RANT: Coulter, Plagiarism, Book Store Bigotry

Most of the time, I’m a sunny, cheerful person. Okay, most of the time, I’m not, but lately I’m even surlier than usual because people are BUGGING me. In particular . . .

1. The Media. Not all of it. Just the part of it that rose to the Ann Coulter bait.

Ann Coulter is the skinny blond conservative who got fired from USA Today for being a lousy writer. She gets press for being outrageous which is always dangerous because real outrage sometimes leads people to actually do something. Bill Maher found this out after 9/11 when he said the terrorists were brave for flying planes into the towers. No, Bill, brave means knowing there will be seriously bad consequences for doing something and doing it anyway. The terrorists thought they were going to wake up with seventy virgins. You can get any fraternity boy to walk off a frat house roof at 2AM on a Saturday night for seventy virgins; the difference between the terrorist and the frat boy is that the frat boy won’t take thousands of innocent people with him because it would, like, reflect bad on the rest of the brothers. So Bill said something outrageous because that’s what he does to get ratings, and then people were outraged and he lost his job, and then he was outraged. I’m not sure why. It seemed pretty much cause and effect to me. Where was I?

Right. Ann Coulter. Ann said the 9/11 widows were enjoying their widowhood or something equally outrageous. I didn’t pay much attention because I knew Ann wasn’t either, she was just being outrageous because nobody had said, “Ann Coulter” on CNN for a long time, and kicking kittens hadn’t gotten her any press. Kicking 9/11 widows? Sure-fire outrage. And I thought, “Suppose Ann Coulter said something stupid and nobody noticed?” Would she escalate? “The 9/11 widows are sleeping with terrorists!” Would her voice become increasingly shrill? “The 9/11 widows EAT THEIR YOUNG!!” Would those gray roots start to show? “THE 9/11 WIDOWS DON’T MOISTURIZE!!!” If Ann Coulter said something dumb in the woods and the media didn’t hear, would she wear sensible shoes? I don’t really care since Ann Coulter never says anything thought-provoking or even interesting, unlike say, Mary Matalin, so Ann’s easy to ignore.

But the media people who say, “Ohmigod, did you hear what Ann Coulter said?” even though they know she’s made of plastic and hair, well, they bug me. Yes, I know, I’m adding to the problem, but I waited until everything had died down so I’m not really contributing anything. Plus twelve people read this blog, so I’m thinking this will not cause a media frenzy, because the twelve people who read this blog are brilliant, insightful people who do not run about shouting, “Ohmigod, did you hear what Ann Coulter said?” they just shake their heads and say, “Her fifteen minutes are about up, don’t you think?” and go on to read Alison Bechdel (see below).

2. Plagiarism I don’t like plagiarists and I don’t like people who say, “Oh, it’s just words, no big deal,” and I really don’t like people who say, “Well, maybe it was just an accident.” Like the woman who allegedly said through her lawyer that she might have accidentally copied three pages from the book of an author who is very close to me. (I am reminded of the West Wing episode in which Sam tells Toby that he accidentally slept with a prostitute. Toby says, “Accidentally? What did you do? Trip?”) What really bugs me is that she allegedly sold the short story she wrote (didn’t write) to an alleged fund-raising anthology for an alleged authors group to which she allegedly belonged, and although most of the other alleged authors allegedly donated their profits as allegedly did the publisher, this alleged word thief allegedly refused and should therefore allegedly fry.

What is it with people like this? “I need it so I’m going to take it and the hell with everybody else?” Or do they not even think about “everybody else”? Does “everybody else” not exist for people like this, bound as they are by the parameters of their own needs? Are they astounded when people object to their thefts? “Why yes, I did take that,” do they say when confronted with the proof of their pilfering, “is that a problem?” Well, yes, you conscienceless bitch, it IS a problem.

Okay, what really bugs me is that people like this steal the work of others and then giggle self-consciously and say, “Oh, sorry about that. No hard feelings, ‘kay?” Hand me that hard feeling, Mabel, I’m gonna use it to beat some moral integrity into that there dumbass plagiarist.

3. Book Store Shelving I just read Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home. Great, great book, a graphic novel memoir about growing up in a small town with her non-Walton-like family, especially her father who loved restoring their vintage home more than he loved her mother, and loved teen-aged boys more than that. It’s an amazing book about her coming of age, and the drawings are beautiful and the book is funny and Gothic and touching and thoughtful and you should read it.

And I almost didn’t because when I went to the bookstore to find it, I couldn’t. I looked on the New Books table: Nope. (This book is being reviewed everywhere, glowing reviews, that’s why I went looking for it, so it should be a no-brainer to put it on the New Books table. Granted I live in Ohio, and the nearest bookstore to me usually forgets to put my books on the New Books table even though my publisher pays them to, but jeez.) I looked in Fiction under the Bs for “Bechdel.” Nope. I looked in Memoir. Nope. I finally looked in the store’s computer under “Bechdel” and found it listed under “Gay and Lesbian Fiction,” and then I couldn’t find Gay and Lesbian Fiction (I HAVE to find a new bookstore).

Bechdel is a lesbian and her father was bisexual, and the book does refer to these aspects of her life, but I’m from Ohio and my books refer to that often and they don’t shelve me under Ohioana. Why the hell wasn’t this in General Fiction or Memoir or at least cross-shelved? Hell, why wasn’t it on the front table with a sign that said, “This has been reviewed everywhere and everybody is raving about it and it’s a marvelous book and oh-my-God, you should read it”? It’s a beautifully packaged book, too, the kind that booksellers usually climb all over themselves to display just because the cover is so crunchy-looking. So this week, I’m mad at booksellers, too. Unless they’re displaying Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home prominently and handselling it. Then they’re good people and I love them and they will go to Bookseller Heaven, where no one will ever ask them to find that book their friend told them about, the one with the green cover. Or maybe it was blue.

I’m telling you, some days, everywhere you go, it’s nothing but bugs.