May 8, 2006

Chaos Noir

There’s been some controversy regarding the Shirley Shave blog. A woman named Anastasia wrote a long post about it. Basically, she accuses me of having no integrity. She calls me an "amateur," a "disgrace," and "repulsive." She writes: It's a disgrace, and an insult to women who do work in the sex industry for a male to pretend to be a female sex worker. Overboard, but it is still interesting to debate whether it’s a bad thing to have posted the blog.

I replied:
Frankly, I don’t think this is that big a deal. I couldn’t get the novel published so I published it as a blog. It’s unlike the recent scandals because I didn’t make one dollar off the blog. I side with James Frey in the scandal. It’s the publishing industry’s fault that they prize memoirs over fiction and don’t give a lot of fiction a chance. No memoir is 100% true, so it shouldn’t make a difference. No fictional character is 100% false either. Shirley’s supposed to alive, she’s supposed to be real. There’s some truth to her story, or else nobody would have paid attention.

When do I ever call myself the "best" writer? You know what? It was fun to post the novel as a blog. You call it a "disgrace." It’s a blog, a writing experiment. I can understand some feelings of betrayal, but there are far more disgraceful things. This blog doesn’t hurt anybody--the same argument people make about porn. I admit to feeling guilty about the duplicity but it was also satisfying to finally get readers for a book which took a lot of years to write and a lot of work.

She wrote in the comments on her blog:

I think if I had not been aware of the pretense, that if Henry had been intelligent enough to eliminate that blog (rather than try to squeeze every little bit of life out of it for an ego boost to flog his story), then it would be no big deal.

I’ll give her that. I’m an opportunist. I want to be read, I want people to know I’m behind the Shirley Shave blog. It wasn’t just about getting "God’s Wife" read, it was about establishing myself as a writer.

She also wrote: He basically did what many do, thought he'd get his cheap thrills online through a blog, to compensate for his other inadequacies.

Am I missing something? I had been expecting this reaction. Some people would take it far too seriously. Others would have a sense of humor. People on my end thought it was a funny and interesting thing to do. Not a war on integrity. It was actually a really rewarding experience. Look at the comments to the post The Price of Admission. That’s cool if it’s fiction or not.

I can understand feeling betrayed if you got attached to her as a person and thought she was real. I can understand being embarrassed for being duped. But repulsive? I mean, really. It’s a blog, not rape. It may have been fraudulent, but it was also a way to experiment with a new medium. It was interesting to see how people reacted to a fictional character. I enjoyed it. Plain and simple. I’ve said my piece.


Anonymous said...

I support Henry Baum.

Empty Drum said...

Seriously, though: anyone who can, without satirical intent, write something as vapidly dogmatic as

It's a disgrace, and an insult to women who do work in the sex industry for a male to pretend to be a female sex worker

is not worth arguing with/about. Disregard the carping of zealots and pedants and write whatever the hell you want.

Henry Baum said...

Thanks, E.D. I’m addressing her because she represents a certain kind of thinking about the blog. She’s not alone.

In my experience it’s erotica writers who are the most upset by this, that there are strict rules to follow, which seems strangely uptight for people who write about fucking.

Empty Drum said...

The Tyranny of Hip -- avoid it like Ebola.

Henry Baum said...

I think it might also be a weird version of political correctness.

Natalia said...

This is utter nonsense. First of all, you weren't "pretending to be a sex-worker." This is writing, for fuck's sake. What's next? Should we outlaw drag-shows? (Not that I think "Shirley Shave" = drag show, but this is just ridiculous)

exley said...

I've been out of the loop here for a while but just popped back in.

Here's my two cents:

Why is it a disgrace to write a fictional blog? A blog is a free site meant for you to write whatever you want. It can be your thoughts, a journal or someplace to practice writing. Maybe there's a bit of a lack of integrity in the fact it was published as a "true memoir," but it's not like this was an Oprah Book of the Month. It was published in an annual book of the best sex writing.
I agree with your statement, "which seems strangely uptight for people who write about fucking."
How is it an insult to women working in the sex industry if those women found the story fascinating enough to want to print it? That makes it sound like they found nothing implausible with the tale and perhaps found something of themselves in the main character. That's just a testament to the skills of the writer. One of the most amazing things about Wally Lamb's "She's Come Undone" is the fact that a man can so ably and accurately write a first person book from a woman's point of view. Was your story only published because it's written by a female sex worker or because it was well written? Something is being grossly overlooked here.

Henry Baum said...

Thanks a lot for that, Exley. Good to see you back here. Thanks too, Natalia. Someone this morning wrote that I should be "ashamed." I already said I felt guilty. But not ashamed. That’s reserved for something far worse. Have they looked at the world lately? Getting so upset about this blog is fairly myopic. The blog is an entertainment, it’s nothing. People are really overreacting. I’m getting tired of defending this.

Anastasia said...

oh please, one big cheer to the Frey school of Thought.

Natalia, grow a brain and read the initial 'story' and the comments that followed from 'readers' who assumed that Henry was a female who 'lived' a hard life before finding the light as an adult film actress.

Exley, you too grow a brain, because it wasn't 'fictional' in the beginning, Henry made it out to be factual.

Empty drum, you're 'view is about as empty as your 'mental' drum too.

If Freud were alive, he'd have a field day with people who pretend and dupe people into thinking they're 'real' when they're fictional.

It just goes to how the limited concentration spans of people who basically pretend, live in a world of pretense and further defend, what is an outright lie.

Henry, you never said (from the beginning) that it was a fictional story, fictional blog. You think you're shit doesn't stink, well it does because you're so full of it.

Henry Baum said...

Anastasia, I rest my case. Your response is bordering on mentally ill.

Empty Drum said...

I think I'm in love!

Anastasia said...

Henry, saw this 'article' in google and had to have a laugh.

I'd say you have mental issues when you pretend to be a female porn star to get support by trying to play on sympathies.

You're a joke, with nothing to say.

Loreleilee said...

Damn, what is with people? I guess I just don't get it. I really hope you don't let the bullshit get to you.

Also, your book tour came thisclose to me recently. Think you'll ever visit oregon?

Henry Baum said...

I probably won't be touring again for a while, unless I somehow start a rock band. Thanks a lot for your comments here and on the Shirley blog.

Thomas said...

I suppose the bigger problem with your "Shirley Shave" blog was the level of interactivity that you gave the readers. You not only posted "in character", but you also responded to their input "in character." Had your posts been merely one sided, a narrative, then you were merely telling a story: Writing in its purest essence. But by interacting with the readers as the character, you encouraged the readers to become emotionally invested in you, or Shirley to be more precise. You went beyond the story and into people's lifes. When you see a movie, you don't expect the lead actor to sit next to you and ask you how your day was. When you read a book, you don't expect the words to grab you by the crotch and whisper how wet it's getting thinking about it's readers. You did cross the line, and in my opinion, you did something wrong. You went beyond your role as an author and you became a traitor to these people's feelings and emotions. You played with their heads like a drunk kitten: Drunk with the exhilaration of the duplicity. Why else would you feel guilt? You neither disgust me or make me angry. I'm only saddened by the depths someone would go to to feel important and worthy of attention. You only compound it when you swat away your critics, invalidating the emotions they feel. But then again, it's your choice and in this great nation, everyone is allowed to take a big steaming, literary shit on whomever they please all in the name of their "art." Best of luck to you and your sycophantic fan club.

Henry Baum said...

All due respect, Thomas, but there weren’t a lot of comments in character. I posted the entries and left it at that. I’m proud of this blog and the reaction it got. Not so I could feel self-important, but because it was satisfying to get readers. You write, “When you see a movie, you don't expect the lead actor to sit next to you and ask you how your day was.” No, you don’t. That’s exactly what made this experiment interesting to me, to work in a new medium and see what would happen. This is what happened. I do feel bad about people who were moved by her story because they thought she was real. I’ve confessed to that. But all fiction is manipulative—makes you happy, feel like shit, whatever. The blog is another way of getting into reader’s heads. Reprehensible to some people, but the impulse to experiment with writing is not a bad one. I only swat away critics who so completely overreact, not because they’re hurt but because they feel it’s against the rules, such as you calling it a “steaming literary shit.” Please, man, IT'S A FUCKING BLOG.

RC said...

Anastasia sounds like a real treat. Yet another woman who thinks she can be a man, but a man cannot be a woman. I wonder, has she ever heard of artistic liscence? Oh, yes, she probably has, but it most likely only applies to her.

Amazing she rips on people she doesn't even know. Talk about mindless. She needs to decide if she wants to grow breasts or balls.

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