Dear Mr. O’Driscoll,
I am little more than halfway through your novella “Eyepennies”. And I am not sure I can continue. This book that you wrote “for [Mark]” is more shocking and depraved than I could have imagined. I understand you to be a horror-oriented writer, and as such, perhaps my take on your work somehow satisfies you, and if that is so, than I feel even more pity for you than I already do, which is considerable.
You are pitiable, because in the guise of trying to write a book about a great artist that supposedly inspired you, you instead have raped the memory of a dead man that is not here to defend himself against the wild characterization of him that you put forth in this story. A man who continues to be loved by his family and his fans, and who have reacted with horror and disbelief at what you have written. Can you say “Too soon”? Because it is WAY too soon for something as loathsome as this book.
You cannot defend this work by trying to say it is not supposed to be about Mark. You cannot take elements of his real life and cast them into a story such as this without giving uninformed readers the impression that this was how Mark actually was in real life. You speak with a voice of intimate knowledge of Mark’s thoughts, words and actions. But most of things you have written are not true. And yet there they are, right next to things that are. As well as familiar places (Bremo Bluff), barely concealed names of associates (Shelly Breece or whatever ridiculous pseudonym you came up with for Shelby Meade), etc. etc. How is anyone supposed to know what is real here, and what is not?
And even if the things you wrote were true, how would it ever be your business to write about them? Mark was an extremely private person, and he talked little, if any, about his personal life. How could you have such knowledge and insight into his persona? You have none. You cannot make up things as terrible as you have about Mark without upsetting people, and let me assure you that you have. Did you think we wouldn’t care about you subverting his memory in this way? Because we do care. A great deal. To take his life and use it as fodder for what is essentially a horror novel, when his loss is still an open wound for many of us, is beyond heartless and profoundly insulting.
You write of Mark (or someone VERY much like him) as some more than half-dead semi-wraith, essentially a walking dead man without a soul. I’m wondering how, as an alleged fan of Mark, you could reconcile the notion of a half-dead and soulless individual writing and recording something as beautiful and moving as “Hundreds of Sparrows” or “Junebug”, or “Sea of Teeth”, and of course, many others? All recorded after Mark’s accident, which in your mind or at least certainly in your story, turned him into something little better than a monster. In real life, Mark suffered the crippling effects of depression and addiction, and paid the ultimate price. But throughout, he was never less than a human being, a man, and a Southern gentleman. We are all aware of his flaws. But we’d prefer to celebrate the unique and brilliant art that he left us with rather than dwelling on his personal demons.
So it’s all really pretty puzzling, but we are greatly saddened that you have chosen to victimize Mark and his family for the sake of your own so-called art. We hope our readers will not succumb to morbid curiosity to pay money for your book so they can see for themselves how bad it really is. I would hope if anyone must read it, that they seek it out at a library or obtain it through some method that results in your not getting a single dime for it. I know you’ve gained accolades with your writing, and you appear to have ability in this realm. But I think those that have praised this work are people that you have swindled into believing that Mark was as you said. The people that I know that are the family, friends and fans of Mark disdainfully and utterly reject your book.
John Ryder (sparkleon.org site co-admin)