Guilt By Association: The Injunction Hearing

Well kids, this week’s installment is at the end of the week instead of the beginning because my body decided that having a food allergy attack so I had to be doped up on Benadryl was a good way to keep me away from this barely readable novel. As I keep mentioning by calling our hero lawyer variations on, “Author Avatar Peter,” the character is a pretty obvious self-insert author avatar, down to the character matching an idealized depiction of his physical characteristics, and while Farris has mixed some things up so it’s not a one-to-one match, he’s not a good enough writer that it’s not obvious that he sees the character as an especially heroic version of himself. It’s time to soldier on, because as unreadable as this book is, it’s a glimpse into the mind of Michael Farris and this stuff needs to be documented so it’s out there.

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Guilt By Association: The series returns

It’s time to dust the series off because in the intervening two years the changes in the political climate and Michael Farris’s recent hire as president of Alliance Defending Freedom makes this especially relevant. When I started writing this series in 2015, it was an experiment in the serial book review format, and the book was only relevant to a small niche of people researching the religious right and the Christian homeschool movement. Today, Michael Farris is no longer the fringe religious right figure who I used to describe as the most influential man in the religious right that no one ever heard of […]

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Guilt By Association: Plot Twist!

Chapter Six take two | Main | Recap Alright, my pretties. I had to take a bit of a break because this book was driving me batty, but now I’m back and ready to go so let’s jump right in to chapter seven. Rhonda is pacing the clinic hallways nervously while waiting for the results of a pregnancy test. PLOT TWIST! She’s pregnant! Now, maybe it’s just me, but I’d think that a doctor would be a wee bit more careful in the not-having-unprotected-sex-with-your-serial-cheater-ex-boyfriend department. You know, the whole STD thing and all. Since Farris hasn’t given us anything about her lamenting her failed birth control pills or a broken condom (something I half expected, all the better to carry on the contraceptives-don’t-work meme), evidently we’re supposed to assume that she just wasn’t using anything. I’m not much of a fan of storylines that require us to assume that our characters are unnaturally flaky or uninformed. This is what happens when you set out to write a novel because you have a specific message in mind rather than allowing your characters to drive the story. Oh, and it’s specifically noted for us that she received a “How to Have Peace With God” pamphlet in the mail with the note, “We love you, Dr. Marsano. We pray for you every day. And for the babies.” As I’m sure this will pop up again later, from here on out I shall refer to it as Checkov’s Pamphlet. Switching gears, Author Avatar Lawyer Peter arrived in Seattle and is now being ferried to Bellingham by Colonel Control Freak. We get a bit about how the Creepy Colonel has learned from this whole pro-life activism thing that children are a blessing, and wishes he’d had more children if only military life hadn’t been so stressful.[…]

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Guilt By Association: You got served

Chapter Six take one | Main | Chapter Seven Last time we ended with me urging Suzie to run as far and as fast as she could away from the rest of our Merry Band of Protesters before they destroyed her life. This being a novel written by Michael Farris instead of me, of course that didn’t happen. Instead, Suzie triumphantly goes to call Author Avatar Peter Barron for help. Saintly Mom Gwen, now Gwen Barron, takes the call and seems utterly surprised that Suzie might call her from the other side of the state. Naturally, Gwen thinks Suzie must be joking when she says she’s being sued for a million dollars. Let’s think about this a minute Gwen. You’re surprised to get a phone call from Suzie since she’s off in Bellingham, suggesting that Suzie must not call them up on the random while she’s at school. That’s a pretty big hint that if she’s making a long distance call on a Saturday morning it must be something important. So of course the appropriate reaction is to ask if it’s a joke. Oh well, Gwen is the one who almost kidnapped her kid out of foster care in the last book, no one ever accused her of having common sense. Poor Suzie almost starts crying, wondering, “Why won’t anyone believe me this morning?” Move far, far away from all of these people and change your name, Suzie, it’s for the best. Aaaaaaand, of course the conversation with Author Avatar Peter gets passed off to the Creepy Colonel Control Freak and Pastor Randy Wallace while the women wait in the other room. Couldn’t possibly have the women contribute to their own defense, nope, that’s men’s work. By the way, anybody think it’s the least bit odd that Suzie is getting sued[…]

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Guilt By Association: Here comes the lawsuit

Interlude | Main | Chapter Six take two Hello my pretties, are you ready to find out what happens next with our Merry Band of Protesters? I can’t wait! Remember last time we were left with Vince, who really needs to grow a mustache so he can start twirling it, and Rhonda meeting with the clinic owners and their lawyers in LA to plot out a lawsuit against our poor innocent protesters who have never done anything wrong (except of course for the time that random college student protester tried to punch a guy, but we’ll ignore that because he was egged on by Stephen Vince). I still don’t think a name partner at a major law firm would go along with knowingly submitting a doctored tape in to evidence, but whatevs. Creepy Colonel Control Freak is mad, very mad. He’s being sued in federal court, even after all of his control freak efforts to make sure the protesters behaved. While he’s busy storming about the room, poor little Suzie is sitting quivering in fear over the lawsuit. “She was being sued in federal court–one million dollars plus attorney fees. Suzie O’Dell, college sophomore and mobster.” The mobster thing must mean this is a RICO action, so I’m super stoked because I know all about the controlling legal precedent. I researched NOW v. Scheidler back when I was writing a paper on everyone’s favorite masked internet vigilantes, Anonymous. We shall see whether Michael Farris knows what he’s talking about with RICO and it will be splendid. Creepy Colonel Control Freak is still ranting and raving. “I will have this lawyer’s license. He has to know all this is a wicked sham. These people have no shame, no, shame!” The colonel’s voice echoed down the hallway. “How can these people say these things?”[…]

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Guilt By Association: Kathryn gets meta

Chapter 5 part deux | Main | Chapter Six part one Sorry, no animated GIFs for this one. I want to take a moment to step back from reading the book to discuss a few things. This review series isn’t going as I expected, which I suppose is what happens when you set out to review a book before you’ve read anything but the book jacket. The initial plan was to write this series mainly as an experiment to get practice writing this style of book review with something that I knew I could get at least some mileage out of. Even though the book is about clinic protesters, I really didn’t even want to go into discussing the abortion issue because it’s a political wedge issue designed to get people to vote for politicians who are acting against their best interests, and it’s a fight I don’t want to have. What I’ve gotten from this experiment though, is a book that’s time warped me back to a formative period in my own history that I still don’t quite know how to process. I was twelve when David Gunn was murdered. This was early 1993 and news traveled a lot slower in those days. I didn’t know when I stepped in front of a bank of news cameras and microphones that day in Tallahassee to argue that the pro-life movement was peaceful that it had turned deadly earlier that morning. Wendy Wright had gotten word but she sent me out in front of the cameras anyway, even though she knew everything I had planned to say was now a lie. I wasn’t quite fourteen the day I was standing in front of an abortion clinic handing out literature when two clinic escorts came over and started screaming at me about two people[…]

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Guilt by Association: Now illustrated with Freddie Prinze Jr. GIFs

Chapter 5 take one | Main | Interlude — Well kiddies, because I know you’re all dying to find out what happens next, I’ve decided to venture back in to be belly of the beast and power the rest of my way through chapter 5. I think I’m going to mix things up a bit since these long chapters of mind-numbing exposition aren’t lending themselves well to reaction comments as I read. Instead, I’ll write some overall impressions after I finish the chapter. Turns out I gave up on the chapter just before it got interesting. For one, now we know why Farris had Rhonda notice that Single Person Lisa wasn’t as attractive as Ginny (who I can’t really call “Handsy Ginny” anymore since she’s basically become a persona non grata in the story). It’s so that it’s plausible that Single Person Lisa is rapidly falling head over heels for Stephen, I mean Vince, who is way more handsome than any guy who has ever paid her attention. Did Michael Farris spend the better part of the ‘90s watching teen romcoms or something, because I swear that this hot-guy-chasing-movie-ugly-chick-for-nefarious-purposes trope is straight out of the sort of movie Freddie Prinze Jr. would have starred in. You know what, I’m just going to illustrate the rest of this post with GIFs from Freddie Prinze Jr. movies, because I can. By the way, wasn’t Bugle Boy an awfully dated fashion reference by the late ‘90s? Because Farris specifically notes that Stephen, I mean, Vince is wearing a sport coat and white Bugle Boy shirt. Just another anachronism, like him apparently being unaware that cappuccinos were a thing outside of Seattle by the time his book was written. Anyway, Vince as Stephen is trying to infiltrate the college students so he can radicalize them[…]

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Guilt By Association: Let’s build a strawman

Chapter Four | Main | Chapter Five and a half I think I’ve figured out why this book is bugging me so much. I spent the better part of the ‘90s—the decade when this was written—on the front lines of the pro-life movement. I know what that the movement was like in that time period because I lived it and the world Michael Farris has created is not the world I knew. My memories about that time and the people I knew are a mixed bag of good, bad, and indifferent, and I’m conflicted about a lot of it, but one thing I know for sure is that I don’t recognize any of it in our Merry Band of Protesters. It’s all cardboard cutouts. If Farris is doing anyone a disservice with this novel, it’s pro-life activists. With that bit of meta discussion out of the way, strap into your seats, it’s time for chapter five. Aww geez. “”Doctor, is it … is it killing?” the woman asked with eyes that pleaded for the truth.” If there was a way to lay it on any thicker, I can’t imagine one. This has ventured into Very Special Episode territory. It’s a discussion of abortion that would be right at home on my favorite hatewatch show (may it rest in peace), Secret Life of the American Teenager, which was my favorite because all of the characters were cardboard cutouts and every other episode was a Very Special Episode. Kind of like this book, now that I think of it. Thus far I’ve seen no indication that Farris is even aware of why women might choose abortion. You’re not going to save any babies from abortion if you don’t understand why women have them. That’s like pro-life activism 101. Seriously, the I-was-a-teenage-activist part of[…]

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Guilt By Association: Our Merry Band of Protesters demonstrates that they’re The World’s Most Naive Activists

Chapter Three | Main | Chapter Five — Welp, I made the mistake of trying to knock out a few days worth of posts in one day, and after taking a break to watch Agents of Shield (if you’re not watching it yet, seriously do, it’s getting really good), I decided to power on to chapter four. I now remember why livetweeting Anonymous Tip over the course of a few days was such a chore. Michael Farris’ writing style can best be described as, “trying to write a novel like it’s a legal brief.” The whole thing is stilted and not at all like people actually talk in real life. I’m pretty sure my middle school attempt at Hardy Boys fan fiction was more true to life, and that story included the Hardy Boys thinking someone was trying to sell them weed when they were really being offered “pizza hash,” a delicious pizza with a bunch of random toppings (I’m only just now realizing that sounds like excellent stoner food). Enough about my Hardy Boys fanfic though, on to the story. The first part of the chapter is rather dull, blah blah, detailed description of the outside of Creepy Colonel’s house, blah blah, Suzie likes to show up early for their pro-life meetings because she likes being in a real home instead of her heathen coed dorm, blah blah, Suzie is super polite, blah blah, I’m putting myself to sleep just typing it out. Also, college is the farthest away from home Suzie has ever been, even though it’s only 360 miles. Oh, and Shirley Alper rode there with Pastor Randy Wallace because she doesn’t like driving at night, apparently because she’s sixty-five going on ninety. I continue to hold fast to my assertion that Colonel Danners is creepy, he just[…]

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Guilt By Association: Volvo-driving Doctor Rhonda’s backstory

Chapter Two | Main | Chapter Four — Well kiddies, today we get to meet the Volvo-driving Dr. Rhonda Marsano, abortionist at the wordily named Whatcom Women’s Center For Choice. I can’t wait! Hmm, this doesn’t bode well for our Volvo-driving doctor, Farris is humanizing her. I mean, it could be possible that he suddenly learned how to write well-rounded characters instead of cookie cutter villains, but the first two chapters haven’t really supported that theory. However, killing her off in a fire as punishment for selling out and going to work at an abortion clinic sounds about right. We shall soon see. Anyway, Volvo-driving Dr. Rhonda grew up in a New York City bedroom community in New Jersey, to an NBC accountant father and part-time Rutgers librarian mother. Italian Catholics, because we’ve got to introduce tension and the idea that she should have known better. As I said though, it seems like Farris is trying to humanize her, so maybe this is just his attempt at sketching out backstory. Adding to the idea that we’re at least somewhat supposed to sympathize with Rhonda is the information that her father died during the last part of her senior year and her mother had to struggle to help her finish school. This part confuses me because her college should have been paid for through the end of the semester, it’s not like universities operate on the installment plan (as nice as that idea is). In any case, because of her father’s death, Rhonda isn’t going to be able to go to medical school. Again, I’m a bit confused, I know PHC doesn’t take federal monies, but doesn’t Farris know about student loans? It’s not like her parents would be able to finance med school on an accountant and a part-time librarian’s salary[…]

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