Links: Kathleen Hale Edition

October 19, 2014 Links 4

A scene from the Big Lebowski where the Dude sits on a bowling alley bench with his hands on his his head and shaking his head like "nope"

Today’s Links:

  • ‘Am I being catfished?’ An author confronts her number one online critic – First things first, here’s Hale’s post in the Guardian where she admits to stalking a Goodreads reviewer for months before renting a car to drive to their house (archived link that won’t give the site clicks.) Stalking people is something she’s written about before. To get a sense of why a debut YA author would be given a spot in the Guardian to spin her yarn about obsessing over and stalking a reviewer, read this NYT story about her fiance Simon Rich and his brother Nathaniel and see how well connected she is. Finally, read this post where she jokingly recounts killing or tormenting her childhood pets for a sense of how scarily unempathetic this woman is.

    After listening to me yammer on about the Goodreads review, my mother sent me a link to a website called stopthegrbullies, or STGRB. Blythe appeared on a page called Badly Behaving Goodreaders, an allusion to Badly Behaving Authors. BBAs, Athena Parker, a co-founder of STGRB, told me, are “usually authors who [have] unknowingly broken some ‘rule’”. Once an author is labelled a BBA, his or her book is unofficially blacklisted by the book-blogging community.

    In my case, I became a BBA by writing about issues such as PTSD, sex and deer hunting without moralising on these topics. (Other authors have become BBAs for: doing nothing, tweeting their dislike of snarky reviews, supporting other BBAs.)

  • The Choices of Kathleen Hale – Sarah Wendell responds by reiterating that reviews are for readers and that authors need to respect that boundary.

    As detailed in her own account of her harassment of a GoodReads reviewer, Hale seems to believe she is entitled to know who and where this reviewer is, where she goes on vacation and what other names she might be using. When Hale obtained this person’s address, she didn’t send the signed books and call it done. She uses it to further her research. She shows up at the woman’s house. She calls her at her place of employment. She’s entitled to a conversation that she “longs” for and she’s going to have it.

    But a review isn’t an invitation to an author for a conversation. Most of the time, I advise that authors should stay out of the comments of a review. There are a number of reasons, but first and foremost is that, again, a review is not an invitation to an author for a discussion about the review or the reviewer’s opinion.

  • On the importance of pseudonymous activity – Jane at Dear Author goes through the Guardian post and breaks Hale’s allegations and actions down step by step without all of Hale’s justifications.

    There is no question that some authors think Goodreads should be shut down and wish that there were only “professional” reviewers left to review books and that readers should be allowed to only say good things about all products. And there’s no question that this type of action by Hale will lead to some reviewers/bloggers deciding that the hobby of blogging is simply too rife with complications to continue. Possibly that is the outcome that some want.

    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.

  • Shenanigans in social media – An author brags about stalking a reader – Kat at BookThingo takes aim at those who’d argue that what Hale did was “investigative journalism” or that it was ok for the Guardian to print it because it was well-written and a “fascinating read.”

    But this author is not a journalist, and what she wrote was not an exposé of some nefarious illicit activity. Facts are scant in the article, but there are plenty of allegations. It reads as an opinion piece, and it seems to have been fact-checked as one. An opinion piece is not without bias. Its purpose is not only to inform but to argue and persuade. And it seems to me that the author is arguing that bloggers have no right to privacy because they prefer not to divulge personal details online, and that by obfuscating their real details, they are liars and deserve to be doxxed.

    Not only is this a ludicrous position, it’s also a dangerous one. And it’s ludicrous and dangerous for the same reasons that authors use fake names and, sometimes, fake personas when they publish books. It’s ludicrous and dangerous for the same reasons that actors use stage names in their professional career. There are creepy people out there, and this author is a shining example of why blogger identities need to be protected.

  • An Open Letter to Kathleen Hale & Guardian Books: Stalking Is Not Okay. – Ceilidh is just not here for Hale’s and the Guardian’s bullshit.

    The atmosphere in book blogging has become irrevocably toxic in recent years, and it’s readers who have arguably suffered the most. We don’t have the support or resources authors like you have. The Guardian isn’t going to give us space to air our concerns. Authors have editors, agents and PR teams behind them. We usually just have ourselves and our community. You have the power here. If you get a bad review, you have people and resources to help cool off, to instruct you in what to do and how to make the best impression. We have nothing like that. Most of us do this for free because we love doing it. It’s a hobby, not a career. The reason this all escalated to the level it did was because of you, nobody else. You chose to stalk someone, you chose to go to the lengths that you did, and you decided to spin this into a PR victory for yourself by going to the Guardian to write about it. The Guardian chose to give you this space to spin it as such too, and this is especially terrifying given recent events going on online with GamerGate.

  • The rising costs of membership in the booktalk community – And, finally, Sunita speaks to the emotional toll this takes on hobbyist bloggers who are being attacked by publishers and authors for doing something that should be fun.

    Reading fiction is my hobby. Participating in the online booktalk community is a way to enhance the pleasure I take in reading. But while reading fiction is necessary to my mental and emotional health, participating in the online community isn’t. And when that participation takes away more than it gives, it’s time to rethink things.

    I like reviewing and talking about books online. There are any number of readers, bloggers, and authors who enrich my life. But I’m not willing to take the chance that a review of an unknown author can lead to stalking. I’m not willing to take the chance that sharing my personal information with a publisher in order to receive an ARC can lead to someone showing up on my doorstep because they became obsessed with why I disliked their book.

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An ice hockey fan from north of Boston and the genre's most beloved troll, Ridley enjoys reading contemporary and historical romance, as well as the odd erotica novel. As someone who uses a wheelchair, she takes a particular interest in disability themes.

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4 Responses to “Links: Kathleen Hale Edition”

  1. Anna Richland

    I’m going waaay out on a limb and assume that everyone reading this gets it (b/c hey, people self-segregate on the internet and LiTM is pretty clear). But this piece on being stalked when she was in college, by Bria Quinlan, was very moving.

    One thing I noticed – I don’t know if anyone else sees this? I went to read Hale’s original piece, knowing full well that she was going to go to a Very Bad Deed and I totally disagree and not victim blaming.

    I came away thinking she’s a pretty talented writer. Her structure of setting it up where her decisions, each step along the way, come from other people like her mother (who doesn’t like mothers?) and other writers, etc – whether it’s true or not (and I’m in the unreliable narrator camp, big time and assume she’s recasting her own choices) – they glide very smoothly down the rabbit hole.

    While I obviously think she’s so very very wrong (renting a car to go to someone’s house is CRAZY AND DANGEROUS to all concerned), I can see how from the polished smooth writing and all the fiction conventions she employs – it’s like a Stephen King narrator in a lot of ways – she could suck a lot of people into nodding along with the journey she’s explaining. If I narrated the same story based on facts, without all the emotion and other actors propelling her choices (a classic crime novel from bad guy point of view trick), I’m confident that the vast number of listeners would be “oh, bad writer, no stalking” – but the way she writes it, like fiction (which I imagine a lot of it is) … it just pulls the reader into the narrative. So to me, I wish there was more discussion about separating the quality and style of the writing from the message itself.

    Her message is abhorrent and wrong. Her writing is actually quite well done – and that’s part and parcel of what is so wrong about this piece (and probably why the Guardian printed it and so many people aren’t seeing through the bulls&t to say “No, this is bad, whether it’s a man or a cute 20-something woman, it’s bad”)

  1. Well, UGH. | Cate Marsden.

    […] As you may already have read, the Guardian recently published a piece in which an author writes lightly and amusingly about stalking someone who gave her a bad review. No, really, that really happened. There’s a good list of links at Love in the Margins. […]