“The Headache Factory: True Tales of Online Obsession and Madness” by Jim Goad

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Stalking is a misunderstood phenomenon.  People generally don’t spend a great deal of time stalking those they dislike.  Because if you don’t like someone, why waste your time, right?  No, the nastiest, most vicious stalking typically stems from love that is spurned or not reciprocated in the way the sender feels they deserve.  This is the phenomenon that Jim Goad discusses in detail in his new book “The Headache Factory: True Tales of Online Obsession and Madness.”

Goad is a writer who has engendered a great deal of controversy since the publication of his justifiably famous (and infamous) “zine” from the early 1990s “Answer ME!”  I won’t go into Goad’s roller coaster career and life since then, because it has been documented to death in other places.  But to put it mildly, Goad is a polarizing figure who people either love or hate.  I haven’t agreed with a lot of what Goad has said over the years, but he does argue his points extremely well and like him or not, has always been a riveting read, a cross between Christopher Hitchens, Michael O’Donoghue, and post-1992 George Carlin. 

Which is why he probably engenders such an extreme reaction from all sides, most significantly from people that allegedly “love” him.  As Goad writes “Nearly all of my harassers display a pattern of intense idealization followed by extreme devaluation.  One day I’m the Messiah; the next day I’m Satan.”   The most heinous of Goad’s harassers are cataloged extensively in “The Headache Factory.”  Some may question why someone always seems to attract these types of followers, but to be fair, that’s a question that could be asked of any figure in the public realm.  It’s hard to say why certain people obsess over others.  Especially when the person being obsessed over has made it clear “On any given day I am typically trying to avoid people rather than befriend them.” 

But obsess they do.  Goad uses pseudonyms for all but one of his stalkers. The one he addresses specifically by name is a person who, arguably, is better known than Goad.  I won’t reveal this person’s name, because … you need to read the book.  But unlike most of Goad’s stalkers who have done little of note on their own (typically the scenario for most stalkers and trolls), this particular person is a real shocker.  Seriously, why would someone of this notoriety waste their time … and potentially risk their career … harassing Goad?  In addition, there’s another revelation about a best-selling writer from the 1990s who didn’t stalk Goad, but who employed one of Goad’s stalkers.  The revelation didn’t surprise me that much, but it does shed some insight over this particular author’s suicide in 2006.

There’s a thin line between love and hate.  The people who ride that line are examined in detail in “The Headache Factory” … all of them “fans” who didn’t like being ignored or didn’t get the recognition they felt they deserved.  Like a lot of Goad’s writing, “The Headache Factory” is a harrowing, but sometimes funny read.  Dave says check it out.

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