Tuesday, July 19, 2011


You May Have Read Rachel Sontag's Awesome Memoir About Her Dad

...House Rules (not to be confused with the Jodi Picoult novel, not that you would), which was really well-received and sort of WHOA, FOR SERIOUS? and everything, but did you ever run across her dad's completely incoherent rebuttal website?

(Worth a look even if this is the first time you've heard about House Rules.)

Let's just say that dredging up the weird apology letters you made your kid write and posting billions of pictures of your family vacations (no true defense in a post-Clark-Griswold society) and being generally beyond hyped-up is not a great way to refute your daughter's suggestion that you're a controlling Crazy McCrazypants with a Stockholm-y wife.

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That website is just all kinds of crazy -- particularly the controlling, manipulative-seeming kind:

"We once brought home two dozen boxes so that you would be free to carry out your threats to move out of the house.

We thought you would be happy – especially with the tough, sturdy new cardboard boxes that would repel rain.

But no. Instead of being appreciative of the strong handsome boxes, you just gave us one of your looks and returned to your room. That’s no way to treat people bearing gifts. It took a lot of work on our part to find those nice boxes and to put them all outside your room. We even offered to help you move."

Oh no, it doesn't sound weird when you complain about your daughter not liking the nice boxes you got her when she threatened to move out! It doesn't sound passive-aggressive or manipulative! You're the good one here, we get it.

Also, the page where you get to click whether you'll do something nice now, as a result of reading this website? I clicked "no" out of spite, and also because WHAT?


@Quinciferous I totally clicked NO and it timed out. Fitting

Pound of Salt

OMG that site is enthralling. Love the 90s-isms: "I'm sending you a copy of something I typed at home and printed on the laser printer at work." He almost sounds like a normal dad, except..

The letter where he tells her that on his 16th birthday he planned his own surprise party with a friend - even picking out what gifts he wanted to receive - and is practicing his surprised face when he shows up at the house, rings the doorbell, and no one is there?! That is summing this guy up to me.


Now the OCD side of me really wants to start a Goodreads shelf of Books I Discovered Because of The Hairpin.


the piechart? showing how little of the "Sontag Archives" were put on the website? i die.


@teenie Seriously, yes! What, you didn't digitize every scrap of paper in your entire house? I no longer have faith in this website's unyielding neutrality!


@teenie Followed by the photo of dad with a gun...jesus h christ.


This is like the Timecube of abusive fathers.


What is this, I don't even. :(


Okay, reading his writing broke me. Reading that honestly made me a little sick, it makes my skin crawl. I only read one story, Rage, Taste of Chicago (what?) but you could tell, he is not doing himself any favors. So clearly controlling.

Oh god, oh god, I don't know, my parents were perfect, but this is a situation that I emphasize with. Once I had a guy (creepy boss) write something like this, where he attacks you but in that tone, the tone is pitch-perfect: patronizing and sure he is right but sort of disappointed, but ready to FORGIVE, you know? Because he's a good, patient person who has to deal with a lot from you. and it shows clearly that he is crazy, the words are crazy and you know it, but it feels awful and scary. Ugh. I hated that, which was, like, once, and some random f'ing dude I no longer worked for.

And it's so insideous, It's just everything is not quite over the line, he could almost be normal. WHAT IS WRONG WITH HIM, HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

Putting this book on my list to read!

Hana Maru

@Marzipan Having a psychologically abusive father, this rings very true.


And did you see the photo from 1298? They were here 200 years before Columbus and they have the photos to prove.. wait..

Rachel Kramer Bussel@facebook

It's like he's never heard the phrase "though dost protest too much." Without having read the book, I can safely say that website is super disturbing. And totally self-aggrandizing - check this out from near the end of his diatribes:

Dear Visitor:

Thank you for suffering through this site with no guarantee that you would emerge the same person.

We are determined to make something good come from this site, which was constructed to set things right – or at least give you a glimpse into the interesting but humble, and dynamic but private life of the Sontag parents.

We ask you – the visitor – whether you would be willing to commit to performing a single act of goodwill that you normally would not have done had you not read this website. Even helping a person across the street (if you would not have done so before this reading) would make the world a little bit better. We could then conclude that because you read this site, the world is better off.


@Rachel Kramer Bussel@facebook I think my good deed will be to take any opportunity I can find to volunteer with young and impressionable girls and work with them to boost their self esteem, give them a voice, and do my best to be sure they understand that they do not deserve any kind of abuse ever, including the type laid out here. It's amazing she was able to overcome this!
Not sure if I could actually stomach the book but I'm so curious about her sister and if she is actually as happy as the father claims she is.


I feel sure he has deleted all comments left in the guestbook except for the two that prescribe to his formula of roost-ruling.


@sox My thoughts exactly. God this website is addictive.


I can't be the only person who watches Doctor Who, saw that picture and thought "OMG THE SILENCE THE SILENCE AHHHH!"

Nicole Cliffe

@Susanna@twitter YES, right??

Erica Southward@facebook

oh I cannot wait to read this memoir



"I am not a person who is easily scared. My days of quality time bonding in Africa with the Egyptian Army, the Eritrean Liberation Front, the Congo (Democratic Republic of) militias and mercenaries, and the Palestine Liberation Army (original name) as well as my weeks in the African jungles and Sahel deserts, the time spent with the Gypsy communities of Romania and Yugoslavia, and inspiring moments with the Harijan of the Indian subcontinent have taught me a great deal about people. For the most part, life can be swept away without a moment’s notice. On the other hand, there is so much one can do to prevent it – or at least try to prevent it.

Nor am I a person who is prone to depression. The last time I remember being really depressed was in the eighth grade, when I lost a street flight. It wasn’t because I was beaten to a pulp, or because my face was swollen and bloody, or because it hurt to breathe. No, I could handle that stuff as long as I could keep my mother from learning about it. It was the fact that I had let down the guys – the guys who expected me to win. A white had lost to a Puerto Rican, and it was my fault. I let it happen. I was depressed, but I was never scared."

Wow. Wow. a white....wow....


@E Are you fucking kidding me.


Wait, which Congo?

Talk about keeping score.

Feminist Killjoy


Nicole Cliffe

The book is highly recommended. She's a great writer, and it's a tribute to her that only, like, two of her Amazon reviews are all 'I read this right after the Glass Castle and just can't get worked up about her pain-in-the-ass middle class childhood.'


I'm so... I can't... does he honestly think that this is helping?

Kitten Mittens

Reading through some of the Amazon comments (and that ghastly website), I'm always amazed at how many people have a rubric for how abuse victims "should" and "should not" behave. (When a child smiles for a photo, that means they've never been abused, by the way. The fact that her abusive father is a control freak, one who would probably punish her for NOT smiling for the camera, is irrelevant! If she was a Real Abuse Victim, she knows not to turn that frown upside-down!)


This is like a Nam-flash back for me! I studied in America as a 16 year old and the woman I lived with was like this. She would leave horrible passive-agressive notes, I wasn't allowed to have friends over if she wasn't there, even on my 16th birthday she yelled at me in front of friends because I DARED to open a gift without her in the room. I see her personality in this website. In some ways, this kind of behaviour is worse than being beaten, because it stays with you forever, that gnawing feeling that... maybe they're right? maybe you are terrible and they're just pointing it out? It becomes a part of you and molds your brain to that way of thinking. Oh my gosh, the boxes thing just killed me. I want to read her book but I don't think I could! I just want to give her a hug and say 'it's not you, it's your crazy mo-fo dad!'


I think the scariest thing is that he is A DOCTOR who can PRESCRIBE MEDICATION FOR PEOPLE.

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