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Archive for April, 2014

Come, ye dusty book ninjas, let us plow the new furrow of No More Reading Crappy Stuff!  Let us ambush ye wankers who wallow in the muck of Crap and slap them upside their heads to the tune of: Read This, Not That!  We could save many a life.

Save Yourself!

Save Yourself!

 

WHY should we read?  I hear it over and over from people with disdain.  People look at the New York Times Best-Seller list or wherever and they say: But I don’t WANT to read that, or anything like it!  Heck, why do so many people read the NYT best-sellers?  Because… they’re advertised?  Because you look for what you’ve previously heard of (hence why people continue to vote for dead folks if their names aren’t removed from ballots).  It’s not because that arbitrary list is actually the BEST POSSIBLE LITERATURE EVER (oh swoon).  It’s usually, unfortunately, an “easy” read.  Which is something that turns off a lot of folk.  Why bother reading the same formulaic story over and over?

You don’t have to settle for mediocre literature!  In fact, we would get more readers if there was an easy way to sift through the barrage of bilge and find what we actually will like.  But unfortunately, most book search sites are unwieldy at best.

The problem of What to Read is widespread.  When you’re in school, EVERYONE reads the same thing.  If you’re less fortunate, you’ll even end up reading the same book over and over in different classes.  And if this same book, or same type of book, is not your cup of muffins, it’s just going to turn you off reading to read it over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over.  Sure, there has to be a “canon” of literature that you at least have a basic understanding of, but if there were different canons, that would be more than lovely!  That could save the adult’s desire to read (R.I.P. Desire to Read).

The number one complaint in book reviews?  “I was forced to read crap like this in school; why should I read it NOW?”

There’s a reason that there are over a hundred channels on television (and still nothing on).  There’s a reason people are turning to services such as Netflix that might offer a broader range of old and new shows.  The problem is, TV pays; publishing… dropped their ball.  The only radio commercial I’ve ever heard for a book was for Danielle Steele (who doesn’t really need much advertising anyway).  And although you’ll find a myriad of posters and ads for books in the UK, you won’t stumble on that much in the US.

So what’s the solution?

People need to understand that there are sooooo many books published in every style, on every topic.  And just because “everyone” (who is Everyone?) is reading something you hate does not mean that you need to start hating on the storytellers of the world.  There’s too many amazing stories being told in beautiful exciting orgiastic ways to lump them all together.  Just because it’s in “print” does not make James Joyce, James Patterson, and Raymond Federman the “same”.  It’s in the same “medium”, yes, but that’s what confuses people.  You flip it open at random and maybe it looks the same… but is it going to make you vomit?  It’s like looking at the inside of your kid sister you just sliced open with your mom’s sheers.  Yeah, she looks EXACTLY like the inside of your little brother that you sliced open with the weed eater.  But the truth is, she’s NOT the same.

***

Read This, Not That!

Okey-dokey, it’s truth time.  I HATED this book.  I finished it.  (Why???)  Because it was about an imaginary friend, which is one of those things that makes me go ooooh and maybe swoon a little.  But let me lament, James Patterson, that this book really sucked.  The characters were tepid and barely thought-out.  It was the same old “I’ve got a problem but I’m a good girl” character flaw.  I was waiting to be blown away by at least a reimagining of the Imaginary Friend literature canon.  But instead?  The plot sucked, the characters sucked, and the writing was… blase.

There are some things that I adore in writing, and one of those is a specific voice, it’s wordplay, it’s using language as God intended.  Make the language sing!  (Okay, there are a LOT of writers who come from the school of thought that language should be a tool, it should remain invisible, and that will make the story itself float to the surface.  Me?  I don’t subscribe to that school.  I usually find the books written by those writers to be fairly boring.)

Will I ever re-read Sundays at Tiffany’s?  Never!

The very first technique employed is the “I’m gonna hook ya, you bloody reader”.  I’ve seen a lot of desperate writers attempt to employ this.  And I blame the agents.  The new agent “Game” is the Five Page Game.  I’m being nice and you have five pages before I throw you out the window, and your little dog, too.  So a lot of writers are turning to this Hook Device.  Which is so far beyond artificial that it’s beyond melodrama.  Melodrama at least has a sense of fun.  The beginning of this book: Oh no, someone’s gonna die!  I won’t say who, but it MIGHT be the main character!  And then, of course, we have to go back in time and tell the actual story, and then lead up to the Climax… which is a Climax for a reason.  But thanks to the Hook Advice, a lot of writers are attempting to start with the Climax and work backwards, just to Hook the reader.  (I have Never seen this work well…)

Device Two, for which I blame several agents (I’ve read the Agent Advice of: always stage your novel in New York City, London, or LA, because no one will be able to understand a regional novel without a flavorful location–to which I blanch and say: that’s one way to alienate a LOT of readers)–half the b0ok was spent extolling the virtues of NYC and how wonderful and how if you don’t live here and can’t go to blah-x place to get ice cream, and can’t stop by Tiffany’s everyday, your life SUCKS and you should probably DIE (save us all the trouble).

Three, totally dropped the ball on the Climax anyway, because, lo and behold, Device Three: There was a misunderstanding.  So everything’s going to be okay.

Regardless, there was not a single thing worth me ever recommending this book to anyone for any reason forevermore the end.  And here I was hopeful… because the Imaginary Friend trope appeared to have pierced the Mainstream Sensibility (which keeps anything “weird” at a distance and only allows it to visit once a year for Christmas).

So let me please oh please oh please remove this book from the entire world and replace it with:

Winkie by Clifford Chase.

Re-readable?  Yuppers!

It’s the story of a teddy bear.  Who miraculously comes to life.  Yet stays a teddy.  (None of this Velveteen Rabbit stuff…  Although, on the plus side, the writer had actually done his homework and made several references back to such tales, so we would all KNOW he did his homework.)  (ASIDE: This is the reason so many professors try to push students to learn a core group of books–the difference is, instead of the misguided philosophy of One Size Fits All, this allows for people to study the books that are written in the style or about a subject they will love, and learn the entire canon of “imaginary” friend literature.  Sure, it’s okay to read great classics, but be openminded about the new classics!)  And.  The teddy bear.  Is charged with.  Terrorism.

I hate “terrorism” novels.

I love Winkie.  The greatest thing is that Clifford Chase not only starts out writing a satire, he is able to end by writing a satire.  There are far too many authors who start out writing one type of story, then fear that someone won’t take them seriously, and so then they break the Pact With the Reader, and suddenly decide to turn a book into something else.  But Chase manages to start with a certain tone and he never broke my pact.  I really appreciate that.

There are some reviewers of this book who thought it over the top that the government decided to charge a teddy bear with terrorism.  But that’s the point!  It’s farce!  It’s high farce!  And!  The Trial of the Teddy just gets better as they bring in the line of witnesses (no spoiler, as it’s too gooey as is).  See, when you write a comedy (even a serious comedy), the problem is that there are way too many people who don’t have a sense of humor, or don’t realize that a sense of humor is too distinct.  That’s why so few comedies are published, in comparison with “serious” or “mainstream” fiction.  With serious fiction, you know where you stand.  You must frown and say, Oh, too bad, that’s awful.  But with a comedy, too many people don’t know where they stand, and when they’re uncertain, they simply rail against it as an art.  Oh that’s not funny!  (You’re not funny!)

It’s soooo hard to pull off over-the-top farce, and I give Chase kudos for not only doing so, but then finding a mainstream publisher.  (That’s some sort of miracle!)

***

Unto you all, I say: Read Winkie, NOT Sundays at Tiffany’s.  It may save your life.  Or keep you from indigestion.

night,

dawn

 

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