Monthly Archives: October 2008

A Child Called Snit

I was looking up Dave Pelzer’s bestseller, A Child Called It, on Amazon.com, wondering if there might be discussions, or tags leading to discussions, that might produce somewhere useful to promote DANNY.

I’ve long held a theory, completely unsubstantiated in fact, that people who read “tear-jerkers”, as Asda very accurately, and a little cynically, calls them, might also be interested in reading DANNY. I figure a lot of people who read victim faction are interested in dysfunctional families, possibly coming from one themselves. The other half are into torture porn. I figure both lots should be good for some sales, if I could only figure out the crossover.

Sadly, as I say, I have yet to find any real-life evidence that this is so or, more importantly, a way to cross that bridge. Non-fiction tends to stick to non-fiction and fiction with fiction. Us humans do like our compartmentalism.

Anyway, I digress. I was looking up Pelzer’s book and discovered that although he has a phenomenal 1,928 reviews (a figure I’ve never seen before, but then I’ve never checked Harry Potter’s) he only has 2 discussions. An amazing disparity, from which we can deduce that although people love reading the book, they don’t like talking about it. At least not to others on a one-to-one basis. I wonder why?

Out of this paltry discussion board collection only one is real – the other turned out to be the Amazon ‘team’ trying to gee up business.

But this forum looked rather fascinating – if useless. It was headed “I distrust these reviews”. Here it is in its entirety, should you wish to spend the five minutes it takes to plumb its depths. Conspiracy Theorists Discover a New Way to Disguise Envy at Author’s Book Sales

The opening salvo sets the slightly bizarre tone. ‘ThatPoshGirl’, who we’ll call Posh from now on, thinks Dave Pelzer makes up all his own reviews, all 2,000 (give or take) of them. She doesn’t exactly say so, of course, because that would be absurd. No, what Posh says is this, “There are over 1700 reviews and a significant majority of these are “Kids Reviews.” I have been a customer of Amazon.com for a long time and have purchased a lot of books and other items. No other book at Amazon, that I have seen, has so many of these “Kids Reviews.”

Posh has a theory that “someone, or a group of someones, is trying to deceive the Amazon customers by posting fallacious reviews. I may be wrong, and this is just my opinion, but the activity strikes me as very suspicious. …you will need to do your due diligence in evaluating it as a potential purchase. Read the reviews of actual people with actual accounts and check their other reviews to see if their taste is inline with yours.”

There then follows lots of “He’s a FAKE!” screaming with the odd “No, he isn’t” thrown in for fun and drama.

What intrigues me about this is, why do people only pull this ‘It’s a fake’ stunt with child abuse stories?

Seriously, why?

Just think how many people write travel books. I remember seeing recently an article about someone who had written a Rough Guide to a city he had never been to. He didn’t think Rough Guides were paying him enough so he simply didn’t go. It was narrated as a somewhat funny, cynical old journo anecdote. Sadly I can’t remember which guide it was now because it would be interesting to check the Amazon entry and see how many people are on there screaming, “He’s a FAKE!”

My guess is none.

People fictionalise factual books all the time, for a million reasons, but it’s only victim faction that gets this backlash. Why?

Think about it for a moment. Here’s our alternate universe scenario:

Dave Pelzer has a bad childhood. His mother hits him with a slipper every Saturday, once locked him in a cupboard, and never allowed him his favourite strawberry milkshakes. Oh, and she calls him It. None of his siblings get this treatment. It is apparent to young Dave that his mother doesn’t love him. His siblings don’t like him much either, and his father couldn’t care less what happens to him.

Dave grows up, Dave feels resentment, Dave is socially maladjusted due to lack of bonding. Dave is maybe even a little ‘crazy’. Dave decides he’d like to ‘out’ his mother and her evil, but Dave knows no-one will read his version, it simply isn’t unusual enough. Dave decides to up the ante. Dave writes mum as an ogre and his suffering as Dachau. Result – Dave gets a publishing contract. Dave becomes famous. Then more famous. And more famous still.

Dave writes more books on the back of the first one. Dave’s brother, who was second-most-hated, writes books too, backing up Dave’s story. Dave’s mother and other brother/s deny it. Some people listen, some don’t. Some question, some don’t.

Result: Dave sells books. Dave is famous. Dave’s brother likewise. Dave’s mother lives quietly where her friends don’t believe a word of Dave’s nonsense. You get up, go to work, read Dave, shake your head at the horror, discuss it for fifteen minutes in the staff room, tut-tut and my-my, and then forget all about Dave. You lend Dave’s book to a friend and never see it again. You don’t care. You’ve forgotten it anyway.

Tell me, where in that scenario does Dave’s abject lying make a difference? To anyone? Anywhere?

But should Dave lie?

I don’t know. Should you?

No, of course not. Lying is bad, we all know that.

Does Dave lie? Well, that’s up to you to decide. But it would be helpful if your decision didn’t base itself on everything that is flung in to the typical bad reviews of Dave’s book. Mostly, in this order, “It’s unbelievable.” “It’s far too excessive to be true”, “It’s badly written/written like a six-year old.”

That’s it. That’s the foundation for the Dave Pelzer backlash. Some also throw in “Dave’s mother and brother deny it all.” I have a special fondness for this one. Quite where people get the notion that child abusers are going to turn up their hands and say, “I done it, I made my kid drink bleach” I seriously do not know. Or perhaps these people believe that if we only look under his mother’s hair, or in some other hidden part of her body, there will be a satanic mark that will scream CHILD ABUSE!.

“Badly written”? Now that’s justification for calling someone a liar?

Here’s a thought: maybe Dave isn’t a writer. Maybe Dave is just a child abuse survivor telling his story. I would have thought his tale being beautifully crafted would make it a whole lot more suspicious. Good liars lie well. Bad liars don’t. But then, neither do complete amateurs and non-writers. Is it too much of a stretch that Dave might fall into that category? Is it absolutely impossible that Dave Pelzer just isn’t much cop as a ‘writer’? Good God, no – he must be lying then.

And then we have “unbelievable” and our old friend, “excessive”. Oh how I love them. Dave Pelzer’s mother’s behaviour was inhuman, incomprehensible, therefore it didn’t happen – because people simply do not behave inhumanly or incomprehensibly.

Absolutely. That is so true. They made up the Holocaust, you know – never happened. And there has never been a single case proven of a serial killer just randomly picking people up and torturing and dismembering them. Not one. The gun control loonies make all that shit up so that they can discredit the police force. Just like they make up all that crap about Vietnam and Iraq and every other war. All made up. And know how I know? The horror stories are just too excessive.

Yep, the ‘unbelievable excess’ argument – wins every time.

The first house I lived in in Manchester there were three murders within 500 yards – 500 yards – of my house, which was on a pond scum council estate where broke and broken people were shoved out of sight. One of these murders was a ‘domestic’ i.e. a male killed his missus during an argument. The second murder was when a group of four teenagers, the youngest of which was only sixteen, ‘kidnapped’ a girl they knew and kept her tied up in their house for several days before they took her out to some woods in their car and poured petrol over her and set fire to her.

The last murder was by a man who lived 100 yards away from me in a rundown terrace of private housing. I walked along his street regularly. His wife had left him, and his ten year-old son had elected to stay with his dad. Which can only make you wonder what the hell the mother was like, because his dad, it transpired, beat him regularly. Then one day he beat him so bad he fractured his son’s jaw. The boy stayed, or was kept, away from school and walked about with a broken jaw for at least two weeks before septicaemia set in and he died.

He never went to hospital. The school never checked on his absenteeism. There was no social worker. He was alone with his father, almost certainly in constant pain that must have got so bad (if you’ve ever had an abscess, you’ll know) he was probably glad to die.

When he was ‘found’, he was malnourished – no doubt unable to eat due to the pain – and his body was covered in bruises and showing signs of previous abuse. No. Unbelievable. Inhuman. And it happened 100 yards away from my house. I didn’t know the man, or his son, although I passed their house many times.

Is this real? Have I made it all up? Of course I have. No-one beats their son then is so afraid to be caught doing it they keep their child away from the authorities and let him die in agony of septicaemia. What kind of sick person could think a thing like that up? No wonder Stone wrote that sick book of hers. Disgusting. Let’s go rent Beauty & the Beast.

Every single year there is a case – or two or three – of some children’s home/doctor/headmaster/priest who has raped, beaten, murdered some group of usually vulnerable children for twenty, thirty, forty years and gone completely unchecked, ignored, denied. When it all comes out there’s howls of outrage – How could this have happened? Why wasn’t it stopped? It also always comes out that someone, sometimes several people, powerful people, knew or were told and they chose, ‘for the sake of the children/ our reputation/ the home/ the greater good’ to do nothing about it. We, the public, are horrified, outraged, and ban children from appearing in mail order catalogues, or parents from taking photos at school pantos, and then we go home and sleep easy. Problem solved.

This is Dave Pelzer land, and the land of every other author/witness/survivor who has ever had their abuse story decried.

Yes, Pelzer could be lying. Anybody can lie. In fact, child abuse victims are often far better liars that the general public – after all, they’ve learned to stoop to anything to protect themselves.

But whether he’s lying or not is utterly irrelevant. Nothing will be changed if he is or isn’t. The nature of child abuse is that it is secret. No-one takes their kid out into the street and beats it to death (well, not many). They do that fun thing behind doors. Why is that so difficult to understand? With the secretive nature of abuse comes the absolute truth that at some point you will just have to take someone’s word for it.

Now, if Pelzer’s testimony had to be scrutinised for a court case where they were going to execute his mother I could see this determination to ‘prove’ him a liar, but it isn’t. So why, then, does it matter so much to these people? Why can’t they just say, “I didn’t like Pelzer’s book” and leave it at that? Why must they discredit his story when they don’t like his book? I don’t like Dave Pelzer, or his book, but I have never once seen a criticism of it for the more credible faults I believe it has.

I believe this need to save the mothers and destroy the Daves is restoring balance to the universe. Posh, if you look at her other reviews, is a wannabe writer. (Why are they always wannabe writers? Is God really some kind of cyber-geneticist cloning people?) She wanted to write romcoms in 2001. But she seems to have given that up somewhere along the line and taken up photography/art instead. Assumably it’s easier. She is fat and has a heavily overweight cat on whom she spends a lot of money. She likes gadgets, Lara Croft, Nancy Drew and fluffy pencils, and she is disgusted by the sight of a (slightly) overweight male model in an art reference book.

This telltale piece of prejudice, and her penchant for romcoms, tells you all you need to know about Posh.

Posh believes in fantasy and love, she despises herself and the way she looks and projects it onto a ‘fat’ male of whom she actually says “In some poses where his body is twisted there are fat rolls which upset the line of his body. He just is not at all appropriate as an art model.” Telling you, if you needed to be told, that she thinks ‘art’ should be attractive. Hell, Posh thinks life should be attractive, and she deeply resents Pelzer for making money and achieving fame from something so ‘ugly’.

Pelzer could be the biggest liar from here to hell and back and it would make no difference to Posh or the people like her. He could have bona fides as long as his arm, and the lord Jesus himself come down to earth to say, “Yes, Dave’s mother done it. I was on my cloud. I seen it all. I believe.” And it would make no difference. Posh does not want to adjust her universe to include either Dave, or even the possibility of Dave. It just wouldn’t be nice.

David Pelzer is a liar. Mothers do not hurt their children. Child abuse is something men in dirty raincoats do. Fat men should never appear in art and Posh should have been given Dave’s book sales.

That’s Life According to Posh.

Now, is not that a pretty little fiction?