Hello fellow book nerds!
So, I’ve been blogging for over a year and a half now. I started my blog in November of 2017 and have loved doing this so much. I really feel like I’ve grown so much and have worked hard on this little blog. The biggest thing is I do it for me. This is something I really enjoy doing and sharing this passion of mine.
One of the biggest benefit has been creating a relationship with authors. I would have never imagined that some of these big authors would even pay attention to me or even talk to my favorite authors because they live across the country. It has truly been aweinspiring.
However, putting yourself out there (especially online) can cause some unwanted attention or risks. I grew up when the internet was coming around and one of the things I always heard was “Don’t use your real name.” “Never give your address.” “Don’t reveal anything about yourself.”
With the advancements in technology and the birth of social media, things have become a lot more lax. This is NO excuse though and cyber stalking, regular stalking, threatening people – none of that will ever be okay.
Then I heard about the whole Kathleen Hale thing because it was everywhere at once. I briefly read the article she wrote for the Gaurdian (you can view this article here) and thought how messed up it was but didn’t deeply look into the situation. I obviously wasn’t around when this happened and knew virtually nothing about it.
Then her novel was finally published that contained 6 essays, including the situation that occurred. I can’t help but say my curiosity grew and so I have decided to analyze Kathleen Hale is a Crazy Stalker and the first essay in her book, Catfish. This is coming from someone who was not around for the situation. There has been articles that have been taking the author’s side(?) or making it seem not as extreme. This is why I have chosen to analyze the first essay and look see what Hale had to write so I can see it through her point of view which will be done through quotes I pull throughout the essay.
So – let’s take this crazy journey together (and I’m sorry this post is so long).
Happy (safe) Reading!
Taken from Kathleen Hale is a Crazy Stalker
by Kathleen Hale
Essay 1. Catfish
Okay, the first thing I want to do is to DEFINE “catfish”. Reading this essay entirely through, I feel like it’s important to know what the word Catfish means.
Informal : US
lure (someone) into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona.
“he was being catfished by a cruel prankster”
So – keep in mine that in order to be “catfished” the imposter is knowingly trying to create a relationship with a specific person.
“Anxious and inexperienced, I began checking Goodreads, a social review site now owned by Amazon … Other authors warned me not to do this, but I didn’t listen.”
I know we have all said it before that Goodreads is for readers and not for authors. This holds true but I can completely understand her reasoning for checking Goodreads. Honestly, if I was a debut or veteran author, I’d probably be looking also. The difference is though, not to take it personally. A book isn’t going to please every single person out there, and it is proven. There is not one book that has 100% 5 star ratings.
“Eager to see if Blythe had read my book, I clicked through the daisy chain of her social media, from her Twitter to her blog to her Goodreads page, where she had given my young adult novel a one-star rating.”
This I also understand. When someone reaches out to me about something, I like to check out who they are. If I was an author and they gave me a suggestion, I would also check them out. I’d be interested if they read any of my works or how they are connected to me.
“I scrolled down her review.
‘F*** this,’ it said. ‘I think this book is awfully written and offensive; it’s execution in regards to all aspects is horrible and honestly nonexistent.’
Okay, while harsh this has NOTHING to do with the author herself. Just a non-apologetic thought of what she thought of the book. While it would hurt to read this, it isn’t a personal attack.
“Blythe went on to warn other reader that I was a rape apologist and slut shamer … She’d only read the first chapter, she explained, but wish Goodreads allowed users to leave scores of zero”
So, I caved in and actually found the progress tracker that Blythe had done while reading this book (you can view it here). And this is where my problem lies. Blythe did NOT read one chapter but ended up getting 1/3 of the way done before finally DNF. If this was true then I would kind of agree with Hale. It is really hard to judge a book by 1 chapter. Also, I read most of the comments left on her tracker and from what I read she didn’t call out the author herself but actually mentioned how the book was written. THIS IS HUGE. I never agree with bashing an author, no matter how bad the book is. And that was just this. Blythe actually never made comments about the author herself but how she interpreted the book, which other people had commented that they interpreted differently than Blythe had.
“Other commenters joined the thread to say they’d been thinking of reading my book, but now wouldn’t. Or they said that they’d liked it, but could see where Blythe was coming from and would reduce their rating.”
So yes to the first part. That is the whole point of Goodreads and reading reviews. To see if you would like the book yourself. This works both ways though. There are books that have been hyped so much that I read and wished I hadn’t. In the same way, there are books that were not well received that I enjoyed. IT’S ALL INTERPRETATION. But, if someone is on the fence of reading a book, they will look at the reviews to see if it is something they should commit their time for. However, most people don’t look at one review and decide that’s it. Some reviews hold more than others but it is what it is. Now, I don’t agree with the second part. I think that other people’s view shouldn’t affect your own rating. But again, that’s up to the person themselves and it does happen.
“In following weeks, Blythe’s vitriol continued to create a ripple effect: every time someone admitted to having like my book on Twitter or Goodreads, they included a caveat that referenced her review. The ones who truly loathed it tweeted reviews at me.”
I love the book community, I really, really, really do but unfortunately I have seen this happen and don’t approve of it. If this really did happen, it’s not okay. Never tag authors in negative reviews and don’t hate on people who like certain books. They liked it and you didn’t, it happens. I will give Hale the benefit of the doubt on this.
“Confronting her would mean publicly acknowledging that I search my name on Twitter … So instead I engaged in light stalking: I prowled Bylthe’s Instagram and Twitter, read her reviews, considered photos of her elaborate baked goods, and watched from a distance as she got on her soapbox”
NOT. OKAY. The fact that she admits to stalking and is now becoming obsessed is not okay. Not once has Hale said that Blythe had come after Hale directly, it’s all just been about her books. I do agree that tagging authors in negative reviews are not okay but nothing in this essay so far has granted this type of behavior.
“One afternoon, good-naturedly drunk on bourbon and after watching Blythe tweet about her in-progress manuscript, I subtweeted that, while weird, derivative reviews could be irritating, it was a relief to remember that all bloggers were also aspiring authors….
‘Sorry,’ I pleaded on Twitter. ‘Didn’t mean all bloggers, just the ones who talk shit then tweet about their in-progress manuscript.”
I don’t even think I need to explain this one now and my patience with how Hale is dealing with a bad review from one blogger is really starting to get to me.
“But when I googled Blythe Harris, there was nothing to be found … It suddenly dawned on my that Blythe probably wasn’t her real name. So I dug a little deeper … I checked back to Blythe’s Instagram … and realized, for the first time, that none of them included human beings.”
Hale goes on saying that she realized that Blythe was using cropped photos. This, I have a huge issue with. Here’s my thing. There is NOTHING wrong with not using your real name on the internet. Along with that, there is nothing wrong with not posting any pictures of yourself or anybody else also. I don’t. My stuff is directly book related so I don’t feel the need to post photos of myself or my family. Everyone is different with how much they divulge themselves. I mean authors use pseudo-names, celebrities change their names – so what is the big deal that a blogger doesn’t want to use their real name?
[a book blogger was putting together a series of author reviews and Hale chose Blythe to do hers]
“The book club explained that it was common for authors to do ‘giveaways’ … I agreed, and they forwarded me Blythe’s address. The exterior of the house that showed up on Google Maps looked thousands of feet too small for the interiors Blythe had posted on Instagram … The address belonged to someone I’ll call Judy Donofrio, who, according to the internet background check ($19) … She lived less than an hour away from me by car.”
There is so much wrong with this. First, she literally paid to get a background check on someone who reviewed a book of theirs. Because Hale was so unhappy with the review, she weaseled her way to get her physical address and then googled mapped it then proceeded to pay for a background check. So. Much. Wrong.
“I clicked over to the active Gchat I had going with my best friend, Sarah McKetta, one of the smartest people I know, and sent her all the current ‘evidence’ I had …
‘Well, there’s only one way to find out … Go talk to her.'”
And if this is one of the smartest people Hale knows… I’m not surprised she was so dumb to do the things she did.
“In preparation for my surprise visit, I thought it might be helpful to get some expert advice about meeting a catfish in person … So I telephoned Nev Schulman who was known and celebrated for his 2010 hit documentary Catfish.
Remember that definition of catfish I gave earlier in the post. This is why. Kathleen Hale was not catfished. So far, not once, have I seen any evidence of Blythe Harris purposefully luring Kathleen Hale into a relationship. She used a fake name, yes, but as I covered earlier, a lot of people do. She wrote a review. Blythe never tried to create a personal attachment to Hale which is what happens when these people get catfished. This is false. False. False. False.
“I parked down the street from Blythe/Judy’s house … Before I could change my mind, I walked briskly down the street toward the Mazda parked in Blythe/Judy’s driveway … The curtains were draw, but I could see a figure silhoutted in one window, looking at me … I dropped the book on the step and ran away.”
Just because Hale didn’t actually physically confront Blythe/Judy doesn’t make this any better. The fact that she stalked her until she came across this information and proceeded to rent a car to drive to her house, is just… well CRAZY
“To me, closure meant hearing Judy admit to being Blythe-not necessarily to the world, but to me. Instead of returning to Judy’s house … I decided to call her at work. McKetta and I rehearsed the conversation.
‘What do I ever say?’ I kept asking.
‘Just pretend to be a fact-checker,’ she said.
‘So now I’m catfishing her?’
‘Big time,’ McKetta said.
Again – NO. BLYTHE WAS NOT CATFISHING YOU. And what you are doing now is harassing. You are not catfishing Blythe, you will be calling her at her job to harass her, for what? To prove she is someone who used a fake name to post a review?!
[Hale calls Blythe/Judy at work asking her questions for ‘fact checking’]
“‘DO YOU USE THE NAME BLYTHE HARRIS TO BOOK BLOG ONLINE?’ I felt like the guy on The Howard Stern Show, screaming, ‘I Exist!’
‘No,’ she said quietly.
[conversation continues about how someone is using all of Judy’s information online]
“‘Can you report her or something?’
‘Unfortunately, it’s not a crime,’ I said. ‘It’s called catfishing.’
She didn’t know what that meant, so I found myself defining ‘catfishing’ for someone who was, presumably, catfishing me (and whom I was cross-catfishing).”
I would really love to know how she “defined” catfishing to Blythe/Judy because, again, she does not know what it means. And again, she is not catfishing Blythe/Judy – she is harassing her… at her work. SHE IS WORKING.
“So I called Judy again, and this time I told her that I knew she was Blythe Harris.
She started yelling. She said she wasn’t Blythe Harris”
“After we hung up, she blocked me on Facebook. Then Blythe Harris reconnected her Twitter account and set it to private. But she was still following me, which meant I could send her a direct message … ‘I’m not trying to embarrass you,’ I wrote … I emphasized that I just wanted to know more about her experience … Blythe responded by unfollowing me.”
I don’t blame Blythe at all in any of this. She shouldn’t have to set everything to private because one author couldn’t take the negative review that someone wrote about her book.
“Months later, after I published a version of this essay in the Guardian … But after the piece went viral, the internet blew up in my face. Throughout my essay, I’d use the word ‘stalking’-as in ‘internet stalking’-something I considered a colloquial term at the time, but one that, given my car rental, people took quite seriously. So I was called a stalker, in the legal sense.”
Uhm… that’s because YOU DID STALK. Stalking in any form is not okay. Whether it is in person or internet. And Hale took is a step beyond because she physically went to someone’s home after taking so much time and, yes, stalking to find out Blythe’s identity. Then she proceed to actually make contact with her. So yes, Hale did stalk this person.
“Every five minutes, for more than two months, my phone buzzed with Twitter notifications and email alerts and actual phone calls and text messages from people who’d somehow tracked down my number…I blocked people who wouldn’t stop tweeting at me. I moved threatening emails, some of which told me to kill myself or contained Google Maps photos of my mother’s house, to my spam folder.”
So… what Hale did was wrong. Wrong on so many levels. Granted she got a little taste of what she did when people found her phone number and stuff but this does not warrant death threats or people threatening her family. I’m sorry – but this is wrong. We can agree that Hale stalking someone was completely wrong on so many levels, but so was this.
****CONTENT WARNING – THIS IS A GRAPHIC PASSAGE, PLEASE DON’T READ IF YOU ARE SENSITIVE****
[Hale talks about her depression and she turned to drinking and pills]
“One night I changed the passwords on all my various devices and started sawing at my wrist with a serrate knife. When I seemed to run out of space on one wrist, I switched to the other …. At the psychiatric hospital, they took my shoelaces and spiral notebooks … The nurses forbade us to touch. But I would learn that patients found way to comfort each other.”
Listen. I know people who have severe depression and suicidal thoughts, so I really do feel for Hale on that. However, this might sound harsh but it does not result in any sympathy from me or make me feel like she’s the victim in all this. Honestly, this last part of the essay just makes me feel like she’s trying to show how victimized she feels in this. That might sound harsh but it’s true.
So, here are my final thoughts. Hale is a crazy stalker. She was NOT catfished and she has done nothing in this essay to make me feel like any of her actions were justified. Blythe used a pseudo-name like many other people do and wrote book reviews. She didn’t personally attack the author or try to create a person relationship with her. Hale was the one who couldn’t let it go. She continually stalked Blythe online and then proceeded to take it further when she physically showed up to her house and called her at work. Hale never once left the whole situation alone. This is not something the blogging community or Blythe did to her, but she did to herself. The ending, while tragic and I’m glad she got help, does not justify the means of her action. It does not make her less of a victim.