Thursday, January 20, 2011

What do YOU read?




The following posting was originally written as consecutive tweets on Twitter. I routinely see interesting observations and links to informative articles about the world of book publishing when I'm on there, but I also find plenty that troubles me. The latter is what inspired this series of mini soundbites bemoaning what publishers are opting to print, which of course is prompted first and foremost by what people are choosing to read. Once done with school and no longer in possession of a required reading list, we're on our own to decide what to fill our heads with. I like a little brain candy sometimes as much as the next person, but as we were warned as children, if you consume too much sugar while neglecting fruits and vegetables and other stuff critical for your development, inevitably important things will start to rot.

In recent days, understandably, I’ve seen various sarcastic shots taken over the fact that reality star Snooki has a Best Selling book out. I joined in too, remarking on my sobering suspicion that there’s likely more I can relate to in her book, regardless of what percentage of the writing she actually contributed to it, than the various vampire novels pubbed seemingly hourly.

Those following my tweet of thought probably think I have a major problem with vampire fiction. My sister, for example. But that’s not the case. I believe ALL topics are fair game for literary examination.

In the vampire milieu I’ve enjoyed 2-3 Anne Rice titles & The Historian. Fine reading indeed.

What I take issue with is formulaic writing, cookie cutter books churned out like so many near identical widgets on an assembly line.

The appeal of such books to anyone over the age of 10 continues to elude me. At some point a mature person should demand more bang for their buck, no?

Some people crave a particular genre. Okay, c’est la vie. They don’t know what they’re missing by refusing to be more adventurous but...

Hopefully those who exclusively plunder a single category within a particular genre at least try to find whatever diversity may exist there.

But at what point is there simply nothing new to say about how cool vampires are? Surely the possibilities have been exhausted by now.

I can only conclude there are people so anti brain use that they basically read the same book over & over, the next version of it already pre-ordered.

Obviously those who churn this stuff out are out to make a buck, plain & simple. They require & expect no comparison to Faulkner.

I’m cool with capitalism & what it yields. Some enter the medical field to save lives, some for $. Some enter the law profession to fight for justice, some for $. Writing is no different.

There are authors who hope that their books will be assigned to your great great grandkids in school one day, others who are simply looking to make quick cash.

I have no beef with those who write from the wallet rather than heart. Where there is demand, someone will always take advantage & supply.

I suppose this means I have a problem with readers so unimaginative that they refuse to digest any more than one flavor of book. This practice simply astounds me. Could you eat the same thing everyday? Watch the same movie & nothing but? Listen to the same song to the exclusion of all others? Surely this would become maddening.

If nobody was affected by such singleness of purpose, no harm done I suppose. But there is an effect from such mindsets. Fresh, bold books by legitimately talented writers do not see the light of day because shelf space in what bookstores are still left standing is taken up by the 30th title in some insipid series.

So I funnel my frustration toward those who know not what they do, even though I firmly believe in freedom of choice, which includes the right to make bad choices.

I suppose I’m left with no option but to be peeved at God. Hopefully HE/SHE reads my tweets or this blog.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you wholeheartedly agree or vehemently oppose my opinion? Have at it. This space is very lonely without reader feedback.

If I've offended anyone for any reason, most likely I meant to. Sorry about that. This space is meant to express the truth as I see it, not to conform. Hope that doesn’t mean we can’t still be friends.



Here's my reading list: past, present & future. What do YOU read?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A kinder, gentler Huck Finn - SMH

Today I learned about the upcoming publication of a new edition of 'Huckleberry Finn' that is to Drop 'N' Word. "Slave" will be used in its place throughout. Beyond moronic. What purpose is served besides pissing off Twain's ghost?

I am all for the choice of black people to cease & desist use of N-word just as I don’t want to hear it from the mouths of Caucasians. But whitewashing history is as absurd as whitewashing the present.

Mark Twain wrote nigger (yeah, I said it) in his book a bunch of times for the same reason I did in mine. It's called REALISM. He wasn't writing Fantasy. What do you think slave owners called African Americans in those times? How do you think black people were treated? As if they weren't people at all, that's how. If we sugar coat our horrific past now we will convince future generations that it wasn't so bad. When you fail to properly highlight and condemn atrocities, you welcome the opportunity for repetition of history. I don't want my great great grandchildren to believe the Holocaust was a Summer picnic and slavery was a leisurely stroll through the park.

Removing the N-word from Huck Finn should get it removed it from many banned book lists, which is the strongest argument for editing. My alternate suggestion - Complain like hell & if necessary change schools if your kid attends one that refuses to respect Twain's masterpiece. I'd rather a book be banned and retain its power (curious enough minds will read it whether assigned in school or not) than rewritten to make it impotent.



As a public service perhaps hip hop artists will consider increasing N-word usage from 20 to 30 times per rap song to keep it from going extinct.


Argument for removing N-word from Huck Finn is to make text less hurtful. It's SUPPOSED TO BE hurtful. You can't heal unless you first hurt. This nation needed the smack across the face that Huckleberry Finn provided. And you know what - It still does.

A young white man reading Huck Finn as written is able to see horror & unfairness of racism, it can help make him a better man. Why dilute that?

Huckleberry Finn is one of the works that influenced me to want to write about race in my fiction. Had I read a bastardized version I’m not sure if it has quite the same effect. I suspect not though.

I include Huckleberry Finn with Native Son, Invisible Man, Soul on Ice, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, as examples of the most powerful examinations and indictments of racism in literature. Despite my pseudo-defense of her, I'm not quite putting the wit and wisdom of Dr. Laura Schlessinger in that pantheon.

Political Correctness has got to be the greatest oxymoron of all time.

Literary censorship has its place. I was against Amazon carrying a how-to-be-a-better-Pedophile book & against shelving racist Tintin book in kid section. But The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn does not need to be censored. It needs to be celebrated for brilliance of narrative and potency of social commentary.



Then again, if Huck Finn remains on banned lists young people may resort to reading Snooki's book instead, so perhaps some language clean up isn't such a bad idea after all.



"Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot." - Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; Author's Notice.

"You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth." - Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; Opening lines of the book

"What's the use you learning to do right, when it's troublesome to do right and ain't no trouble to do wrong, and the wages is just the same?" - Adventures of Huckleberry Finn



"All right, then, I'll go to hell." - Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Books of 2010

Happy New Year! Hopefully 2011 will be a fantasic year for all of us. I didn't make resolutions for my plan is established and needs not be scribbled down on a piece of paper, soon to be misplaced along with my intent to follow through on most of the items. For me, 2011 will be about finishing typing up the first draft of my second novel Matters of Convenience, getting some editorial feedback while tightening it up in subsequent drafts, and once I've deemed it good to go, literary agents can expect to hear from me. I'll also have my thinking cap on this year to come up with an idea/outline for novel number three. And hopefully I'll be able to create more public awareness about novel number one - Patches of Grey. My hands will be more than full with literary goals, helping out with my wife's blossoming Etsy business however I can, and the general business of living my life and raising a daughter who is growing up far too quickly.

Something else I'd like to do in 2011 is get to my blog a bit more consistently, though I'm making no promises. Posting an entry in the first week of the year is a notable start, even if I had originally planned to post it before the ball dropped and the calendar moved. One of my favorite things about the end of each year are the lists that people put out, usually Best Of compliations. So I decided to compile my reviews of novels read in 2010. If I was one of those people capable of reading a new book every few days, I would have happily presented you with the top ten. Since my pace is considerably slower than that, I'm providing the whole shebang. Note that I'm not a book blogger who is focussed only on new publications. You will find titles that just recently hit the shelves mixed in with ones that have been around for awhile. Perhaps the reviews will steer you towards or away from some of these works, or you may simply enjoy reading what I had to say about them. As always, I love to hear from my readers so please don't be shy about leaving a comment. If you've read any of these novels let me know if you agree with what I had to say, or if you felt differently. In addition to my passion for both reading and writing, I also love to have discussions about books, to contemplate beyond the turning of the final page how they touched my life, and perhaps come to see them in a new light through the eyes of others.

Clicking on the name/author of each book will take you to the review I penned for it at Happy Reading!