Book: She and I: A Fugue
Author: Michael R. Brown
Type of Book: Fiction, experimental fiction, memoir
Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: The author and I “know” one another from butting heads in some blogging communities before I lost my will to argue online. We find the other extremely questionable in our approaches in political and social realms (he is an Objectivist Libertarian and I am a Bleeding Heart Liberal, each of us married to our own belief systems in a way that beggars belief to the other). I first encountered the author in a community devoted to stupid behavior online. Two years later, I forget how I did it, but I discovered his full name and the name of his book and to reward me for not being as much of an idiot as he initially judged me, he sent me a copy of the book. So that was a bit odd. Then the book itself proved to be an odd experience, to be sure.
Availability: Published in Petrarcha Press in 2009, you can get a copy here:
Comments: I debated on how to handle this book in my review. I was tempted to go with snark but I can’t. I may not pull any punches but I plan to be as honest and candid as I can while I explain why this book is one of the worst books I have ever read. In a way, being snarky and comedic might be stomached easier because they are easier to dismiss. “Oh, a liberal clown didn’t like my book, lol.” I also tell myself that there is nothing unkind in complete honesty.
So since I am being honest, I need to say outright that this is an awful book. It is awful for many reasons and I am going to discuss all those reasons. It may seem like overkill, but when you don’t like the author, it’s too easy to say, “It sucked, take my word for it.” I don’t want you to take my word for it. I want to give you all the evidence that led me to the conclusions I reached. I don’t want anyone to walk away from this far-too-long review and think I dismissed the book because I would rather be buried alive with a full bladder than ever again read Ayn Rand or listen to one of her devotees go on at length.
This is the longest discussion I have written to date and am putting the bulk of it under the jump.
One of the first objections I have to this book is that memoirs need more than the stories Brown discusses here to matter. Here is the synopsis of the book: Brown, who uses a different last name in the book, is born in England, is abandoned by his father, his mother remarries in the US, he goes to military school where he is molested by a classmate, grows up, develops a taste for Randian Objectivism, falls in love, loses his wife to cancer, falls in love and moves in with one of her good friends, develops an attachment to a young woman online, goes to meet her, it is a disaster but he can’t see it, she sleeps with someone else, he breaks it off, the end.
Of course there is more going on with this book than the synopsis allows, and the fact is that Brown has some interesting material. One does not have to have anything new under the sun to write a memoir. The problem here is that the material that is of infinite interest to Brown is not of much interest to the reader. There has to be some universality to the content to allow the reader to care and the material of a person’s life needs to be sifted out in a manner that makes sense. His childhood, the horrific experiences at military school, meeting and having a very touching relationship with an elderly gentleman, meeting, marrying and losing his wife and his subsequent romance with her friend – all topics that have the potential to be very, very interesting and compelling – are crammed into the first 70 or so pages. The online courtship of a teenage girl, meeting her for a few days, then ending the fling a few weeks later take up the remaining 210 pages of the book.
At some point it appears that Brown deleted most of the correspondence he had with Mira, the 18-year-old ballerina whom he woos in 1999, and this is problematic. Though it seems he kept their instant messages, a significant part of the book is nothing but recounting e-mails or instant messages. This may make for interesting reading in a blog wherein the people involved are known quantities to the reader, but it is tiresome and bland in a memoir. There is beauty in the romantic exchange of letters, but the electronic communications in this book do not lend themselves to a sort of Elizabeth Barrett Browning sense of romantic love nor are they particularly compelling reading.
Moreover, and I know this is just my opinion, I assert that there is very little that is interesting in a 35-year-old man’s two months correspondence with a teenager dabbling in the ideas of Ayn Rand, his several day meeting with her and the subsequent dumping three to four weeks later, let alone 210 pages of it. Brown’s wife dying of cancer, by way of comparison, is handled in less than two pages. This is not a good selection of life material for a memoir.
Second, Brown’s writing style is hands-down the most alienating I have ever read. I genuinely have no idea what he was trying to accomplish with this style because even my initial suspicion about his use of truncated sentences and extraordinary overuse of em-dashes was not borne out by the way he used them. I have an odious habit of turning down a page corner when I come across a passage I find meaningful or terrible. I encountered so many terrible passages in Brown’s book that I had to change my method. I had to underline passages with a highlighter. I wore out two highlighters and just gave up around page 255. My husband commented that I needed less a highlighter than a can of spray paint.
The first 50 pages or so use what is more or less proper sentence structure but the sentences and use of language are often so bad I was stunned. For example:
One stifling burning-sun day we’d brewed strong pure lemonade and sold paper cups on the Harristown sidewalk fronting Mrs Castelli’s.
Okay, the “burning-sun” part is all right, I guess. But how does one brew lemonade? And why would they sell paper cups when they evidently had lemonade to sell. These are niggling points, I am aware, but are a foreshadowing of the complete breakdown in writing that is to come.
I crossed the lawn, walked up black steel staircase on side of Farragut Hall – great rambling wood building, once shore hotel now dormitory – waved from landing.
I know there is an experimental element to this book. I am going to say this and I know it is not universal, but there is generally nothing experimental about refusing to use articles. If there was some urgency when Brown does this, a conversational trope to indicate haste or mental skipping, I could see it. But there’s not. Sometimes he uses them but a lot of the time he doesn’t and there is no literary reason to explain it. It is distracting and adds nothing to the narrative or overall function of the book. It makes this book about a love affair seem robotic.
His use of contractions, while technically grammatically correct, also are distracting. These are but a taste of the hundreds of odd contractions in the book:
…an officer’d said my roommate was being held in infirmary…
After I’d absorbed the book, desire’d stirred.
Mother’d stopped with beatings, chokings – father’d used her for sex pleasures from an early age.
Given that Brown could have written in simple past tense and achieved the exact same meaning, these contractions are not only not necessary, but often seem pretentious. They certainly disrupt the flow of his writing. Reread that last example. The power of the statement of his wife’s abuse is made coy, almost like a line from an Andrew Marvell poem, by his use of contraction instead of simply saying, “Her mother stopped with beatings and chokings and her father sexually abused her from an early age.” Add to it that the statement that her mother stopped abusing her combined with the statement that her father sexually abused her makes no sense and the dash rather than a conjunction or semi-colon disrupts the flow, and it begins to be obvious why I consider this to be a bad book.
Then there are just the awkward and sometimes unintentionally hilarious sentences that just destroyed any flow he had going before I had to back up and reread them, wondering what on earth:
Now I stood, waiting for him to answer my touch on his doorbell.
“No,” she said, holding my asking invalid.
I never broke – became known, even slight respect, as a seventh-grader who’d not only not run crying to the Administration, but smile.
The book is full of moments like this, when you think, “He touched what?” “How did she hold his inquisitive sick person?” Of course, on a second or third reading his meaning becomes clear but there is no pay off for making a reader work this hard with such clunky sentences. This is not a Cummings poem. There is no greater revelation when you untangle the words and meaning. It is simply bad writing.
Then we get to Brown’s overuse of em-dashes. Maybe they are hyphens. Maybe plain dashes. I don’t know and I can’t recall ever having seen so many of them in a book. On some pages the words appeared to be moving because of all the dashes and it was a nauseating experience. It became worse once Brown met Mira online. Towards the end of the book, this sloppy form of punctuation/whatever it is became so tiring that I had to bribe myself to finish the book. Ten pages of Brown’s novel, then a few chapters of something else. As a woman who has devoted my life to bizarre books, who devours self-published screeds with little editing, who embraces the horrific at every turn, this is a damning statement. So let me give you a sample of what I mean.
She seemed tallest of the class – her face most enlongated – skin paler, more clear – seemed to put more in her dancing – stretch higher, special grace of fluency in hands and arms.
She passed talking with peer – exchanged quick smiles – felt warm, secret – wondered what people’d think of our night.
I turned – there was Mira walking up – our eyes met – permanent presence between us.
Okay, passages like these, when used judiciously, can mean something. They can imply a rushed intensity. They can show a character whose thoughts are choppy or jumbled. They can mean a lot of different things. Initially, when I saw the word “fugue” in the title and saw a few of these passages, I wondered if Brown was trying to indicate one meaning of the word, a state of mental confusion. But these passages occur throughout the entire book, occurring continually regardless of mental states. They occur during moments of peace, moments of confusion, moments of sadness, moments of elation. This choppy, disjointed manner of writing certainly can’t be indicative of the other meaning of “fugue,” a musical form, because there is nothing musical about endless dashes destroying flow, making anything approaching rhythm of words impossible.
Brown’s refusal to consider the clunkiness of his word choice, his refusal to use articles and his bizarre punctuation choices make this book read like a hastily constructed journal entry, words tossed onto paper in a scrawl that means something to the author but means nothing to the reader.
Third, and this is the hardest condemnation of this book in terms of levying criticism, because I dislike Brown’s politics and much of what I have seen of him online (and I am certain the feeling is reciprocal), but the narrator of this book, Brown himself, is unlikable and few people could relate to him or find him interesting outside of marveling at how dense he is. This is not Brown trying to show what a tool he was because at no point did I sense that Brown understood how unlikeable he is in this book. His lack of awareness is practically a character in its own right. It is hard to enjoy a memoir when you sense the author has no real understanding of what his story reveals about him.
I touch on this in my first criticism but with all the topics given short shrift in this book, one cannot help but wonder about the sort of 35-year-old man who would find an online correspondence with a teenage girl of a couple of month’s duration, followed by a few days spent in her presence, then followed by three or so weeks until a break-up, worth a book. Actually, you have to wonder about a 45-year-old man who thinks this is worthy of a book, because he published this a decade after the events. Brown definitely has a way of processing what happens to him that will make little sense to most readers and in some cases show that he is an unreliable narrator. This is the first time I have ever had the sense that an author writing a memoir was unreliable in remembering his own life yet had no awareness of it.
The first time I sensed that Brown had a skewed outlook on things was when he described his sexual assault and continual molestation at the hands of a stronger student at the military school. Force to fellate the older student, among other things, then told to say nothing of the events on pain of death, this is what Brown concludes:
This was my introduction to sex.
The exploitation, which eventually included anal rape, continued until Brown cracked and lost it and reported the older boy. Though adults were sympathetic, there were reprisals from the students, culminating in students urinating on Brown’s bed. My heart broke reading all of it. Does Brown really think it was an introduction to sex? It was a description of sexual abuse. I wanted to believe that Brown interpreted the assaults against him as a sexual experience to blunt the horror of being so ill-used, and perhaps he did. This is his book, he can craft the story of his life as he pleases. But it is hard for me, the reader, to see this as anything but the first steps in a voyage of misinterpretation as seen through Brown’s eyes.
I sort of want to discuss the passage with Vladimir Horowitz but I can’t because my only real response is that it didn’t happen and while I definitely think Brown’s capacity to understand social situations is flawed, I don’t think he’s a liar. If this passage is true, then it is a perfect example of something I was taught in college writing: just because something is true does not mean it reads with anything approaching reality. Sometimes conveying an event because it really happened is meaningless because it lacks resonance or seems too fantastic.
Further scenes seem contrived even if they are real. Mira bares her teeth at him in moments of high spirits. Her eyelids tremble. Their eyes meet constantly with all kinds of meaning behind it (their eyes meet and their eyes meet and their eyes meet – it verged on purple, all the eye repetition). She glances at him admiringly, he notices. She makes odd declarations. For example, Brown engages in some really questionable behavior in a museum and instead of being appalled or even embarrassed (because believe me, I will explain the lack of sexual chemistry between the two in a bit), she yells, “Passion!” in a public place as Brown manhandles her. She declares at the airport she will dedicate her choreography to him, that he has earned it. Then she begins to shake. Really? Their dialogue and the actions he attributes to people often don’t come close to reading as authentic. Or is it all being filtered by a man who is an unreliable narrator in his own life? I don’t know which it is. But even if the passage I am about to reproduce is indeed a real conversation between a teenager and a grown man, it reads as utterly false. There is an objective truth that Brown wants to tell us but there is a subjective truth that we need to read to believe him and he does not deliver.
We were dropping clothes to floor – I said, “So, boys are trouble, are they?”
“Yes, you most emphatically are.”
“And what did we ever do to you, hmm?”
We stopped, looked at each other.
“That hardly bears repeating, sir.”
“Well, substantiate your case. A familiar phrase. Anything to do with a warm body who shared this comfy bed?”
“As a matter of fact, yes.”
Her face changed. There was conflict. “Well… look, it was Harris.”
It took a moment to register. Her friend – the warm body. I’d thought them separate people.
“We did have sex. It was – not good.”
“Yeah, we weren’t compatible.”
“I’m sorry. What happened?”
“Well, he’s an Objectivist, pretty much. And there’s just a connection problem with those men. I swore after Taylor, never again. I should’ve stuck to it.”
Later, he says:
“Come to bed with me, fae girl,” I said, “and hold me tight.”
Even if this is a word for word representation of real conversation, it is shitty, horrible dialogue in a book. It is questionable whether or not we need most of the dialogue that Brown gives us, but if we do, Brown could have written it in way that honors the truth of the situation while making it real to the ears of most educated adults.
Then we get to the best example that to my eye proves that Brown is unreliable in his storytelling: Mira. Brown discovered Mira after she left a comment in a guestbook on his website on December 9, 1998. He soon finds her blog, falls in love with her mind and has some flirty e-mails and instant message exchanges with her. She wants to meet him, he wants to meet her, he travels from San Francisco to Boston with stars in his eyes. He arrives on February 9, 1999. He is 35. She is either 18 or just turned 19, I can’t recall so I mostly just refer to her as a teenager. She had a boyfriend when she met Brown online but that attachment fizzled a couple of weeks after they started corresponding. The age gap in and of itself is not entirely troubling to me, though it seems odd that Brown felt such a profound connection to someone who was so young, who was still experiencing life. Recall that Brown had experienced the death of his wife and had a long-term live-in relationship with another woman with whom he had decided to experiment in polyamory. He was still living with that woman when he met Mira. He was a college graduate and had experienced life. Mira was in college, studying dance, and had far fewer life experiences under her belt. But age gaps are not uncommon. I don’t condemn him for that.
But the entire time he was in Boston visiting Mira read to me like a simulacrum of hell. I have an advantage over Brown – I have been a 19-year-old girl. I know what it feels like to be trying on new ideas, experimenting sexually, finding my way once I had left my parents’ home. Therefore I suspect I can see more in Mira’s reactions than Brown did, but even so, it is evidence of his profound denseness that Brown did not pick up on the myriad signals Mira was sending him that she did not reciprocate his feelings once they met. She said things that indicate that she perhaps did not mind continuing the long distance romance as long as she could see other people, but she also said many things that indicated that she was unhappy and her body language comes across, even through Brown’s filter, as being decidedly unhappy and at times downright hostile towards Brown. That he does not seem to see this is troubling.
Brown goes over the five days he spends with Mira in such detail that I tire even thinking of it, but it is in this excruciating detail that we see Brown as he really is, a man who is besotted with an intelligent, lovely, talented teenager and does not understand the chasm between his life and hers even as the chasm is revealed to him over and over again.
Mira is in college when he flies to visit her (his plane almost crashes, by the way, an omen if there ever was one), living with a roommate. She still attends her classes when Brown visits and he attends them with her, waiting outside, sometimes watching her dance. In fact, that is how he finally meets her – he shows up at her class when he arrives in Boston. Because he is staying in her apartment, sleeping in her bed and attending classes with her, Mira is never out of his sight. Though Mira agrees to this, reading this made me uncomfortable because it is not unexpected that a teenager might not understand how oppressive such an arrangement might be when she made plans. One expects a 35-year-old-man might.
One of the best examples of how Brown didn’t get that Mira was a young woman with the experiences of a young woman was their desire for the other to see their favorite films. Hers was Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy. His was Ken Russell’s Women in Love. He weeps openly as they watch Women in Love. She replies she will have to think about it, that she doesn’t really understand the characters or their motivations. Brown is put off by her but then rationalizes it all away. There are moments of high pathos, wherein Brown seems desperate that he not lose this young woman with whom he has less than 60 days of direct involvement, as if he will shatter apart if she does not love him desperately, but he doesn’t see that the fact that they have little in common will make a relationship impossible.
But even though Mira agreed to this situation, there are of plenty of other scenes wherein it is clear that Mira is uncomfortable with Brown and he does not seem to notice. He is telling this story. Remember, he is giving these details and as I read the words, these words showed me clearly that this girl was uncomfortable, that her time with Brown was wearing thin for her after the first day, but even as the idea came into his head that she was unhappy, he again rationalized it all away. Let me give you an example of Mira giving him clear signals he chooses to dismiss.
I broke surface, face down in the pillow, reached for Mira. She wasn’t there. I opened my eyes.
She’d already pulled on pants and shirt.
“Good morning, love,” I said. “Good morning,” she said, not meeting my eyes.
I sat up in bed, wrapped forearms around knees, and we talked. She woke up overwhelmed by our intimacy. Part of her wanted to run; she declared she wouldn’t.
Gonna be brutally honest and if you are a man reading this, here is an insight you may find helpful: when a woman wakes from a sound sleep because she says she is overwhelmed by intimacy, what she really means is she is uncomfortable in bed with you. When she says it before she even has had sex with you, it may mean she is afraid of such intimacy with you but it may mean she doesn’t want to have sex with a man she does not like. When she won’t look at you, it means she is uncomfortable with you. When she says she wants to run, it doesn’t mean she is so frightened of the power of loving you that she wants out. It means she doesn’t like you and wants to bolt. When she tells you all of this, she is more or less hoping that you will piece this out for yourself without her having to hit you hard with an enormous clue bat of emotion. I know this is not how it is in all situations. Maybe 1% of the women who deliver these lines mean exactly what they say. Given how all this turned out, clearly Mira was in the other 99%. (And lest you judge Mira for not saying what she meant, again, teenager! Also, women have a hard time breaking things off. We are taught to be kind, nice, solicitous of people’s feelings over our own. It gets easier over time for some of us but not always).
The above scene segues into Mira and Brown spending the day together. He rents a car, and once he is driving, he announces that they are going to the ocean. Then Brown proceeds to have a day with Mira that was exhausting to read about, and must have been even more exhausting to experience. They go to the shore on an overcast, misty day in February, Brown sees a statue that he thinks is a dead ringer for Mira and experiences all kinds of epiphanies of love. Mira, not so much. Here are some descriptions.
Mira staggered on snow-hillock.
If your girl is staggering in the snow on the beach, she is not having a good time.
Wind whistled among western buildings.
I am a Texas girl and know little of the wind on the shore in February but if it is whistling among buildings, it is windy and probably uncomfortably cold.
She yells at him that she loves him and evidently she smiles some, and I wondered if she was maybe having a good time, then I read this:
Wind was pain at my front – grit-cloud blew – in both eyes – slowed pace, turned head until tears washed… Wind roared as if vomited, howling, straight from its heart.
Grit blew in his eyes and the wind sounded like it was vomiting. This is not a good date.
Then he sees Mira as the sun goes down, and she is framed in an orange glow, and he realizes he has been waiting for this moment though he didn’t realize it until it happened. The horrible cold, wind, sand and crunching snow isn’t particularly romantic for most people, but it doesn’t seem like Mira matters as much here as the epiphany Brown was having in the wild weather with her by his side. They have some more dialogue that falls into the even if it is true it doesn’t matter because it doesn’t seem real category (their eyes locked, there was nothing at all but them, and she says, “I felt you, dearest”) and they go to dinner where he moons over her beauty. Then he wants to get a hotel room for the night.
She looked out, then half-turned back, face troubled. “I think I’d like to go home. I want to sleep in my own bed tonight.” Her voice was softer than usual.
“It’s dark out, and cold, and I’m worried we won’t find a good place to stay.”
So your online paramour has come across the country to visit and you don’t want to get a hotel room but would rather make a long drive back home, to your own bed. Perhaps she meant what she said on its face or maybe she wanted to be back on home turf, in a place where she felt more control, because hotels often mean sex and she was not ready for that, not yet, and especially not on a day when she had been taken to a cold, bitter, windswept place without advance warning. On the way home they “play-fought like kittens.” Or maybe she cloaked her intense dismay and irritation behind play fighting. Or maybe they quarreled for real and Brown is too dense to realize it.
The next day he goes to class with her and then takes her to dinner. Brown’s deceased wife had always wanted private tables when eating out but Mira asks to sit at a communal table, effectively ensuring that they would have people around them. Brown initially feels apprehensive but dismisses it, thinking that Mira is simply a new person with new ways and he may be correct but generally, in the early days of dating, women like solitude with their dates. Though when they return home Mira declares she loves him, but again, looking at her words and her actions combined with body language, it is at best a conflicted declaration.
Until we get to the sex. After the sex it is clear where Mira stands. And given how desperate Brown behaves afterward, I think he more or less knew where she stood as well, but I don’t think he admitted it fully either as it happened or as he wrote this book.
The sexual encounter between the two suffers from similar problems Brown has writing the rest of this book – refusal to use articles, splintered ideas, awkward phrases, endless dashes. In a sense, this is the sole place in this book that should have had such thwarted verbiage because this sexual encounter is so tense and miserable, and Brown is so unwilling to understand what it all means, that the only way to tell it is as Brown wrote it.
I also think that despite how despicable much of this book is, Brown is to be commended on his brutal honesty describing this sex scene, and indeed his other sexual failures in the book (in one scene, Brown’s live-in girlfriend falls asleep while having sex with him and it sends him on a door-breaking tantrum). But it is hard to tell if Brown knows how brutally honest he is being. It is hard to tell if he even understands that he failed. In his mind, much of Mira’s lack of sexual feeling can be traced to the Celexa she takes for her depression. In his mind, the fact that they failed sexually means nothing as long as he remains the primary man in her life and she shares any sexual intentions before she commits the acts. He tricks himself something fierce and I simply have no idea if it is because he knows he was a man in an early mid-life crisis doing anything to hold onto a beautiful young woman or if he genuinely thinks his behavior made sense. Regardless, had Brown decided to sexually alienate Mira before his nascent relationship with her had a chance to take form, he could not have succeeded better.
First he tells her that his girlfriend back home had made love to her boyfriend the night before. Mira was shocked, though she smiled. All this openness about his polyamorous relationship may have made sense to him, and Mira had a friendship with Brown’s girlfriend, but this is a tense declaration to make when cuddling with a woman. It almost puts Mira in a place to where she has to maintain parity between the pre-mated pair as the “wife” had sex with another and now the “husband” wants to as well. To not have sex with Brown might have seemed like a slight to him as his partner had already moved into a sexual phase with her new lover and he had not yet made that connection with Mira. Not to say it was a pity fuck or that she felt emotionally manipulated, but the overtones are there.
We get to the act, and here it is that Brown blows it completely, with no awareness at all that his first sexual request is bizarre and unreasonable to make during the first sex act with a new partner:
My mind fused all we’d felt since our beginning – I pulled back, said, “I want us to come together.” Our eyes stayed tight, fearless. “For that to happen,” she said, “I’ll have to be on top.”
It was here that I knew for certain that Brown wrote this with utterly no self-awareness of what he is doing to this young woman or how others may perceive him. Simultaneous orgasm is a tall order on a first sexual encounter. It is too much pressure to put on a first time sex partner because it is almost assuredly not going to happen. Mira is game, though, you have to give her that. In addition to putting far too much pressure on Mira to satisfy a demand that is hard to achieve, Brown observes that her eyes are fearless. Fearless? That fear or its absence is even mentioned in a sex scene gives us a lot of access to Brown’s id. Her eyes should have been fearless when making love. That it is even something that needs to be explained is bizarre and unsettling, or it shows that Brown knows he is asking too much of her and is impressed she is not scared. Either way is bad.
Of course, they don’t come together – Brown orgasms before Mira. And it gets worse. He goes down on her, and nothing. He then sees fit to discuss what he sees as a problem with her.
After two months of perfection we couldn’t be wrong here. “Oh no,” small voices cried within me, “not this.” I breathed against a locked up stomach.
“Has sex been difficult?” I asked.
Yes, sex has been difficult. You see, Mira broke up with her age-appropriate boyfriend after Christmas and less than six weeks later has a 35-year-old in her bed, asking for simultaneous orgasms after following her from class to class and taking her to the beach with its vomiting winds and sand in her eyes, a man who expects sexual perfection after speaking to her online for a couple of months. And just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does.
“Would you like to masturbate together?”
Her right shoulder rose and she said emphatically “No.”
Shock of confusion. I wondered if my going first would be softer entry to pleasure.
“Would you like to watch me masturbate?” I said.
Of an instant her eyebrows contracted. Frowning, she pulled in her chin and said, “No.”
She’d almost shouted.
I turned on my back, stared at ceiling. I’d no idea what she was feeling – for once did not care. I’d never accept sexuality as opposite world with stone rules.
“You seem pretty vehement,” I said, not hiding irritation.
I assert that at no point during this book did Brown put Mira’s feelings first. This whole scene made my skin crawl. If she didn’t want to masturbate with Brown, why would she want to watch him get off. She made her feelings pretty clear on masturbation with his first question and when she responded poorly to his second, he pouted.
Not unexpectedly, Mira decides to put a moratorium on all sex between them. And after this declaration, Brown’s next suggestion is to ask Mira to take a shower with him, which he describes in lots of detail, none of it sensual, all of it creepy given the context of the previous scene. As if to demonstrate how far from Eden they had wandered, Mira goes to get towels for them to wear to the bathroom though they are alone in the apartment. She doesn’t say no to him about the shower, but by this point she has a clueless man-child in her home and has to get through this as best she can. Just because a woman does not throw your ass out doesn’t mean she isn’t doing whatever she has to do to get through until you leave on your own. And as I read the rest of his time with Mira, I felt her tension, her tiredness, her bouncing back and forth between distaste and then saying wildly optimistic things because Brown kept harping on how much he had invested in this, how it couldn’t all fall to shit simply because he sucked in bed. Had I been Mira, Celexa would not have been enough to get me through.
Brown extracts a promise from Mira that she will not have sex with anyone else before discussing it with him and then leaves back to San Francisco, where he decides he is going to quit his job so he can move closer to Mira. It’s almost like the five-day disaster I read had no impact on him, and even if it hadn’t, he had spent five days with her after knowing her for two months online. But yes, he wants to quit his job and move closer to her. He then has a scene with coworkers that is so sad to read, so pathetic because when I read it, I knew the men were mocking Brown but he just didn’t see it as anything but jovial give and take. You see, there had been complaints because Brown spent so much time online at work talking to Mira. He had stayed longer in Boston than he had taken off for. His bosses were pissed. In a meeting with them, Brown quits, citing the new girl he had met in Boston. Not a woman, he corrects the two men, but a girl. Again, Brown recites body language without seeming to get the point behind it, then recounts this:
Randy and I shook. “Good luck, Tiger,” he said, grinning irrepressibly.
And with this, it was official. Brown has no insight into the people around him. Perhaps he did on one level – he certainly quit before he got fired. But as a middle-aged woman myself, I have never heard a grown man call another grown man “Tiger.” Kids in baseball games, orange tabby cats… Never a grown man to another grown man. Brown was being mocked. That “Tiger” and that grin held no praise. Randy may as well have said, “Good luck, You Poor Dumb Bastard.”
Then what we all know is going to happen happens. In about three weeks Mira’s chats become less and less frequent, he realizes she is online but blocked his ability to see her active on ICQ, he can’t get her on the phone, then she confesses she had sex with someone else. She had very good sex with someone else. And Brown acts immediately and terminates the relationship, hangs up the phone and hopes that she will call back and make things work.
She doesn’t. He checks her blog. She mentions their break up but doesn’t go into a lot of detail. He checks again, and she has deleted the entire blog. She moves on quickly, but he remains stuck to the point that a decade later he writes a book about the whole sorry encounter. He then gets a call from his grandmother that his mom is sickening and they need to make some decisions about her. He thinks about what has happened to him.
As Mira had touched me, and I had touched her.
I would build on what I had lived.
Two months of chat. Five days with her. One horrible sexual experience. A complete lack of connection between his desires and her desires or even their common tastes outside of an affection for Ayn Rand. Then three weeks of torture as she entertained friends, lived her life and found a new lover. He didn’t touch her beyond serving as a nice distraction after she broke up with her boyfriend and a prolonged annoyance once she got to know him. And he doesn’t know that. He has no idea.
So it was all a waste, this book. Missed opportunities to tell stories worth telling. Tantrums and broken hearts and a sense of eternal love based on chat sessions. A pathetic man in love with a girl whom he wants to pin down and keep for himself even as he has no idea what it is that makes her tick. A pathetic man who at the end of all of this doesn’t seem any smarter or more aware than he did at the beginning. This was a terrible story, a pointless story, written terribly and in a pointless style. I cannot recommend this book to anyone except for those who love reading terrible books to see for themselves how terrible they really are. I call this the Wild Animus effect and it could be put to good use here. Sorry, WP, your book was terrible. It was almost too on the nose for me not to like it and I hoped, sincerely hoped, when I received it that it would not be terrible because to give it a bad review to some may have seemed like a forgone conclusion. But I read it sincerely and I read it closely. It is a bad, bad book.
69 thoughts on “She and I: A Fugue by Michael R. Brown”
Wow. I didn’t read this book, but it can’t be any worse than this review. This review is so shoddily written I wonder how you even think you should be evaluating anyone else’s work in a semi-public forum.
This comment is exactly why I wrote this review without rancor or snark. This comment reads exactly how I didn’t want my review to appear – a hit piece. I’m cool with hit pieces, This is the Internet and I would be out of luck did I not expect them. I just think, in some small way, I came full circle in your two sentences which convey no idea deeper than “You suck because I say you suck.”
Oh well. Thanks for commenting.
Please make some remark about content rather than style. Ideas easily expressed are rarely anyone’s best. Questions or difficulties can be even more difficult to express. Strict style requirements are appropriate to forums where quick comprehension is required by pressing circumstances, such as the common audience drawn by a newspaper which might switch papers. I’d rate this pretty good for extemporaneous prose, and the clarity is pretty good.
I am of the opposite opinion to the previous commenter – I thought your writing was entertaining enough that despite writing a review of a book you didn’t like that was about a topic I’m unlikely to find interesting, I enjoyed it.
I do think you somewhat deliberately misrepresent the idea that Brown doesn’t know what might make for interesting memoirs – I agree with your view on what would have been interesting, but if the structure of the book is as you say, then given the title it’s fairly clear the interesting stuff is only presented as background for the story he wanted to tell, rather than simply being given short thrift. It’s a pity either way.
Thanks for commenting, Logan.
I think I see what you are saying. That Brown did include the better material, albeit in a truncated form, means he knows what is interesting even though he chose to focus on something else less interesting? If that is what you are saying, then we may be more or less stating the same thing with a different value judgment because I am not wholly sure that Brown understood that 210 pages of courting Mira was, in fact, the least interesting material in the book.
Regardless, it is indeed a pity that better content didn’t get the page time that Mira did.
Again, thanks for commenting. I appreciate your insight.
Indeed it’s rather peculiar that the author seems to feel that the brief fling with the 18-year-old is far more interesting than his marriage. It would be different if it was just an essay on that particular subject. But to devote an entire memoir to it suggests a disturbingly misguided system of priorities.
If you had seen photos of Brown’s late (and quite obese) wife, then you would now why a brief fling with a slim ballerina was far more interesting to him than his years of marriage to a fatty.
Do you really need to impugn the appearance of woman who died of cancer well before the Mira affair? Michael has evidently found all sorts of feminine configurations attractive. I suspect had Mira been a stocky pianist or a gangly painter, she would have still inspired such a reaction from him. He was besotted with her before he had any idea what she looked like. Michael can wear thin at times, and I often know when he’s irritated people on social media because I get clusters of comments on this entry, so believe me when I say I get that people may have really negative opinions about him. But that he found (finds) a variety of women attractive isn’t something that is a bad trait, nor do I think he would jadedly seek a young dancer because he needed emotional recompense for being married to a fat woman, a woman whom he might still be with had she not died far too young. He can deal with insults – he often finds these comments months later and replies and generally holds his own. But it’s incredibly cruel to try to insult the women he has loved in order to jab at him.
I initially read “invalid” as its literal meaning of “not valid”, rather than the dreadful euphemistic usage that suggests that a person with a physical impairment has no value. :s
As for long-dashes (which, strictly speaking, are not the same thing as em-dashes—but that’s another story), i’m a bit of a fan of them myself—and sometimes worry if i go too far with them (like now); but this fellow uses them not only far more excessively, but nonsensically. Eek!
[Pardon the serial posts; i suck occasionally.]
No problem with the multiple replies – if replying often is a sign of sucking, I’d be in the same sucky boat, believe me. I initially thought Brown was using em-dashes, but after a while it became clear that all those little lines were not there to indicate parenthetical thought, but rather were just an off the wall and inconsistent replacement for clear sentence structure, conjunctions and commas. But they were the exact same length as the hyphens (or they were to my naked eye) when Brown hyphenated words. So I have no idea what he was up to.
I am also one known to use em-dashes, perhaps too much.
And to combine and reply to your other comment here, I still am shocked Brown wrote this book. 210 pages of what should have been, at most, a few blog entries. I’ve asked him outright if he wrote this book as a gag, a sort of _Naked Came I_, but he won’t say for sure. He’s cagey, is that Brown.
Wow. It sounds like reading Lolita without Nabokov’s excellent prose and plotting. It exacerbates the horror tenfold. At least Humbert Humbert had some modicum of self-awareness by the end of the book. Oof. I shudder to think.
His lack of awareness and lack of evolution in this book were quite stunning. I never mentally went to a place where I associated Brown with Humbert Humbert, though I can see the parallels. I think the complete lack of self-awareness and clarity of motivation on Brown’s part (combined with the really bad writing) ensured that I didn’t make the leap. Humbert Humbert knew what he was, unreliable narrator notwithstanding, and while Brown is far from a pedophile, he never seemed to understand himself to any degree. This was indeed a painful read but at least I managed to skirt the morally problematic and often times disgusting journey of self Humbert Humbert revealed in Lolita.
As poor this book might be (and I find the writing style horrible), I find it ridiculous that you think it poor in no small part due to its content. Seriously, two pages of wife dying vs. 200 of chasing after a teenager aren’t is not a minus per se. Also, I found the little lesson in What Women Really Mean When They Say X annoying at best – it reminds me of those people who warn characters on the big screen “Watch out! He’s right behind you! Run!”. Except you’re not speaking to the character, are you? And that’s the real problem with this review – you’re reviewing the author, not the book, despite your effort to avoid this.
Thanks for commenting, JJJ.
Analysis of content in a book is a pretty sound way to determine if the book is worth reading and by most analyses, 2 pages of a wife dying versus 210 pages of chasing a teenager when most of that chasing occurs online is a bad selection of life material for a memoir. It doesn’t matter if Brown were a prince or a choad in real life when making that assessment.
Brown is the character. He is the narrator. When speaking to one regarding this book you are speaking to both. There was no way to discuss the deficiencies of the narrator’s way of thinking and completely unrealistic actions without discussing Brown. Had I been reviewing the author, I would have brought in all I know of him online, which could have added another 5000 words to this review, minimum. I didn’t. I kept my discussion to the book and since Brown was the narrator of this bizarre narrative, I don’t see how one could address the sheer idiocy of the plot, the stupidity of the narrator and the paucity of any real content that would make a reader give a damn about Brown’s voyage of discovery without discussing Brown.
Interesting site you have here Anita. I felt compelled to comment here after reading this post because I recently met Michael R. Brown, the author of She and I: A Fugue, online and he is by far the most annoying and moronic person I’ve ever met on the internet and I’ve met a lot of them. I laughed so hard reading your take on him as it was déjà vu. I can totally relate to your experience, especially when you said, “I lost my will to argue online.”
I should mention that I am myself ideologically a libertarian more than anything else and you and I probably have very little in common philosophically, other than in my youth I was more of a bleeding heart liberal. Theoretically, Michael and I are more compatible in this regard. It’s not often that I would side with the opposition against one of my own, but sometimes you just have to call out the crazy people on your own side because they are so absurd. Incidentally, I encountered Michael on the Atlas Shrugged Part 1 film site, where he has become a rather annoying permanent fixture. The guy is a complete cartoon and whatever negative image people have of Ayn Rand enthusiasts, he is the poster boy. I can assure you, we are not all like that.
What I found particularly interesting about Michael, beyond his inane behavior and insistence on having the last word no matter how vapidly insipid, is that he has tried to pass himself off as a composer and a pianist at the movie site. As a classically trained musician myself with study at the graduate school level, I saw right through his BS, which is where our initial clash began. It’s clear to me that he has no education or background in music and he has no clue what a fugue actually is. I gave him plenty of opportunities to demonstrate command of the subject matter and he couldn’t do it. Of course, he then told me that I had no facts to back up my arguments and introduced a number red herrings. I’m sure you can relate to that. LOL Incidentally, his exact words to me were “i’m a pianist and composer whose partner is an operatic soprano.” So it seems that he’s found love again. Will there be a sequel?
BTW – I invoked your name and posted a link to this review on the Atlas Shrugged Part 1 film site. This was Michael’s response, “yes, you and anita deserve one another. you, who can get almost nothing right, and she, who got almost nothing right. she begins with inability even to spell the name on the publisher line staring her in the face, and misidentifies me as an “Objectivist Libertarian.” i’m neither. the review goes downhill from there. you’ll feel right at home. : )” As you can see, his annoying “writing style” continues.
Anyway, I thought you’d enjoy hearing about my encounter with Michael R. Brown and I loved reading your post here. Between this and the scathing reviews on Amazon, I had a great laugh. What a ridiculous person he is. Putting aside our philosophical differences, I admire creativity and intellect. I love the concept of your site and it’s a very entertaining read. Well done!
Hi, Brakeman. I think bleeding heart liberals and Libertarians can easily get along. I’ve developed lovely friendships with some Libertarians over the years. There are jerks in every political realm and I would never tar all Libertarians with the same brush used on our sticky, mutual acquaintance.
Oh, Michael Brown is such a wiener, isn’t he, and do I ever know about his red herrings! I have never before dealt with a person who communicated with such bad faith. But interestingly Brown’s bad faith is never wholly dishonest – rather, it is peppered with enough details of the truth so that once he is challenged, he can stand back, mighty ego in hand, and crow at how stupid we all are for not working hard enough to uncover the truth about this astonishing, amazing, Michael R. Brown. That he seems to think it is perfectly reasonable to expect people to work that hard to uncover such an uninspired truth speaks to an ego I am, frankly, unqualified to discuss in depth.
The best example of this for me is over the course of several years in LiveJournal he would frequently state he had published a book that had a two-page spread in Harper’s and that it had been called, and I am paraphrasing, an indispensable addition to the Western canon, or some such thing. He once posted his schtick in a thread specifically discussing She and I, the implication being, of course, that She and I had generated praise that warranted such a reaction in such an esteemed journal. Later I found out that he had published through his imprint a book about an interesting Canadian woman. Now, he did not write that book (I think and I don’t care to look it up), but he did publish it. And he created a press release or ad that he paid to have in Harper’s, or at least that is the best I could come up with before my interest in it all waned. Of course these red herrings were set up perfectly and when we all came to the conclusions that any reasonable person would come to, he could then stand above us all and mock us for not being smart enough to accurately decode his mind game.
I can only think he refuses to interact in good faith because it seems he takes a lot of glee in misleading people he considers stupid (like me). Moreover, it is strange he often refuses to disclose information that could reflect pretty well on him. Why he didn’t immediately correct us all when we thought he was assigning glory to the hot mess that is She and I when he had a connection to a far better book is baffling.
But that feeds into what I consider to be Brown’s essential triviality. He would rather play mind games than let people know he was actively curating the memory of Mary MacLane. He saw a misspelling in this book discussion and considers it enough to dismiss the entirety of what I have to say. He focuses on errors made in good faith and self-righteously uses them to dismiss people. Yes, yes, that extra “h” I evidently put in his imprint name means everything I had to say was invalid. A sensible person would have just given me a heads-up I had mistyped the name but to do that would eliminate the existence of an error that in his mind proves how entirely stupid I am. He’s laid enough breadcrumbs online that would lead a person not gifted at decoding his bad faith into thinking he is an Objectivist Libertarian but I’m certain he could dissect every statement and prove undoubtedly that if one had only read harder, deeper and with the determination he requires to figure him out, we would know what he really is, whatever that may be. He’s a strange, strange man and I hope he quits crapping up whatever forum it is where you encounter him.
Oh, and I have no problem that you linked to this book discussion. Thanks for reading and thanks for the praise. If you ever find yourself desperate to know what a Texas housewife thinks of a strange book, you now know where to find such information.
And you still get hardly a thing right.
You and Brakey deserve one another, richly, and I’m delighted at this meeting of the minds, which happened with near-inevitable logic. He moved on to you after being ignored on the Atlas Pt 1 discussion group.
Yes, I took it easy on you and your review, lest it seem sour grapes – and shooting fish in a barrel. Really, I’d expected a better attack than that long, creaky exercise in self-persuasion. I said, afterward, “I fear the lady doth overjustify, at far too great the length.” And what were you trying to persuade Self and Other of? That you were able to disregard what you already thought about me. Your review shows, in dozens of ways, that you could not.
I’ve no complaint re. your judgment of style: some love it, some hate, and I stipulate you’d have hated regardless of author. I leave aside your factual errors … though calling me Objectivist was a notable boner, and an indication of how much extra-textuality entered your review. The book’s text makes it abundantly clear I’m not: you missed the tart criticism of Rand’s lying about her affair with Branden – the wholesale leaving of Rand behind in late ’80s – the dismissal of Rand again after Jocelyn’s flit-away in ’00 – the reiteration of Rand as deceiver at Mira’s journal-reveal at the climax-days (italicized inner voice: “she’s pulled an ayn rand”) – the style itself – the exposure of private details. All strongly non-Objectivist.
You missed all that, and more, because you had a fixed concept of me, which you could not escape. Thus you missed, on a deeper level, that the book contains a new critique of Randian love and sex. Do you actually think an Objectivist would do that? And quote Buddha – twice? And read Zen stories? And show the foolish patience I did?
But I leave all that, as it barely scratches the surface. I’ll leave also your inability to get the publisher’s name right, despite it’s being in front of you as you typed. I was to correct that error of yours, too? No, the error doesn’t invalidate your review, but it instances your carelessness: which is not insignificant when the reviewer misses blatant textual clues.
The only thing I have directly to address here is outright fabrications on your part, in this most recent comment.
I constructed an easy puzzle for the online-mockery dolts on Livejournal, of whom you are one. As they (not you, I think) had much fun several years ago telling me I was a know-nothing ignoramus, who knew nothing about writing, etc., I decided to test their acumen. I slightly concealed the identity of the book I published in ’93 on the feminist, and challenged them to find its identity. Not a one of you got it – for years! And you’all tried. I posed it carefully, and I fed clues carefully now and then – else there’d have been no point. Example: for a while I left ambiguous my relation to the ’93 book – I said I “did” the book. That covered publishing – or writing – or editing. And I was prepared for howls I hadn’t “done,” only published. Whereupon I’d have reminded you-all that what got it rolling was the claim I knew *nothing* about writing. And yet, here I was, recognizing and reviving a writer, getting a sterling review from an academic, excerption in Harper’s, etc. In fact, I had to feed you’all so many clues that I was virtually telling you what the book was – and you, Anita, finally figured it out, and I sent you “She and I” as promised.
Now to your bullshitting.
” … the implication being, of course, that She and I had generated praise that warranted such a reaction in such an esteemed journal.” This implication comes from the same place as my Objectivistness: your own projections. I never said/implied such a thing, because it isn’t so. Not even close. Besides, too easily uncovered by someone asking the name of such journal, and with the obsessive negativity of you mockers I’d never have lived it down. If you maintain I’m lying here, feel free to find where I said it and provide a link. (You won’t put in the effort, and it would be unavailing, since it’s a fiction of yours.)
“And he created a press release or ad that he paid to have in Harper’s” Here, you lie. Harper’s contacted me, we went back and forth a few times on punctuational changes, and they published a two-page excerption. Illustrated. With two odd paintings. On their dime. Listed in that issue’s T.O.C. Please, insist it isn’t so, so that I can supply the URL.
The sad thing here is that none of this will matter, at all. It’s purely gratuitous. You’ll reply or not, you’ll leave it up or delete it, you’ll show it to your LJ buddies or talk more with Brakey … and none of it matters. That’s really why I didn’t reply to your review’s truly astounding failures. Because you are so wedded to a particular feeling of me – which is approximately as negative as Rand’s most strident caricature of an enemy – that anything said will be fed into the little negativity machine that is that feeling, and more uniformly-ground sausage will come out the other end. You will avoid every telling factual point against you, and go on about my overweening ego and my laughable inexpertise at something or other – and it will all mean nothing at all. Because you like being there. That’s why you invest the precious, priceless time of this life – the only life you will ever have – in a pit of people who take the real, felt matter of life, the often absurd attempts of people to make sense of things, the silly outcries of people offended, the joys, the sorrows, the honest emotions (for which we are dying in this culture) … and you turn it into the fecal meals that all of you, of the online mockery-communities, serve to one another every day.
And that’s why all this that I’ve written is gratuitous, too.
Wake up, Anita. There’s a reason you’re as depressed and pain-ridden as you are. Get out of the negativity, before it’s all you can do.
I’ve always felt that if there’s anyone I should be caring toward, it is my putative enemies. So there’s some care for you here at the end, right from my heart, strongly moved.
Now go and turn it into shit.
Or – not.
Hi. Mr. Oddbooks here.
Ordinarily I don’t comment on IROB, primarily because when it comes to fielding comments Mrs. Oddbooks is more than capable of taking care of herself.
But this comment crossed a line.
The reason Anita is “depressed and pain-ridden” has nothing to do with “negativity” and everything to do with medical science. To state otherwise is not only ignorant but insulting – it implies that her “negativity” – i.e. not agreeing with your point of view – is somehow responsible for her physical ailments.
That makes as much sense as crystal healing and ancient astronaut theory. Unsurprising that a Randian/Libertarian would indulge in fantastical thinking without any connection to reality. And again like too many right-wing assholes (if that’s not too redundant) it’s the sort of dick move in which you excel.
In conclusion I’ll quote Harry Truman’s letter to Paul Hume on the subject of Hume’s review of his daughter’s piano recital:
See my long reply to Frau Odd, mein herr. Anita’s compounding her very real life-difficulties with submersion in pervasive Internet negativity, confabulation, etc. You’d do better to assist than enable, but I’m not surprised you’re enmeshed as well.
I’ll be delighted to viscerally relate with you, should we ever meet. It’s always a pleasure when liberal RAGE is revealed. 🙂
1. The reason I quoted Truman was to point out how transgressive your comment was and how I reacted to it. It was a rhetorical response to a reprehensible remark. Do you really think Harry Truman went looking for a writer in order to punch him in the nose? Of course not, and neither am I.
2. A decent man wouldn’t offer to “viscerally relate” with the spouse of a woman whose illness he’d just maligned. Instead, you should send my wife a dozen roses for actually reading your stinking book, and giving it more careful and honest analysis than it will ever receive elsewhere.
3. I’m the admin of this site. The only reason I haven’t banned your dumb ass is because Anita asked me not to. One would think it’s because she enjoys watching you flail around the way you do, but it’s actually because she believes in maintaining an open commenting policy.
4. Both of us have had the last word with you, so feel free to shit up the comment section to your heart’s content.
1. The reprehensibility is on the other shoe, sir. Mostly the female one in the household – or didn’t you follow the “Harper’s” debacle?
2. I don’t believe in defending illness. I believe in health and abundant life here on earth. I think Anita could be doing better by herself, not damaging herself by hanging out with bad-energy grotesques. What I say is comes from care and decency. As I said, no better person to care about than one’s putative enemy. Enemies are more reliable, in our benighted day, anyway. You usually faster email response, for sure!
3. Much obliged. I’m a curiously responsive soul: if people don’t bullshit and hector, I leave them alone. I saw Anita bullshitting, and I called her on it. She might wish to reconsider her policy anent the matter of truth and match it to her laudably open commenting policy. As to “dumb,” “flailing” – I smile.
4. Interesting how you both start mirroring my use of the word “shit.” In any case, I’m happy you’re done. Cease lying, i.e. love truth, and we’ll do fine.
Typos galore. Apologies.
s/b “What I say comes from”
s/b “You usually get faster”
Michael, I worked very hard on this review and gave it a softer write than it deserved because at that time I had never been in the position of knowing a writer whose book I discussed. Therefore, even in my verbosity and borderline disgust for you, I erred on the side of being kinder than my instincts generally allow when reading such bad books.
Only an ego as profoundly bizarre as yours would look at a restrained bad review from a verbose writer who knows you and think “I fear the lady doth overjustify, at far too great the length.” I have given excellent book reviews to authors who are scoundrels and have have sadly discussed the bad books of good men. Of course my negative opinion of you peeked through. I copped to that in the review, that no matter how hard I tried to restrain myself it would probably come out.
What is your point? That I think you are a toad, and that your writing is terrible, and that I didn’t blast you with both barrels like I should have, and that is somehow an indictment against me because I let emotion enter into my review and my loathing for you showed at times? It appears you are just restating with you own spin that which I have already said.
This is my site. I use many words when I discuss books. I review with passion. I explained myself more than enough in the review I gave your book and I owe you no more explanations.
I have no interest in responding to much of this comment. Running a book review site for strange books is hardly online mockery and calling it such makes you sound delusional. Call me a liar all you want Michael, but it has been the experience of countless others that you set up information in such a manner that when people draw reasonable conclusions you can call them liars. You do not engage honestly and call others liars. It is your MO. It’s what you do. Too many have seen you for what you are, and most men with clear heads would not continue with this shtick much longer.
Michael, I am cyclically depressed because I have a chemical imbalance in my brain. That’s the reason that from time to time I am deeply depressed.
I am in pain occasionally because I have an auto-immune disorder that affects my skin and joints. That is why I am in pain from time to time. Only a cruel, demented man would think negativity is the cause. To imply that I dislike you or that I gave your book, or any book for that matter, a bad review because I am in a place of negativity, and that this supposed abundance of negativity somehow affects my mental and physical state, is a hatefulness I did not think even you capable of. Now I know.
I will not shit on how strongly moved you are by me but I will respectfully ask you to shove it back up your own ass, because shit has no need to be shit upon. You are dishonest to your core. You have one of the emptiest egos I have ever encountered. You just engaged in the worst sort of spurious reasoning to make my organic illnesses seem like a by-product of the fact that I from time to time write a bad book review – because, you know, not liking your book means I must be brimming in negativity, the negativity that affects my brain chemistry and the state of my skin and joints.
Talk all you want to me but this is the last conversation I will have with you. You are incapable of engaging in good faith and I, a woman fascinated by the strange, odd, offensive, genius, artist, and even grotesque brain, find you tiresome, even boring. To quote Sarah Proud and Tall, “Off you fuck!”
You snarl “bad faith,” you evade, strike attitudes, spray fallacies – but have no answer to facts. Same pattern as your maundering on Livejournal that I’d made up the story about Horowitz. When I provided audio evidence – .mp3 of the very moment – and mentioned I could put you in contact with the man who’d sat next to in Carnegie and witnessed it, you chose just then to fall silent.
In short, don’t bother your orderly world of set-piece judgments with those pesky facts or rejoinders allegro vivace.
Not cricket, old girl. When it turns out one’s wrong, one says, “Oh, I was wrong. Apologies.” Then perhaps reflects on why one got it wrong. But that requires a certain confidence, and a trust in one’s spirit and the world.
Poor, innocent Anita was led by the bad man to lie about Harper’s. Not feminist of you, being led. Here, I’m bad again: harpers (dot) org/archive/1994/11/0001855 . Be sure not to acknowledge your lie, apologize, or reflect on it.
“Countless others … too many …” – of Internet mock-dolts, aye. Specialists in Internet negativity – you, the other dolts, Brakey – can dish out but are chronically unable to take. When caught on facts, you snarl or reframe or redirect but will not engage. That’s why I stick in the craw of your blabber-brethren as you hang out in the pits.
Which, by the by, was one of the original geneses of “She and I”: I caught Mira bullshitting one too many times on the ‘net about what’d gone down in the relationship. Though the rage faded quickly, and I became intrigued at the paradigmatic quality of the experience, fury started it. Incidentally, you really did miss an entire structure in “She and I” – which is laid out in the Foreword. The book isn’t about Michael R. Brown at all: it’s about a line of experience. I just happen to have been the one who experienced and chose to write it. Here’s what I didn’t say in the Foreword, but will say here: there is something that integrates everything in the book, and it’s this, in one word: Presence. Consciousness being present, really present, organically and passionately and wholly present to the moment – or not. That’t the reason for Horowitz, Kendrick, Capt Jenyss, et. al. in the early sections: these much older men gave me the priceless gift of strong, human presence. The challenge then became to carry it out through the generational changes, as we become less and less Present and more neurotic and decadent. Hence the diminishing of Presence, even as the rhetoric of it increases, as we go from Beth to Gabrielle to Mira to the sunny optimism of the early months of 2001. Did you note the evacuation of the males at the very beginning of the book? Father flown away, grandfather suddenly dead, then raised by women. There’s a gender matrix in the book: how does Presence advance, or fade, among the genders? My inner self-description of the book is: “variations on a theme of Presence.” That is the energy, the motile substance, that works itself out as the “line of experience” comes to fulfillment. And – another point missed – the narrator isn’t in good shape at the end. He thinks he is, but isn’t. He’s gone through another death. Nothing has been *fundamentally* resolved. He’s going home to a situation that still has all the generative capacity that gave rise to the Mira-relationship. This is the reason for my choice of the book’s final word. Note what the book’s first two words are. I’m tertiarily post-modern enough to be hyper-conscious about design, and to have used self-conscious designing – though, in this book, for Romantic-era big-picture purposes. There’s no episode or word in the book that doesn’t have a purpose. There’s a reason it went out eight years after the events of 2001: five years of writing as a blog – 176 parts, 238,000 words – then two years of editing down to book form and less than 90,000 words. I’ve never gone deeper into writing, and don’t know that I’ll go back in the same way ever again. The real resolutions, or not, happen after the last page, and would be the subject of a sequel. If one’s read Pirsig’s first book, one sees the final scenes of “She and I” as commentary and tribute to the final scenes of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” – which similarly has a narrator in a tenuous position.
I’d never say such things to a proper reviewer, but since your personal, extra-textual animus played so large a role, some more upset is called for.
Returning now to online pit-dwellers, your lot’s preferred route is that others live their lives while you howl in safety at how hilariously, knee-slappingly idiotic they are. (Quite the compassionate, liberal, progressive response.) It doesn’t take a genius to detect overcompensation.
Your negativity reinforces your depression and pain. Yes, yes, I’m so cruel and hateful for shaking you up about your negativity.
“bad book review” – no, point-evader, because you marinate yourself in online mockery communities and the toxic environment is bad for you! Before I knew anything about you personally, I read your review and said, to G., “I think Anita’s a depressive. Most of her criticisms of my actions have to do with not being safe, not having things predicted and locked-down. There’s a fundamental distrust, a lack of positiveness, presumption of neurosis as the default. If she hasn’t heard guys call one another ‘tiger’ in a joshing way, she hasn’t worked with many ex-jocks.”
“not liking your book means I must be brimming” – this is the type of spasmodic auto-response the mock-communities are built on. Because other people are whatever you say they, the more negative the better. Robot negativity. Fill in the blanks, get the robot haw-haw-haws, and keep yourselves distracted.
It’s a good thing you’re stirred up. There’s hope. I hope things get better for you. But that’s my empty Objectivist ego – naturally!
Obviously, if you needed a forward to spell all that out, you’re not a very good writer. Were you a good writer, or even a decent one, you would know to show said line of experience, not merely tell your readers about it outside of the writing itself.
Given that Anita’s claim re. Harper’s – which started all of this – is a confabulation, your claim’s inapplicable. It’s merely an attempt to silence. Honest reviewers don’t confabulate. (They also write what they think, and Anita has admitted soft-pedaling her hate. Too bad. I like honest hate better, always.)
As to “She and I,” if everyone who read it – ordinary readers and friends and professional reviewers – had uniformly (or even in a majority) found all the various horrid flaws endlessly being discovered here and on Livejournal, I’d consider them possibly extant. But such was not the case. At all.
Facts don’t end when the word “literature” appears. No matter how loudly or sophisticatedly you say to me that on p 23 of “She and I” I use the word “naprapathy,” your claim is bullshit. Full stop. And that *is* the level of bullshitting here.
As evidence that my concerns are factual, note that I’ve left the vast majority of Anita’s review unanswered – and always will. A good quantum of it is a matter of temper and taste, and that’s what critics are supposed to do.
That… had nothing to do with anything I said in my reply to you. Good effort though. I like how you to try to use rhetoric to obscure the lack of any real content though.
I mentioned nothing of Anita’s review, my comment was solely devoted to telling you that, if you were any sort of decent writer, you wouldn’t *need* a forward to spell out the themes of your book. The writing should speak for itself. Obviously, it does not.
Dude, you are being an ass. And look like a troll. You’re an author? Coulda fooled me. To think I was considering giving this a fair shake by reading it… you have confirmed I don’t need to. Fair shakes are for those that don’t act the aggressor while simultaneously crying foul.
Dude, y’know, like … lies aren’t cool, bro. And silence about them, man … that’s just not cool. And trying to silence others – whoa!
Did you know you sound just like Ignatius J. Reilley from A Confederacy of Dunces?
Yes, Anita and you do belong in close correspondence: you share affection for a louder tone when most inaccurate. You could go off and have a clutch of little ophicleidae together.
The negative belaboring you share, too, is odd. What is it that makes you so slow-moving and garrulous?
As with Anita’s lugubrious falsehoods and confabulations, you shoot wide of the truth-mark: I compose, and play piano. And you – what, exactly, do you create or recreate? So far I’ve seen lots of words to me and others proclaiming your amazing knowledge, and a stiffly-designed website that appeared lonesome as to visitors. So, let’s put you to the empirical test: you show me yours, and I’ll show you mine. Link me to several samples of your composing, or playing, or serious musicological work – and I’ll point you to some of my piano-playing, composing, and improvising. And it’s quite irrelevant what you think of it: remember – your repetitive, insistent claim is that I know nothing significant about music at all. I’m standing by, then, for your showing me up. Really. Wipe the floor with me.
(Amusingly, the situation with you perfectly duplicates the situation that led Anita to my book: online bozos were maintaining my total ignorance and inability in a completely other realm. See my reply to her, below.)
Your rendering of our discussion is predictably inaccurate. Your triumphal showing up my ignorance of the nature of the fugue form took the form of a pompous disquisition on the failures of the *Wikipedia* article on fugue. Had you indicated you were attempting to set yourself up as a judge or tester, I’d have laughed you off. As it was, I thought you were actually interested in clarification on why I use the handle “fuguewriter.” I’m silly sometimes, still.
“whose partner is an operatic soprano.” – perhaps Anita will remember an opera-singer in “She and I.” The book isn’t fiction.
> So it seems that he’s found love again.
Another thing you’ve forgotten: you said precisely the same thing on the Atlas site. I pointed out that the book’s main line of events was in ’00-’01. Ten years. With polyamorous times in there to boot.
My critics have defective memories, which speaks well – for me.
> his annoying “writing style” continues.
Picture-perfect inelegance. Pick up a Strunk/White, between writing masterpieces.
> the scathing reviews
Non-scathing ones carefully ignored. Oh, yes, you maintained that the good ones could only come from personal friends. I suppose PopMatters and the National Critics Circle (whoever they are) are my personal buddies, as well as Kirkus and ForeWord and Cyrus Webb and … I’d no idea I was so prominent!
A sight to behold: your wonderful parade past the fields of truth.
You know what doesn’t speak well of you? Whining about a bad review and how mean the evil bitch who wrote it is.
If I’d done that, you’d be right.
You kind of just did
That’s a sparkling, well-argued contribution. Whatever will you do for an encore?
Oh, honey, no.
Pillow talk already?
No, but I bet that is something you frequently hear after sex.
Put down the thesaurus and step away. Your use of obscure words does not make you seem intelligent.
The guy sounds like a pretentious prat and should go jump off of a chair and land on some lego’s.
Smart words don’t work when the author…Well, has shown they aren’t smart. People-smart at least.
I enjoyed this review.
I have also read this book because I know the author (although my interactions with him have mostly been positive) and I had some of the same reactions. It WAS very difficult and distracting to read. And I came away from it with an over sense of “ickiness” (as my 5 year old nephew likes to say).
Regardless of my personal feelings about the author currently, my impression of the narrator of this book are the same as yours. He was an insufferable man-child who didn’t know how to cope with not getting what he wanted. He insisted they were in a poly relationship, but the minute his relationship with Mira ended, Gabrielle’s relationship with someone else started to make him uncomfortable? That part bothered me almost as much as the sex scene with Mira did. If I met this guy on the street, I would have no trouble punching him in the face.
Michael, I’m sure you’re going to read this and I’m fairly sure you’ll be able to figure out who I am (because I’m not really hiding it). This statement is meant as nothing more than an acknowledgement of that. It is not an apology, nor will you receive one. I didn’t hate your book. But I didn’t love it. And I really loathe the main character and his treatment of all of the women in the book. When I began the book, I wanted to like him, but he really was awful.
Oops. Reply to you is below.
You do realize that you’re all making him look better to people who aren’t addicted to the computers. ~Considers~ No, I think you don’t. Carry on.
Yep, those poor people that didn’t read that he got huffy at a girl being uncomfortable about being asked to fap and then asked to watch him fap. He looks better to them because…Oh, they didn’t read the book or find the review online I guess.
> got huffy
Please provide a page number on which this happens. I’ve looked and couldn’t find it. I do see an encounter where the narrator’s angry at suddenly being spoken to in an inappropriately detached, sharp, cutting manner – but that doesn’t match what you’re saying at all.
> being asked to fap and then asked to watch him fap”
Please provide a page number on which this happens. I’ve looked and, curiously, couldn’t find it.
The text shows that the question was not a blunt, monopolar “Would you [do action]” but, in both cases, a considerate, inclusive “Would you like to…?” There’s a very big difference. Remember that the text shows – assuming you actually rad it, which now seems the first thing to be dispensed with by Internet critics – a great deal of prior talk from the other party about physical interaction, “melty goes” – and that she had vowed she was in love with the narrator.
Curious how in our deeply neurotic age thinking stops at the fact of discomfort – as if that is final, unanswerable, and rules all. (The text, incidentally, shows that the uncomfortable person attributed her sexual hanging-up to the breakup with Taylor – and the narrator later discovers that the uncomfortable person is overdosed on Celexa. There was more than that going on, of course – which is part of the point of the book.)
Your accuracy, vis a vis the text, is … well, close enough for Internet-critic work.
Michael, come on. You’re being That Author again. You are quibbling over interpretations of your text. I read every word of your book in depth and I agree that you reacted poorly when Mira expressed her lack of interest in watching you masturbate. While you may think you were reacting to a sharp change in tone, I read it differently because it seemed to me, after a careful read, that perhaps you were trying to persuade her into further sexual contact when she clearly was not interested. I quoted the section in question (and can provide the page number if needed) so the person whose comment you are dissecting read the section and reacted. The reader may not react to your satisfaction but, even though this book is wholly yours, you do not get to dictate how people react to your work. Coming back here when no one has commented in months to refute comments is strange behavior, Michael.
I have people who really do not like this site. There is a professor in Kansas who seems to think this site is an academic look at literature and felt it necessary to write at least five disparaging entries about how incompetent and stupid I am. You also have not experienced vicious criticism until you have conspiracy theorists and Tao Linterns angry at you. Yet given some of the vitriol and abuse I have taken because of my work – even outright misrepresentations of the actual words I used – it never occurred to me to show up in other realms to defend myself and my work. What I write stands for itself. Even my fiction. I do not know why you do this, and, having walked in your shoes, I find it all the more baffling.
But more to the point, I find it bizarre that you bash the Internet critic, even the ones who just leave comments. Though I am definitely not the scholastic academician that my antagonist in Kansas thinks I am aspiring to be and failing, I certainly have the education and literary background needed to look at your book and discuss it in depth. All books, actually. And given that this Internet critic paid more time and attention to your work than anyone else, one might think you would be kindly disposed to us Internet critics. Though I panned this book most righteously, I think you would be hard pressed to find anyone else who has not had sex with you or is related to you by blood who gave this book as careful a discussion as I have. So diss not the Internet critic. This one has fetched you more attention than even the slams you get on Amazon.
Michael, our uneasy detente has become uneasier. This is not what I had in mind when I lifted your permaban. Not everyone is going to like your book and this sort of condescending refutation of what is decidedly opinion just makes you look weird. Please stop because I do want to discuss Mary MacLane in the future but will find it difficult if I know that you may show up to unpleasantly school anyone who may express an idea you find disagreeable.
“[H]e got huffy at a girl being uncomfortable about being asked to fap and then asked to watch him fap.”
He’s a silver-tongued devil, that Brown.
The core of the extravaganza I’ve watched unfold here and on Livejournal over the past day or so is as follows.
1. Internet idiot makes definite-sounding claim that is false. Get that? Counter to fact. Not the case. Incorrect. Doesn’t correspond to reality.
2. Internet idiot refuses to argue for claim – a confession of inability from those who can’t stop yammering for a moment.
3. When facts are put before Internet idiot, Internet idiot reframes/rewrites/redirects/ignores/obfuscates/mocks/self-congratulates/other-congratulates.
Now, I address your particular bullshit.
Your claim: “the minute his relationship with Mira ended, Gabrielle’s relationship with someone else started to make him uncomfortable”
Fact: This did not happen. Not in book, blog, or life. Not a matter of interpretation, conjecture, feeling, or intuition. As a cross-check, I showed it to one of the people who played a major role in the book. She – G. – said: “That’s not even chronologically correct.” Gabrielle’s relationship with Darin had already grown tenuous [see p 246, and his overall fade since my return]. The only mention of Darin post-Mira-end is on p 273: “As we sat before the little plates [of sushi], we spoke of the odd lack of contact from Darin. There’d been, she said, a drop in energy from him since the dinner together. [Para. break.] He too, it seemed, was fading. We shook our heads at the strange ways of the heart-mind.” No discomfort; if anything, a little sadness that something else had faded. That is the only mention of Darin from breakup to book’s end. Your very certain tone, so certain that you speak of punching my face, papers over a void of fact. Incidentally, your speaking of punching me in the face for an extremely normal polyamory experience – feeling a bump of discomfort over a partner’s partner – sounds crazy, not to mention histrionic.
A warning: any brave Internet warrior who attempts to punch me will find I live my free-market creed: I repay investments with interest.
Your claim: “He insisted they were in a poly relationship”
Fact: You force a repetition: This did not happen. Not in book, blog, or life. Not a matter of interpretation, conjecture, feeling, or intuition. As a cross-check, I showed it to one of the people who played a major role in the book. She – G. – said: “I don’t know what even to say to that. It’s so clearly wrong. I think this person read your book and got their buttons pushed and is interpreting it in their own hysterical way. Unrelated to the actual book. She is a despicable coward like all the other commenters attacking you.” In the actual book/blog/life, Mira brings up the idea of polyamory first; see p 79, with background on pp 77-78. Nowhere does the narrator insist upon polyamory: Mira presents herself as fully willing and having already arrived at comfort about it independently; see p 79. Indeed, Mira proposes her own polyamorous arrangement; see pp 176-177. She also writes in a loving and intimate way to Gabrielle; find the Sapphic suggestions yourself.
The narrator insists upon very little, in fact asks for little. [And says so; see p 177.] Yet the insistent rewriting continues: women as passive and helpless, the man as aggressive and impinging; for my reaction to that, see pp 275-277 – in a sense, the climax of the book.
Given that your two specific textual claims turn out to be bullshit upon the simplest precis, the insufferable childishness of telling silly lies is yours. (And do not be like the Livejournal baby who complained that I cite page numbers; someone wanting to avoid being shown up would naturally object.)
Your claim: the narrator “didn’t know how to cope with not getting what he wanted.”
Fact: this is refuted by every line in the book from p 52 to the final line. This your most perfect inversion. In fact, Mira loses primal respect for the narrator due to his over-patience and over-solicitousness. Which is one of the points of the book.
So. Your rendering of the book is, as we have seen, a failure. You were unable to get a single element right, and that supports G.’s sense that some personal issue is, as with Anita, at work.
As for you personally, I don’t know with certainty who you are. You say we’ve been in personal contact. If you’re lying about this, enough said. If not, then you are a coward, and no one I ought ever to have known. Not because you disliked the book; some of my friends love it, and others are uncomfortable with it, and we get along fine. But because you, like Anita, disregard for the truth and actively confabulate (as in her “Harper’s” bullshitting, which started all this).
If you are the most likely candidate – whom I helped a great deal, and from whom I received robot coldness at critical times – which is something the person I have in mind will recognise – then I’m glad I got rid of you. If that’s not you, then I don’t want an apology … are you demented, thinking I’d want or accept one? In that case, I want nothing from you but for you to scram, post-haste. In any case, make it permanent, you cowardly vacuum.
Hi. Mr. Oddbooks here again.
In the interests of enabling Mrs. Oddbooks, I’ve prevailed upon her to let me go ahead and ban professional troll Michael R. Brown.
We try to uphold an open comment policy here at IROB, but when a commenter brings nothing of value to the discussion and in fact insults our other guests…well, it’s time to treat him like a stinking, incontinent, incoherent drunk at a bar and chuck him out.
Unbelievable. We’ve had communications from paranoid schizophrenics (IN ALL CAPS no less) that were better reasoned and more polite. We hate to do this but we feel we have little choice.
Additionally, should professional troll Michael R. Brown manage to evade the ban on a given entry, rest assured we will just delete his comments.
Finally, we are writing a comment policy for ireadoddbooks.com that will spell out our policy going forward.
Thanks, and please enjoy the rest of the site.
So you’re online bullies who can’t take the heat, basically. From the outside it’s obvious that your wife got caught lying and the rest is a coverup. I looked up the Harpers issue and it’s just what the guy said it was. Makes me want to get the book and see how much else here is a crock. God knows why he thinks you’re important enough to expose.
That was never the point. Brown made noise that he had published a book that had a two page spread in Harpers in 2007. When asked for his name and the name of the book or even the edition of Harpers, he refused to answer. His evasions and machinations led many to believe it never existed.
When She and I began to be discussed online, I assumed it was the book he was referring to as having the Harper’s spread. At no point did Brown ever reveal his name, his publishing endeavors or that he had published, as in he was the publisher and not the writer, a non-fiction book. In a long episode of posts in LiveJournal, I finally figured out that She and I was not the book referred to in the Harpers ad. In fact, he still never would reveal the Harper’s ad date or even the book involved. The above link was the first time he ever bothered to share the information. I didn’t bother to click it because I don’t care. I don’t know if it was a paid ad, I don’t know if it was unsolicited praise. When a person acts this way for years the truth becomes less interesting than it should.
But here’s proof if you want it and it’s long, long reading so get a snack if you take it on, and bear in mind this is only two of the encounters I had with this noxious human being:
I never lied to anyone about anything. I don’t care enough to lie about Michael Brown. He claims people lie about him because he thinks it shows how oooOOOO fascinating and relevant he is that people would want to create lies about such a misunderstood genius. I reached the conclusions that Brown wanted me to reach because he delights in these sorts of things for reasons known only to him. When I realized SHe and I was not the book he was touting as having been received by Harpers with praise, I stopped saying that. But all I could go on was the bizarre path he set out.
The real question you should ask yourself is why Michael thinks he is important enough to warrant this much exploration. Ask him why he does not share his works openly and honestly and why he engages in these bizarre evasions. Ask him why he just now revealed information that in 2007 would have likely garnered him respect and caused people to want to know more about man online instead of a tiresome cipher.
Buy the book. Read it from cover to cover. I fucking dare you, you digital blowhard. Nothing would please me more to know that you’ve decided to punish yourself that way.
Your only bad is taking any of these people seriously. Don’t know if I’d love your book or hate it, but forget about them.
“In fact, Mira loses primal respect for the narrator due to his over-patience and over-solicitousness. Which is one of the points of the book.”
Indeed, You were weak – beta – and deserved to be kicked to the curb.
Um. First off, I don’t have a pony in this show. Dude could be worse than you say or the next Joyce or a PBJ with milk. I’m coming in looking at what you wrote and what he wrote.
You said he got into Harpers by paying. In other words, a nobody acting like a somebody. Whole other deal if Harpers loves a book enough to devote two pages. He called you on it, you tried to distract, and he owned you with a URL. I checked, and it’s what he says.
Also, from the link you sent, you’re Awdrey Gore on ElJ. Well, on ElJ in 2007, he challenged you to figure it out: http://stupid-free.livejournal.com/546981.html?thread=79699365#t79699365 . So unless you time travel no way you were confusing his 2009 book with the old one. Him desperately waving around Harpers is also crock. He tells you right in that link you say he’s a shitty writer, but Harpers blah blah, and challenges you to figure it out. Just like he said: he set you a puzzle. Did you miss he thinks you’re stupid? If you think contempt is desperation, you really are dumb. Nothing from him anywhere about misunderstood genius – that’s all you, trying to make him look bad.
So yeah, Internet bully. And liar. Creepy link archive from four years ago, too. Jesus.
You are missing something.
In 2007 and later in 2009 I had no idea what any of the titles were. When people were discussing She and I in 2009, I assumed it was the same book he had mentioned in 2007. It was not until I discovered when She and I was published was I aware it was not the same book he was talking about in 2007. How could I have known the publication dates of books that I had no author name for, let alone a title. As far as I knew, the book he mentioned in 2007 was the book everyone was talking about in 2009.
All he had to do was post that link, tell the title of his books, one of which appears not to be a pile of shit, and there would have been no misunderstanding.
Oh, come on! I defend myself from his accusations of being a liar and I am being creepy. Had I deleted my e-mails and had nothing, you’d just call me a liar, too. So I don’t defend myself, I am a liar. I do defend myself and I am creepy. But it doesn’t matter – Brown and I have discussed it and he can only focus on the fact that I did not believe him in the past and any adaptation of belief is now a lie. It’s simplistic at best. By all means, hitch your intellectual wagon to that star. For fuck’s sake, the man spent paragraphs on this very page explaining why I was wrong and misunderstood his great opus – if that isn’t a declaration of misunderstood genius, I don’t know what is. I’m sure you’ll tell me.
Giving a book a bad review is not bullying. Responding to the various stupid things Brown had done over the years is not bullying. Refusing to acquiesce to his notion of his own intellectual superiority is not bullying. However, dragging my mental health and physical health into a discussion of his activities online and his terrible book, concern trolling and insinuating in another forum, that I am a self-injurer, is, in fact, bullying. Support this piece of shit all you want but don’t use the bully because it makes you look like an idiot in the face of all this cretin has done.
Also, please be sure to read the book. There is no way for me to express my contempt for your point of view better than to encourage you to expose yourself to more of Brown’s writing.
I don’t continue to reply when it is clear I will be beating my head against a wall. Continue to espouse your POV if you want as long as you insult no one but me, but I won’t be responding. I don’t mean to be condescending to you but I’ve already wasted more time on this than it warrants.
Your ducking the Harpers issue speaks volumes, sister.
Pointing out your untruths has nothing to do with misunderstood genius. I don’t think he is or he isn’t. Him being so stuck on it seems mildly OCD, or maybe just weirdly sincere.
It’s comical that you have people speaking of punching him in the face while he’s trying to teach pigs to sing, and you ban him on the grounds that he insults your guests?!
This wasn’t a serious book review. It’s a personal hatchet job, and all the hating in the comments and on ElJ is unbelievable. He’s got a great future if he can stir up the masses so. Peace.
Hey WorkLulz, two questions for you:
1) Why are you using a proxy server to leave comments here?
2) Are you sure you aren’t Michael R. Brown, Professional Troll™?
The most immediately repulsive characteristic of this “memoir” is Brown’s lack of recognition of the acorn of his shifty, playboy father not fallinbg farfrom the tree as usual.
I don’t know too much about Brown’s father so that was not the most immediately repulsive character of this book for me. But I can see where you’re coming from.
Ah, the gentleman who says on Amazon that he hasn’t read but about 10 pages of said book. And yet another extra-textual personality speculation.
This is why the non-reader doesn’t register that the shifty, playboy father would never have stuck with Mira through the weeks of her turning shifty. The shifty, playboy father would have had about a dozen women on a string, none of whom knew about each other, each of whose heart he was going to break by running off. The situation that gave rise to the book was approximately opposite, speaking as to gender.
But when one hasn’t read a book, one can’t know such things.
i love me bad-book-reviews, so i’m incredibly sad that i didn’t know [until NOW] that your blog of weird-book reviews [many of which will be reviews of bad-books] existed. so yay for that!
but… on this particular review, and the comments by the person who penned said bad-book; there is a specific literary convention that applies, and applies HEAVILY, to this book. well, all books, but very specifically this “author” needs to know that it DOES, in actual fact, apply to him and his writing. if Asmiov and Niven can accept it, so can he!
it is generally known as “Death of the Author” [or something similar] and the general gist is “the author is not able to tell others what to make of the work. s/he may have meant A, but if the reader groks Z instead, the reader is correct. the ONLY true means an author has to influence those who read his/her work is the actual written piece of work; anything and everything else is irrelevant. attempts by the author to tell others what s/he “meant” by a piece are inherently invalid and are generally considered a show of bad faith on the author’s behalf – i.e. the author doesn’t trust the written piece to say what s/he wanted it to say – and are often taken as a sign that the author either isn’t a good author, or that the author has no confidence in his/her talent/work”
the fact that he continues to tell people that what THEY got from his book is “wrong”, that they “don’t understand” his book, that they “aren’t reading it correctly”, etc… this fact rather underscores the principle of Death of the Author. while it *IS* true that i’ve asked authors about G. or K. or in a plot, it’s for my personal clarification [and it’s almost always for more info on background; i don’t think i’ve EVER asked a writer “what did you mean by X”, translation issues excepted for obvious reasons] i’ve never, ever had an author i respected [whether or not i liked him/her] try to just tell me what they meant… and usually, if you ask an author what they DID mean, the author will say something like “well, i meant X but others think Y, and really so long as it works for you, it’s good”, unless they turn the question back on the asker, “what meaning did you take from it?”
maybe i’m just lucky, because i stick my home-genres of sci-fi and urban fantasy, with short excursions occasionally into straight fantasy or horror, and authors in these 4 genres [and the myriad sub-genres that comprise the whole] KNOW that others consider them “hacks” because they “have” to use a “device” or “gimmick” [like magic, or speculative science]. but i’ll be both frank and blunt – i’d trust the writing experience and expertise of Heinlein or Flint or Weber, or even CARD, who write sheerly for money and their readers’ enjoyment, over ANY “literary” author’s pretentious assertion that only THEIR chosen “interpretation” of their work is “correct”. just saying.
What a happy thing, then, that nowhere did I “tell others what to make of the work.” My whole point was the reams of talk are by-and-large extra-textual, and/or addressed to the author’s alleged personality qua personality. If there’s a *factual* textual claim – for instance, to overstate it a little, if someone says, “OMG, isn’t it horrific how on page 218 Brown confesses to being a Nazi?!”, it is entirely apropos to point out that page 218 contains no such confession.
As usual, Internet persons excel at lengthy adumbration and meta-meta-commentary on a neglected basis of fact.
Came for the sad boner guy. Stayed for the fireworks. I think I need a lie down.
Hello Triftoo, and any other MetaFilterians who stop by. Reading back over this entry and the comments years later and I need a lie down, too. Michael Brown and I have “going on at length when annoyed” in common, don’t we?
“He didn’t touch her beyond serving as a nice distraction after she broke up with her boyfriend and a prolonged annoyance once she got to know him. And he doesn’t know that. He has no idea.”
Speaking of cruelty, Anita, what about your own review?
Carolyn, does the passage you quoted really seem cruel to you? Brown’s text described his cluelessness, Mira’s increasingly negative reaction, and that she moved on in less than a month doesn’t lend itself well to an alternate interpretation. It may be cruel to Brown to read my reaction because harsh reviews can result in hurt feelings, but ten years later I still maintain that I pulled more punches than I threw. That’s what’s about my own review.
“Carolyn Graham,” huh? I see what you did there. 🙂
Hi, I came here from metafilter too — I somehow found my way to a 2016 thread, and then to this book review. I think you’re really funny and I enjoyed reading this post. I will definitely check out the rest of your site. By the way, I worked in the public service for a long time, and often wondered what it would be like to follow an “odd duck” to the logical end of a conversation. (I usually had to cut things off, to get on to the next matter.). It turns out, there is no reward and the exhaustion just builds upon itself until the saner person has to give up. I marvel at the tenacity (and low blood pressure?) of the truly nutty. Thank you for the insight.