Wow, my last post illustrates how dangerous it is trying to be funny; some people end up taking you tooÂ literally.Â (And yes, in case people didn’t get it, the previous post was meant to be funny.Â I’ve been getting flak for not stating that explicitly.Â So here I’m stating it.Â I don’t advocate stalking. I was trying to put a humorous spin on “authors who go over the top” and why.Â I hope that’s now clear.)Â
Humor involves a certain amount of exaggeration, and the actual story I cited is about the exaggerated lengths a certain author has gone to to protect her turf.Â Yes, she went way over the line into the creepy.Â But am I the only one who found black comedy in the story?Â The only one who could see it as a wacky film about people whoÂ get carried away into committing absurdities?Â
But another facet of humor is that it reveals some universal truth about humanity, and there are several truths I saw demonstrated in what the author did.Â First, that some people don’t recognize or acceptÂ the boundaries of what is considered acceptable behavior.
And the other truth is that people will criticize such trespasses and declare themselves above such base emotions and would never, ever dream of doing such a thing.Â Â I don’tÂ think they’re being honest.
EC, in her comment, mentionedÂ a little Amazon glitch that occurred a few years ago:
A couple years back, a computer glitch led to the posting of reviewer names and cities of origin on the Canadian Amazon.com site. Suddenly, anonymous posters were publically accountable for their words. Gasp. Clutch the pearls.Â Â
That glitch revealed that certain authors (or their family members) had posted 5-star reviews of their own books.Â Â And there were tons of red faces all around.Â But I’ll bet you that those same authors, had you asked them the day before if they would ever even think of doing such a thing, would have angrily denied it and soundly condemned anyone who did it.Â It was only the glitch that revealedÂ how fragileÂ their writerly egos really were.
Now, let meÂ say right here and now that I have never given myself a 5-star reviewÂ –or any review, for that matter.Â Â Would IÂ condemn another author for having done so?Â Well, yeah.Â But I would completely understand the impulse.Â Just as I understand the impulse to follow aroundÂ an ex-boyfriend orÂ spankÂ your kids, neither of which I’ve ever done.Â (AndÂ my kids turned out just fine, thank you.)Â These are common human impulses, and I recognize them as such.Â It doesn’t mean they’re ever the right thing to do, but to claim that normal people shouldn’t even be thinking about, or be tempted to do,Â these things is a little disingenuous.
But maybe I’m the totally abnormal one here.Â Maybe I’m the onlyÂ author who feels hurt by a bad review, or who feels a stab of anger when an anonymous reader on Amazon calls my latest book schlock.Â Maybe I’m the only one who wonders who that reader is — and wonders whether they’re someone I know.Â Â Maybe I’m morally inferior and every other writer is as pure as the driven snow and can honestly say that criticism doesn’t bother them, not one single whit.
I just don’t believe it.Â Â Â Â Â
On NPR a few months ago, there was a fascinating program on honesty and whether it’s ever really achievable.Â Some researchers came up with questions that would generate extreme embarrassment should the person answer it truthfully.Â Â One of the questions, asked of men, was: “Have you ever thought, even just fleetingly,Â about forcing someone to have sex?”Â Â Almost all the men gave a vociferousÂ “No!”Â But the researchersÂ realized that the truthful answer was actually, almost universally, yes.Â Â The men simply refused to admit it to themselves, or to the researchers.Â
I feel, in a sense, like one of those men who’s just come out and admitted the truth.Â Â
And admitting the truth (that one-star reviews doÂ hurt and make me angry) also means IÂ can sympathize with the impulses that drive an author like McGillivray totally over the edge.Â Â AcknowledgingÂ darker human impulsesÂ means I alsoÂ understand why myÂ fictional characters fall into bed with the wrong men, or shoot their lovers, or hunt other human beings.Â I understand that normal human beings sometimes entertain totally insane thoughts late at night, in the darkness of their bedrooms.
I could have jumped in with everyone else and just started throwing stones at this author.Â But what fascinated me about the story wasn’t her trespasses — it was the impulse that drove her to it.Â And I’m going to acknowledge right here and now (even if not a single other author in the world will come out and agree with me) that the emotions that drove her to it are universal.Â Even if her actions (thankfully) were not.