Empress Theresa | Down the Rabbit Hole

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In late 2013, a man named Norman Boutin self-published a book on Kindle entitled Empress Theresa. The book's page on Amazon was striking, with an amateurish cover depicting a woman of indeterminate age in a collage style drawing. The description was particularly strange, extolling the virtues of the main character and the gripping quality of the novel itself in poor grammar and spelling. The opening of the summary reads: "A teenage Catholic girl from Massachusetts acquires limitless power over the whole world. What will she do with it? What would you do with it?" It goes on to posit that "...you want a strong female? Try 'Empress Theresa'. After reading page 1, no, never mind that, after reading the second paragraph on page 1, you know nothing will stop this girl!" He goes on to describe her as heroic, honest, courageous, brilliant, loved by everybody (even China wants her to take herself out of danger), happily married, powerful but harmless, thoughtful of others' welfare not just her own, a believer in God, and an inspiration to the young and old. He closes by stating that "Empress Theresa is what some people would consider impossible - a book about a good girl with no sex, foul language, or violence, but still giving the reader an action filled fascinating story." On March 14th, 2014, a 464 page print version of the book appeared on the Amazon listing with an updated cover. Farther down the page is Norman's biography. It gives little concrete information about him, but it does offer the claim that Norman worked on the novel for 20 years and that he "Rejected a hundred ideas over the years, keeping only the very best." The book went unnoticed except by certain people he told on internet forums. For example, on writingforums.com, he largely rejects the constructive Criticism given to him, comparing his work to the American classic "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee. He even criticizes it by saying that, quote, "There's at [least] a hundred pages that could be thrown out with no loss to the main story, but at this point who the heck cares!" One commenter replies, "The difference between Harper Lee and you, is that you aren't Harper Lee." For the most part, Norman's comments seem to be trying to justify his book rather than discuss criticism. He writes to one of his critics that, quote, "Either you simply don't understand what you're reading, or you're deliberately picking my sentences out of context from different sources and putting them together as to make me look self contradictory and to make it seem I'm saying something I didn't say. Neither of these two choices is good my young friend." One user, lasm, points out that, quote, "You seem to be convinced that what you have written cannot be improved and that we simply need to be persuaded to like it." This particular discussion lasted for nearly three months, with people criticizing Norman's attitude and Norman vehemently defending his book by proclaiming its quality. And so, unchanged based on criticism, it was published to Amazon for Kindle later in the year. Those people who did read it would often leave one-star reviews, criticizing nearly every aspect of the book. One reviewer under the username smedlock states that, quote, "The novel is filled with poorly written dialog, awkward descriptions, and erroneous character reactions." They go on to criticize how Theresa herself is written. Quote, "Theresa has some disturbing qualities. While the author probably meant to portray her a self-confident child/teen, his writing turns the character into a creepy narcissist. Teresa spends an inordinate amount of time admiring her own body and showing it off. She admires herself in the mirror quite a bit. She talks constantly about her great mane of hair and preens and shows off for television crews and the swooning populace. The author constantly writes about Teresa's perky breasts, cleavage, and rear end as they fill out her clothes, verbiage that again comes across as creepy and stalker-ish", unquote. Another reviewer, Ravi P. Rajkumar, writes that, "Empress Theresa is not a bad book, neither is it a terrible book. It is one of those things that convinces me of the infinite mercy of God. Anything less than infinite mercy would have incinerated this book before it was unleashed on an unsuspecting public." Brent Butler, a top 1000 reviewer for Amazon, says that, quote, "The book reads like an adult man trying to write in the voice of a young girl. Evidently he thinks ten-year-old girls speak in short, choppy, awkward, irritating sentences. Nothing about this first-person narration rings true." Brent also reveals an important detail about Norman's marketing practices. Quote, "Norman is leaving comments under other customers' successful reviews. In those comments he links to his book and leaves lengthy excerpts. This is not allowed under Amazon terms of service, is unethical, is unbelievably annoying, and moreover is just needy and pathetic behavior." A few 5-star reviews exists on the page, but their sincerity is questionable. Matthew Asnip writes, "I have the Paperback edition. For years I have had a small, but embarrassing problem with acne. After rubbing this book over my face all those problems went away and they have stayed that way. Plus the house has smelled 'pine fresh' ever since we opened the box the book came in!" Beyond the Amazon listing, his cover was featured on the blog Lousy Book Covers, where both the original and the updated cover were displayed on April 28th of 2014. Commenters predictably panned Norman's artistic efforts. One user by the name of Tia writes, "The top one reminds me of a book of paper dolls I had as a child. The bottom one is proof that the author has never seen a woman since he has no idea where breasts belong." Norman saw these reviews both on his Amazon page and the Lousy Book Covers blog and acted quickly, posting retaliatory comments in an effort to defend his book from every criticism. On lousybookcovers.com, he demands the site's blogger, Nathan, quote, "Check out my latest and final cover. Notice how far better it is than the graphic design junk you sell to naive writers. I dare you to put it on your website. I know you won't." Nathan retaliated by pinning the latest cover to the front of his page for several days, where both it and Norman were ridiculed and criticized. According to Norman, this new cover took him three months to paint. Back on Amazon, Norman launched a campaign of defensive arguments. Unfortunately his original responses have mostly been removed, but a few remain, mostly as direct responses to the reviews or the comments beneath them Norman's posts are often supported either by Bible verses or by quotes from his book. In one he says, "I learned how conscience-less some people can be in trashing a message they don't like. The message is, 'Someone who wants to do the will of God has an unconquerable ally. Theresa can't be defeated.' --Father Donoughty, page 145" This pattern repeats itself through most of the dialogue. One person writes in response to a deleted comment, quote, "Do you even know what you are saying? This disjointed rambling status post says nothing to the point of whether or not you need professional help be it an editor or a writing mentor. The only type of help it does point to your needing is of another sort of professional entirely." Those comments he couldn't rebut, he removed. smedlock, underneath a small pile of deleted comments, writes, "Dear Potential Readers/Reviewers: The author of this book is apparently having Amazon delete comments that call him out on his behavior." These comment chains would go on for months, often with a significant period of time between posts, but this was nothing compared to what was to come. On December 16th, 2014, an Amazon user by the name of Ben W authored an extensive customer review for Empress Theresa, giving it one star and entitling it "What would you do with a 400+ page rough draft presented as a finished work?" The review went into extensive detail, mocking specific plot points, the poor characterization, the pacing, and the prose itself. Though his criticisms were nothing new, this review would become the site for Norman's grandest argument yet. Predictably, Norman fired back with a lengthy angry diatribe, but this time, his writing captured the interest of a man named Drew Fairweather, author of, among other things, a blog entitled "The Worst Things For Sale". He posted the book's Amazon page to the blog, entitling the post "An Author's Rebuttal". His notes on it were short, saying, quote, "You might look at the cover of Empress Theresa, a 400 page novel featuring a dead-eyed high school drawing of an army woman and think you know what you're getting yourself into. Nope! You'd have to read the author's insane, lengthy rebuttal to a negative review of his book to truly understand the insanity that Norman Boutin is capable of." The post linked directly to Ben W's one-star review and its attached comments, and many of the readers of the blog were transfixed. Some of these visitors from the Worst Things For Sale informed Norman of the blog post while simultaneously heaping criticism onto Norman - sometimes for his book, but mostly for his behavior. As Norman engaged these people, arguments over the definition of a literary classic and reading demographics began, and these arguments quickly spiraled into long posts written by people clearly frustrated with Norman's evasiveness and defensiveness. New commenters, discovering this thread, joined into the discussion to add their own thoughts to the discourse. As more people joined, the number of comments quickly increased. By January 20th, nearly a month later, there were over a dozen posts being made every day. Over time, the comments tended toward criticizing the plot of the book and its author's narcissism, while Norman furiously attempted to fight his detractors. As this was happening, a small wiki in the style of the one made for Christian Weston Chandler and Sonichu was created, chronicling not only his attitude in the comments, but in other arguments online. Together, people found more information, including a post on his Facebook profile stating that he had been working on Empress Theresa not for 20 years, but for 40. The comments he made and the arguments often gave tidbits about his life, though the veracity of some of his statements is questionable. Still, when it was all collated, a clearer image of the man emerged. According to himself, Norman lived in New England, and, at some point he had served in the army as a captain and later as a dentist in 1980, stationed in Germany. He claims to have had two Bachelor's degrees, one in chemistry and the other in nursing, and that he had an IQ of 136. He also claims to have worked as a computer programmer for eight years. The commenters remained dubious about many of his statements, however, as they quickly exposed his habitual lying. For example, he would claim that people made edits to their posts to make him look bad, while the timestamps on the post showed that no edit had been made. To cover up his lies after they were discovered, he would delete comments and claim ignorance. This argument continued for nearly seven months, with people coming and going while a small contingent of commenters remained from the day the book was posted on Drew Fairweather's blog. Today, many of those posts Norman hasn't deleted were edited so that his original statements have been changed to catholic truisms and quotes from the book, closing with his words, "Teresa trusts God. She achieves her true self as intended from eternity. She is a winner." The replies of other commenters, however, remain, and they show that Norman was still arguing issues of plot with his detractors. Drew Fairweather, however, decided to check in on the discussion once again and was alarmed to find the discussion continuing. He made a new post on his blog on the 12th of July, 2015 saying that, quote, "I wrote about this book just a few months ago, pointing out how the author writes long diatribes to explain why his book is good in response to every single piece of criticism he receives. He's still going, and has racked up over a thousand posts, lecturing commenters on why his book is a modern classic. It's a rabbit hole of insanity, but poking your head in won't hurt if you can keep your grip on reality." This second post brought a new wave of interested parties, and they too began commenting against Norman and his book, but by August, most people had lost interest again and the discussion consisted mostly of a few people. Norman Boutin was there, of course, but there were other users under the name of Jim Dandy, D. Jason Fleming, Davey, Brian K. Lallatin, PLJw/KA, and Tom Knighton. Occasionally they would be joined by others, but the vast majority of comments were written by this small body. Every day, they would post over a dozen comments, often retreading the same ground and returning to the same points, with Norman proclaiming both his literary and moral superiority. Deep into this thread, buried in hundreds of pages of comments, some of Norman's comments survive. Their substance is very similar to his original diatribes, but their length is sometimes remarkably long and often quote himself and his book. Weeks ticked by, and the weeks became months, and neither side would give up the argument. New people would come to replace those in the group who left, but the discussion never once subsided, and it managed to maintain a similar pace no matter how long it raged, with posts varying from ten words in length to hundreds. Finally, on November 21st, 2016, nearly two years after the original review was posted, the discussion screeched to an abrupt halt. What none of the commenters seemed to know was that each review was only allowed to have 10,000 comments on it. And so when this limit was reached, the thread automatically locked. Whether these people moved their argument to a new forum or not is uncertain, but if they did, they left no trace of their new sparring location. Another harsh and lengthy review was posted on April 16th, 2017, but as of this video's production, there has been no reply from Norman or any of the original argumentative crew. Still, much of the circular argument remains on the Amazon page: a relic of a strange and absurd clash of egos.
Channel: Fredrik Knudsen
Views: 1,917,684
Rating: 4.9079537 out of 5
Keywords: Amazon, Empress Theresa, Norman Boutin, Down the Rabbit Hole, DtRH, Obsession, Review, comments, The Worst Things for Sale, blog, Lousy Book Covers, awful book cover, delusional artist, Drew Fairweather, documentary
Id: TedsiCaV2B4
Channel Id: undefined
Length: 15min 37sec (937 seconds)
Published: Sun Apr 30 2017
Reddit Comments

The guy who made this video also did a livestream reading sections of the book. Long story short: That book is really, really bad.

(Also, I love the "Down the Rabbit Hole" videos. So interesting!)

πŸ‘οΈŽ︎ 208 πŸ‘€οΈŽ︎ u/Ucantalas πŸ“…οΈŽ︎ Nov 01 2017 πŸ—«︎ replies

General of the army with two ribbons

At least put a little research into it. Also, try a more attainable rank.

πŸ‘οΈŽ︎ 110 πŸ‘€οΈŽ︎ u/Bravo-3-3-1 πŸ“…οΈŽ︎ Nov 01 2017 πŸ—«︎ replies

I read this book with my friends. We're currently about halfway through it and trying to find time to finish. We like to read crap books together though so there's that.

πŸ‘οΈŽ︎ 71 πŸ‘€οΈŽ︎ u/micronerd01 πŸ“…οΈŽ︎ Nov 01 2017 πŸ—«︎ replies

I love Down The Rabbit Hole! More people need to be watching this channel.

πŸ‘οΈŽ︎ 175 πŸ‘€οΈŽ︎ u/ShiversTheNinja πŸ“…οΈŽ︎ Nov 01 2017 πŸ—«︎ replies

This guy puts tons of effort into his videos, and he has so little subscribers. If you like what you see, I think you should sub.

πŸ‘οΈŽ︎ 24 πŸ‘€οΈŽ︎ u/mrtortoise1 πŸ“…οΈŽ︎ Nov 01 2017 πŸ—«︎ replies

I feel like if he spent all the time he spent defending himself to write a new book with the criticism in mind, he might have written a better book. Maybe not a good book, but a better one.

πŸ‘οΈŽ︎ 15 πŸ‘€οΈŽ︎ u/yesthisiswolf πŸ“…οΈŽ︎ Nov 01 2017 πŸ—«︎ replies

Totally love the stream Knudsen did with readings not only from the book, but from the author's equally delusional website.

Guy has this weird obsession with the idea that, when Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, she died from heat exhaustion rather than, you know, burning. Or smoke inhalation, which (depending on variables) would often at least make the subject unconscious fairly quickly in comparison to how fast the fire got them.

So he's obsessed with Catholic teenage girls who are going to save/change the world - and he gets weirder about the stuff than most might imagine.

πŸ‘οΈŽ︎ 13 πŸ‘€οΈŽ︎ u/nun_atoll πŸ“…οΈŽ︎ Nov 01 2017 πŸ—«︎ replies

It reminds me of the "Sonichew" comic stuff, just a little less demented.

πŸ‘οΈŽ︎ 11 πŸ‘€οΈŽ︎ u/Testiculees πŸ“…οΈŽ︎ Nov 01 2017 πŸ—«︎ replies

Anyone else notice the part where he talks about her computer... Her computer named HAL? There's inspiration and then there's plain theft. This dude committed highway robbery.

πŸ‘οΈŽ︎ 5 πŸ‘€οΈŽ︎ u/Subcutaneous_Beauty πŸ“…οΈŽ︎ Nov 06 2017 πŸ—«︎ replies
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