But I couldn't help myself.
Here's an e-mail I received today:
While you’ve a small talent for writing it lacks any life, style or
long-lasting appeal. The main character Marla Mason holds no interest
and I really must draw the line at cannibals who eat only the willing,
or for that matter any cannibal. What a disappointment. The only thing I
can do is never buy anything from you, or the other writers who gave you
the positive reviews. What a hoax, and a waste of 7.99.
[Name and e-mail address redacted to protect the socially-challenged]
And my reply:
Oh, hey, you caught me on my day off, when I actually have a minute to respond. Goodie! I don't usually reply to reviews, good or bad... but since this isn't a review, and is instead a sort of mirror-image of the fan letters I usually get, I'll reply.
Wow. You go to [Ivy-league university e-mail came from]? I guess you're one of those people who has good test scores, but fails on the whole "social learning" continuum? Or do you just mop floors there or something? (Ouch. Too personal?)
What an insanely rude thing to send to an author. Do you go up to people in the grocery store and tell them their babies are ugly, too? I don't really care if you hated my book -- de gustibus non est disputandum and all that, and as long as tens of thousands of other people like my work, my career can handle those others who quite reasonably don't enjoy them -- but what on Earth would possess you to send me a private note containing such vitriol? You should save stuff like that for your blog, dear. I'll certainly be posting your e-mail on my own, along with this response. Thanks for providing me with some content! I was wondering what I was going to post about this week. (Don't worry, I'll redact your name and e-mail address to spare you from having scores of people write e-mails mocking you. See, I have some modicum of social grace!)
You can "draw the line" at cannibals who eat the willing all you like, but google "meiwes cannibal" and you can read about the actual criminal case that inspired that section of the book. Write to Arwin Meiwes and tell him about your line-drawing prowess. I hear he's gone vegetarian and joined the Green party since he got to prison. Reality is *so* much stranger than fiction, don't you think?
And now, though I must make a real effort to overcome my customary sunny disposition, let me sign off in a spirit inspired by your own: eat shit and die, and happy holidays.
Slag my work in reviews, on blogs, in your 'zine, or whatever, and it's totally cool. But send a note to my e-mail? Well. I do make a point of responding to all letters from my fans...
(Update: She wrote back, apologized for being rude and harsh, said she'd give some of my other work a try, and also said she didn't realize she was writing to my personal e-mail. Who knew rudeness + rudeness = reconciliation?!)