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Archive for the ‘Kamikaze Adult Literacy Campaign’ Category

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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So you say there are no good books coming out nowadays, it’s all dried up like that sack of worms you left on the porch last fall?

Try this: The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones written by Jack Wolf.

So you think all literary writing has to be needlessly dull and artlessly depressing?

You think literary writing can’t be dark, sinister, and still touch the deep issues?

Well, you would be wrong, chump!

Read this or Raw Head will come for you in your sleep.

Read this or Raw Head will come for you in your sleep.

 

The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones is part fairy tale, part sinister probing into the dark recesses of the human condition, part historical portrayal of the early years of modern medicine.

One thing I appreciated about the tale is that it never felt inevitable.  The character actually underwent the changes in psyche while we were there with him.  (And the moments of non-lucidity were grand fun, to boot!)  But I never felt like, Oh, yes, of course that’s what’s going to happen.  Also, the mix of a magical fairy realm overlapping the stark reality was both fun to read and added an extra element of suspense.  There was something for every type of reader to hold onto, be it psychological suspense, a glimpse into the medical side of early psychiatry, a treatise on the use of criminal bodies for autopsy so medical schools would not have to resort to body snatching (a major crime that popped up back in that era!), or the magical flitters we couldn’t quite grasp because they were at once real and not quite.

Also, for you writers out there who think “it can’t be done, publishing is all dried up and not open to the weird, bizarre, or otherwise non-mainstream”, I can tell you that Jack Wolf was one of the writers on my course in Bath.  The debut writer really does exist!  (gasp!)  Stay the course.  Maybe it will take five years of editing, but isn’t it worth it, to read this and shudder?

Re-readability: It’s 500 pages, but yes, I do think it would be worth a second read.  The scope covered over two decades of fancy and intrigue deserve a second look to see just what was real, and how the author wove together this twisted little tale.

Would I burrow through the floor and hit someone with it?  Sure!  It’s 500 pages, and it’s going to hurt, so y’all’d best be watching when you hear a little scritch-scritch coming from the carpet.  DISCLAIMER: It’s not for everyone.  Mumsy-dearest would be horrified and try to get me exorcised.  Anyone easily offended… should probably stick to running the school carpool and screaming at children from the sidelines of the soccer field anyway.  Although, easily offended people, how do they procreate?

night,

dawn

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Adults are like children, my people!  Children do not readily take naps.  They do not eat their vegetables.

Adults do take naps and eat their vegetables… ahem.

But children read and adults just plain don’t!  So the problem is, how to get them to sit down for five minutes instead of cultivating their adult-onset ADHD?

ATTAAACKKK!

Lie in their bushes, swing from their trees, ambush them on their porch swings!

“But,” says the tremoring little voice, “but how d’you know what’s good to read?  Reading’s all boring.  It’s all James Joyce.  It’s hard!”

Untrue, my little lemmings!

For today, I attack you upside the head with: Ella Minnow Pea!  Written by Mark Dunn.

Read this, damn you!

Read this, damn you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A clever little allegory, fairy tale, whatever you want to call it, using the constrictures of Oulipo.  Have you ever tried to write a story or an essay?  Have you ever stayed up nights pulling out your few too many hairs trying to get it to say just what you want it to say?  Now, imagine writing that school paper without using half the letters in the alphabet!

Mwuhahahaha!  (Your English teacher just died from enjoying a little too much evil.)

Ella Minnow Pea is about a quaint little island off the coast of the US where everyone reveres the language and worships a man named Nollop, who had the delight in his lifetime to create that old typing-teacher’s friend, “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.”  Unless you still type with one finger on the keyboard and the other up your nose, you’ve probably heard of it.

The great thing about the little country of Nollop is that people do still read, and they do write letters to each other, and the arts are encouraged, not disparaged.  It’s a little tiny Utopia.  But as with any Utopia, you get a few nuts in a political seat of power, and things are going to make your stomach churn.  See, “The quick brown fox” saying was immortalized in little tiles over a hundred years ago using some funky glue… and as the glue starts to fail and the letters fall, the island council declares those letters dead to the human language.  Outlawed.  By pain of beatings, exile, or even DEATH.

Most of us haven’t had to deal, outright, with a Monster of our own creating… or with real censorship (especially not by pain of death).  But the thing is, as the story is told using written letters (epistolary novel, y’all), as the alphabetical letters go away, the posted mail is searched for outlaws flaunting the laws.  Sure, it’s all written with humor and light, but the underlying horror of censorship and unfair laws that benefit only the island council hits home on a deeper level.  It’s a little like the feeling you get when you’re reading Anne Frank, except without the need to throw the book across the room at the end, because you know there are some injustices you CAN fight.

Re-readable?  Indeed.

Recommended?  Absolutely.  It’s delightful.

Would I attack a little old lady in a parking lot and force her to read the book while I sit on her back?  You bet I would!

night,

dawn

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Welcome back to the Kamikaze Adult Literacy Campaign!

Please wear a flack jacket.

That’s to deal with all the people who give you flack for opening a book and sticking your nose in it…

My own mother used to ask me WHY I was reading and if it was a BAD book I was reading, so I’ve heard it all.  I’ve hidden in the garage… in the bathtub… in a tree…  You know, the places where you’ll get RUN OVER or DROWN or FALL TO YOUR DEATH if you’re not paying attention.  I mean, come on, that’s commitment!

So do I expect anything less of the rest of the world?

I expect you all to HIDE in your garages and behind the shower curtains and up in trees–and when your friends and neighbors walk by, when your spouse comes to take a shower, well, jump out and slap them upside the head with a GOOD BOOK!

Papercutsssss!  Noooo!  I got a papercut on my eyyyyeeee!

What wusses thy neighbors be.  Give it to em good.  Hit em harder!  Whappow!  That thar’s a book, and yes, the pages are sharp.  See how much fun reading can be?  It’s DANGEROUS.

night,

dawn

It's Ski-Shooting Now! How to make reading FUN, by gun-toting Yokels

It’s Ski-Shooting Now! How to make reading FUN, by gun-toting Yokels

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Welcome to the advent of the

Kamikaze Adult Literacy Campaign

Where we advocate SURPRISE LITERACY ATTACKS on your (unsuspecting) neighbors, (bewildered) spouses, and of course your head-up-their-ass co-workers!  (That one doesn’t even deserve parentheses! Mwuhaha!)

In the US, children read more than adults.  Young adult books are the most-purchased literature.  Adults are being left behind!  This means that adults are becoming less socially cognizant.  They’re becoming functionally illiterate.  They’re becoming… stupidheads.  (Yes, that is a clinical term.)  Their attention span is waning, their patience grows more minute, and their bodies and minds become primed for ALIEN TAKE-OVER!

I mean this in all seriousness, I’d love to see a few more aliens here and there, especially at the grocery store (someone needs to replace the gal who is always telling me Who Died) and at work (we’re not even going to go into WHY alien alternation is the ONLY SOLUTION for the nutsos, cranks, and poopheads who troll our nation’s libraries–)

Actually, let’s do so!

BECAUSE you did not READ a book last month (admit it!) that comfy spot in the library was FORFEITED to the smelly homeless guy who farts a lot.  And then there’s the crazy lady who’s suing everyone and their grandmother and for some reason thinks her neighborhood library staff will help her sift up new reasons to sue them.  Because you did not READ a book, Porn Man has moved from looking to participatory porn… and he’s writing a “book” detailing the wonders of white trash as portrayed by the industry.

It’s all your fault!

And so, here’s what you can do to make amends (and so I don’t end up under the wheels of a psychiatrist’s $100k BMW–they run over their more troublesome patients, just for fun, just to see the looks on our faces when they turn on us and Don’t Honk)–read a damn book!  And while you’re at it, don’t read some boring shit that everyone says is good for you.  Read something classy and dangerous.  And then turn around and smack your sunbathing nude neighbor upside the head with a great indie-published festival piece regarding the dangers of children.  He (or she) (it’s all the same when it’s your neighbor who’s nude… ’cause it’s not pretty) will thank you for it.

Click below for a larger view.

night,

dawn

Your excuses suck!

Your excuses suck!

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