Cryin’ Bob Butler

With apologies to Johnny Ray’s “Cry” …

If your sweetheart leaves you for an older man,
It’s no secret you’ll feel better if you slam … her.
When waking from a bad dream,
Don’t you sometimes think it’s real?
But it’s only false emotions that you feel.

If your heartaches seem to hang around too long,
And your blues keep getting bluer with each song,
Remember hope can be found at the end of your hand.
So pour your vengeance into an e-mail and click “SEND.”

Pulitzer Prize winning author Robert Olen Butler, has found the Internet way of dealing with a broken heart. When his wife, Elizabeth Dewberry, left him to join the Ted Turner Collection, he poured his feelings into an e-mail and sent it only to his university’s department. They would need to know the details of the break-up of his marriage. The thoughtful academics and young students should be warned that marrying a woman young enough to be one’s daughter is no guarantee that she will NOT leave you for a grandfather surrogate. It’s not so evil, as before clicking “SEND”, he showed the e-mail to his weepy wife who weepingly agreed that the world needed to know all the personal details of her twelve year marriage to him, plus her sexual and medical history from childhood onward. It was not like he disclosed her social security number or anything bad like that.

HI ALL – FROM BOB (PS – Forward this e-mail to everyone you know. If you need more details, just write me.)

Rumors will soon be swirling around the department, so I want to tell the full and nuanced story to the five of you among the graduate students and ask that you clarify the issues for any of your fellow grad students who ask. This sort of thing can get wildly distorted pretty quickly. You can feel free to use any part or all of this email to do so. I really appreciate your help.

Put down your cup of coffee or you might spill it.

Elizabeth is leaving me for Ted Turner.

She and I will remain the best of friends. She also knows about, endorses, and even encourages that I tell this much detail of the story:
She has spoken openly in her work and in her public life of the fact that she was molested by her grandfather from an early age, a molestation that was known and tacitly condoned by her radically Evangelical Christian parents. She then went into a decade-long abusive marriage. I met her when she was in a terminally desperate state from this lifetime of abuse, and we married and we truly loved each other.

I was able to help her a great deal. She says I saved her life. But de facto therapy as the initial foundation of a marriage eventually sucks the life out of a relationship. And it is very common for a woman to be drawn to men who remind them of their childhood abusers. Ted is such a man, though fortunately, he is far from being abusive. From all that I can tell, he is kind to her, loyal, considerate, and devoted to his family, and perhaps, therefore, he can redeem some things for her.

Further, Elizabeth has never been able to step out of the shadow of the Pulitzer. As you know-and she knows-I have been an avid admirer and supporter of her work. Everyone has heard me proclaim my sincere high regard for her as an artist. I often did this publicly. But she has published two brilliant novels since she’s been with me and neither has gotten anywhere near the recognition that they richly deserve. That made it harder and harder for her to live with the ongoing praise and opportunity that flows to a Pulitzer winner. Not because of jealousy. She has always been very happy for me. But the multitude of small reflections of regard that came my way inevitably threw a spotlight on the absence of those expressions of regard for her. She felt as if she was failing as a writer.

Then, in March, she nearly died from an intestinal blockage in Argentina while on a trip with Ted. The trauma of that led her further to profoundly question her own identity. It became clear to her that the only way she can truly find herself is by making this change in her life.

She will not be Ted’s only girlfriend. Ted is permanently and avowedly non-monogamous. But though he has several girlfriends, it is a very small number, and he does not take them up lightly and he gives them his absolute support when he does. And Elizabeth’s leaving me is as much about the three weeks a month she is alone as it is about the week a month she is with Ted. She will find her own space and her own light in which to create the great works of art she is destined to create.

I will keep my house. I will keep my dogs and cats. I will keep virtually everything. She is being characteristically generous about that. But I will lose Elizabeth. And that is very sad. But the loss has been happening through many years of our shared struggle to make her whole. In that, I’ve done all I can do, as has she. I wish her the best. I ask you not to think ill of her in any way.

Elizabeth and I will now conduct ourselves as if this is public knowledge. So as I suggested at the outset, you need not keep this to yourself, if the occasion arises to speak of it to someone. This is best anyway, since I am not up to the task of telling this story over and over.

I have a high regard and affection for the students in our program. I hope this will help them sort out this rather intense story in an appropriate way.
Best,
Bob Butler

As you know, MONEY CHANGES EVERYTHING, and it will compensate poor little Elizabeth for those twelve years she endured living in the shadow of “MY” Pulitzer. BB

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