Monday, May 4, 2009

Aaannddd he's still pissed at me

So, I felt like I owed the Professor a direct response, so I emailed him. It basically summaries what I said in my previous post, but let me copy and paste it here for full disclosure. Let me emphasize how I was trying to be nice with bold:

"Dr. Harrigan,

This is Jen, the author of the original nine page "diatribe" against your book. First, I'd like to thank you for linking to my blog in your email - free advertisement is always nice. Anyway, I just want to say that I honestly apologize if I originally came off as directly calling the you racist/sexist/homophobic in my blog post. I didn't believe you were actually this way: I mainly thought the book just came off the wrong way, and you failed to express your true intentions. I know I had said that to my friends before typing up my review, but I guess that disclaimer wasn't as clearly stated in the final product. I'm also sorry for any cruel spirited ad hominem attacks I may have used. At the time of writing the review, only a couple of my friends read my blog, so I didn't expect anyone (especially the author) to ever see it. Then the review hit Pharyngula (an extremely popular atheist blog, which you probably know) and exploded over the internet. I guess this is a good lesson to be careful of what you put online.

That being said, I do not apologize about my main criticisms in the book. I still stand by my opinion that it was poor writing and a bad message for promoting atheism.
I feel sort of bad that I've upset you, as that wasn't my goal. But negative reviews are to be expected when you present your work to the public - especially if you actively send out the book for people to review. Professional authors don't take every negative review as a personal insult that requires a direct individual response. No, they take the criticism and move on. Not everyone is going to like your book. If Dan Brown (I actually enjoyed the DaVinci code, by the way) spent all his time responding to critics, he would not only appear childish, but he would never get anything done. Not everything you write is going to be brilliant. I'll freely admit I've written a lot of horrible stuff before. And again, for the sake of honesty...you get a bunch of friends and family members to read your stuff, and of course most of them will say it's lovely...but they're probably either being nice, or really aren't literary experts. Maybe you should have listened to your writer friend who said she couldn't get past the sixth page.

And since it seemed you had specific questions for me, let me address the most important ones:

-When you talk about feminism and homosexuality in your email, I actually agree with you. Again, I just think your views came out the wrong way in the book. It happens. Sometimes we intend to write one thing, but people interpret it another way.
-You say I don't really address the male characters and a couple of the female characters, that I get some of my facts confused...yes, that's true. To be honest, it was for brevity's sake. My nine page "assault" was already getting long enough. I didn't think my book report was going to be graded by the author himself, so I wasn't taking perfect notes. I admit to completely missing the other black character. Either the description of him being black didn't stick in my head, or I got it confused with another character (which happened frequently, since you had way too many characters...also explains the Mickey Mouse watch).
The only part of the book I skimmed was the couple page conversation on boxing between Slane and the dominatrix, so I promise I was trying to pay attention.
-You say that you don't see any of the demeaning things about women that I'm apparently just making up. Just because you, a male, do not see it, doesn't mean it's not there. And I promise you I'm not trying to make things up. I'm honestly not one of those "rabid" feminists who takes offense at everything - I'm fairly laid back. I make off colored jokes myself. I'd be afraid what a "real" feminist would say if she read the book.
-It was not my initial goal to damn your book. I was honestly quite excited to read a fiction novel about atheism and sex - I wouldn't have opened it if I didn't want to read it. I even kept reading with the hopes that it would get better - I wanted to like it! But by the time I was mostly done, I realized that was not going to happen...and that I should at least share my experience with my friends. I've also talked to a member in a Californian atheist group who read your book, and she agreed with my review (though she read your book before reading my review). It's not just me.
-I did not have some "Writing 101" book open with a checklist of things to catch you on
. I've taken two creative writing classes, I write frequently, I've read many books about writing, and I have a lot of practice critiquing stories.
-I'm not quite sure what you expect me to think of the dildo battery thing. Hooray? I'm not offended, if that's what you think. I actually think it's quite interesting and admirable that you spent time in the shop to study people's behavior.
-I'll try to control myself and not start a diatribe against elderly teachers in the future, as apparently I'm likely to do that.

I guess you're just going to have to take my word for it when I say I wasn't trying to be mean or spiteful. I read the whole book, paid attention, and tried to write an honest review. It's up to you to decide if you want to believe me or not. I hope you don't take any of this too personally. It's silly to make enemies when we both agree on so many things.

-Jennifer, aka, "The Avenger""

Another student [Susan] from a campus atheist group also responded to him and CCed me in the email, saying she read most of the book, most of the blog entry, and most of his email, and that she basically agreed with me...and that many students at the CFI world congress agreed the book was awful. Kudos to her for sticking up for me.

Well, our esteemed Professor has replied again:

"Jen,
I don’t need writing advice from amateurs or lessons on how to take criticism. As for consulting an editor--why do you people seem blind to this--I did. Roy P. Fairfield wouldn’t have changed a word of the book. He loved it. Who is doctor/professor Fairfield? For thirteen years he was associate editor of The Humanist along with Editor Paul Kurtz, the author of Humanist Manifesto II. Kurtz wrote in Free Inquiry that his close friend Roy saw to it that the Manifesto came to life. We all owe a lot to both of them. It doesn’t seem to have dawned on you that you trashed Roy as well when you trashed my book on Amazon--inches from Roy’s praise--and by implication in your Blaghag Blog and the Pharyngula Atheism Blog. By intension or ignorance or judgment deficit or carelessness you distorted the book and made it a source of public mockery. Mistake me not, criticism I expected, any creative work--especially a book like mine that touches on radioactive subjects--gets it, some more, some less. Say my character development is poor, plot weak, syntax horrible, that’s part of the criticism game. I am talking about deliberately, for whatever reason, misrepresenting a book’s content.
Susan, try reading an e-mail before answering it.
John Harrigan"

Ouch. You know, usually I wouldn't be offended being called an amateur writer - because I am - but from this literary guru, that's a low insult. And yes sir, I do think you need to learn how to take criticism, because you're still harassing some 21 year old chick on the internet who made fun of your bad book. Boo hoo. I also like how "by intension or ignorance or judgment deficit or carelessness" I distorted his book. It's of course not his own fault for writing a steaming pile of shit!

I think my kindness towards this guy has about run out. Is it snarky email time, everyone? I'm thinking yes.

21 comments:

  1. Who is doctor/professor Fairfield? For thirteen years he was associate editor of The Humanist along with Editor Paul Kurtz, the author of Humanist Manifesto II. Kurtz wrote in Free Inquiry that his close friend Roy saw to it that the Manifesto came to life. We all owe a lot to both of them. It doesn’t seem to have dawned on you that you trashed Roy as well when you trashed my book on Amazon--inches from Roy’s praise--and by implication in your Blaghag Blog and the Pharyngula Atheism Blog.Wait a second here. This nimrod is trying to recruit shared atheism as grounds for some kind of immunity from criticism. Um. No. That's not how rational people operate.

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  2. I'm yet another one of those cronies from Pharyngula who came across a mention of your dissection of this apparently neuronal-apoptosis-inducing folderol that deigns to pass for a book. I'd go on about how I agree with you (and, consequently, think he's an overgrown baby who seriously needs to learn to take criticism without curdling like an overripe prune), but I'll just cinch it with your own phrase:

    // It's of course not his own fault for writing a steaming pile of shit! \\

    Beautiful, my dear.

    I'll also be referencing his response (and this, your re-response) on my blog at Respectful Defiance (sorry for the shameless plug). Hope you don't mind – I'm also nowhere near as polite and restrained as you obviously are. Think he could come after me next and leave you alone for once? :P

    Anyway, now I'm just rambling. G'day. =)

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  3. "Susan, try reading an e-mail before answering it."

    Who is Susan?

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  4. Susan is the other girl who emailed him. Sorry if I didn't make that clear.

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  5. "I don’t need writing advice from amateurs or lessons on how to take criticism."

    Well, SEED Media Group pays me to blog at ScienceBlogs.com, so I guess that makes me a professional writer. (Because we get paid by traffic flow, I become significantly more professional on days when PZ Myers links to me.) If it's professional advice you want, I've got bucketsful!

    Paul Gowder said, "Wait a second here. This nimrod is trying to recruit shared atheism as grounds for some kind of immunity from criticism. Um. No. That's not how rational people operate."

    In addition, he appears to be operating under the assumption that differing with somebody's opinion about a book is a personal insult.

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  6. My favorite part is still how he mis-spelled "intention"... if you're gonna write angry, self-righteous e-mails you have to spell everything correctly, it's just the rules.

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  7. Two shameless plugs. Professionalism sure does take work.

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  8. To adapt a line from Peter Sellers, I once had shame, but I had it surgically removed.

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  9. I have visions of Family Guy's Brian and his novel Faster Than The Speed of Love which went on to be universally panned when finally released...

    http://www.hulu.com/watch/68574/family-guy-420

    But seriously, he needs to learn how to take all criticism, not just some criticism. If you write about radioactive topics, you run the risk of handling them poorly because you're a bad writer who can't handle a complex topic, not because of the topic itself.

    Also, being "published" by PublishAmerica is not being published or becoming a professional author. It's half a notch above vanity publishing since you're essentially getting scammed and the high markup is to make money off of you, the author. If you have to pay to get things published, you're not a professional writer. You're a customer of a professional printer. Bragging about having a contract with PublishAmerica as he did in his first e-mail, is bragging that they added his order to a queue when they cleared out the backlog.

    No respectable publisher doesn't have a big publicity department that has contacts with radio, TV and publications read by more than a thousand people on a good month. He's really an amateur writer who feels slighted by someone he derides as an amateur author in his denial.

    I've been writing semi-professionally for almost a year and a half and the number one thing I learned is to accept that you're going to write some stinkers. Even the finest professionals will do it so you need to be careful, think things through, present your work to random readers in your target audience who don't have to be nice to you or care about what you write and proofread, proofread, proofread both for spelling and content.

    When you do write a stinker, learn your lesson, suck it up and move on. Devoting endless text to defending it only gives away that you're a beginner.

    And yeah, if he reads this comment and wants to take issue with it, he's more than welcome to my blog to find posts he doesn't like and blast them or make fun of them all he wants.

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  10. I have not met one, even a semi-decent, editor who would not have something to edit in everything they go through.

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  11. Hmmm... I think he doesn't understand what an Editor is. There are lots of 'editors'. Journal editors are different from copy editors, commissioning editors are different from series editors. Giving an 'editor' a book to read is not the same as having it worked on by an editor. Its like saying "my brother's got a PhD in anthropology, I asked him about my headaches, so I have seen a doctor."

    Anyway, as for snarky emails... I'd say take a deep breath and step away from the keyboard. He sounds like the kind of crank who won't let it lie. One of the two of you is going to have to be the grown up, and I suspect it won't be him.

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  12. You liked the Da Vinci Code? That has to be the true measure of how much the professors book sucked.

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  13. Pssh... Fairfield doesn't even have his own wikipedia entry. Really though, he tries bring down your criticisms with that? Come on, after 80 some years, you'd think he could do better than that.

    I am sure he is a swell cat, but he really should have taken a step back here.

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  14. This drama is just too good to not follow!

    Send an email! Do it! Do it! Do it!


    ... and suddenly I feel like I'm in middle school again...

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  15. Im surprised he has the time for those e-mails with his hectic press tour to promote his book.

    How much did the sex store factor into his book that he had to do 'research' on the type of customers that go to those places?

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  16. I don't remember exactly but the sex store scene was anywhere from 3 to 10 pages...but honestly, the sex store is irrelevant to the plot. I mean, it provided an interesting setting, but it was just a cop interviewing someone. Could have taken place in a coffee shop or on the side of the road. Some of the descriptions of the shop just seem to be for shock value.

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  17. I linked to this continuing story as well. It's hilarious!

    I'm getting a little concerned about the good professor's mental status. PublishAmerica is a vanity publisher. I got a "contract" there by submitting a two page "workup" that was, quite literally, random words slapped together without punctuation.

    Yeah, they don't care.

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  18. Ha ha! *I* know what he's trying to do. By sparring with you, dear college student, he's hoping your readership will buy his pile of crap just to see what the furor is about. Because, bad publicity is still publicity.

    Nope, not gunna doit!

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  19. I absolutely agreed with Ian until I read what FUG wrote which forced me to chuckle as if possessed by Satin.

    And your brother's girlfriend is positive this guy isn't actually Sacha Baron Cohen, right?

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  20. Oh, how I would love to see Christopher Hitchens do a review of this book. If this guy thinks YOU'RE being mean...but this is beneath Hitchens, who has better things to do.

    Great blog, BTW.

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