So, I felt like I owed the Professor a direct response, so I emailed him. It basically summaries what I said in my previous post, but let me copy and paste it here for full disclosure. Let me emphasize how I was trying to be nice with bold:

“Dr. Harrigan,

This is Jen, the author of the original nine page “diatribe” against your book. First, I’d like to thank you for linking to my blog in your email – free advertisement is always nice. Anyway, I just want to say that I honestly apologize if I originally came off as directly calling the you racist/sexist/homophobic in my blog post. I didn’t believe you were actually this way: I mainly thought the book just came off the wrong way, and you failed to express your true intentions. I know I had said that to my friends before typing up my review, but I guess that disclaimer wasn’t as clearly stated in the final product. I’m also sorry for any cruel spirited ad hominem attacks I may have used. At the time of writing the review, only a couple of my friends read my blog, so I didn’t expect anyone (especially the author) to ever see it. Then the review hit Pharyngula (an extremely popular atheist blog, which you probably know) and exploded over the internet. I guess this is a good lesson to be careful of what you put online.

That being said, I do not apologize about my main criticisms in the book. I still stand by my opinion that it was poor writing and a bad message for promoting atheism. I feel sort of bad that I’ve upset you, as that wasn’t my goal. But negative reviews are to be expected when you present your work to the public – especially if you actively send out the book for people to review. Professional authors don’t take every negative review as a personal insult that requires a direct individual response. No, they take the criticism and move on. Not everyone is going to like your book. If Dan Brown (I actually enjoyed the DaVinci code, by the way) spent all his time responding to critics, he would not only appear childish, but he would never get anything done. Not everything you write is going to be brilliant. I’ll freely admit I’ve written a lot of horrible stuff before. And again, for the sake of honesty…you get a bunch of friends and family members to read your stuff, and of course most of them will say it’s lovely…but they’re probably either being nice, or really aren’t literary experts. Maybe you should have listened to your writer friend who said she couldn’t get past the sixth page.

And since it seemed you had specific questions for me, let me address the most important ones:

-When you talk about feminism and homosexuality in your email, I actually agree with you. Again, I just think your views came out the wrong way in the book. It happens. Sometimes we intend to write one thing, but people interpret it another way.
-You say I don’t really address the male characters and a couple of the female characters, that I get some of my facts confused…yes, that’s true. To be honest, it was for brevity’s sake. My nine page “assault” was already getting long enough. I didn’t think my book report was going to be graded by the author himself, so I wasn’t taking perfect notes. I admit to completely missing the other black character. Either the description of him being black didn’t stick in my head, or I got it confused with another character (which happened frequently, since you had way too many characters…also explains the Mickey Mouse watch). The only part of the book I skimmed was the couple page conversation on boxing between Slane and the dominatrix, so I promise I was trying to pay attention.
-You say that you don’t see any of the demeaning things about women that I’m apparently just making up. Just because you, a male, do not see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. And I promise you I’m not trying to make things up. I’m honestly not one of those “rabid” feminists who takes offense at everything – I’m fairly laid back. I make off colored jokes myself. I’d be afraid what a “real” feminist would say if she read the book.
It was not my initial goal to damn your book. I was honestly quite excited to read a fiction novel about atheism and sex – I wouldn’t have opened it if I didn’t want to read it. I even kept reading with the hopes that it would get better – I wanted to like it! But by the time I was mostly done, I realized that was not going to happen…and that I should at least share my experience with my friends. I’ve also talked to a member in a Californian atheist group who read your book, and she agreed with my review (though she read your book before reading my review). It’s not just me.
-I did not have some “Writing 101” book open with a checklist of things to catch you on
. I’ve taken two creative writing classes, I write frequently, I’ve read many books about writing, and I have a lot of practice critiquing stories.
-I’m not quite sure what you expect me to think of the dildo battery thing. Hooray? I’m not offended, if that’s what you think. I actually think it’s quite interesting and admirable that you spent time in the shop to study people’s behavior.
-I’ll try to control myself and not start a diatribe against elderly teachers in the future, as apparently I’m likely to do that.

I guess you’re just going to have to take my word for it when I say I wasn’t trying to be mean or spiteful. I read the whole book, paid attention, and tried to write an honest review. It’s up to you to decide if you want to believe me or not. I hope you don’t take any of this too personally. It’s silly to make enemies when we both agree on so many things.

-Jennifer, aka, “The Avenger””

Another student [Susan] from a campus atheist group also responded to him and CCed me in the email, saying she read most of the book, most of the blog entry, and most of his email, and that she basically agreed with me…and that many students at the CFI world congress agreed the book was awful. Kudos to her for sticking up for me.

Well, our esteemed Professor has replied again:


I don’t need writing advice from amateurs or lessons on how to take criticism. As for consulting an editor–why do you people seem blind to this–I did. Roy P. Fairfield wouldn’t have changed a word of the book. He loved it. Who is doctor/professor Fairfield? For thirteen years he was associate editor of The Humanist along with Editor Paul Kurtz, the author of Humanist Manifesto II. Kurtz wrote in Free Inquiry that his close friend Roy saw to it that the Manifesto came to life. We all owe a lot to both of them. It doesn’t seem to have dawned on you that you trashed Roy as well when you trashed my book on Amazon–inches from Roy’s praise–and by implication in your Blaghag Blog and the Pharyngula Atheism Blog. By intension or ignorance or judgment deficit or carelessness you distorted the book and made it a source of public mockery. Mistake me not, criticism I expected, any creative work–especially a book like mine that touches on radioactive subjects–gets it, some more, some less. Say my character development is poor, plot weak, syntax horrible, that’s part of the criticism game. I am talking about deliberately, for whatever reason, misrepresenting a book’s content.

Susan, try reading an e-mail before answering it.

John Harrigan”

Ouch. You know, usually I wouldn’t be offended being called an amateur writer – because I am – but from this literary guru, that’s a low insult. And yes sir, I do think you need to learn how to take criticism, because you’re still harassing some 21 year old chick on the internet who made fun of your bad book. Boo hoo. I also like how “by intension or ignorance or judgment deficit or carelessness” I distorted his book. It’s of course not his own fault for writing a steaming pile of shit!

I think my kindness towards this guy has about run out. Is it snarky email time, everyone? I’m thinking yes.

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