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Special Reports


1 April 2009

Audrey Niffenegger Subject of Congressional Hearings

by Paoli du Flippi

Best-selling author Audrey Niffenegger was grilled by the US Senate for over eight hours today on the subject of her recent five-million dollar advance for a new ghost novel to be titled Her Fearful Symmetry.

The titian-haired scribe failed miserably to explain herself to the probers, exhibiting tremors, stuttering and flopsweat, and she has emerged from these hearings as the biggest national villain since Bernie Madoff or AIG.  YouTube clips of her meltdown have been viewed over one million times in the past twenty-four hours.

Senator Barney Frank (D-MA) led the assault on the wan and wealthy wordmonger, first criticizing the quality of her products.

"Ms. Niffenegger, is it not true that the basic conceit of your novel The Time-Traveler's Wife was nothing more than a direct rip-off of Billy Pilgrim's plight in Kurt Vonnegut's masterpiece Slaughterhouse-Five, gussied up for a non-genre audience?  How can we be sure that Her Fearful Symmetry will not exhibit a similar — shall we say, 'derivative' — approach?  Perhaps you'll appropriate the work of famed ghost writer M.R. James for your latest, or even the hard-won concepts of some living author, such as Tim Powers or Graham Joyce.  I hardly think such an 'homage' represents five million dollars worth of value!"

But assaults on the quality of her prose, plotting and conceits were but the opening salvo.  The real damage occurred in the following exchange.

SENATOR FRANK:  Ms. Niffenegger, I assume that a person has to be at least semi-literate to pick up one of your books.

MS. NIFFENEGGER:  Why, yes, of course, my readers are all highly literate —

SENATOR FRANK:  Just as I thought!  And how do you think your readers became literate?  Through the public school system, for the most part!  A system funded with taxpayers' dollars!  Ms. Niffenegger, I contend that without taxpayer support, you would not be able to earn one penny from your so-called writings!

Although hardly necessary at this point, Senator Frank and the others followed up by adducing Ms. Niffenegger's dayjob as a faculty member at Columbia College Chicago, Center for Book and Paper Arts, and the huge sums she earned for the movie sale of The Time-Traveler's Wife (starring Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana, and due in theaters next year!) as further evidence of her rampant greed.

"Do you know," Senator Frank concluded, "how many starving midlist authors that five million dollars could support?  At least one hundred!  A thousand times that many, if they all lived like Howard Waldrop!"

The only moment of sympathy for Niffenegger came when crazed loose-cannon Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) said, "C'mon, Ms. Niffenegger, what's with the Joyce Carol Oates look?  The scraggly hair, the glasses, the black outfits?  You two share the same stylist or something?  Can't you even develop your own hairdo?"

Senator Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) allowed Ms. Niffenegger to cry on her shoulder, while Pelosi scowled at Bunning.

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