Chris Roberts: Pushcart Prize Nominee, Mangler Of English

Note: After a catastrophic data loss, some of these images were unrecoverable—at least so far. I’m still on the lookout for any cached versions and will replace dead images with live ones as I find them. —P.

Today I posted on Twitter that Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue—or at least its first 35 pages—bored me enough that I started working on a new novel. It was meant for people that follow me on Twitter, as most of my tweets are, but I happened to pick the same day a gentleman named Chris Roberts was spamming anyone who mentioned Telegraph Avenue with responses about how Michael Chabon was writing his own Amazon descriptions, probably, and had had the gall to call his own book “the great American novel we’ve been waiting for.” This insight was based on the fact that, according to Roberts, authors “usually write their own book description on Amazon.” I can buy that, especially for Kindle singles authors like Roberts and maybe even for authors whose work is being published by a smaller press. But that a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, who has a family and a pretty full professional plate, would still be writing ad copy for his own work? That seemed unlikely.

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Let’s just talk about the Amazon description for Roberts’ Kindle Single, A Hazy Shade Of Winter:

Winter, in its duality, can be a picture postcard field of lovely white, or oppositely, a raging wall of snow, a destroyer. The protagonist of this story is fueled by these conflicting states of nature and she devours them in her writings, she is a mercurial poet. Hers is a mind of contemplative thoughts and quicksilver reactions. Family, friends and professors are all caught up into the whirlwind that is Blaine. There is an authentic sense of place captured in this work, Wellesley College is laid out comprehensively, here is Lake Waban on the campus, “The trees would sometimes catch the lake’s reflecting light and little diamond beams would wind their way around its branches.” The descriptions in this work bring out elements of the inanimate and animate that one wouldn’t normally see. This is a story that is equally matched by its heroine. She will stay with the reader and remind them that living and writing poetry is impossibly connected and do so forget about plays, poetry is the thing.

A few things:

  • You don’t see many postcards without pictures these days.
  • She devours the conflicting states of winter? And where the hell is the comma before she devours them? And why is there one before she’s labeled a mercurial poet?
  • Quicksilver, interestingly enough, is a symbol of fraudulent medicine. It’s where we get the term “quack” for shitty doctors with shitty, ineffective cures.
  • I’m not entirely sure a copywriter calling a client’s work “the great American novel” is any worse than the author themselves touting the “authentic sense of place captured” by their writing.
  • That is one motherfuck of a run-on sentence with the Lake Waban and the branches. I guess he was too busy studying the Wellesley landscape to study grammar. And it’s reflected light, not reflecting light. AND WHERE IS THE FUCKING COMMA?
  • Okay, so, saying “great American novel” is out, but there’s no problem telling the reader that he, Chris Roberts, knows for a fact that the heroine will “stay with” them.
  • Living and writing poetry are two things. Two is a plural number of things. Therefore, living and writing poetry ARE “impossibly connected…” Wait—
  • Inextricably connected? Is that what he means? Why is it impossible that they’re connected?
  • “…and do so forget about plays, poetry is the thing.” Yes. Yes, of course. Except no: “and in doing so“? “Indoing so they will forget about plays”? Who is forgetting about plays in that sentence? The reader? Blaine, the heroine? Yes, yes, it’s a reference to “the play’s the thing,” but the sentence makes no sense with that “do so forget.” How about “She will stay with the reader, reminding them that living and poetry are inextricably connected. Forget plays: poetry is the thing.”

That all makes sense, right?

Interesting. Here’s what Amazon reviewers (Chrissy Rob seems to be a pretty prolific reviewer on Amazon, or else I wouldn’t bother bringing it up) have been saying about Hazy Shade Of Winter: “Wish I could give it no stars,” Allie from Missouri; “feels like a first draft in an undergraduate creative writing class,” Temporal Ghosts (fuck, man, ghosts have so much time to read; they know what they’re talking about); “Reminded me of the terrible writing attempts you could find on some emo teenager’s MySpace page back in 2007,” Karen from Hoboken; “execrable rubbish… at least no trees died,” StiffPigeon, who is seriously stiff about bad writing; “untalented and frankly cheap imitation of Plath’s The Bell Jar,” Charles from Portsmouth; “Having used the word ‘exhale’ as a noun in only the second paragraph, I knew I was in for a long ride,” Tristan from Stardust, I don’t know, their location wasn’t listed; “It’s either the act of a man in love with every word he composes, or the arbitrary result of a large cat who fell asleep on a keyboard,” Ernie-D, possibly related to Chuck and Mike D, although maybe the hyphen means it’s a different family; “At least it was free,” ara… arachiara? the spider fromPrisoner Of Azkaban? “…as a seventh grade writing assignment I would have given it an F. As a book, it deserves a Z,” Heisenberg from Southampton, PA, although I can’t be certain he still lives there; “Roberts writes in a style that occasionally sparks with flair,” Rett01, the only three-star review in the first page of reviews, as sorted by “Most Helpful.”

Yeesh. I mean, cockbreath aside, I felt like helping this guy out by telling him the mistakes he wasn’t seeing.

If I were to have a Kindle Single kicking around the internet, I’d certainly want anyone who spotted a mistake in the description to bring it to my attention, so that I could fix it.

What made no sense to my father? That his son was born already having cockbreath? I guess that would confuse a new father. Maybe he wasn’t talking about the cockbreath. Maybe my father just didn’t understand the mechanics of birth, even though birth makes a whole lot of sense to anyone who took Sex Ed. in high school.

There are definitely words missing from that explanation, but he’s right, it does make the reader think. This reader thought, “The impossible can’t happen. That’s why it’s impossible. If something happens, it wasn’t impossible; it was improbable.” Well, at the very least, we’ve gotten away from the homophobic insults.

GUYTH, YOU CAN TELL I HAVE A LITHP WHEN I POTHT TO TWITTER?

It’s worth mentioning that Roberts seems to have thought better of having wildly homophobic tweets laying around the internet with his name on them, so I’m glad I had already screen-captured the exchange for this post before he could delete them. This is the kind of thing that should follow a writer around until the internet or the sun burns out, whichever happens first. [Update: Chrissy Rob came out of hiding to decry my “one-side piece” (that’s “one-sided,” Chris) and to say that, “I don’t want to be called a homophobe. I call it bathroom humor & have NOTHING against gays.” Right, because saying someone was born with a dick in their mouth and talking with a lisp sounds in no way like he’s taking a shot at gay men. And calling me “cockbreath” presumes that my breath smells like cock because I am sucking cocks. So the premise of the insult is that I’m gay and don’t brush my tongue. I guess it isn’t surprising that this guy doesn’t know how words and meaning work. Roberts goes on: “I support all in the gay community, their rights, their preferences and through diversity are even stronger citizens. I hope you will consider amending the title & content to reflect my views on gays.” So, folks, Chris Roberts supports the gays, unless you take issue with his sentence construction or command of the mechanics of English, in which case, you were born with a dick in your mouth, you have cockbreath, and you speak with a lisp, but that has nothing to do with gay men. I told him I wasn’t going to change anything, but honestly, why not flesh this post out? Of course, before I could capitulate, he blocked me again. I suspect he’s actually a 12-year-old kid.]

Back when he had me blocked the first time, I could still read his tweets through the magic of not being logged in to Twitter. Most of them are in the format of newspaper or op-ed headlines, like “Being Amy Sohn Or How ‘Motherland’ Prompted an Exodus Out of Park Slope and the Mayor to Declare Mother’s Day Outlawed,” and he’s forever making cardboard cut-outs of people and kicking them “in the nuts” while he sings “God Bless America.”  Currently he’s having an argument with a Chris Rock parody account (the entire profile’s description is comprised of one word: “parody”) as though it’s actually Chris Rock.

It also seems like this guy is obsessed with two things: dicks and my mouth. Strange combination he’s fixating on there. And I hear people use “dude” all the time, and we live in the same city. I’d very much like to know how you write someone “inside and out.” I’ve heard of knowing someone or something inside and out, or writing circles around someone, but “write you inside and out”? Dude.

Then he goes and calls my mother a whore. Or, more specifically, he quotes Darrell Hammond impersonating Sean Connery calling Will Ferrell’s impersonation of Alex Trebek’s mother a whore on Saturday Night Live. His “last word” is four words, and, again, for God’s sake, Chrissy Bob, “shit head” is one word.