that my husband has been known to tell me to get out of bed and get back to writing if they're going to keep me up all night.

Here's a very real and thoughtful lesson in the Heavy Truths of writing: nobody knows anything. And that includes you.
posted by headspace at 9:40 AM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I mean, did anyone think the movie Schindler's List was exploiting Holocaust victims for money? Or any of the works derivative of Anne Frank's diary?

Let me start with that. The works "derivative" of Anne Frank's diary like the movie and play are very directly drawn from the diary, not works that add words and behavior and diary entries and postscripts. And Schindler's List is likewise straight from a non-fiction book about an actual person who saved a lot of lives. It is the fact that these works are real or very, very true to the real source that makes them so powerful.

Also, I love writers, and appreciate the hard work that goes into writing. So nothing about my dislike for this writer's choices is a critique of writers in general.

And, I for one am not offended that this book or any other has sex in it. But I don't much care for tastelessness, which is the way I feel about a book with imagined romance or sex scenes involving actual extermination victims.

And finally, as an omnivorous reader, I reserve the right to decide that I'm not reading some books because they are distasteful or tasteless or trashy. I like and read a lot of books that are far from great literature, but I steer clear, for example, of the potboilers about serial killers, because I dislike wallowing in imagined cruelties.

Everyone else can obviously make their own decisions. I think this particular book concept is crass and disserves Anne Frank's writing, life, and memory.
posted by bearwife at 10:38 AM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


And Schindler's List is likewise straight from a non-fiction book

No. It's adapted from a novel based on a true story.
posted by Zed at 10:55 AM on June 23, 2010


You are right, Zed. But apparently a very factual novel.

Keneally wrote the Booker Prize-winning novel in 1982, inspired by the efforts of Poldek Pfefferberg, a Holocaust survivor. In 1980 Pfefferberg met Keneally in his shop, and learning that he was a novelist, showed him his extensive files on Oskar Schindler. Keneally was interested, and Pfefferberg became an advisor for the book, accompanying Keneally to Poland where they visited Kraków and the sites associated with the Schindler story. Keneally dedicated Schindler's Ark to Pfefferberg: "who by zeal and persistence caused this book to be written."
posted by bearwife at 11:05 AM on June 23, 2010


And, I for one am not offended that this book or any other has sex in it. But I don't much care for tastelessness, which is the way I feel about a book with imagined romance or sex scenes involving actual extermination victims.

But why not? What about their experiences makes them sainted?

I tend to agree with the idea that Anne Frank would not want to be seen as someone other than an ordinary girl at the time who happened to be writing it all down.In any event, I haven't seen any indication whatsoever that the depiction is tasteless. Indeed, it seems to be pretty mild and a very minor part of the book compared to the attention people are giving it. Sort of like Catcher in the Rye ...
posted by krinklyfig at 11:19 AM on June 23, 2010


And finally, as an omnivorous reader, I reserve the right to decide that I'm not reading some books because they are distasteful or tasteless or trashy.

I reserve the right to disregard anyone's opinion of a book who has not read it.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:20 AM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Tell you what, we'll both put money in a pot; you win the pot if she turns out to be another Shakespeare, I win it if she turns out to be yet another in an endless recent series of lazy authors rewriting successful novels and/or movies from a "new angle." I like my chances.

not to intrude on the bet, but I've got a better one: if everyone in the thread is offended by the laziness of the writer, you keep the money. if some of them are actually offended by a novel discussing frank's sexuality, I keep it.
posted by shmegegge at 11:21 AM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


But I don't much care for tastelessness, which is the way I feel about a book with imagined romance or sex scenes involving actual extermination victims.

reading your comments, I see that you're mostly offended by the fact that this is a fictional treatment of real people. this is basically the only sentence you've written that kind of contradicts that. if there were no discussion of anne's or peter's sexuality in the book, would you still think the book was tasteless?

what about other works derived from the diary? would anything that fictionalizes frank's life in any way be problematic? I'm not talking about the play or film based on it, mind you, but actual other works (such as the neutral milk hotel album about her that's mentioned in the next fpp) that take liberties with the history. is it all tasteless regardless of treatment?
posted by shmegegge at 11:26 AM on June 23, 2010


Tell you what, we'll both put money in a pot; you win the pot if she turns out to be another Shakespeare, I win it if she turns out to be yet another in an endless recent series of lazy authors rewriting successful novels and/or movies from a "new angle." I like my chances.

That's not the point. I mentioned Shakespeare, because of this comment:

Lesser writers will use historical figures or settings as a shortcut to tap into a readers interest or emotions and often it just feels cheap, manipulative, and lazy.

Such sweeping generalizations deserve to be refuted. I'm not saying this will be the next great monument in literature - nothing of the sort. I'm only saying that historical figures and settings used in fictionalized accounts is not an indication of a lazy, cheap or manipulative writer.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:26 AM on June 23, 2010


I see that you're mostly offended by the fact that this is a fictional treatment of real people. this is basically the only sentence you've written that kind of contradicts that

No, shmegegge, I'm saying the same thing -- I said it was the fact that Peter and Anne were actual extermination victims that bothers me. That's a synonym for saying that fictionalizing romance/sex for real people who really were put to death bothers the hell out of me.

I'm fine with the sexuality in the actual diary -- that is one of the things that makes it a book I could relate to from the first time I read it, when I was about 13. Anne's loss of interest in Peter is another . . . in real life teen romance can dissipate as quickly as it begins.

I love the diary. It is a miracle it survived. It is important to me that Anne's voice is not diluted or fictionalized or distorted. That's me, and one of the reasons I won't be reading this book.
posted by bearwife at 11:42 AM on June 23, 2010


[...] Anne's frank sexuality is something that ought to be celebrated not hidden away.

I see what you did there.

The Real Anne Frank tried to touch girls' breasts.

I'm just glad to know that I have something in common with Anne Frank.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 11:43 AM on June 23, 2010


"That's a synonym for saying that fictionalizing romance/sex for real people who really were put to death bothers the hell out of me."

What specifically about romance/sex makes it different than other fictionalizations? I guess that's what confuses me. I don't necessarily disagree that this is somewhere on the scale from "sigh" to "ew", but it's the specificity of romance/sex as the problem that doesn't quite add up to me.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:56 AM on June 23, 2010


roll truck roll, did you actually say that people you've never met must be lying if they describe their own work in terms you don't personally agree with? Exactly what makes you a greater authority on writing than the writers themselves?

What on earth is motivating you to slag people off like this?
posted by Kit W at 2:01 PM on June 23, 2010


It is important to me that Anne's voice is not diluted or fictionalized or distorted. That's me, and one of the reasons I won't be reading this book.

thanks for clarifying for me. I'd like to ask my follow up question again, though: do other fictionalized treatments of the book bother you as well, regardless of the specifics, for having fictionalized Anne Frank? again, not the play or movie but actual separate works that fictionalize her as a character.
posted by shmegegge at 2:31 PM on June 23, 2010


I don't mean to derail, but I really like this.

I am sad to inform you, then, that it is not mine, but in fact (I think?) the property of Amelie Gillette, an AV Club writer who has been promoted to writing "The Office," in a shocking blow for meritocracy.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:10 PM on June 23, 2010


(Note I say "for" and not "to." Blows to meritocracy? Not really that shocking!)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:12 PM on June 23, 2010


I didn't answer that question, shmegegge, because I can't think of good reference points. I can't equate the neutral milk album because that's music, not a novel, yes?

I'm not opposed to fictional accounts about the Holocaust. And I don't think working Anne Frank into a fictional story about, for example, the experiences of an imaginary classmate during the war would bother me.

When I talk about what bugs me about this book, it includes the use of Anne's own diary entries to bolster the fiction of Peter's entries. If that's not a dilution and distortion of the actual diary, it is hard to know what is.
posted by bearwife at 3:12 PM on June 23, 2010


kittens for breakfast: "Amelie Gillette, an AV Club writer who has been promoted to writing "The Office,""

I actually went to school with her. Small world.
posted by brundlefly at 3:29 PM on June 23, 2010


Kit W: "roll truck roll, did you actually say that people you've never met must be lying if they describe their own work in terms you don't personally agree with? Exactly what makes you a greater authority on writing than the writers themselves?"

headspace: "Because I do, in fact, listen to random characters talking in my head, and I follow them around to see where they go. I do have compelling voices that make me write a book, and random ideas that don't come with that compelling voice never become books."

Well, darn. It's entirely possible that I've painted myself into a corner I can't really get out of, and I'm not sure how long I should spend trying.

But I'll at least say this: as I mentioned above, it's unavoidable that some writers aren't very good at talking about how they write. And so, when you look through history, you see trends come and go in how people talk about writing. In the 1500s, it was Arthur Golding saying that the Holy Spirit helped him translate Ovid.

And yeah, there's some truth in those tropes, but they're also all a little hollow, because they rely on a sort of pre-established narrative. And I see people get stuck focusing on trying to hear the voices or whatever. And a lot of people start pretending to hear them, but they're really just mimicking this received idea of what writing is about.

Kit W: "What on earth is motivating you to slag people off like this?"

Am I really? I'm certainly not meaning to. Keep in mind that I'm actually talking about readers I like. As you said, the best place to learn about how people write is in their books.
posted by roll truck roll at 3:59 PM on June 23, 2010


*writers
posted by roll truck roll at 4:01 PM on June 23, 2010


I apologize for the "you don't either" line, roll truck roll. It was rhetorically delicious, but more than a little snotty.
posted by headspace at 8:18 PM on June 23, 2010


mondaygreens:
IAmBroom, are books the only things that you think people should read before judging or does it apply to a poster's comments (on a single thread) too? I mean I'm okay with being the worst thing on this thread (at least everyone here can judge that), but saying I sum up the worst of modern censors in general... ouch.

I stand by it. Willful ignorance + condemnation (I don't need to read this book to judge it!) makes a powerful force for wrongdoing.

And as for reading all your various points-of-view, retractions, clarifications, and so on in this thread... no, I think I can judge your sentence in its own context, without also subscribing to your LiveJournal and RSS feeds.

I explicitly retracted my "screw this book" type comment because I realized that it wasn't what I was trying to say and it was totally (and understandably, after other posters pointed it out) open to misinterpretation.

Glad to hear you retracted your "screw this book" type comment, but that doesn't make clear if you retract your "I don't need to read it to know" comment.

I'm still getting used to how fast conversation moves on the blue, and to how many ways an emphatic sentence can be interpreted.

Yes, emphatic statements can be interpreted quickly, and variously. Not just on the Blue. In Real Life, too. That's just one of the problems with them.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:27 PM on June 23, 2010


Am I really? I'm certainly not meaning to. Keep in mind that I'm actually talking about readers I like. As you said, the best place to learn about how people write is in their books.

Well, you're kind of armchair quarterbacking. Writers don't need you grading their interviews as if you know what they really mean and they don't; it comes across as closer to a bid for authority than a comment. After all, you've only got their word on how they write, so whether they're 'good at' or accurate in describing their work is something you really can't pronounce on with the authority you seem to be claiming.


And I see people get stuck focusing on trying to hear the voices or whatever. And a lot of people start pretending to hear them, but they're really just mimicking this received idea of what writing is about.


Maybe ... but as far as the writers giving interviews are concerned, so what? That's not the interviewee's problem. If people want to learn how to write, they can do what the rest of us did and try things out until they hit something that works; if they stay stuck on something that doesn't work and don't give it up when they find it gets them nowhere, that's their own decision.

Besides, there's a grain of truth in the 'received idea'. If people keep failing to make good use of it, maybe they're misinterpreting it because it's the wrong idea for them personally to be listening to - different writers thrive on different ideas - or else maybe they just aren't very good at understanding this whole writing thing. And if that's the case, any faults in their writing are because of them, not whatever interview they read. Everyone's responsible for their own work.
posted by Kit W at 3:59 AM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I remember being picketed by nuns while queuing for tickets to The Last Temptation of Christ. Since that day, I no longer listen to outpourings of outrage from people who haven't seen the film/read the book/viewed the sculpture in person/etc. For some reason, nothing gets people angrier than art they haven't actually seen for themselves.
posted by hot soup girl at 4:53 AM on June 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm considerably less certain of my point than I was when I started. That's the best thing I can hope for from any online discussion, so thanks.

Kit W: "Writers don't need you grading their interviews as if you know what they really mean and they don't; it comes across as closer to a bid for authority than a comment. After all, you've only got their word on how they write, so whether they're 'good at' or accurate in describing their work is something you really can't pronounce on with the authority you seem to be claiming. "

Point taken. But when writers talk about [what I've been thinking of but am now not quite so sure] the real thing - you know, all the messy business of voice and alliteration and character development and where the linebreaks go - it's so yummy. And I think we'd have more of that if these tropes weren't so popular. Not because they somehow owe that stuff to society, but because it's interesting. Artists ought to be writing.

To go back to my earlier example, I'd love to read Golding's other introduction to his Ovid: the one he'd have written if he hadn't seriously had to worry about being punished for translating Ovid.
posted by roll truck roll at 11:13 AM on June 24, 2010


hot soup girl: "I remember being picketed by nuns while queuing for tickets to The Last Temptation of Christ."

Last Temptation of Christ is kind of profound in how misunderstood it was by everyone who protested it. I think most people who've never seen that movie still have no idea how Christian it is.

On the other hand, we sadly can't read everything. An awful lot of low-information signaling goes into deciding what we will or won't spend our time taking seriously.
posted by roll truck roll at 11:16 AM on June 24, 2010


On the other hand, we sadly can't read everything. An awful lot of low-information signaling goes into deciding what we will or won't spend our time taking seriously.

roll truck roll, that's not really "on the other hand". First you argued against censorship. Then you argued that we can each individually select what we spend our limited personal time reading, watching, enjoying.

They're actually the same idea: each person is, and should be, responsible for his or her own actions; an outside moral arbitrer is undesirable. Wouldn't you agree?
posted by IAmBroom at 11:35 AM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Artists ought to be writing.

Artists ought to be deciding for themselves what they ought to be doing. That's kind of what art is: following your own understanding.


I think we'd have more of that if these tropes weren't so popular.

You're still assuming that a writer says this 'trope' you don't like because they're paying deference to convention rather than because it's, y'know, true for them. That's still assuming you know their work better than them.

If you're a make-it-up-as-you-go author it can actually be horribly embarrassing to talk about character development and so on, because you're not quite sure yourself how you do it and are often scared that if you examine it too closely you'll get too self-conscious to do it any more. It's like trying to describe how you move your arm: you know how it feels to do, but explaining beyond saying, 'Er, well, I just kind of do it' can be hard, and if you're being asked the question in any kind of spotlight you can wind up feeling really stupid. Few people are at their most articulate under those circumstances.

I think, when you're talking about line breaks and so on, you're talking about the kind of thing that plan-in-advance writers find easier to discuss. If that's the kind of thing you're looking for, you just need to pick your writers. But if you're interested in it from the point of view of improvisers as well, you gotta accept that they're liable to talk about their writing in metaphorical terms and in ways that don't always sound rational - and that's not because they're applying tropes, it's because they're doing their best to describe something that's hard to describe. Cut them some slack, eh?

If you really are interested, you'll probably learn more if you listen to what's actually there rather than rejecting it as a mere 'trope'. There's stuff to be understood, but the fundamental rule is that not everybody works the same way and that there's no wrong way to describe your writing process, only ways that do and don't describe how it is for you.
posted by Kit W at 11:52 AM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Kit W: "You're still assuming that a writer says this 'trope' you don't like because they're paying deference to convention rather than because it's, y'know, true for them. That's still assuming you know their work better than them."

No, it's not. It's acknowledging that just like convention and tradition go into the art itself, they also go into how we talk about art and artistic processes. So we can talk and disagree about the efficacy of different modes of talking about art. That's what you're doing here, and that's what I'm doing too.

Where I interact with other writers is primarily in the poetry world, and I guess it's possible that there's a little of a culture clash going on here. I could point you to dozens of blogs, listservs, and books that are chock full of people arguing about how to talk about writing. The idea that people's poetics are somehow off-limits not only seems just factually incorrect to me, but it's also kind of robbing people of [what I see as] one of the most profoundly joyful parts of being part of a community of artists.

Kit W: "Artists ought to be deciding for themselves what they ought to be doing. That's kind of what art is: following your own understanding. "

Yes, but it's also something we do as a group.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:48 PM on June 24, 2010


Yes, but it's also something we do as a group.

What do you mean 'we'?
posted by Kit W at 12:50 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


By the way:

Kit W: "If you really are interested, you'll probably learn more if you listen to what's actually there rather than rejecting it as a mere 'trope'. There's stuff to be understood, but the fundamental rule is that not everybody works the same way and that there's no wrong way to describe your writing process, only ways that do and don't describe how it is for you."

I agree. On the map of where I spend my time as a reader is a big, scary forest full of stuff that comes from a completely different place than what I'm interested in as a writer.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:54 PM on June 24, 2010


Kit W: "What do you mean 'we'?"

Artists?
posted by roll truck roll at 12:55 PM on June 24, 2010


Artists do what as a group? I really don't see what you're getting at.
posted by Kit W at 3:17 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm having trouble thinking of how to say this more clearly than I did in my last comment. Art happens as a group. Writers criticize each other's writing as a group, but even more importantly, we criticize and reframe and rethink each other's poetics as a group. The idea that someone's process or poetics is somehow above criticism runs very, very counter to what I think it means to be part of a community of writers.
posted by roll truck roll at 8:10 AM on June 25, 2010


The idea that someone's process or poetics is somehow above criticism runs very, very counter to what I think it means to be part of a community of writers.

See, this is what I meant by a bid for authority on your part. You might have opinions on her interview comments, but appointing yourself as his fellow-artist who's part of her community ... well, I think you're doing it wrong. And to be honest, I think you're doing it so wrong it violates the standards of any healthy and productive artistic community. You can't run a community with people constantly saying, 'I don't think you write the way you say you do!' It wouldn't work.

You're free to have opinions and express them, of course, but that doesn't make you the interviewee's editor - especially the editor of how they give interviews, which isn't part of her artistic oeuvre or anybody else's.

People talk about each others work. Sometimes they collaborate. They bounce off each others' ideas. Saying, 'The way you describe your process doesn't ring any bells with me; to me it's more like this' is fine and constructive, though I don't think it makes you someone's colleague and they're free to ignore you, even assuming they ever hear what you say.

But telling someone, 'You must be lying when you say the process works like this for you because it doesn't work like that for me'? Telling anyone on any subject, 'You must be lying because I don't like/agree with what you're saying?' That's not being a good community member. That's being controlling and intrusive.

People have to work out for themselves what process is good for them. There's no way to do that except trial and error in private. We can take tips from what other people say, but working out your own process is an internal business. The only test of it is the work: if it produces good work, then it works, and if it doesn't, it doesn't. What anybody else says about how the process sounds? Totally irrelevant.

Feedback and interaction are an important community activity - though like I say, unless you actually know or interact with this author personally, any community link you have with her is tenuous at best. But anyway, discussion is a community activity. So is respecting other people's boundaries. Declaring that somebody must by lying in an interview because their description of their method doesn't please you isn't feedback, it's overstepping boundaries.
posted by Kit W at 2:22 AM on June 28, 2010


And here we sit. There's probably not much further to go from here.

In retrospect, this comment was my big mistake. No, I don't think anyone is lying. That was hyperbole, and a little bit of double bluff. What I've been trying to say here is that just like writing itself is socially constructed, what we call "the writing process" is also socially constructed. That's very different from calling people liars.

Kit W: "especially the editor of how they give interviews, which isn't part of her artistic oeuvre or anybody else's. "

You may be interested to know that that's not true for a lot of people. Like I said earlier, I suspect that there's some culture clash going on here. With the kind of writers and writing I spend most of my time around, blog posts, listserv emails, interviews, and things people say at readings, etc., are all part of the body of work. What you're identifying as the line between public and private is calibrated very differently for many people.

I like your blog.
posted by roll truck roll at 5:50 AM on July 2, 2010


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