Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I find myself torn ...

... between my libertarian ideals and my commitment to civility. I brought up the latter in a comment of my own appended to this post.

I am particularly bothered by the vitriol aimed at my friend and colleague Susan Balée. I do not think that Susan was lording it over anybody by mentioning that she has a Ph.D. in Eng Lit. Susan's not like that. But you don't get such a degree without becoming acquainted with, well, a lot of literature. The notion that persons with an academic background can have nothing of value to say about literature is as nonsensical as the notion that such persons are the only persons whose say counts.
Susan in fact is neither condescending nor insecure. She is also an excellent teacher (how do I know? - I spoke in one of her classes and got to chat with her students), a fine writer, and a discerning judge of literature. Do I always agree with what she says? Of course not. We're two different people, with different preferences and predilections. But I respect everything that she writes, because I know that a lot of work and thought - and feeling - has gone into it.
So please, disagree as much as you want - with Susan or with me - but show some respect as well. Old-fashioned good manners are in order.
I should add that any further insults will be deleted by yours truly. So say what you want in strong words - but keep them civil. A good writer can do that.


  1. Well said, Frank. Quite a row you started there. It happens to me a lot, the various anarchists and hoodlums that comment on my site frequently snarl at each other. It often seems to have little to do with the original post. The blogger is more like a ringmaster than author.

  2. Thanks, Bryan. It can be dismaying. When did people decide that authenticity meant being a bounder and a boor?

  3. Bryan, call me parochial, but I have to stick up for Americans. Nothing I've seen on your site compares to the crew that Frank has dug up with this string.

    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder is More Fun Away From Home"

  4. That is quite some thread. Susan may well be an excellent teacher but it doesn't show in the thread. A man without a dog in the fight would disagree with you, Frank, about Susan not being condescending. What exactly was she trying to accomplish with that first 'kiddo'?

    So comes a bunch of name dropping and name calling and presto, we get an old fashion flame war? No. A new style, tame flame war, 'cause the badges seem shinier.

    A superior lit doc named Sue
    copped a haughty and mean attitude
    when a Jessica claimed
    women writers be blamed
    for what stupid PUBlishers do.


    * *

    50 some comments in the thread - conflict sells tickets.

  5. Anonymous2:22 PM

    A splenetic young woman named Jess
    Lobbed a firebomb and made quite a mess
    Went home, fetched her man
    His name is Dan
    Now the mess gets a lot worse, I guess

  6. Anonymous3:04 PM

    I've commented at the end of that argument -- I'm number 53 or 54 (so long as I''m not removed by the blog administrator ;-) )

  7. Kiddo is just a turn of phrase Susan likes, sort of a diminutive. She's used it with me. And that's how I read it.

  8. Anonymous4:00 PM

    Re: beau blue's comments and others'

    Reading the comments on this thread and the other thread has been both amusing and disturbing. I've known Susan now for many years, and the many comments and accusations being lodged at her are simply untrue. She is neither condescending nor mean. In fact, she has been one of my best friends as well as my mentor. She's given me advice on my work and on life in general, and for all that I am so appreciative. Susan's a brilliant writer. She also reads more than anyone I know and knows what she talks about. I know, because when she doesn't understand something, she will ask about it and spend time researching. And "kiddo" -- she calls me, her children, her friends, people she'd just met "kiddo." It's not meant to harm.

  9. Speaking as someone who doesn't know all the participants well, some of Susan's remarks remarks DID seem condescending to me. I don't know Susan, and I don't have a strong opinion as to her intent or style, just what I saw displayed. I'm sorry, "kiddo" IS easy to misconstrue as condescending, from a stranger. So, I tend to agree with Beau Blue here.

    This is a textbok example of how it is virtually impossible to read tone (such as kidding) from a text-only medium. It's very easy to misunderstand tone and intent in such a narrow-band medium, where you can't see the wink and smile, the body language, etc. So, misunderstandings are all too common. I generally prefer civility, as Frank suggests. I generally choose to let such things slide, and not take them personally; or to inquire as to intent, if that seems possible. (It's often not.)

    Only yesterday, however, on another site, I was personally attacked for the content of a poem I had posted for critique. Came out of left field, have no idea why.

    So: it happens.

    Speaking as a former academic, too, I have to say that it was indeed a cesspool of personal power-plays and high emotion, at least when I was in grad school and after. I have no illusions about it being all about collegiality, in the relation sense of that word; nor, however, do I always assume the worst. I usually like to wait and see, and let actions speak louder than words.

    Dan and Jess and I frequently disagree about things, by the way, but still stay friends. They're intellectual scrappers. I'm more of a mystic.

  10. Anonymous4:56 PM

    Congratulations, Frank! You've just experienced a blogging rite of passage: moderating your first flamewar. You have, in a word, arrived. :)

  11. "Kiddo" is condescending. It's meant to put you in your place, the place occupied by people who spell Austen Austin.

  12. Anonymous5:51 PM

    What the hell has Steve Austin done to be involved in this!

  13. Anonymous6:22 PM

    I'd suggest the kiddo comment and the claim that Jessica knew nothing about literature were bordering on the far right of condescending. And that's when the fun began. Don't want to gang up on Susan but the notion that Sofia Coppolla is a great film-maker is not one I could agree with, and only in the ignorant modern climate could Lost In Translation have received the nonsensical hyperbole it received.

  14. I agree about Lost in Translation, dreadful film in my view.
    And yeah, leave Steve Austin out of this.

  15. Anonymous6:36 PM

    Glad to see the opinions about Lost in Translation. Dull, self-regarding and ...emm....dull.

  16. Harsh as some of the comments have been it's worth noting times are good for writers. Ovid was exiled for his work Ars Amatoria, a kind of ancient version of Doctor Phil who, when last I checked, seemed to be thriving.

  17. Anonymous4:03 PM

    I mis-spelled Austen in one of my comments in the "argument" and felt mortified when I saw it there as I know perfectly well how to spell Austen. Jessica also mis-spelled in on her first couple of uses but corrected herself thereafter. I tend to type too fast and am a bit lazy about proofreading my comments. Sorry guys. (have never heard of Steve Austin but please don't enlighten me).

    And I don't think much of the movies of either Coppola. (not Copolla?!) I saw an awful one by Coppola pere with Nastassia Kinski on a tightrope.
    Lost in Translation was OK for the first 30 minutes and then just ran out of ideas, steam etc. So the second two-thirds of the film were utterly boring, saved from being excrutiating only by Bill Murray -- but even Bill can do only so much.

  18. Anonymous6:02 PM

    I'm afraid my feelings about Lost in Translation were more damning, Maxine as I only lasted roughly half-way through feeling there was no steam to run out of. Not that I particularly care but I'm not sure how I'd feel if I were Japanese either, as far as I can remember their sole purpose seemed to be a quirky/absurdist background against which the Americans' identities could stand out the clearer.
    But Daddy Coppola did make some very fine stuff surely.