On Freaking out

This link has gotten around a bit, of British author Jacqueline Howett freaking out on a book review blogger, Big Al, in the comments section. Howett takes exception to the typographical and grammatical errors that Big Al notes in his review, insisting that he downloaded the wrong version of her book. She quickly loses her cool from there, going on to call the blog “Big ALs snake pit and rat hole” (sic) and tangling with the post’s anonymous commenters before signing off with a few genteel posts that say, simply, “F** off.”

I have no desire to pile on or say much about this specific case—really, it’s pretty cut-and-dried, as you’ll see if you read through the comments yourself. (As many commenters note, the irony is that it’s not really a negative review.)

What I’m interested in is how easily this author freaked out, and how the internet facilitated her freak-out becoming a very public thing very quickly. (See here for Big Al’s rundown of just how widely his review of Howett’s The Greek Seamen has been linked to.) Like a lot of things that go viral on the internet, the subtext of people’s enjoyment over Howett’s meltdown includes a heavy dose of “Thank God that wasn’t me.” (The rest is a vigorous sense of outrage. Other recent, writerly classics of this genre include the editor who reprinted a freelancer’s work without pay, then suggested that the writer should pay her and the Columbia University professor who wrote a condescending letter to her former students telling them how great Columbia is.) Read the rest of this entry »