An update on the Feminist & The Cowboy story, one that deserves its own separate post. This is from author Alisa Valdes’s blog. A week after her book was published, here she is saying that the Cowboy is a roaring turdbucket who dumped her, and the book is a disaster that it will lead women astray. Excerpts:
I believe very firmly that the truth is the only currency a writer has, and that if there is any hope of redeeming this book and making it meaningful it lies in the full story of my relationship with the cowboy and not just in the candy-coated version that appears in the book.
The first thing I think readers need to understand is just how much time it takes for a book to go from a writer’s computer files to a bookstore shelf. It takes more than a year, usually. That year is used for things like cover design, advance publicity for magazines, visits with book buyers from members of the sales team. So the version of my life that hit shelves last week is actually more than two years old.
That said, a lot can happen in two years, especially when you’re in a relationship with a man as complicated and volatile as the cowboy. There has been some confusion because in addition to the book I have also kept a sporadic blog about my ongoing relationship with the cowboy. Those who followed the blog understood that things changed, and they followed along with me. But for those reviewers who are new to the party, just learning about me from the memoir and then seeing on my blog that the relationship described in the book both wasn’t what it seemed, eventually, and is not in existence anymore, there is understandably a sense of having been the victim of a bait-and-switch operation. I am truly sorry for this, and I wish to reassure readers that no one in the world feels more the victim of bait and switch than I.
What I mean by this is that while I set out to write a memoir that was a love letter to a man I was deeply in love with, a man who challenged me in myriad ways, a man who changed my life profoundly, a man I respected and honored greatly at the time, what I actually wrote was a handbook for women on how to fall in love with a manipulative, controlling, abusive narcissist. The fascinating thing about the release of the book, for me, has been just how many reviewers have seen what I failed to see when I wrote the book: That the cowboy was controlling and abusive. I simply never saw it then. I admired and nearly worshipped the man. One reviewer described her disappointment in having learned that I was still with him at the end of the book, saying that she could not help but to think of cult members as she read my adoring account of a man who, to her eyes and through nothing but my journalistic descriptions of his interactions with me, was obviously a domineering abuser. It hurts to read reviews like that, but it is also empowering for me now. See, while I didn’t understand just what kind of man I’d fallen for at the start, and during the writing of the book, the longer we were together the more obvious it became.
If I’m the publisher, I’m wanting to kill myself right about now. Or kill my author. She’s just destroyed her own book. Oh, it gets better, or worse:
The book was true, when I wrote it. But life changed. I didn’t try to fool anyone, or to exploit anything. Rather, I believed in a man who didn’t deserve it. I fell for the incredible charm and manipulations such men are capable of. I failed to see what women who are wiser than I was are clearly seeing as they read my book — that this man was “a jerk,” as one reviewer said. I didn’t know. Worst of all, I wrote about my love and my flexibility and compromises in so glowing and beautiful a way as to secure a book deal from a wonderful publisher, an elite publisher, and now the same publisher is treating me like I have the plague, all because, I feel, I have saved my own life. I didn’t set out to deceive them. No one wanted the fairy tale more than I did! Ironically, being “punished” by the publisher feels a bit like the abusive emotional stonewalling the cowboy would do to me when I didn’t knuckle under and do what HE needed me to do for HIS needs…it’s familiar territory, only now it’s being done to me by a progressive woman in New York. I’m not a commodity. I’m not an object. I’m not a thing to be sold. I am a human being, a writer, an artist, a work in progress, and real life is messy sometimes, especially when it comes to love and abuse. I am deeply wounded by the stonewalling from my editor, as wounded as I ever was when the cowboy did it to me…
So now the editor is no better than a right-wing abusive cowboy? Oh boy. Please do not let Alisa Valdes and Elizabeth Wurtzel in the same room together. The crazy, it burns.
To be fair, what would you do if, between the time your book was finished and it was published, its whole raison d’etre collapsed? You’d pay the advance back, is one thing. Surely, though, the publisher must have grasped that this story, and the storyteller, were both extremely unstable. What is Valdes supposed to have done? If it’s true the editor and publisher stonewalled her, then that seems to have been a really bad idea. Boy, I can’t wait till the real story comes out. What a mess.
Valdes is right about the long lead time between turning in a manuscript and the book coming out. The MS for The Little Way Of Ruthie Leming locked sometime in September, but was essentially finished in August. The book won’t come out till early April — and it’s not because everyone at the publisher’s is sitting on their hands waiting. These things take time. What happened with The Feminist And the Cowboy is a nightmare for everybody — but it sounds like it ought not to have been a big surprise, given the characters involved.