It’s official, I guess: people just love to fight.
Anyone who read yesterday’s Swami will know that there’s a major political battle being waged over there about that vile demon “socialism”, one that even throwing buckets of water over the participants hasn’t managed to quell or assuage as yet. It’s still going on. You should check it out.
I too have been caught up in a lot of involuntary bare-knuckle scraps in my time, mostly with critics and radio listeners who hate my work. When you’re in radio, on TV, or in the public eye in any way, however minisculely, you’re setting yourself up for inevitable ambushes from time to time. Face it, there’s bound to be somebody out there who is jealous of you, and who somehow manages to find time in their busy day to write in and say how much you suck. Or else they just hate you indiscriminately. I have that too.
Indeed, I believe I still hold the record for the highest number of threats of physical injury made against a commentator on public radio, for a report I did many years ago about a 12th Century prison in Ireland.
Kilmainham Jail is beyond dreary, and the bleak, drizzly Dublin weather did nothing to enhance it. So, during a tour of this gray granite hellhole I happened to volunteer a number of ways that it might be cheered up. Drapes, benches in the courtyard, potted plants, a feature pond with carp…nothing drastic, just something to take off the harsher edges and give it eye-appeal.
Well, the response was nothing short of vitriolic. Listeners in their hundreds objected – they were incensed! – to the idea that a monument of such standing and with such a bleak history should be in any way dressed up. We differed over terminology. They called it desecration; I called it a makeover. But the result was dire: a lot of fighting Irish in Boston calling the show, volunteering, at no cost, to cave my head in for me.
Mercifully, I don’t receive all that many compaints as a rule. Though some of the worst came during my TV show, when for some reason people who absolutely hated it insisted on watching every episode anyway and writing to tell me how vile it was, using language so salty it would make a nun’s ears bleed. Of course, being seasoned in the complaints biz, I took it all in my stride. Besides, even after three years, I still hear from people every single day who absolutely loved Stranded. So the critics were wrong. And you simply have to step over their words as you would vomit on the sidewalk and move on.
Some complaints, though, are motivated by unspoken factors and are harder to reconcile. Last week, for instance, I received a horrible put-down, this time on my Facebook page. About my new book, Naked in Dangerous Places.
“Although I do like your sense of humor,” the guy wrote, “and the book was an interesting read….”
So far I’m quite enjoying this. But wait, there’s more.
Having got the faint praise out of the way, he went on, “…I was surprised at how you think you can say whatever you please and expect people to still like you. Have you never heard the expression “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you”? ….. I finished this book of yours, but I won’t buy or read another.”
He signed himself ‘Disappointed.’
Oh yeah? Well, not half as disappointed as I am, believe me, Disappointed. No author wants readers to walk away from his work disgruntled, right?
But then I thought about it some more, and probed a bit, and realized that Disappointed had an agenda.
In Naked, as you’ll know if you’ve read it, I’m not shy about saying how evil Christian evangelicals are when it comes to complaining. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that nobody, in my experience, writes hate-mail quite like a right-wing Christian fanatic. As the gay marriage debate has shown time and again, they judge when they shouldn’t be judging, they threaten and despise when they should be spreading love and acceptance, and they’re quick with an unkind word when they feel the situation calls for it. It’s the exact opposite of what Jesus preached, I’ve always thought. But they don’t see that. Indeed, I’ve argued with my father for years that if he just practiced all the principles spread by Jesus, we’d have a great relationship and be best buddies. But he’s a Christian, so I don’t see that happening any time soon.
Anyway, it turns out that the guy who wrote telling me he didn’t like Naked has his own book coming out. Well, how very exciting. Self-published, by the looks of it. (Nothing wrong with that, I’m about to self-publish one of my own Still…) Here’s an extract from the blurb on the back cover to whet your appetite:
After stopping to admire the view on his leisurely hike down a mountain, our main character realizes that he is now in Heaven….. “Wasn’t I supposed to walk out of fog-like clouds to see the shimmering, pearly gates of Heaven? I had always imagined being waved in, walking on a street of gold with people who have passed before me on either side clapping. I knew that I would shortly meet Jesus…”
No, it’s not a comedy. At least, I don’t think. But seeing this and knowing what I now know, I would have told Disappointed ahead of time – pleaded with him actually: “Don’t read my books. They’ll only offend you. If you full-on buy into this streets of gold in Heaven stuff, there’s nothing – nothing at all – about the worldly reality I present in my work that’s going to do anything but unsettle you.”
That said, oddly – and call me strange – the blurb works well for me: I now very much want to read this and plan to buy a copy at the first opportunity. I know many other people will too. It looks like an instant classic.
For instance, I don’t think there’s a book jacket in existence that refers to the main character as “our main character” – is there? Don’t they usually tell you his name to draw you in? For some reason, that gives me hope that I’m really going to enjoy everything else Disappointed writes too.
Anyway, more to come once I’ve read it. If it’s any good, the TV Swami will do his bit and help promote the book he currently refuses to name.
Oh, and since I’m talking about spats, let me wind up with a couple of TV clips. Remember a few weeks ago, when David Letterman made a joke – a crude joke, but a joke – about Sarah Palin’s daughter, and an almighty kerfuffle broke out, forcing Dave into a massive retraction?
No? Then bring yourself up to speed here.
It was all pretty turgid back then, but it’s over. Or so we thought. Dave, it seems, having been humbled, can’t let it go. Last week, using the possibility of having Dick Cheney run for president in 2012 as a launching point, he got a chance to revisit the Palin moment. He handled it so well that I thought it was worth rerunning here. Enjoy. And God bless.