'Am I being catfished?' An author confronts her number one online critic
October 18, 2014 7:35 AM   Subscribe

 
How absolutely strange.
posted by Saxon Kane at 7:54 AM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is a good object lesson in why writers should, actually, never respond to bad reviews.

It will not ever convince people that you did, in fact, write a good book.

I do think there's an element to online book reviewing (on GoodReads and elsewhere) where you get status by saying the most hyperbolically mean thing, where a good-faith reading is not as important as nailing the author for whatever slights they've committed. (In fairness, there's also an element where there's a really strong pressure to be nice at all costs.)

But, as a writer, you kind of have to get over that, whether it's by staying away from reviews as much as possible or developing a thicker skin. You've got to trust people to make their own informed decisions about whether to read your book or not. And if you can't... you have to find some way to deal with it that isn't stalking your reviewer.
posted by Jeanne at 7:57 AM on October 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


So, so unsettling, and I think "Blythe" is lucky that Kathleen Hale didn't go any further than she did.
posted by infinitewindow at 7:59 AM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's rather hilarious that the author ended up stalking her harasser. Obviously two wrongs don't make a right, but it does make for a great story.

I think the main lesson here is "Don't harass authors. They are way more hardcore than you and they will come to your house to be your friend in a hatchet-y way."
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:08 AM on October 18, 2014 [26 favorites]


"Why did you send me that death threat? I'm just trying to understand you! Let's have lunch! K bye!" [slowly backs out of your bedroom]
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:09 AM on October 18, 2014 [16 favorites]


Nobody in this article acted well and have no sympathy for either side. Who cares if someone uses a pseudonym for writing reviews? Can you blame them when authors like this will socially engineer their way into going to their house to confront them?

Full disclosure: I'm a full time author and pay 100% of my household's bills with fiction writing. I also never respond to reviews of any kind, and I have plenty of shitty unfair 1-stars for things like "well I don't like sci fi and this is sci fi so ONE STAR!!!" on regency romances. You really can ignore reviews and reviewers.
posted by Sternmeyer at 8:11 AM on October 18, 2014 [24 favorites]


This reminds me of Emily Giffin's asshattery, except creepier.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:15 AM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


*****
posted by sour cream at 8:18 AM on October 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


If you're seeing this essay as a request for sympathy you have Blythe-like levels of reading comp failure.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:19 AM on October 18, 2014 [21 favorites]


It's also amazing to me how much power reviewers on Goodreads have. Makes me want to become an all positive book blogger but then I would have to read books sometimes which is not too conducive to posting n+1 times on Metafilter at all hours.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:21 AM on October 18, 2014 [24 favorites]


Yeeeah, no one comes out of this well.
posted by halcyonday at 8:25 AM on October 18, 2014


Thank you for posting this.

I've done very well for myself as a self-published author of sci-fi and urban fantasy. All I wanted was readers. I didn't want to jump through the hoops of traditional publishing, but that left me even more dependent on those independent reader reviews. Thankfully, I've been very lucky; I'm making a good living now on my writing. But I've also dodged this kind of trolling.

Thing is, there are always those reviews that are alarming. I had one reviewer say one of my books was "rapey," which both mortified me because I didn't think my book was even close to rapey, and scared me because I feared that one review would sink my book. No one I knew who had read it, women and men alike (including rape survivors) got that from the book. Several suggested that this was an act of deliberate sabotage by...whoever. But I was genuinely worried for a long time that this one review would sink the book. And it was indeed difficult to not respond, but "Do Not Engage" really is the best advice. Eventually, other reviews turned up to counter that one, and far more turned up that basically buried it.

I've responded all of twice to reviews. Once was to say thanks for providing valuable input that I used in later works. I wasn't sure if even that was going way too far, but I was genuinely grateful. The other time was just to say, "Hey, these formatting issues you note haven't appeared anywhere else, so I encourage you to contact Kindle customer service and I'm sorry you had a bad experience," because, once again, I meant that.

But this article was really helpful. If anything, it helps put Goodreads in context. I tend to stay away from that site. It just feels really negative.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:29 AM on October 18, 2014 [13 favorites]


I think the Pomeranian did OK
posted by Devonian at 8:30 AM on October 18, 2014 [14 favorites]


Nobody exactly comes out looking like an angel in this, but the behavior of book reviewers who seem to exist solely to bully and be weird and hate is way more puzzling to me than the behavior of authors who get all "what the hell??!" in response.
posted by rtha at 8:33 AM on October 18, 2014 [27 favorites]


I think "Blythe" is lucky that Kathleen Hale didn't go any further than she did.

Although putting it all in the Guardian, and hence online, sort of is pushing it up another notch.
posted by Segundus at 8:41 AM on October 18, 2014 [6 favorites]


I couldn't help thinking that the Blythes of goodreads are like the gamergaters of gaming.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:46 AM on October 18, 2014 [11 favorites]


Given that the gamgergaters of gaming have escalated to threatening school massacres, I feel like even the Blythes of goodreads don't deserve to be tarred with that brush.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:48 AM on October 18, 2014 [7 favorites]


What a weird, great story. It would make a good novel.

I really don't think GamerGate is comparable though. No one has, AFAIK, been driven out of their home or had bomb threats called into their public events; it is totally possible to be a reader, even an avid one who participates in book communities, and not run into these people.
posted by NoraReed at 8:50 AM on October 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


"I am sitting in the smallest room of my house. I have your review before me. In a moment it would have been behind me, except I'm browsing Goodreads on my iPhone and can't afford to do that with a smartphone. But trust me: it was a near thing."
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:51 AM on October 18, 2014 [7 favorites]


It seems as though Kathleen Hale also wrote this article on stalking a girl who accused her mother of molesting her, which sort of explains a lot.
posted by toerinishuman at 8:52 AM on October 18, 2014 [8 favorites]


From the Hale piece toerinishuman links:

"Certain feelings are a straight shot with a finish line and certain ones are mazes that unfold forever."

That's a bit of nice writing.
posted by weston at 9:00 AM on October 18, 2014 [11 favorites]


*****
posted by sour cream at 8:18 AM on October 18


One out of five assholes?
posted by metaphorever at 9:03 AM on October 18, 2014 [6 favorites]


Both of those pieces were very well-written, and I hope Ms. Hale continues to explore her feelings through writing and not stalking. Of course, if stalking is a physical manifestation of obsession, then publishing certain writings could still be stalking.

This is now thoroughly creeping me out, enough to want to stop engaging with it.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:06 AM on October 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


(my editors had urged me to build a “web presence”)

Check.
posted by IndigoJones at 9:12 AM on October 18, 2014 [18 favorites]


Part of me wants to believe that these are all just fictional accounts, written by a talented and creative author with an active imagination.

It is kind of awful to know that they're real and there's someone who does this kind of thing.
posted by shvaughn at 9:14 AM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


I am fascinated that publishers sent books to this blogger... I would have thought publicists would want to ignore the always hostile reviewer...?
posted by chapps at 9:15 AM on October 18, 2014


Once upon a time, way back on Usenet, just as it was becoming apparent that the internet was going to become a normal part of everyday life, I was reading one of those one-sided rant posts from someone where some cartoonishly imcompetent person was being ridiculous, and the poster went all Oscar Wilde on them, dumbfounding them with wit and logic. I thought to myself, "Before long, the subjects of these stories are going to start finding them, and they'll come in to rebut, and it will create a permanent undercurrent of real life social conflict and jockeying feeding on itself on the internet."

I didn't predict all the brand new forms it would take, but I'm still putting this in my "I am always right about everything" case file.
posted by ernielundquist at 9:19 AM on October 18, 2014 [9 favorites]




The nice thing about reading older books is that I don't have to worry about Dorothy Sayers showing up at my house because I said that the Lord Peter Wimsey series would be so much better without Lord Peter.
posted by betweenthebars at 9:24 AM on October 18, 2014 [7 favorites]


The Guardian article is a lot more enjoyable if you read it as metafiction.

Silverman, an avid fan of Howard Stern, went on to describe a poignant moment she remembers from listening to his radio show: one of the many callers who turns out to be an asshole is about to be hung up on when, just before the line goes dead, he blurts out, in a crazed, stuttering voice, “I exist!”

Trolling: self-validation as sociopathic performance art.
posted by echocollate at 9:25 AM on October 18, 2014 [8 favorites]


It's a mistake to assume other internet people are sane, Metafilter-like commenters and that you can just correct some small inaccuracy with rational discourse.
posted by destro at 9:26 AM on October 18, 2014 [5 favorites]


One of the many weird things in that article: "Blythe" was a pseudonym, who bragged online that she was courageously using her real name and profession. o_O
posted by Eyebeams at 9:28 AM on October 18, 2014 [7 favorites]


See Internet trolls are often somewhat unhinged but usually have more mundane explanations for their childish or pathetic behavior. It's one or the other depending on their approximate age. But they aren't truly unhinged in that "stalk you in person" sense much of the time.

I found myself enjoying both stories and mostly enjoying the writer's perspective while feeling about 30% sympathy for the provocateurs. The same "perverted justice" (wasn't that a weird name for the group the worked with Dateline on Internet pedophiles?) Is used by hordes of ass trolls to justify their behavior like a van load of frat boys on a freeway talking shit because of an imagined slight and stalking someone through a few lights. Except that someone springs from his card and dumps a clip at your van. Don't fuck with crazy, Internet. Don't fuck with crazy. And you don't know where you'll find it so better just not to fuck with people aggressively online. It's a weirdly ingrained sense of vengeance that makes me feel the most "alert" like a crazed wolf when I read stories like this
posted by aydeejones at 9:30 AM on October 18, 2014


(I consider myself crazy but not harmful which is why I threw the term around a bit. But I simultaneously hate feeling provoked while know what it's like to enjoy the counter pursuit. It's scary. I'm a chubby hyena in here who just wants to eat BBQ alone because I know what these claws can do, saw it on a movie once)
posted by aydeejones at 9:34 AM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Appalling. I now have less than zero interest in reading Hale's books — not because of any bad reviews, but because of her behavior in seeking out and showing up at the house of a book blogger to do... what? This could have gone a lot worse for Blythe or Hale or both.

The Guardian piece presents only Hale's point of view, but let's grant for the sake of argument that Blythe was as abusive, particularly on Twitter, as Hale claims. Not great behavior, and I think I can see how that can wear on somebody — but there's no sign the Blythe ever threatened Hale in the physical world.

This situation would be like GamerGate only if Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn were the ones threatening to show up at the houses of anybody who disagreed with a feminist critique of gaming.

One thing that's nice about book reviewing nowadays is that a lot of advance reading copies are available electronically through services like NetGalley — which means that book bloggers no longer have to trust publishers to keep their home addresses private.
posted by metaquarry at 9:36 AM on October 18, 2014 [7 favorites]


Yeah, don't do this.
posted by jscalzi at 9:40 AM on October 18, 2014 [46 favorites]


I think one thing we can all agree on is that the original Goodreads review was terribly written: “... its execution in regards to all aspects is horrible and honestly, nonexistent."

"In regards to all aspects" is taking a huge dump on an otherwise passable sentence.
posted by JauntyFedora at 9:42 AM on October 18, 2014 [5 favorites]


Wait, jscalzi, are you saying that aggressively subtweeting at you isn't the best way to have you show up on my doorstep? I gotta rethink my Twitter strategy.
posted by protocoach at 9:45 AM on October 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


You're supposed to say my name three times in a mirror. Then I show up AND THEN TALK AT YOU IN ALL CAPS. You might think it would be difficult to talking all caps. IT IS NOT.
posted by jscalzi at 9:52 AM on October 18, 2014 [58 favorites]


Ugh, wait, this thread is broken without Hark! A Vagrant.
posted by ernielundquist at 9:53 AM on October 18, 2014 [21 favorites]


These essays did make me want to read her books, actually. It's not that she comes off as perfect, but she admits as much. She wrote an essay about becoming slightly unhinged and proceeding against all advice, rather than hiding that embarrassing moment.
posted by salvia at 9:54 AM on October 18, 2014 [23 favorites]


Nobody exactly comes out looking like an angel in this

Largely because the writer went out of her way to make her critics look awful, without realising how shitty she made herself look.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:00 AM on October 18, 2014


Thanks for that hark a vagrant link. The poop shelf! How can we make more use of this awesome concept?
posted by chapps at 10:07 AM on October 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


It read that way to you? I guess it seemed to me like she realized how terrible her behavior was, she just couldn't stop.
posted by protocoach at 10:07 AM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


... rather than hiding that embarrassing moment.

And in the process, apparently broadcasting the blogger's real name. A quick Google search suggests that the Guardian essay is the only hit at present connecting the two names.

It's not necessary for a confessional piece about how one mistreated another person to continue to involve that person.
posted by metaquarry at 10:09 AM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


DO NOT ENGAGE, JSCALZI
posted by Segundus at 10:10 AM on October 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


She said she changed the names.
posted by protocoach at 10:12 AM on October 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


Upon a closer rereading, you're correct, protocoach — Hale implies that the name she's uses to denote Blythe's real identity is not the real one.
posted by metaquarry at 10:16 AM on October 18, 2014


Huh. I thought she absolutely realised how shitty it made her look-- the whole thing is a giant gag about being shitty! Her book doesn't sound in my usual line but I'm sad it's not on kindle otherwise I'd pick it up. Game, set, and match to Hale.

"apparently broadcasting the blogger's real name."

She changed the name- "The address belonged to someone I’ll call Judy Donofrio who.."
posted by Erasmouse at 10:17 AM on October 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


but there's no sign the Blythe ever threatened Hale in the physical world.

Or vice versa...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:17 AM on October 18, 2014


Or vice versa...

She said that she showed up at the blogger's house. How is that not inherently an aggressive and threatening act to show up unannounced and uninvited at a stranger's house, particularly after a long string of negative interactions online?

Would it be any more or less threatening if we consider the counterfactual that this essay was written by a Kevin Hale?
posted by metaquarry at 10:21 AM on October 18, 2014 [7 favorites]


I think one thing we can all agree on is that the original Goodreads review was terribly written: “... its execution in regards to all aspects is horrible and honestly, nonexistent."

"In regards to all aspects" is taking a huge dump on an otherwise passable sentence.


Not even passable. Stripped of the filler noise words, it reduces to "its execution is nonexistent", which doesn't even make sense.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:36 AM on October 18, 2014 [8 favorites]


Nobody exactly comes out looking like an angel in this, but the behavior of book reviewers who seem to exist solely to bully and be weird and hate is way more puzzling to me than the behavior of authors who get all "what the hell??!" in response.

Yeah, but there's a huge difference between authors going all "what the hell??!" or "you're interrogating the text from the wrong perspective" and flat-out stalking their reviewers the way Hale did.
posted by imnotasquirrel at 10:41 AM on October 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


Largely because the writer went out of her way to make her critics look awful, without realising how shitty she made herself look.

Having hopped around a little in Badly Behaving Goodreaders (linked in the article), it doesn't seem to me at all like she had to go out of her way - and she doesn't come off to me as at all shiny.
posted by rtha at 10:47 AM on October 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


Yeah, but there's a huge difference between authors going all "what the hell??!" or "you're interrogating the text from the wrong perspective" and flat-out stalking their reviewers the way Hale did.

I agree - but I can see the path that goes from "What the hell??!" to more outrageous behavior (and mind, this is not me agreeing that it's a good path - just that I can see how it begins); what I can't see is the reviewers who apparently do little else but dedicate their online lives to shitting on authors and bullying other reviewers who disagree with them. I flat-out don't get that.
posted by rtha at 10:50 AM on October 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


But really, if you have someone negatively reviewing your books, responding with weird aggression to your attempts at conversation, and then starting to follow you around and talking shit about you to others, that is like the Internet version of bright red coloration on a frog or a blowfish puffing up and getting all spiky. This is nature's way of saying DO NOT TOUCH.

Inviting them to your book club and then Internet-sleuthing their home address is not even on the list of things to attempt.

Even the whole "catfish" thing... that's for when someone is PARTICIPATING IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU under false pretenses. Trolling and mocking is not a relationship, Author Person.
posted by Scattercat at 10:52 AM on October 18, 2014 [5 favorites]


Scalzi says "don't do this". On the contrary, I say please do this. Please also be so good as to notify me in advance so I can set up the popcorn concession, m'kay?
posted by cstross at 10:54 AM on October 18, 2014 [26 favorites]


Yeah, but there's a huge difference between authors going all "what the hell??!" or "you're interrogating the text from the wrong perspective" and flat-out stalking their reviewers the way Hale did.

And there's a certain amount of difference between "I didn't like this book" and going all-out to destroy an author, which Ms Hale claimed had happened and which I'd like to see more evidence for (gathered neatly together for me, yes, because there's no way I'm going into that subculture to tease together all the threads for myself. I don't even read books that much). I believe her, and think the poison reviewing culture is the interesting phenomenon - it seemed interesting enough for me to read the article. Ms Hale thinking she's the interesting phenomenon and putting herself at the centre of the story was a disappointment, though one I probably ought to have seen coming. This Nev Schulman fellow appears to have accurately estimated what "Blythe" was like, but she didn't really get close enough to confirm what he said or anything, really. The real journalism (about the negative side of the GoodReaders subculture) disappears, the human story (about Judy/Blythe) fizzles out and we're just left with Kathleen going on about herself and... well, I wouldn't have read all those words of Kathleen going on about herself without the journalistic hook, but having done so feel slightly conned.

I suspect that the increasing tendency for people to stand next to interesting things and assume that it makes them interesting by osmosis (especially if they can say negative things about aforementioned interesting thing) is a lot of the problem all round.
posted by Grangousier at 11:11 AM on October 18, 2014 [7 favorites]


YOU'RE AN INSTIGATOR, CHARLIE
posted by jscalzi at 11:12 AM on October 18, 2014 [16 favorites]


I thought the name of the author sounded familiar for some reason and then, after thinking it strange that so many writers are going with a wild animal motif these days, I realized the same author wrote the article that was the subject of this MeFi post on her sexual assault and ensuing trial.

I don't think she went the right way about this but I kind of feel bad for her as it seems she has been suffering from obsessions for most of her life, especially with the article linked by toerinishuman above. I can, unfortunately, relate to the obsessive search for information on situations in which one is mired in but has no control over and it is miserable. While I have had only one situation in my life that qualifies as such, her life seems to be continually rife with them. I can see how it may have become something of a coping skill for her.
posted by sevenofspades at 11:15 AM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, this does seem to be a misuse of the "catfish" term, doesn't it?
posted by shvaughn at 11:17 AM on October 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yeah, she's a bit crazy, but she admits that up front. And who can't relate to this? A good writer turns her weirdness into something illuminating or entertaining. People don't want to read her books because she's got issues and acts foolishly? I don't know if she's any good, but its not like she clubs seals or whatever.
posted by Edgewise at 11:26 AM on October 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


I don't know if she's any good, but its not like she clubs seals or whatever.

No she just stalked someone and showed up menacingly and uninvited at her target's door. Nothing wrong with that at all...
posted by holybagel at 11:59 AM on October 18, 2014 [5 favorites]


Man, I guess I just hung out on fandom_wank way too much back in the day but I'm used to basically the opposite situation, where authors go unhinged on any and all bad reviews. See: Anne "editors? I don't need no stinkin' editors" Rice, Emily Giffin mentioned above, LKH at times, etc. As much as Goodreaders Behaving Badly there is, there's tons of Authors Behaving Badly too.
posted by kmz at 12:15 PM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


what I can't see is the reviewers who apparently do little else but dedicate their online lives to shitting on authors and bullying other reviewers who disagree with them. I flat-out don't get that.

I guess for me it falls under the regular domain of people being assholes or trolls on the Internet. It's something that I'm so used to seeing that I don't question it, although perhaps I should.
posted by imnotasquirrel at 1:38 PM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Looks like she deleted the review to say "Fuck this". I don't really believe the story Hale put about, about how Blythe Harris attacked teenagers and is managing to destroy careers of every author who does the wrong thing. Harris wrote a negative review which presumably had some good points which other people took into consideration in their reviews. "I liked this book but not the way it trivialised domestic violence" isn't incoherent.

Perhaps Hale became a "Badly Behaved Author" by stalking someone.

(Note: I read the book and disliked it but didn't despise it. I don't remember anything else about it except for its cover.)
posted by jeather at 2:02 PM on October 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


When I read reviews on Goodreads, nine times out of ten the reviewer doesn't come across as someone whose opinion I'd place any value on at all ... so it seems like the only way to use Goodreads is to follow that subset of reviewers you find worth reading.

From which it follows that Goodreads should stop showing the aggregate rating of all reviewers and instead, show the aggregate of reviewers that you trust. Which only makes sense in turn for logged-in users, and members who've been making heavy use of it at that.

Failing that you'd need a reputation system, which in turn can be gamed if there's a large enough bully faction. Stack Exchange has been evolving a reputation system for some time and it's getting to be pretty good. The problem with all such things is that it disproportionately rewards people who get really, really invested in it, and that's not entirely a good thing.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:12 PM on October 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


The stalking the girl who accused her mother of assault is really something. First she dumps a bottle of peroxide on her in a movie theatre, which the judge let go for reasons she doesn't go much into, then she followed her AIM screen name, asked mutual acquaintances about her, then she started asking her a bunch of questions online.

I wonder if this part was deliberately or unknowingly done:
The finished piece succeeded in making her into more of a victim, but was nevertheless false. It was very imaginative, though. Sometimes, when I am feeling gracious, I think that maybe she should have been a writer.
posted by jeather at 2:45 PM on October 18, 2014 [5 favorites]


Wow, when I left Fandom Wank I didn't expect it to follow me to MeFi.

Personally, I think this is a kind of interesting example of the weird ways in which the internet puts us in proximity to each other; with the whole "make an internet presence" pressure on everyone (my job actually asked us all to "like" our company facebook page) combine with the "being a perfect person is really impossible, but you'd better try!" expectations of 'famous people' is a seriously nasty slurry. The asymmetry of online relationships - where someone with a large presence can be investigated/experienced by people who reveal little to nothing - exacerbates this, both socially and emotionally. We even see it on MeFi, where notable MeFites become known personalities and then can be judged based on that particular public presence.

Specifically author related, I'm familiar with a bunch of authors now based on their public writing and podcast participation; the tricky part is remembering that to them I don't really exist.
posted by Deoridhe at 2:47 PM on October 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


Note: I read the book and disliked it but didn't despise it. I don't remember anything else about it except for its cover.

Do you remember if there's anything about rape in it? Part of the story here seems to be that Hale, who is evidently a victim of rape, felt accused of being a rape apologist, when from her perspective she hadn't written about rape at all.

Not that it would justify the attempted in-person confrontation, even were the person behind the Harris account to have intentionally fabricated the rape apology stuff in an attempt to provoke Hale, but it makes the bits about the internet driving you crazy and wanting to proclaim "I exist!" more poignant, to me.
posted by XMLicious at 2:49 PM on October 18, 2014


, I'm familiar with a bunch of authors now based on their public writing and podcast participation; the tricky part is remembering that to them I don't really exist.

Have you considered writing really negative reviews of their books? I hear that works.
posted by jeather at 2:50 PM on October 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


I enjoyed the article a lot. The sense Hale captures of slowly going unhinged was a big part of it - ended up reading reading between my fingers in growing horror and sympathy.

The comments pages were flooded afterwards by posters who had only just signed up, claiming Hale was dreadful and evil and noone should ever read her books again or I dunno, publish her or anything. At least one of them said she was worse than the gamergate trolls and what was the difference between showing up at someone's house because they gave you a bad review and the GG death/rape threats. But that comment was deleted.

Funnily enough all those comments got a similar number of recommends, quite a lot higher than the average for the thread. As regards showcasing the culture at GoodReads, it was instructive.
posted by glasseyes at 3:30 PM on October 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


The nice thing about reading older books is that I don't have to worry about Dorothy Sayers showing up at my house


You're lucky. All I said was I thought that while Jane Austen's novels depict the economic precariousness of a woman's position in Regency society, they elide the colonial exploitation and suffering upon which the wealth of 19th-century Great Britain was based. The next morning, I found a very polite hand-written note, along with a sprig of lily-of-the-valley tied with a muslin bow, pinned to my front door by a lovely onyx-handled pen-knife. I don't know what it means, but I'm changing the locks.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:34 PM on October 18, 2014 [30 favorites]


That is the hilarious thing about negative internet comments--they work great. You can tell a public figure 1000x how great they are and be ignored or mildly thanked. But say one snarky thing about their work and they will chat with you for hours! Cf Marc Maron.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:34 PM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Someone who knows how to healthily block out the dark insistent voices of doubt and work on what they're supposed to do instead: probably not an artist.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:36 PM on October 18, 2014 [7 favorites]


Do you remember if there's anything about rape in it?

I think the dead friend had been sexually assaulted somehow. But I can't say if there was anything else.

The comments pages were flooded afterwards by posters who had only just signed up, claiming Hale was dreadful and evil and noone should ever read her books again or I dunno, publish her or anything.

Stalking someone is pretty horrible. (As is profiting off stalking someone by, for instance, writing an article that victim blames the person you stalked.)
posted by jeather at 3:45 PM on October 18, 2014 [8 favorites]


Have you considered writing really negative reviews of their books? I hear that works.

I think I'll take Scalzi's advice to say his name three times in a mirror, and then use him for bait. Authors are like fish, right? Eventually I'll land a McGuire or a Wheaton.
posted by Deoridhe at 3:51 PM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Surely five times. Does anybody use primary sources any more?
posted by biffa at 4:01 PM on October 18, 2014


"So...Ye seeketh to summon The Franzen eh? Very well novice, follow these instructions To The Very Letter. Carveth a Rude Word or Two about his Works upon a vinyl disc to be played at 78 of the RPM and leaveth this fey offering by the Field of Yoga in yonder Prospect Park. But BEWARE! Be Ye not too Twee or else face the unholy possibility of summoning a Foer in his stead! WOE. WOE OF A THOUSAND QUIRKS unto the magikal blunderer who brings such an effete curse upon the realm!"

-Praktical Bibliomancy Volume 8
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:03 PM on October 18, 2014 [14 favorites]


Kathleen Hale is an extraordinary person and an excellent writer.

The only thing that bothered me about that piece was how much she seemed to be drinking.

Since any other motivation would risk being too intrusive, for the sake of my future reading pleasure and edification, Ms. Hale, please go a little easier there.
posted by jamjam at 4:13 PM on October 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


Hale seems at least pretty deflationary about her own motivations in the episode, which I appreciate, but I have no sense of how plausible her depiction of Blythe Harris's anti-literary e-power is. Hale makes it sound like she, Hale, is punching up rather than down, but I don't feel like I really know whether that's true.
posted by batfish at 4:41 PM on October 18, 2014




You're lucky. All I said was I thought that while Jane Austen's novels depict the economic precariousness of a woman's position in Regency society, they elide the colonial exploitation and suffering upon which the wealth of 19th-century Great Britain was based. The next morning, I found a very polite hand-written note, along with a sprig of lily-of-the-valley tied with a muslin bow, pinned to my front door by a lovely onyx-handled pen-knife. I don't know what it means, but I'm changing the locks.

Yeah, it only took one exorcism to deal with the blowback from my Suck It, Edmund Spenser, You Bloviating Hack tumblr. My Twitter war with Christopher Marlowe, though? Slightly more complicated.
posted by thivaia at 4:54 PM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


My Twitter war with Christopher Marlowe, though? Slightly more complicated.

I hear his tweets were ghost-written (naturally), but ironically by somebody else's ghost.
posted by Celsius1414 at 5:24 PM on October 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


The poop shelf! How can we make more use of this awesome concept?

Ask the Germans. They have them everywhere.
posted by effbot at 6:07 PM on October 18, 2014 [5 favorites]


Twitter Psychosis is a real thing. It's like the nitrogen narcosis that divers experience, except for people who don't leave the house.

You might think yourself immune - "I'm a well-adjusted human with a sense of persepctive and self-control!" you say - but you spend a year or two working on a book, and next thing you know, faceless voiceless people are banding together, saying outrageous things about you that seem so entertaining when said about others, but when applied to you somehow become daggers to the gut. And down you go, into their vortex, driven by needs you don't understand, needing compulsively to poke at that sore spot, to investigate their alien psychologies.

Next thing you know, you've lost six months of your life, strained every friendship with unaccountably angry expositions of things that happened on the Internet, there's tweets everywhere, and you're writing a post-mortem in the Guardian. I've seen so many either live the dream, or barely escape its clutches. There but for the grace of God go any of us.
posted by bicyclefish at 6:32 PM on October 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


I found this quite interesting. I'm not a writer, but around the turn of the century, I encountered someone online on a certain special interest listserv who always came off as a big 'dodgy'. She'd tell stories that seemed precisely balanced so that you could never quite determine if they were real or bullshit. I fell out of touch with her, then years later she contacted me inside of an online game, and she had story after story about her strange, trust-funded "life". And she did stuff like in KH's article: she would tell me she was going on vacation, and along the way she'd email me photos and I'd check the IP address and they appeared to come from wherever she said she was. Although I was fairly sure she was using a proxy to masque her actual location. Eventually she got too weird for me - all kinds of strange BDSM and Gor RP etc and I blew her off. I confess that I wondered WTF was going on with her, and even considered 'dropping in' on her as KH did, but concluded that it would simply be a bad, bad idea. I wasn't unhappy with her - I was simply curious what kind of person would put all of this effort into building up this artificial life. In the blowing her off, I deleted every image, email, or anything else from her - so now I'll never know what her story was.

So I guess I've been a bit of a hermit these past years. I wasn't aware of the term "catfishing", but I believe I have a reasonable grasp of what it is. It kinda makes me sad that there are people out there that waste their lives on this.
posted by doctor tough love at 7:30 PM on October 18, 2014


I find the... angst bad reviews provoke amongst authors fairly amusing. I am an avid, if not rabid reader, and reviews - especially in the world of self-publishing, or tiny imprints, will often be the difference between buy and not-buy for me, it's true. But the reviews that shape the decisions are the sane ones - of which, on Amazon at least, and in self-publishing in particular, there are so, so few of.

I know how easily five star reviews and be purchased. And even when they are not, frankly I feel that 99% of Amazon 5-star-givers lack the actual capacity to understand what five stars means and should be. They are useless for informing critical purchases. I often wonder if the people giving them have actually read any other book, or if this book is like, their first experience of a novel, and the idea of pictures in their heads has blown their mind.

One star reviews - far, far less prevalent - are nearly as useless, though not always always in regards to self-published stuff. They are fun in an observational sense, to see what kind of incoherent rationale the person has for one star ("WHAT KIND OF WEREWOLF HAS FIVE CLAWS?!"), and the equally unhinged comments threads the reviews provoke. But generally useless. Also, it's often quite obvious the person hasn't read the book.

It's the two, three, and to a lesser extent four star reviews where any semblance of critical thought and evidence of having read at least three books comes into play. Automatic disqualification for:
  • Ideological hobby-horsing ("The impacts of having a floated currency were not at all investigated in this drawing room murder mystery!");
  • weird genre predilections I don't share ("I was disappointed the author was so ignorant as to have an elf playing a lyre.");
  • flagrant and repeated misspellings that are clearly not typos ("There writing is great, I liked it alot");
  • lack of awareness of genre in general ("Was disappointed by the large amount of sex in His Lordship's breeches")
  • or other, better books in genre ("I loved that the stableboy turned out to be a secret prince/messiah who could save everyone despite being as useless as tits on a bull, unpredictable!")
  • weirdly emotive, both positive and negative ("This is the best book I've ever read!"; "This book literally gave me Lyme disease!" After all that, plus a few more I've no doubt neglected, then what's left are reviews that actually influence my purchasing. Not something anyone can control, and whilst I empathise with an author's desire/habit of controlling everything, they really do need to give the reader a bit more credit.
posted by smoke at 7:42 PM on October 18, 2014 [16 favorites]


Addendum: I also only review under my real name. It's not a luxury everyone has, I grant, but I feel I should take ownership of my words and opinions - and if something in me quails at doing that, I probably shouldn't be writing it.
posted by smoke at 7:43 PM on October 18, 2014


This was interesting to me in a couple of different ways.

I read a lot of books; way more than one a day. Clearly, I like reading and when Goodreads became solidly A Thing, I was super happy because now I was going to be able to hang with other people who like to read. Yeah no. I found the community to be catty and cliquey and I basically backed away slowly.

I ended up posting the occasional review on Amazon, which I came to prefer because there is no pretence of a community. It's just reviews. I've only posted 55 reviews and I'm barely in the top 20,000 reviewers, so it's not like I'm a know or influential "name" reviewer.

But what I do know even from my insignificant experiences there is that authors are batshit insane. Two authors have argued with me about my review of their books, right there in public on Amazon, about books to which I gave 3 out of 5 stars! That just makes them look petty IMHO and is extremely bad management of their own brand. One author who's book I gave a 1 star review to Googled my name and wrote me an email:

I am trying to find the Sabrina Dent that published the warning on my book so that I can ask if they'd please consider removing the review. I believe there to be a misunderstanding about my novel and given how important Amazon reviews are to the health of a book, this one review is harmful.

I dunno, it was weird. I never intended to harm this author, I just thought it was a truly terrible novel. And I mean, now someone to whom this is clearly very important has reached out to you and what do you do? I sure didn't know. (I ended up leaving my review as I wrote it but changing the star rating from 1 to 2 so it was buried with all the other 2 star reviews and was therefore less visible.)

Ultimately, I do think authors are nutsy cuckoo about online reviews, but now I at least understand why. On the other hand, as a random reviewer I have never asked for nor wanted the power to kill a book dead -- like seriously, one review should not be able to tank a book's sales. That's just fucked up.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:02 PM on October 18, 2014 [12 favorites]


I believe there to be a misunderstanding about my novel and given how important Amazon reviews are to the health of a book, this one review is harmful.

Yeah, and I just don't believe it, to be honest. And if someone has written a substantive, and thoughtful review where the book has clearly been read, well it's their (your) right to leave a goddamned one star review, yo. If it's a crappy review, no one will pay attention, and if it's a good review, write a better book.
posted by smoke at 8:19 PM on October 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


I mean, it's like a writer contacting another writing and saying, "your novel is in a similar setting to mine, but I think readers will prefer it, so it's going to hurt my sales, would you mind not publishing it?"

It's like some writers really don't understand how the whole thing works. And it's not just the self published ones.

I don't really like goodreads. The reviews are basically a gif competition with extra snark. LibraryThing doesn't always have reviews, but I find the quality higher.
posted by smoke at 8:25 PM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


I was catfished several years ago - but I never heard of the word until now.

I had an OKCupid account and someone saw it, researched me, and then made up a character designed to attract me. And it worked, for a while. I caught on in a week or two after a few excuses about not meeting, and then used TinEye to search her artwork. The first three didn't show up but then...

It was honestly pretty innocent on her part... indeed, the girl (who I did talk to on the phone again after it all fell apart, and who apologized to me and cried) probably did even have a crush on me, even though she misrepresented herself completely (photos, age, location, profession, history, etc - strangely, she was in fact *younger* than her fake age, not older).

I was in a pretty good place mentally at the time... but it still fucked me up pretty badly for a week. And this was someone being nice to me - but a stranger who knows a lot about you can really hit you where you live.

In this case, the writer spent thousands of hours writing a book as a labor of love, and then the fake deliberately sabotages it, but more, aims to hit the writer at her weakest points. To accuse a victim of rape of writing a book that encourages rape is manipulative to the point of evil - it smacks of psychopathy.

I think the writer made a mistake showing up at the fake's door - but I'm completely and utterly sympathetic to her. Sometimes you are driven to do stupid things by evil people.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:22 PM on October 18, 2014 [14 favorites]


Wow, when I left Fandom Wank I didn't expect it to follow me to MeFi.

Yeah, I might be a total fucking psycho, but I'm with lupus_yonderboy on this one. I feel like there's a bit of internet culture clash going on here. I was on FW during the days of MsScribe and the original (and ongoing) Andy Blake unmaskings, and my sympathies were with Hale up until she showed up at "Blythe's" house. When she talked about "Blythe" as an invented identity for someone who was stalking her blog and twitter, constantly hate-tweeting about her, and trying to fuck with her career, I didn't question it because the existence of that kind of malicious troll who crafts a false identity (complete with stolen photos) to bully or scam people, and exposing them via IP or other reciepts to make them cut it out, is just a given in fandom. It didn't seem like a stretch to assume they were in the published fiction world as well.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 9:22 PM on October 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


Like cleaning out jauffres' desk.
posted by clavdivs at 10:03 PM on October 18, 2014


I think we can be kind of glad this didn't happen in Florida, because then the only thing we would hear would be a short blurb "Judge rules self defense in killing of online stalker." Maybe a couple years later Harpers would carry the story "From Debut to Dead; the Strange Case of an Author Turned Stalker".
posted by happyroach at 10:18 PM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


No she just stalked someone and showed up menacingly and uninvited at her target's door. Nothing wrong with that at all...

Geez, did I say there was nothing wrong with it? Did she even say that? Literally nobody is saying that. So that's a great example of a straw man.

What I did say is that it's far from bad enough to make me not read her books. What Hale did is very small beans in the Museum of Authorial Evil. Dumb and crazy, sure. But not enough for me to get all moralistic, especially considering she didnt commit any crimes or hurt anyone. This is not to say I'm indifferent to the sins of an artist...for instance, Roman Polanski should be in jail.

But this? I'm sure I've done something just as dumb at some point in my life, so I cannot afford to be so judgmental. And I can relate to the urge. Sounds like you're smarter than both of us, so keep on truckin.
posted by Edgewise at 10:59 PM on October 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


Is getting an Amazon director to lean on a reviewing programme better or worse than showing up on your critic's doorstep?
posted by MartinWisse at 2:13 AM on October 19, 2014


She wasn't catfished: this was a fake identity used to review books, not created specifically to fuck with one author. It was created because sometimes authors get really upset about negative reviews and do things like stalk people who write negative reviews.

I have no reason to believe that the reviewer "deliberately sabotaged" the book as opposed to "didn't like it and explained why". I don't think Hale is a reliable narrator in this and I don't trust her story about what she claims the reviewer did other than write a negative review under a pseudonym she'd had for a long time.

Maybe the reviewer did crappy things as well, but the book was reviewed as being "steeped in rape culture" (no idea if this is true, don't care to reread it to find out) and one of the major aspects of rape culture is blaming the victim for doing something that made the attacker do whatever it was they did to the victim. Had the poor reviewer just not used a pseudonym and a fake picture and bio (no author has EVER done that!), had she only given this book the positive review it deserved for having been written, had she not discussed her negative views of the book with other readers! But she did all those things; surely they are as bad as stalking.
posted by jeather at 5:53 AM on October 19, 2014 [5 favorites]


No she just stalked someone and showed up menacingly and uninvited at her target's door. Nothing wrong with that at all...

This is rather imprecise. My favorite sort of media personality are the consumer protectors on TV who stalk the con artists and shady dealers to their hideaways, chasing the guys who bilked a dozen grandmas out of their life savings, and failed to fix their broken garage doors too. They do exactly as described, and it's very satisfying morally. Obviously we're dealing with a gray area that would require reading all the evidence, entirely, and judging for ourselves. The author might be crazy, or might be refusing to be a victim.
posted by Brian B. at 7:20 AM on October 19, 2014 [4 favorites]


I have a hard time believing this is real. The book club just gave her "Blythe"'s address without informing her or obtaining her permission first? If they wanted her to set up an interview why wouldn't they have put them in touch through e-mail or phone first instead of just "oh here's the address, show up and surprise her with the interview yourself"? If this really did happen then shame on the book club for breaching their subscribers' privacy.

Maybe she really did end up going to Blythe's house but I'm betting she obtained the address in a more unscrupulous way. The book club wanting an interview and arbitrarily giving her the address of her biggest online detractor, then leaving "A Short Guide to a Happy Life" on the doorstep (which she just happened to be carrying in her purse!) just seems too good even for daytime television.
posted by pravit at 9:52 AM on October 19, 2014


Automatic disqualification for: lack of awareness of genre in general ("Was disappointed by the large amount of sex in His Lordship's breeches")

My 2nd favourite are the Christian hobbyhorse readers. They tend to identify themselves right up fron ("I am a Christian reader") and write deeply offended reviews because a book had swearing. Or sex. Or vampires. My #1 favourites are the disingenuous Christian hobbyhorse readers. Like really, you're going to write a review complaining that Twilight has too much swearing, sex and Vampires and that it wasn't nearly as good as 50 Shades?

But that's OK because for amusement, I like to read the 1 star reviews for Twilight. They restore my faith in humanity:

"Bella Swan (literally, "beautiful swan," which should be a red flag to any discerning reader) moves to the rainy town of Forks, and the whining begins on page 1."
posted by DarlingBri at 11:19 AM on October 19, 2014 [2 favorites]


Jim C. Hines: Victim or perpetrator?
I’ve done giveaways myself, which involves readers trusting me with their home addresses. I’ve also sent books to reviewers’ home addresses. I consider this a matter of trust and privacy, which is one of many reasons I get very angry about what happened next.
posted by Lexica at 3:15 PM on October 19, 2014 [4 favorites]


From the Kathleen Hale piece: "According to the telephone directory and recent census reports, nobody named Blythe Harris lived there."

"Recent census reports" don't give John or Jane Q. Public the identities of people who live at given addresses. If she found out who was living at that address, she found out some other way than by using recent census information. (Perhaps through the "internet background check" that she paid $19 for.)

Maybe she found out through census info that nobody named Blythe Harris lived at that address in 1930. Which is fun to know, possibly, but also irrelevant (for the purposes here).
posted by blucevalo at 9:30 PM on October 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


There's plenty of material in this article to write another book around. Is Internet Noir a thing yet?
posted by telstar at 6:29 AM on October 20, 2014


Some more responses. From Robert Jackson Bennett: Doxxing and the Power of Anonymity
The issue at heart here is the power of the individual and the power of the masses and the public, and how the internet has muddied the line between the two.
Bennett links to this post on Dear Author, which goes into detail about what "Blythe" and Hale did (and which, in his words, "makes Hale sound crazier than a bag of cats"): On the importance of pseudonymous activity
I’m horrified that anyone thinks that what Hale did was okay. If this was for publicity, it’s even more sickening. I know that by publishing this, I’m raising the signal for Hale but it was in the Guardian so the signal is pretty damn big right now. There are very few instances wherein Hale’s behavior is justified and nothing in the twisted, one sided account by Hale articulates even one of those few instances.
And this post on Jezebel, which links to a piece Hale published on Thought Catalog.

The more I read, the more uncomfortable it gets. I think this woman is not well. That Thought Catalog piece is a weird combination of excessive self-revelation with a serious lack of introspection, plus massive boundary problems and an inability to recognize that the other people in the world are dealing with their own problems too. This part:
In my most certain moments I think that fear and anger can only bloom to a certain point before you want to punish someone and innocent people get hurt. There was an ugliness brewing in Lori’s gut and she was looking around wild eyed for easy prey.

I still struggle to feel sorry for her.
An ugliness in Lori's eyes? Lori was the one looking around wild-eyed for easy prey? Please, Ms. Hale, get a good therapist and spend some time looking in a mirror.
posted by Lexica at 3:09 PM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


Team Not The Person Who Once Threw Hydrogen Peroxide On Someone Else
posted by drezdn at 4:54 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Can anyone point to evidence that "Blythe" had a history of giving books negative reviews. Commenters on other sites seem to think her grades usually ranged between 3 and 5.
posted by drezdn at 5:13 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think this woman is not well.

I think if she wrote an askme about any or all of of these incidents the chorus of "OMG GET THERAPY!" would be rightfully deafening.
posted by rtha at 7:52 PM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


The Dear Author post that Lexica mentions touches on the rape issue:
The ‘review’ noted that there was rape and Hale contends there is no rape in the book. In the original status update (and these cannot be edited. I know bc I’ve had awful typos in status updates and hate that I can’t edit them), the reviewer noted that there was statutory rape. Hale doesn’t acknowledge this but instead uses it as part basis for her later actions.
posted by XMLicious at 4:38 AM on October 21, 2014


I'm waiting for the sequel article now:

"And so I stabbed her. And again, and again. And each time I kept waiting for some acknowledgement from her of what all this was doing to me."
posted by happyroach at 9:32 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Blythe was well-known among authors for slamming them pretty harshly. I can't point to evidence of that since her reviews are now private, but she could be vitriolic when she didn't like something, yeah.

Which doesn't excuse the fact that Hale stalked her, because all of that's creepy and awful, and her framing it as a catfishing incident is super weird. Many GR reviewers are pseudonymous. They don't owe anyone their real names or addresses, precisely for reasons such as these.

Hale herself seems mired in trauma, which is well-reflected in her essays. I wouldn't doubt that her overblown and quite scary reaction to the review might have had something to do with her own rape, and I can't help but hope she gets help. Even as I hope that Blythe has gotten a restraining order.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:59 AM on October 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


And on a completely different note, N.K. Jemisin shows how authors should do it: Author strength training: Reading reviews
One thing I’ve rarely done, though, was closely examine reviews by people who just straight-up hated my work. I’ve seen many, of course, but I just figure eh, not all books work for all people, and anyway most reviews aren’t meant for the author. Still, every so often I make myself read them because they’re feedback, even if they aren’t meant for me, and feedback is valuable if you use it right. So today’s author strength training exercise will include taking a look at some of my one-star reviews to see what I can get out of them that’s useful. Let’s start with the Amazon reviews for 100kK. Please note: Gonna redact the reviewers’ names, though these are public so if you’ll see them if you go over there — but who the reviewers are isn’t the point, here. Do not go to Amazon or Goodreads and downvote these reviews. Do not hassle the reviewers. I’m doing this because I think all reviews are valuable, remember, even negative ones; the only thing that hurts me as a writer is apathy. These people cared enough to write a review one way or another, so don’t be assholes to them, okay? Please.
posted by Lexica at 11:48 AM on October 21, 2014


I think this whole episode illuminates the prevalence of nepotism and the incestuousness of the NY literary scene. As far as I figure it, almost every person who has stepped forward on Twitter to defend Hale just happens to be involved in or aspiring to belong to that portion of the literary world in which her fiance's father, NY Times columnist Frank Rich, and her fiance's mother (an executive editor at HarperCollins, the house that pubbed Hale's debut), hold the greatest sway. See The Brothers Rich for a taste of how the NY Times covers this family, by the way.

Meanwhile, the authors -- and readers -- speaking out against Hale's actions and the Guardian's decision to give her such a high-profile platform are mostly involved in the YA and romance world, that sector of literature most scorned or ignored by the literary establishment. Perhaps the novelists in these genres need not fear Rich et al's wrath -- or rather, worry about currying Rich et al's favor -- because their success does not depend on getting reviews and favorable coverage by the media establishment. In fact, it's quite often bloggers who drive the buzz about books in the romance and YA worlds.

Kathleen Hale might have been wiser to stick to the areas of fiction in which her friends and fiance and future in-laws have enjoyed such success and hold such sway, rather than entering a genre curated and shaped as much by bloggers as by folks whose names you'd know from magazines.
posted by artemisia at 12:17 AM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Blythe was well-known among authors for slamming them pretty harshly. I can't point to evidence of that since her reviews are now private, but she could be vitriolic when she didn't like something, yeah.

Vitriolic about the book or about the author, though?

Anyways, she's now saying that her critics don't understand journalism and/or didn't actually read her editorial. She's probably doomed herself as a YA author -- I'm super curious to see how the sequel sells and is reviewed -- but I'm sure she'll just switch to a different genre, she has the connections to do fine. (And, in truth, though I thought her fiction wasn't great, her creative non-fiction is compelling.)
posted by jeather at 10:18 AM on October 22, 2014


I think it's a relevant and important detail that Hale's two books were packaged through Full Fathom Five, James Frey's idea factory that recruits heavily from NY MFA programs and the NY lit scene (and then pays authors a pittance in exchange for exposure). Based on my interactions with other FFF authors, I'd be shocked if Hale gives a rat's ass about young adult (and her essays have reflected as much) and I'm guessing that her big goal is a collection of creative non-fiction.

The publication of this essay and subsequent uproar over it play perfectly into that goal. Also, and this is speaking as someone who was a blogger for a long, long time before she was a YA writer, I've realized increasingly that bloggers never ended up actually having the influence over even the YA world that we (and cash-strapped publicists) hoped. The books that are successful among bloggers are those with significant marketing pushes. They're also the ones that sell a ton. And FFF books always seem to get choice placement and publicity. Bloggers matter even less in the grown-up NY literary world, and behavior doesn't really matter either. It's cute to be a bit awful in that world. Connections matter much more, which means that questionably ethical people like Tao Lin and Kathleen Hale are pretty secure.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:20 AM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


Vitriolic about the book or about the author, though?

Bit of both, especially if the author made any type of response--not only in reviews or on GR's shelving systems but also on twitter. I mean, I hate those STGRB twerps, but they're absolutely right about the "career destroying phase." Cyn Balog was a good example--an author who made the mistake of responding to reviews with some kind of tepid and ridiculous "be nice" rejoinder and was slammed so harshly that she temporarily quit writing and then came back under a pseudonym.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:22 AM on October 22, 2014


More from Guardian, from an amateur reviewer this time: Inside the world of Amazon Vine book reviewers: how I ended up with a mailbox full of dog poo.
posted by effbot at 8:50 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


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