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Jul 27 2005

Chided

Bertie5

Young Bert: still cute.

A spinster aunt knows she’s doin’ something right, or possibly wrong, with the good old blog when it elicits comments like this one from reader Christine:

"I read this blog for the first time yesterday and it haunted me all night."

Does one laugh or cry?

Meanwhile, Jim Butcher, author of Storm Front, a book I tore up and threw across the room a while ago, has written me a very nice email rebutting some of my criticisms. He also suggests, in so many words, that I am an ass. Like so many before him, alas.

He is right. I am not, it turns out, made of marble, and can certainly see how an author might view it as a purely gratuitous insult when some chump he’s never met or heard of has, out of the clear blue sky, publicly made unflattering personal insinuations, including calling him a “chucklehead,” for cheap laughs. So I take this opportunity to express remorse for my ethical lapse. I may be an unpaid hack, and this blog may never be seen by more than, what, a few thousand people in the world, but that’s no reason not to strive for at least the bare minimum, standards-wise.

I have asked Jim to permit me to post the aforementioned email, and will add it here if he agrees, which I hope he will, as it contains some pretty choice jibes, including his speculative musings on the character of a person who would mangle an unarmed book in a fit of rage.

20 comments

  1. res publica

    You should come over to my blog. Our motto is “Blogging means never having to say you’re sorry.” Or maybe “Totally Irresponsible Since 2003″.

  2. Miranda

    I just love your blog, Twisty, and entries like this one reinforce my admiration of your considerable rhetorical talents. I think Jim’s just jealous.

  3. res publica

    Okay, I just read your original book-killing post. First of all, you said “superannuated”, and that makes me heart you even more. Second, I, too, enjoyed Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrel, but I was a bit perplexed by the ending. It sort of felt like I just fell out the back-end of the book, or my copy was missing the final chapter or something. Was I just trippin’?

  4. WookieMonster

    Uh-oh…I like Jim Butcher’s books (really I like most any book you put in front of me, except Stephen King). And Steven Segal movies (cheesy action with a decent message, I mean “environmentalism is cool!” “don’t be racist!” “women aren’t just sex toys!” and such seem to be pretty much SS standards). Am I a failed feminist?

  5. alphabitch

    I read very fast, so it’s rare that I don’t finish reading a book, no matter how much I dislike it or how angered I am by it, and I’m not given to hurling things about (although once I threw four wine glasses at a white wall, and three of them still had red wine in them — mine was, ahem, empty — and it was very satisfying indeed and I really thought I would want to do more of that kind of thing but keep forgetting to do it), but I have been known to tear pages out of certain publications and put them in my shredder where they can do no further harm. Or to render them otherwise unreadable and less menacing. So I am totally in support of your actions described in previous posts. One does have to take a stand. I feel rather badly for Mr. Butcher though, as I have had work published and subsequently criticized both on its merits and in disagreement with my position (in one case in the form of a vaguely threatening letter to my employer) and it can feel very icky; however, when one publishes one’s work, one has to live with the reality that others are free to respond to it.

  6. Twisty

    Hey Res P, I totally admire your motto, and generally adhere to it myself, but in this case I think I was definitely a knucklehead. I stand by my original assessment of Mr. Butcher’s novel, though.

    I am reminded of my former life in the rock’n'roll biz, when we had this adjective, “NGBB,” which stands for “nice guy, bad band.” Because so often you would meet some really nice musician fella, only his band sucked shit through Hefty bags, but of course you couldn’t tell him that because, like I said, he was so nice, and consequently whenever you hung out with him you’d essentially be living a lie. So you’d blame the club owner for allowing the bad band to be inflicted on the world and putting you in this awkward position.

    Ever alert, I have sensed a similarity here, and my current thinking is that Jim Butcher, like many nice guys, has written a bad book, and while you may wish for a world in which bad books are never written, the fact is that people write them even though they never set out to, and you can’t really fault him for following life’s young dream. What people can do is not publish bad books. Thus I blame Storm Front’s publisher, the party who is actually responsible for the bookal carnage that took place that fateful day here at the Twisty Bungalow.

    And thanks, Miranda, for the lovely compliment.

  7. mimbreno

    I hadn’t read the excerpt you linked to previously, but I checked it out today and I frankly don’t see how he could rebut your criticism. Ugh. On behalf of your eager readers, you should put up a disclaimer notifying dissidents that you maintain the right to publish all email. Please!

  8. ripley

    I’m eager to see it too.. especially because I don’t see what he’s complaining about, because, hello, he published a book. If he doesn’t want anyone to criticize it, which often becomes, by extension, him, then maybe he should just hold off on the mass release under his own name, huh?

    I know this is the argument that gets tossed at bloggers (including the Great Nanny Debate of 2005), but here we have a) no clear power relation between this blog and the book, and in fact all the societal power systems seem to point the other way, and 2) expectations of privacy for blogs are still a little unclear, but expectations of privacy for PUBLISHING A BOOK?

    in other words, word, Alphabitch.

  9. StealthBadger

    *de-lurk*
    As often as “I” is used, it read like a “what I did on my summer vacation” essay. It was stilted and painful. On the other hand, criticism of your writing hurts. But it’s necessary, or you don’t get better.

  10. alphabitch

    what stealthbadger said…. I welcome criticism of my work; when it’s addressed to me personally, I’d prefer useful and specific critiques to name-calling and snarkiness, but when it’s not addressed to me personally? Let them say what they like. As my mama always says, “fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke.”

    Oh, and thanks, Twisty, for the puppy pic fix.

  11. Wordlackey

    See, I don’t think taking a cheap shot at that particular book is such a bad thing. Crap, I say “you’re entitled to your feelings. And your feelings about your feelings.” I actually read the book from beginning to end and I still concur with your assessment. If I remember correctly, Mr. Butcher has at least 5 more books in that same series. (No, I haven’t read them but Amazon suggested the others after I bought the first one.)

    While I’m sure Mr. Butcher is a fine human being with much to recommend him, kind to animals, perhaps a gourmand, I still judge the book less than worth the time to read it. This from me, who has (happily!) read much crappy horror and science fiction in my life. No, it wasn’t the worst novel I’ve read but it was well below average.

    Anyway, it’s your blog. I think you’re entitled to call him a chucklehead. That doesn’t really rise to the level of slander or libel, does it? Oh, all right, make peace with him. Me, I’d feel blessed if you destroyed a book of mine and made fun of it. If I had a published book to destroy. *sigh*

  12. bitchphd

    I laughed, but I have to also say that in fact _Clarissa_ is a fantastic novel, and not at all misogynist–quite the contrary.

  13. Twisty

    Maybe it’s not Clarissa I’m thinking of? Some old-ass novel where the whole point is the triumph of patriarchal morays over the wrongheaded independent-minded heroine, culminatng in her marriage to some highborn authority figure?

    Oh wait, that’s Emma!

  14. alphabitch

    Don’t they all end like that? Spunky gal is perfectly happy, looking forward perhaps to spinster aunthood, meets arrogant handsome rich guy, he wants her — must have only her, so he dumps his insipid and fashionable and obviously fortune-hunting fiancee, but our gal hates his guts, no wait she loves him, no wait, she wants to be a bluestocking and a tomboy forever just like her free-spirited spinster aunt, but then her sisters or cousins or friends put her in a dress, slap some lipstick on her, and recite Oprah’s “how to please your man” tips out loud while admonishing her not to eat quite so enthusiastically and tightening her corset strings just a bit, and then, spinster aunt in background looking horrified, she sees him look at her across the crowded ballroom and realizes that a woman’s real power is in submission to his every whim and she promptly faints.

    It never even occurs to her that her corset is too tight and her brain is deprived of oxygen.

    Is that the book you mean?

  15. piny

    1) If he’s gonna survive as an adult, never mind as a writer, he needs to develop defenses against much worse than “chucklehead.”

    2) Your blog is, unfortunately, rather obscure and not at all related to writing or books. How did he find it, except by obsessively googling himself and his stupid book?

    I killed Oracle Night. And a Dibdin book–I don’t remember the title; they’re interchangeable, anyway–that I was forced to read during a twenty-six-hour bus ride. I left a copy of Max Tivoli in a bus terminal, hoping someone would urinate on it.

    Libricide is justifiable defacement. Not only did these assberets decide to publish and market their crap books, they represented them to us as entertaining! Interesting! They tricked us into wasting several hours on unworthy words–they should be grateful we’re only defacing our copies of their books.

  16. res publica

    I “accidentally” dropped “The Fifth Sacred Thing” in the bathtub. It really was an accident, but providential, because no book has ever been more deserving of ruination by dint of its totally gross gender/sexuality essentialism. It turbosucked. I was told that if I liked Margaret Atwood, I’d *love* Starhawk! Scurrilous lies and slander. And I don’t care if Starhawk emails me, I’m not sorry.

  17. BritGirlSF

    Twisty, while I admire your ability to apologise, in this case I think the apology is unwarranted. Anyone who publishes their writing is occasionally going to have to deal with someone telling them that they’re the worst writer ever to put pen to paper. It’s inevitable. To respond in a fit of pique does not reflect well on the author (I lost any remaining respect for Jeanette Winterston when she did the same thing, or in her case did an even worse thing by turning up at the doorstep of a critic who wrote her a bad review and actually physically threatening said critic).
    Me, I welcome criticism of my writing. How else am I ever going to get better? If Mr. Butcher hopes to survive the publishing biz without ending up curled up in the corner in a catatonic state he’s going to have to develop a thicker skin.

  18. Trish Redhop

    I like to read both “Emma”, and your blog. Call me weird but I like to masturbate after I read either one. I think of one as fucking the patriarchy, and the other as fucking the patriarchy fuckers.
    “The Edible Woman” got hurled across the living room, through the open window and out into the street, where it was run over by the Manchacha Cap Metro bus.

  19. ae

    Twisty, I think it’s big of you to be kind to Jim, because sticks and stones and all that, but might I quote the inimitable Dorothy Parker here?

    “This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”

    Honey, that quote is your Get Out of Jail Free card. You are obviously continuing the time-honored tradition of the patriarchy-blaming, brilliant libricidistas who came before you.

  20. alex

    Res:

    If somebody who picked out the name “Starhawk” can’t explain themselves in about thirty words or less, I just assume they’re either after my wallet or my soul.

    I actually sort of miss the days when I could still read crap. It’s getting much, much harder to find readable SF and fantasy. I am eagerly awaiting the new Neil Gaiman.

    I don’t think I’ve ever deliberately destroyed a book, no matter how crappy. The things that Depression-era parents won’t let you learn…

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