After this Saturday's New York Times published Dylan Farrow's truly disturbing account of sexual abuse she says she suffered at the hands of her adopted father Woody Allen, author Stephen King responded with Tweet about the allegations' "palpable bitchery." After people were, understandably, upset, King responded by apologizing for what he chalks up to very poor word choice.
King's initial stab at apologizing fell a little flat, because, to be frank, 140 characters is hardly sufficient for most apologies. Also, because King didn't really apologize on his first pass; he blamed his ugly words on not knowing his way around Twitter. ("Still learning my way around this thing. Mercy, please.")
But yesterday, he fleshed out his thoughts on his personal website, explaining that he most certainly did use the wrong word, that he can see how his use of "bitchery" could be perceived as an insult to Dylan Farrow, Mia Farrow, or both of them, when it fact it wasn't. He further clarified that he meant to refer to the situation, not the women involved. Besides, he's a big fan of women.
Those of you who follow Twitter will know that recently I managed to put my foot in my mouth and halfway down my throat. A good many people came away from my tweet about the Woody Allen controversy with the idea that I had called Dylan Farrow or Mia Farrow (or both) a bitch. That wasn't my intention, but the conclusion on the part of some readers is understandable. I used the wrong word to describe not Ms. Farrow—either Ms. Farrow—but a sad and painful mess. Some people seem to believe that writers never use the wrong word, but any editor can tell you that's not true.
Those of you who have read my work—Carrie, Dolores Claiborne, Rose Madder, and Lisey's Story, to name four—will know that I have plenty of respect for women, and care about the problems and life-situations they face. My single-mom mother faced plenty, believe me. And I have no sympathy whatever for those who abuse children. I wrote about such abuse—and its ultimate cost to the victim—in Gerald's Game.
The maximum number of letters in a Tweet is 140. I think the following would fit: I apologize for screwing up.
I realize that my acceptance or non-acceptance of the apology matters much less than Dylan and Mia Farrow's acceptance matters, but as far as e-a culpas go, this one sounds sincere. None of the "I'm sorry you were offended" language that actually means "I wish you weren't mad."
Now, Mr. King, please apologize for writing The Shining, a book which I made the mistake of reading before a journey through Colorado and is 50% responsible for any and all adult issues I've had with anxiety.