on May 13, 2015
The idea of the book intrigued me. I love true crime stuff, and this sounded like a case of Fatal Attraction. Wrong. The book started off ok, although I didn't care for his writing style. By the time I reached page 100, I was done. I wanted to hear more about Nasreem stalking him, how it affected his wife, his kids, etc. Instead I got a long-winded spiel about Gawain, DH Lawrence, King Arthur, Tintin, Ayatollah, Jews, Muslims....the list goes on and on. I have no idea why anyone would want to stalk such a disjointed, boring individual. Luckily, I checked this out of the library and did not spend (waste?) my money on it. Snoozefest.
on March 21, 2013
I picked up this book as I imagine most people would, expecting to be completely sympathetic and admittedly with a near guilty curiosity about a painful situation.
What struck me first about the story was disbelief that Lasdun couldn't see the writing on the wall, or the web as it were. 20/20 hindsight and the advantage of independent observation aside, it's extremely difficult to believe that he couldn't see the direction that Nasreen's correspondence was headed, and completely shocking that once it did take a bad turn he kept making rationalizations to continue. Not far into the story I could only conclude that he was getting some kind of kick out of it, and was driven by his own ego.
In a sudden burst of clarity, he basically says "no more" to Nasreen. Then, guess what? More rationalizations for continuing. Is anyone surprised that that's when the real grief begins? She's not going to stop now, why should she? She's getting a payoff (reaction, attention) and she's getting by with it. Her victim and supplier of emotional drugs is now confirmed.
I do want to say that none of the above in any way justifies Nasreen's actions.
The integrity of the story rapidly disintegrates with lengthy asides about religions, mythology, politics, and accounts of the author's experiences that he sees as relevant. I suppose all the disjointed ramblings can be attributed to Lasdun's unsettled state of mind, which is understandable, but makes for an inexcusably tiresome read. Threads of continuity are present, although too few and far between.
Lasdun is obviously educated and schooled in the mechanics of the craft of writing. However, as any competent writer (as well as their savvy readers) will tell you - adherence to the integrity of the story and staying on point, whether in fiction or nonfiction, is crucial. Imagine buying a book on how to repair your automobile and finding and great deal of text about how to repair your refrigerator included. So the story disintegrates in the wake of too many asides, and that's truly regrettable because the advertised subject matter is relevant and timely. Publisher? Anyone? Editor? Was there one?
Perhaps even more aggravating than the drifting was what was glossed over and never fleshed out. There are a couple of brief mentions of his wife, but they're cursory. I think an interesting and very relevant element was left out here - her feelings, observations, and possible advice would have added a great deal to the story. How did she feel about their daughter being threatened, and moreover, what did they do about it? It's odd, too, that he didn't seek professional counseling, or if he did that fact was omitted. That would have been very relevant as well. If he didn't talk to a therapist, any reasons as to why he didn't is a piece of the puzzle. I feel like the reader is cheated by these omissions, after all if you're going to tell the story, tell it -- or as any good editor would say, sometimes you need to "show" rather than tell. Once again, the elements of good story telling are the same whether it's true, or fiction. He held out on us, sadly probably more to his detriment than ours as readers, because I think you'd agree that the act of writing the book was a form of therapy.
Let's get back to the story as advertized and the reason for the story. Nasreen obviously has some issues and she's going about addressing them in the wrong way. Hiding behind the keyboard isn't going to solve anyone's problems, it's not the place to work them out. She reduces herself to the level of a cyber bully with alarming speed and conviction. If you haven't seen one in action you may be living under a rock because they're everywhere, including the online MMORPG's you allow your children to play. Read the common chat there sometime. These bullies operate under one illusion: if you can make someone feel badly about themselves, then somehow you'll feel better about yourself. The payoff, unfortunately, is usually easy to obtain, but it doesn't last and it's never enough, so the bullying accelerates. What's puzzling is how these people manage to function even marginally in the real world because, contrary to how they try to present themselves, there's an all too evident lack of any authentic personal power.
You have to wonder that even Nasreen's reportedly dysfunctional family didn't catch on to something. Given the times and frequency of her emails throughout the day I also wonder that her employers didn't take note. How could she hold down a job when she spent so much time with her email onslaughts? Possibly she couldn't and changed jobs frequently. If she was using her employer's ISP perhaps there would be some recourse there?
I gave the book one star for the effort and the mechanically decent writing. I considered a second star for courage, but decided against it as I feel this book may have been a huge mistake due to the fact that it serves to feed Nasreen with a large dose of what she craves - attention. To a cyber bully even negative attention is still attention. Negative attention is so easy to garner, it's a quick, easy, "fix". There again, the "fix" doesn't last, so the abuse accelerates.
I have some hopes and wishes regarding this book. I hope it raises awareness, although I have doubts because it probably won't sell as widely as hoped due to the lack of structure; it goes off on too many tangents to make a good read. I do hope it will precipitate a couple more accounts of a similar circumstances being written. Although I wouldn't wish these horrid circumstances on anyone, unfortunately there are likely many more cases of abuse happening to people who have the skills to write a more focused account. I do realize this hope goes against what I said about not giving the bully the attention they seek, however, I'd be willing to excuse any author if they wanted to publish their account under a pen name and thereby lessen the chance that their abuser would discover the book and revel in it. Since Lasdun chose not to cover his identity, I wish he'd gone the extra mile and revealed hers. Saving grace: it's not libel if it's true.
Bottom line: wait for it to hit your library, or at least for a cheaper paperback version.
The subject is far too relevant and widespread to be brushed aside, and society needs to develop an effective way to legally stop these pathetic little cowards. Meanwhile, here are my suggestions:
1. Don't develop extensive personal `relationships' on the internet. If you're communicating frequently with someone you're not even close enough with to speak on the phone (though that can be problematic as well) then you do not have a `relationship' - you have an addiction. Got it? Good. Stop immediately. If you find it difficult to stop, please get some help.
2. Don't give bullies the attention and reaction they crave, it's only fuel to the fire. Stop it.
3. Don't expect a bully to change because they apologize and behave appropriately for a while. These types don't change that easily, but they do know how to advance and retreat.
Am I an expert or professional giving this advice? No, not at all, but it does relate to common sense.
on June 14, 2013
Novel as "Memoir". Impossible to believe that any man, let alone, an intelligent professor, would carry on such foolishness, without seeking legal help, early on. The author is either a very naive or a man of great ego. Anyhow, methinks this is not truly a memoir as relates to Nasreen. The remainder of the book is a collection of assorted commentary oh his travels with his wife,K, and his family. As an aside, why refer to his wife as a letter, surely a bit of an affectation.