Salon readers fire back at Caleb Carr

By Letters to the Editor
Published February 11, 2002 9:00AM (EST)

Read Caleb Carr's response.

Read "Dirty War."


Carr by now ought to know that the most dignified response by an author to a negative book review is no reply at all. And he certainly should know better than to display such shocking misogyny in a public forum. His rabidly unintelligent, ad hominum attack on critic Laura Miller, riddled with sexist stereotypes, has an effect no doubt unintended by its author: that of confirming all the doubts Miller raised about his lack of wisdom, judgment or perspective.

-- Jean Peterson

Perhaps I am writing to you in loco Mr. Carr. His letter (complete with more capital letters and colons than any published writer should ever use, anywhere) to Ms. Miller bears scrutiny in relation to another article Salon published recently, regarding gender gaps in education resulting from the view that girls know literature, and boys know science and history.

A quick search of Ms. Miller's archive on Salon revealed that she has rarely, if ever, written of her penchant for "Sex and the City." Nor is she (in)famous among Salon readers for her persistent reviewing of "bad women's fiction."

Rather, Ms. Miller has recently written of the war on drugs, the plight of America's working poor, even -- gasp! -- terrorism. Her recent article on Oprah did not hail the grand O for bringing more trash to illiterates, but explored the problems of commercialization of art and the autonomy of the author.

Ms. Miller is not the ditzy lightweight Mr. Carr's letter makes her out to be.

I have not read Mr. Carr's book; I have no desire to. A short book exploring in broad terms the history of a method of violence that has not yet been properly defined seems, to say the least, more entrepreneurial than necessary these days.

Having read Mr. Carr's letter, however, I can now say I will recommend my friends don't read his book. His response to Ms. Miller's review was not a close reading of her well-structured and thought-provoking article; it was an attack on what he perceives to be her character, but is rather the stereotypical female, New Yorker, Internet-affiliated book reviewer. His claim that, because she is not with him, she is with the terrorists recalls, like the propaganda rhetoric of President Bush, the mindless stupidity of McCarthyism --hardly an indication of his penetrating grasp of history. His letter, in short, is filled with broad baseless assertions -- like his book, perhaps?

-- Katherine McLoone

Caleb Carr's sneeringly sexist response to Laura Miller's review of his book --including the charge that Miller is a "bitchy wise-ass" qualified primarily to "chatter about bad women's fiction" -- was a dandy example of a guy who's taken the lit-crit equivalent of a cleanly delivered body blow and responds by doing a little petulant ear-biting. As for this "club that meets at Michiko's to watch 'Sex in the City' and spout a lot of nonsense about things they don't know"; my goodness -- sounds like Carr belongs to the one that meets at his house and watches "Oz" for the shiv tips.

-- Ken Tucker

I was surprised to read Mr. Carr's response to Laura Miller's review of his book. Her review had some problems, but it's hard to understand why this is a sign that the "soul of New York City is dying." Despite all of its problems, New York seems to be doing pretty well. I'm not even going to ask what Candace Bushnell's "Sex and the City" has to do with any of this.

Publishing Carr's letter this way hasn't convinced me not to buy his book, but it does make me realize how difficult it is to have an intelligent political discussion on the Internet.

-- Mary Madigan

It's a good thing I wasn't planning to read Caleb Carr's attempt at history anyway. His response to Laura Miller's admittedly shallow review is so riddled with nastiness and, really, outright stupidity, that his capacity to analyze so much as a grocery list, much less military strategy, ends up thoroughly undercut. I'm sorry we don't all have big hard throbbing cocks like you, Mr. Carr, who certainly wouldn't be caught dead reading shite-y women's fiction; perhaps that's something you inherited from Lucien, whose current obscurity is no doubt a cause for glad thanks in your house and heart. See, I can be nasty too, and whattayaknow, it helps no one. Surprise surprise. Now go choke.

-- Greg Gipson

When I first saw that Caleb Carr responded to Laura Miller's review of his book, I was hopeful that he would provide a well-thought out response to her critique. After reading his letter, however, I realize that my hopes were misplaced.

If Carr's response was intended to be a parody of an overly prickly writer reacting to criticism then I would say he succeeded admirably. If he was serious, then he did a better job than Miller of illustrating why his book should be ignored. His letter was a disappointing collection of personal attacks and snide remarks. His one attempt at making an intelligent response -- discussing the effect of allied submarine warfare -- was undercut by calling Miller a "bitchy wise-ass." That's hardly an example of great logic. I almost expected Carr to conclude by challenging Miller to a fight after school. His closing statement about Miller and the soul of New York was baffling and ludicrous.

-- Brian Patterson

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