I don’t need people to say only good things about my writing, but I am a little done with people saying bad things about it. The hate-mail I’ve gotten about the Isaac Franklin piece has just been so infuriating. Like, seriously, I can’t begin to tell you how much I dislike the term race-baiting, if only because the people who use the term seem to think that black people are just aimlessly and happily tooling about their days until someone comes and agitates them, like they’re just too stupid to notice that things are amiss without the race-baiters. Is there anything more infantalizing than “they wouldn’t have noticed anything was wrong if you hadn’t said anything?”
But, at heart, the hate mail I’ve gotten seems to be deeply offended and discombobulated that my writing sometimes puts the reader in the position of imagining Franklin from the perspective of his victims instead of imagining him in a more generous light than he clearly would have put himself in. That is the main thing that kills me about American history, how often people insist that we should extend to people in the past a generosity that distorts them. Like when people try to insist that the Civil War was about states rights and that claiming otherwise is dishonoring the past, when you can read the materials the states created when they talked about why they wanted to leave the union and why they were fighting and their own words are “We’re doing this because of slavery.”
Isaac Franklin didn’t see himself as a good guy. So, why can’t I take him at his word?
Also, someone is upset with me for writing fictional ghost stories. Okay, well, there’s a whole lot of really good, fun, interesting books about real Tennessee ghost stories. Those are not my book. Read any of the rest of them and be glad you didn’t buy my book. Christ.
“You got this fact wrong” or “You didn’t take into account x, y, or z” or “Is a paragraph/word/letter missing here?” or “This part didn’t work for me for these reasons” are all legitimate criticisms I know how to do something with. I might even be interested in reading something on the ethics of making up ghost stories. But “You’re not writing what I, internet stranger, want you to write” is just not something I can do anything about. Read someone who is writing what you want to read or write your own thing.