Slings and Arrows of a Risky Business
qui audet adipiscitur*
by Juneau & Xena
Juneau and Xena have been accused of various sins, including deceptive marketing practices, bad writing and peddling pornography.
You are about to enter another dimension. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Ozone. Imagine a book written about the meaning of Adam Lambert. A reader picks it up, flips through and declares that no one should buy the book .
“I’m shocked, shocked to find that sex is going on in here!” – in a book about Adam Lambert!
In a book by mature women? You were expecting maybe knitting lessons? Instructions on how to remove red wine stains from a silk blouse? Keeping the shine on your pearls? How to find a retirement home with a Scrabble club? When is it time to retire the four-inch heels? Signs that you should toss the glitter and eyelashes – where would you crones wear them anyway? It’s a book about Adam Lambert who is so naturally sexy, he incites women and men of all ages to toss their undergarments on the stage. A nanosecond of recognition. The imagination fires up. Ah! Forgot, ageism comes into play – old hags – OMG! Gagging sounds.
But don’t get too excited about accusations of a tome packed cover to cover with erotica. To have singled out a few incendiary paragraphs and nothing else in this book speaks to the seeker’s motives and was a deliberate distortion of this book and its contents.
We stood before a kangaroo court presided over by one individual and a cadre of cheerleaders hoping for a schoolyard dust-up. This afforded us the opportunity to talk about our book, to have the charges set aside. We feel that it is important as a matter of principle to address such campaigns waged by innuendo and misrepresentation of the facts.
Judge for yourselves if we are guilty of the charges listed below, based on the evidence we offer up.
Please be aware that crusades such as this produce winners and losers, just like the campaign against Adam after his AMA performance. The losers are not always those who are targeted, like us, but others.
We did not respond to the initial criticisms as they appeared on our own blog and on Amazon, so our critic took flight elsewhere and waged a bullying campaign with actual threats of physical violence, lawsuits and some potentially libellous statements. Does anyone see the irony in such a malicious campaign against the authors of a book that is a tribute to Adam Lambert and his influence on personal growth and fulfillment? That it should take place at all? Ours is a book that discusses social acceptance and a laissez-faire approach to social constructs and social behaviour. It tilts the comfortable chairs of those convinced of their own perfect morality and decency, to shake them up.
To launch and perpetuate a campaign to persuade people to not buy this book was tantamount to a book ban. Would that be the outcome sought? Alas, missed the year for that – it was 1984. Does Fahrenheit 451 sound familiar? There was a suggestion of book burning.
We found ourselves forced to defend not just our book, but our ethics, morality and integrity as well, against a self-appointed ayatollah, book censor, critic and marketing expert, who had formed a posse to bring us to judgment, or throw us in the hoosegow.
“I learned a while ago that you can’t please everyone. There are so many opposing and contradictory views and everything I do seems to potentially offend someone… If I listened to everything being thrown at me, my head would explode.”
There is bound to be controversy when something new and completely different appears. It really took until Tracks of my Tears for many Idol viewers to reach their “aha!” moment about a slightly edgy, make-up wearing singer variously and inaccurately dubbed “emo” or “Goth”. He fooled ‘em. Adam is far removed from either of these labels in attitude, interests and personality. This is a case of people not doing their homework, taking someone else’s word for it. Eventually Adam showed up for the game in a total make-over to cool crooner, unplugged and much to our delight, in one of the many suits predictive of his sartorial future and he was slyly gorgeous. It was the slap in the face many people needed to really sit up and take notice.
Over the weeks, judges sometimes agreed but not always – Ring of Fire! “You can’t please everyone.” He survived.
The AMAs about which we have written before, produced the largest fall-out, yet “If I listened to everything being thrown at me, my head would explode.” Even some of Adam’s fans took offense at the overt homosexuality he exhibited and publicly criticized his actions, but they needn’t have worried, ABC took care of him – right? And who was punished? We were. Adam’s fans were deprived of his appearances on major network shows. Way to go ABC, love ya babe. What does this have to do with criticisms of a book?
Does the same ethic apply here? Should people who have admittedly read only 18 pages of a 240-page book and, worse, those who have not read any of it but based on hearsay and out of context quotations, determine whether or not others should read it? Simply stating a “review” or a criticism of something one has actually read, watched or heard, is of course encouraged. Even stating “I do not recommend this for the following reasons…,” is fair. It is inappropriate to start a campaign including personal attacks, to encourage those who have not read the book, watched the video or heard the song to join in a crusade, based on one person’s judgment drawn from a smidgeon 7.5%, of the contents, which are not fully representative of the thrust of the story whatsoever. This was then sensationalized in an attempt to besmirch a work and its authors.
The charges over which this crusade was waged
The stated offences
1. Sex in the book!!
Recent Quote from Adam “I think just being visible and proud of who I am gives the right message. I think empowerment is a great gift to give to people. And it doesn’t have to be about just my gay fans, I want my female fans to feel comfortable in their own skin and feel sexy. Hopefully my music promotes that.”
It is interesting to note that the only quotes from the book that our accuser cites are the sexy bits with no reference to what the book is actually about. The excerpts that appear are further into the book and are better described as “incendiary fiction”. The fantasies occupy perhaps 10 pages of the book, and they are PG-13, suggestive but hardly pornographic. We are clearly fooling around, writing in a deliberately overwrought, Harlequin romance style to entertain each other and explore the psyches of women who are inexplicably aroused by a gay man. Yes, there is a suggestion of a ménage à trois revolving around a game of Scrabble and massage, although there is not one bleepable word or graphic depiction beyond what one might find in the vastly popular-with-minors Twilight series.
Our accuser made not a single mention of the context for these fictional passages, nor of any other content, story, character, event or analysis. She evinced a prurient fixation on some fantasies that did not appeal to her taste. One commenter expressed surprise at hearing that our book lacked the analysis she had enjoyed on the wow site and our Salon, and that instead “there is all this sex”. We can assure our readers, not one piece of analysis was edited out, it’s all there. Our accusers’ postings misrepresent the book’s contents.
2. Apparently this reviewer felt under-informed by the information about the content of the book on Amazon.com and the same criticism appears on our Salon.
“This is serious stuff ladies. I am appalled by your promotion and plugs to buy this book with no explanation of what this book is even about (there is no description on Amazon AT ALL). That is irresponsible on both of your parts.
At least have the decency to describe what people are buying so that they can make an informed decision about whether to purchase it or not..
I realize you want to make a profit your book. Understandable. Defend yourselves if you must to grown women and men. But in good conscience (if you have one) the books description should, at the very least, include a warning that it MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR PEOPLE UNDER 18.”
From the Amazon listing for On the Meaning of Adam Lambert Product Description, which, contrary to what our accuser had stated, has been posted on Amazon since day one:
“This extraordinary book emerged from the web postings of “Juneau” and “Xena”, serious, mature professional women whose lives were upended by Adam Lambert, the 27-year-old, openly gay singer who rocketed to fame as the runner-up in American Idol’s eighth season. As the American Idols tour rolled across the nation, the women chronicled their obsession, broke open hidden corners of their lives and set free fountains of creativity. Impassioned, insightful, campy and hilarious, their writings veer from the sublime to the ridiculous. No topic is off limits, from religion and Socrates to gay porn. Say they, “No one is more shocked than we are at what we ended up writing.” For more info or to pre-order today, please visit adamlambertbook [dot]com.”
What did we fail to make explicit?
Did it not occur to a single crusader to verify whether or not the book’s Amazon site had a description? Not that we saw, they just accepted someone else’s word.
Generally speaking, books do not come with age warning labels, however when the description points out “No topic is off limits, from religion and Socrates to gay porn,” we feel anyone paying attention will have been sufficiently forewarned. Perhaps our accuser’s complaint should have been with Amazon’s web site, with its unfortunate design that positions the book description below the fold.
3. “Self-indulgent” & “self-promotion at it’s [sic] best”
Autobiographical books can generally be described as “self-indulgent” and ours could perhaps be included in that genre, but it doesn’t really fit. “Self-promotion at it’s best” Well, thank you. What about ourselves does the book promote and how does anyone know after a few pages? Is this a reference to our massive billboard/transit bus/park bench/New York Times advertising?
Here is how the book is described on Juneau’s & Xena’s Salon:
“Juneau and Xena produced the book as an homage to Adam as their muse, who inspired them to write about him, and to chronicle their journey of self discovery, and the emergence of an amazing group of women who shared their passions, pains, wit and warmth in what became a safe and supportive environment. Many women will connect with the stories within the pages – this phenomenon is not exclusive, but universal to a generation.”
4. Readers cannot follow the story
“If I could give it a zero I would. The book is nothing more than blog posts from the author’s [sic] website. It is disjointed and completely unorganized. The author’s [sic] post blog responses to comments you do not even get to read. It is confusing and mere rubbish. If you want to waste your money, this is the perfect book for you! I’ll be selling my copy as fast as I possibly can.”
“…web postings of Juneau and Xena” This is clearly stated up front in the book description. It’s something new and it is admittedly a risk but we decided it’s worth it to capture the pacing and real-time blog experience. That said, there are essays and stories as long as 4,000 words, hardly mere “blog postings”. For ownership and privacy reasons stated in the book’s preface, we did not reproduce most of the other writers’ posts from the blog. The text was carefully edited so that discerning readers could infer the content of the posts to which we were responding. Everyone who reviewed the manuscript assured us the flow was clear, and the intentional ambiguity worked to fire their imaginations about the subtext. But we grant that the style we chose may not work for everyone.
Have we made our case? Have we satisfactorily met the burden of proof to defend ourselves against the charges levied at us?
We say yes we have. The accusations were unfounded. The crusader’s true motives? We decline to speculate.
The Outcome Losers/Winners
If our accuser ‘won’ by preventing people from buying a book on which she pronounced judgment after reading a few pages and posting deliberately selected and sensationalized passages, there are ramifications aside from “protecting the children.”
There are stories contained in the book that she didn’t get to, but someone else might have been interested in:
- There is the story of a woman who finally emerged from the clutches of depression after many years, thanks to the inspiration of Adam Lambert and the amazing group of women she dubbed the Glambertinae. This is a new phenomenon of internet social networking, women finding friends and developing bonds all over the world. In our case, it was our powerful obsession with Adam that we had in common and relationships grew from there. We wrote a tribute to these beautiful women and it’s posted as “A New Year Tribute to the Glambertinae” on our blog. We have heard from other women in similar groups who have had the same experiences.
- The story of a woman “outed” to her family about her Adam infatuation, who confronts the emotional pain of always having to conform to others’ expectations of acceptable behavior as a mother, wife and professional. She sets out through the blog and this book to express her authentic self.
- The story of a mother who through Adam-related activities, develops a much better understanding of her “weird” daughter who had viewed herself as an outsider, a social misfit and had been victimized by the Mean Girl Queen Bee bullies (a familiar archetype) and their cowering “wannabees” of her elementary school. Through Adam’s ability to clearly articulate his experiences, how his parents raised him and by observing and analyzing his steps to success, the mother gained immense insight into her own daughter, as did the daughter into herself and they have grown very close as a result and become much happier. Mom is more confident of her daughter’s future than ever before. Sorry, no sex here.
- The expression of sheer joy in travelling to an American Idols concert with fellow obsessives, the fun, followed by the disappointment at not meeting Adam – this has now become a universal story as thousands of women shared the same experience all over North America and we put words and images to it. Women enjoy reliving the “Summer of Love” by following our stories.
- Our many in-depth analyses of Adam’s impact on us, our psyches and our lives – also now a universal experience and as the words on our blog reflect what many others are thinking, so does our book. We have had the good fortune to meet in person some of women who have read our book, or they send personal emails to thank us for writing a book which helps them to understand themselves and their social or self-imposed “boxes” to break out and fully enjoy life and relationships.
How our critic failed to grasp these stories we cannot explain, other than to say, she along with many other strongly opinionated people either have not read the book or do not understand it. Thankfully many others do and let us know by writing to us. Their comments are posted on our Salon.
Bully Behaviour – et tu Bruté?
We have met the Queen Bee Bully in the virtual school yard and sadly, there are some wannabees who will, at the Queen’s word and not through their own thoughts or research, join the bully’s game. Giving no consideration to contacting us directly, they jumped into the fray behaving as saboteurs. They allowed someone else to do their thinking for them and then they believed they were qualified under some moral sensibility to influence others! Is this the Westboro Baptist Church? Where did we hear this before – “We were just following orders, we didn’t really know what was going on”?
The atmosphere in one forum became toxic to the point where the few who enjoy a chaotic, name-calling fracas remain, repeating the same words like a mantra, trying to outdo each other with being “shocked and appalled” or snickering, while those who understand what a “forum” is, those who bring evidence to the discussion, those who might challenge the instantly accepted “group think” are so offended they quietly back out of the room and close the door behind them.
There is a greater principle at stake here than salving our own mildly bruised egos (we admit, as authors we want everyone to love our baby). Is this not how some other group of people behaved, those who called ABC or who wrote to the FCC about Adam’s performance on the AMA’s, those who without having watched it, just heard about it from someone? It was a parents’ watchdog group, self-appointed censors who rallied their members to make the calls, even if they had not seen the show. After ABC cancelled Adam from appearing on three shows, the group issued a statement saying that while they did launch the call-in campaign, they had not called for ABC to ban Adam, but too little too late. Then it was Juneau and Xena. Who is next? Anything in your past, present or future that might bring down the wrath of the ayatollahs?
We have heard from a number of people requesting explanation or further information about our story which is available right here on our Salon, along with excerpts from the book itself and new entries, which seemed to be of interest to Adam’s fans.
We created “Juneau’s and Xena’s Salon” so people could get to know about us and more importantly how we think and write. We include excerpts and a description of the book, comments, mostly good, all so that potential book buyers would be as well informed as possible. We knew that we had to earn our “writer” credentials. We love writing our blog, it’s a labour of love and we believe unique. It is all original content written by the two of us, with the occasional invited guest.
To claim that we have withheld anything about the book is astonishing and should have been challenged from the beginning by those who instead jumped on the bandwagon. People must learn to demand evidence before agreeing to someone else’s opinion. As should be clear to anyone following our blog, we are evidentiary writers and do not expect anyone to take our word for something without the facts to back us up.
What Happens Next?
Will the campaign move to have the songs of FYE removed from prime-time radio so children’s sensibilities are protected from the rather overt sexual innuendo in the songs? Gay sex, bondage, S&M? And the videos! Will the CD bear a warning label? What is a ménage étoile anyway?
After some people had been revved up to high moral dudgeon, and they did not get satisfaction from us, on whom will they aim their sights next? At this point the very worst comments, particularly those expressing a desire to cause grievous bodily harm to us have been removed.
What did Adam say during the AMA tempest? Something like “Guns are o.k. but sex is not o.k.? I don’t get it.” It appears some people have not got the message.
Our defense rests.
*Who Dares Wins