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I don’t THINK anyone is trying to hunt me down

heathers01Last weekend my friend Lori was in town and we took the dogs for a walk in the schoolyard across the street. Three tween girls were hanging out on the jungle gym and as we passed they started whispering ostentatiously in our direction and laughing meanly. ‘Girls that age” said Lori, a middle-school math teacher in the Bronx, “are the worst.”

That encounter stayed with me as I started exploring the saga of YA author Kathleen Hale and the Goodreads troll, which Hale described at great, great length in the Guardian. What did the editors think to let her go on for 5000 words? Perhaps they are part of the great catfishing* conspiracy erected to oppress Ms. Hale, because while you begin the essay thinking “poor her,” as Hale unravels you start to smile nervously and look for an exit. It’s far away.

Then I went to a blog that Hale cited as an ally in her fight against the Dark, Stop the GR [Goodreads] Bullies, which I thought would be, I don’t know, some kind of manifesto about maintaining decency in book discussion. Instead I soon felt like Jennifer Connelly discovering Russell Crowe’s crazypants chalkboard diagrams as pages of scans and proofs and links and trolls and catfish whirled about each other with manic glee. Here, as in Hale’s confessional, I saw no victims, just bullies on all sides.

I know it’s unlikely — or NOT, he adds, as the madness infects him — that any of the participants in this circus are twelve-year-old girls, but watching the accusations fly and the drama being whipped up reminded me of those kids at the school, a big helping of attention-seeking with a side of hostility. I’ve avoided Goodreads only because it was too much like work, but it always seemed like such a nice place. Now it looks to me like those spy novels I love, where the apparent placidity of daily life and ordinary citizens is completely at the mercy of the puppet masters. If you want me, I’m in hiding.

*as Liz Burns points out, that word does not mean what Hale thinks it does.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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Comments

  1. This entire thing is quite bizarre. I am rather taken aback by Frank Rich, known as the “Butcher of Broadway” during his reign as chief New York Times drama critic, tweeting in support of this article (I know he is her future father-in-law).

  2. Here is the first overly long piece Hale has written about cyber-stalking someone: http://thoughtcatalog.com/kathleen-hale/2013/02/169836/

  3. Sam Bloom says:

    OMG, that “Stop the GR Bullies” site is TERRIFYING. Your Beautiful Mind metaphor is spot on.

  4. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:
  5. Yeah, it’s terrifying over there. For some reason, though, this whole brouhaha seems confined to YA… if it’s crept over to middle grade, I’m blissfully unaware.

  6. I’m one of the people STGRB targets. There’s a link to my Amazon profile under “Amazon Fora Trolls.” You can see in it what a bully I am, with the vast of my majority being very positive. I’ll tell you why I’m on there. I publicly stated that STGRB gas lights people. They don’t like being criticized. I also want to make it known that many authors speak out against STGRB, and against Kathleen Hale’s actions. John Scalzi wrote an excellent essay about STGRB, and Jim Hines wrote a great post about Kathleen Hale. I strongly urge everyone to read it. Also, notice how STGRB never talks about those authors. My opinion is that they only go after those who have very little power. What is it called, again, when someone with a large following goes after someone weaker..? Oh yeah. Bullying.

  7. Darn. You can’t edit comments awaiting moderation. I was up late, and am just now having a little caffeine, so I apologize for this:

    “You can see in it what a bully I am, with the vast of my majority being very positive.”

    That should have read, “the vast majority of my reviews being very positive.”

  8. Yes, you should be very careful about citing STGRB for anything other than an example of what not to do. As one of the listed ‘bullies’ on their site, I can only echo what Angie said. The whole M.O. is exactly the opposite of what they claim: when Huffington Post tried to do a puff piece on them- allegedly written by an associate of theirs- the backlash from the book community itself was so overwhelming that in less than 24 hours they posted not one but two rebuttals to the piece. Just Googling their name will provide all the info you’d need about them.

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