It occurs to me that in recording my reaction to Laura Miller's review of my book I may have allowed the "b----" word to escape my fingers once or twice too often. I do not apologize for the sentiment contained in my reaction, or for my assessments of Ms. Miller, Ms. Kakutani, and that piece of misogyny-in-designer-clothing, "Sex in the City" (which has about as much to do with New York as does Rodeo Drive); but I should not like those of my readers who are women to base their judgments of myself and/or my work on momentary intemperance, rather than the considered portraits of strong, educated women that appear in my books. So to any of those readers who were offended or unhappily surprised, I offer the heartiest apologies, the warmest thanks for your continued support -- and a pledge that in the future I shall try to consider my phrasing more carefully.
-- Caleb Carr
Carr has, sadly, identified himself as little more than a schoolyard bully. When faced with a challenge that demands intellectual reasoning and logical argument, all he can think to do is throw punches.
-- Laurence Constable
Good for Caleb Carr. Criticism in every field has overstepped its bounds, and the critics pretend to an expertise they simply don't have. We would be much better served as readers if critics were required to state their credentials; or, even better, if critics were chosen only from those already at the top of their respective fields. As it is, we have an absolute chaos of uninformed opinion. Carr may have acted childish in his outburst, but it is understandable. Miller's last line was enough to drive any scholarly person insane, implying that we are all equally ignorant, and that any claim to expertise is a pose. Carr may be open to contradiction (from someone like Chomsky, for instance); but the sort of easy relativism that is thrown at him in that last sentence is insupportable.
-- Miles Mathis
What I want to know is how do you get to join the club that watches "Sex in the City" at Michiko's?
-- Joseph Barbato
I can't believe that an author who takes on the weighty subject of terrorism is insecure and immature enough to send a petulant letter to someone who reviewed his book in an unfavorable way.
If he was confident enough to publish a work of his, then he should also have enough character to handle criticism. After all, publishing something is putting it in the hands of the judgmental and critical public.
Reading the letter he sent to the Salon critic brings to mind images of a child throwing a tantrum. Finding out that he REVIEWS HIMSELF and gives himself five stars (on Amazon.com) simply affirms that.
-- Grace Chua
Geez, you'd think by now they'd have learned ...
It is never helpful for an artist to argue the relevance of his or her own work. Even if he's saying reasonable things, it's practically impossible to avoid reading self-aggrandizing intent into such defenses.
Caleb Carr, it sounds, hasn't learned that lesson. Oh, well. At least he has good company: John Adams made quite a fuss over his work being dropped in Boston ("Death of Klinghoffer," if memory serves) because the content was pretty intense and remarkably difficult for the musicians to perform because of the text, post-Sept 11. (We won't even mention the "hire an Asian actor!" movement, lead by B.D. Wong in 1990, protesting the non-Asian casting of a lead role. Mr. Wong's a fine guy, but it really sounded as if he was saying, "Hire me!")
I'd love to see Mr. Carr waste his money on a defamation lawsuit that targets a reviewer.
Doesn't he know that a review is an opinion? (Maybe the reviewer should sue Caleb for writing shlock, but if that were a possibility, Anne Rice would be in bankruptcy.)
-- Jeff Bowles
After reading Caleb Carr's angry, angry letter in response to Laura Miller's review of his book, (complete with selected ALL CAPITALS to let us know HE MEANS BUSINESS), I checked out the review, expecting to find a snarky dismissal. Somewhat to my surprise, I found Miller's review thoughtful, cogent, well-written, cool-headed and certainly not nearly as negative as Carr seemed to think.
Carr's sexist dismissal of Miller is difficult to stomach, and his reference to her as a "bitchy wise-ass" is wholly inaccurate. Would that be when she says "the confidence with which he teaches his lessons seems premature"? Or when she says, "that doesn't necessarily invalidate what Carr has to say in 'The Lessons of Terror.'"
His ranting and raving and excessive use of capital letters certainly ensures I WON'T be buying or reading "The Lessons of Terror," no matter how much I liked "The Alienist." If Carr is irrational and delusional enough to completely misinterpret a decent response to his book, I strongly doubt he's got the skill to cogently analyze world history and events.
-- Greg Machlin