The holiday season can be a frustrating time for introverts, especially for those of us who like to read. Even if we introverts have time off from work, we often have to use that time for extra chores/errands, or traveling, or spending time at other people’s homes.That leaves little quiet time for reading, and that can be frustrating.
Holidays shouldn’t be frustrating. We introverts need our quiet time, and here’s how to read during holidays without causing conflict or putting ourselves in danger:
- READING IN PUBLIC
Reading is almost essential for holiday traveling because traveling is really boring. However, reading in public places such as airports or bus stations (or even the mall) can be risky because you leave yourself vulnerable to getting conked on the head or having your stuff stolen (or both). It’s easy for evil-doers to sneak up on you while you’re reading in public, so if you absolutely HAVE to read in public….
a. Put your back up against a barrier like a wall or window. Lean against a wall if you’re standing. Sit in a chair that’s against a wall or a window. This way, nobody will sneak up on you.
b. Put your stuff behind your feet if you can’t hold all of it. Keep your legs connected to your possessions so that you’ll feel them if somebody tries to swipe your stuff accidentally.
c. Look up while you’re reading and make eye contact. Give the nod of acknowledgement and then continue reading safely. Even when you’re reading, you need to be aware of your surroundings. If you’re not aware, at least act like you’re aware.
d. Don’t read while you’re walking. You can trip or walk into other people (that usually ticks them off), or you might also get conked on the head.
2. READING WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS
There’s a stigma attached to reading in public or at social gatherings. It’s okay to watch television, listen to music, or get drunk (to a certain degree), but people will look at you weird if you read. With smart phones, it’s a little easier to get away with it, but you still have to do so in small (or short) doses or else others will think that you’re a tech tool.
Normally, I don’t mind if others think I’m a tool, but during the holidays, I try to get along with others, especially my family, so here are a few tips to enjoying yourself without offending most reasonable people:
a. Read while others are watching TV. People watching TV usually don’t care if somebody else is reading, but be ready to get talked to during commercials.
b. Read if others start talking about politics. If the discussion gets heated, say you’re looking up information on your phone, then read the book of your choice. Let others get worked up into a political froth while you relax and read.
c. Read in an isolated location. Nobody can disturb you or complain about you if they can’t see you. Tell others you need to go out for a smoke (even if you don’t smoke), and they’ll leave you alone unless they smoke. Then you might have to put up with talking AND smoking, so be careful.
3. WHEN NOT TO READ!!!
a. Do NOT read when guests/family arrive or leave.
b. Do NOT read at the meal table while others are eating.
c. Do NOT read while the host is doing work that you can help out with. Help out the host (unless you are the host, but if you’re the host then you probably won’t have time to read). If you help out with the holiday chores, then you have the right to read later.
d. Do NOT read while your kids are acting up. Its okay to read if somebody else’s kids are acting up.
e. Do NOT read while opening presents. If somebody gives you a book, then you may read it while others are opening gifts.
4. GREAT RESULT OF READING IN PUBLIC
Sometimes reading in public or at a gathering can lead to a discussion about books. That in itself is a great reason to read at a gathering. Most conversations are meaningless (which is okay). But a conversation about books is almost always better than conversations about any other topic. It’s better than talking about politics, religion, abortion, television, celebrities, and most sports, but NOT football. Football is the best topic during the holidays, even if you’re reading a book.
5. HORRIBLE RESULT OF READING IN PUBLIC
Sometimes an extrovert stranger will want to talk about books. True, it’s nice to run into others who like to read, but I don’t like talking to people I don’t know and will never see again. I reserve my social energy for my friends (the few I have), family, and co-workers. The last time an extrovert started talking to me about books, I told him my “legal drugs” had just kicked in.
That ended the conversation. Most people, even extroverts, will leave you alone if they think you’re on “legal” drugs.
These rules work for me, but they might not work for you. What tips do you have for reading during the holidays (or any time you’re in public)? If you’re an extrovert, what reading tips do you have for the holidays?
“That’s it!” my wife announced, shaking her phone in my face. “I’ve had it with these idiots.”
I already knew who those “idiots” were. They were her friends on Facebook. Some of them are her actual friends, and others are only connected through her Facebook network. My wife has been getting into a lot of arguments lately. The political season is heating up, and friends who would never think of talking politics in person are bringing stuff up on Facebook.
When political stuff comes up in my life, I change the subject or leave, but my wife isn’t like that. She’ll speak out. She won’t back down. And if somebody throws a policial insult at her, she’ll insult that person right back. But the exchanges on her social network had gotten too heated even for her.
My social media habits are different from my wife’s. She usually posts family stuff and neighborhood stuff, and everything was usually okay as long as it didn’t get political. Me, I just blog, and read blogs, and occasionally put something on Twitter. I don’t do anything else because there isn’t any time. I have a job where I’d get fired if I blogged or tweeted there. So when I find time at home, I blog, and it’s fun. It doesn’t stress me out at all.
But my wife started to stress out, so she quit.
At first, I was glad my wife quit social media. My wife was more relaxed. She wasn’t showing me endless threads of political debate that always started off bad and always got worse. She was content with laughing at the antics of reality housewives on cable. Then a few nights ago, she burst into my den while I was writing.
“You should quit social media too,” she said.
“Don’t talk to me now,” I said abruptly. I think I was writing something about Stephen King, and she messed up my thoughts.
Then I realized I was talking to my wife.
“I mean, maybe now isn’t the time to talk about that,” I said more gently.
Later on that night when my wife brought up the subject again, I said: “I don’t get into arguments like you do. I just write and have fun.”
“You could have fun with me,” she said.
“I can have fun blogging AND have fun with you,” I said.
“You’d rather have fun blogging than have fun with me?” she said. “What if you had to choose?”
I didn’t think that was fair. If I absolutely had to choose between having fun with blogging or having fun with my wife, I’d choose my wife (of course!). But I didn’t want to make that choice. Writing is fun, especially when you know a few people are going to read what you write. 20 years ago, I quit writing because there was no way to get anybody to read anything without joining writers groups, and that meant I had to talk to people when I just wanted to write. With the internet and blogging, I feel like I almost have a responsibility to myself to keep writing. I really didn’t want to have to make this choice between my wife and blogging. I couldn’t believe my wife was putting me in this position.
Then my youngest daughter bailed me out.
“Dammit!” I heard her shout from her bedroom. This was unusual. I’d never heard my youngest daughter shout profanity before. She’d quoted profanity uttered by other people, but I hadn’t heard her actually use it. I wasn’t sure whether I should yell at her or find out what was going on first. I decided that I could always yell at her later.
“What’s wrong,” I asked,as my wife and I slowly opened her bedroom door. I expected to hear that my daughter was frustrated over homework or maybe mad at the chores list that my wife had given her.
“I just lost two followers on Instagram,” she said. “And I don’t know what I did wrong!”
“When you cuss over lost followers, it might be time to quit social media,” I said to my daughter.
Then I looked at my wife.
“I think you’ve been talking to the wrong addict,” I said.
Now that I’ve had a chance to think about it, I realize that my wife was kidding when she asked me to choose between her and social media. At least I’m pretty sure she was kidding. Sometimes I feel like I don’t know my wife that well.
What do you think? What would make you quit social media? What are other warning signs that it’s time to quit (or at least take a vacation)?
A few weeks ago, a friend of my wife came over unannounced and uninvited with her family. Any visitors we get are because of my wife. I don’t have friends, so nobody comes over to see me. My wife has lots of friends, and sometimes we end up entertaining families of people whom I barely know. Most of the time I don’t mind, but I don’t like it when the visitors are unannounced and uninvited.
In this case, the family had a teenage son who, according to his parents, is addicted to video games and hates to read. He’s capable of reading, my wife’s friend said, but he won’t do it unless it’s a school assignment.
“At least he completes his school assignments,” I said to my wife’s friend.
“Yeah,” the son said to his mom, but she gave him a dirty look.
I could sympathize with the kid because he reminded me of a bunch of friends I had in high school (a time in my life when I actually had friends).
My high school friends weren’t functionally illiterate. They were dysfunctionally literate. They knew how to read but chose not to. If they were going to read, it would be a smut book like Massage Parlor by Jennifer Sills or a parody book like Bored of the Rings. If my high school friends had had internet and cell phones and they wouldn’t have read even those books. With the internet, teenage boys don’t need smut books anymore.
Anyway, my friends didn’t understand why I read real books. Back then, I read the classics. I read best-selling novels. My friends, they didn’t get it. From their point(s)-of-view, they had better things to do, like hang out, play video games, drink, and smoke, and chase girls. To them, I was wasting my time reading because it kept me from doing all those other things that were fun to them.
“Dude, why do you waste so much time reading books?” they’d ask me.
I’m not sure any of my friends used the word “dude,” but it’s in my memory.
One day in my junior year of high school, I got tired of being razzed for reading.
“Here,” I said. “Try this.” I handed one of my friends a beat up copy of Different Seasons by Stephen King.
“This is long,” my friend said.
“It’s a bunch of short stories,” I explained. I started him with the second story, “The Body,” which later became the movie Stand by Me.
“This is long too,” my friend said, flipping through the pages.
“Just read a few pages and see if you like it.”
Once I got them started, all my friends liked Different Seasons. Even though it had mature content, it was the first book that my friends read that wasn’t considered dirty. One friend exclaimed that reading “The Body” was like watching a movie in his mind. At least for one book, he understood why I read so much.
Another friend read a bunch of Stephen Kings like The Shining, and The Stand. He could even tell a good Stephen King book from a mediocre one. He thought that Christine sucked.
In college, I had a roommate who didn’t like to read. You would think college would be filled with guys who like to read, but I guess the stereotypes in Animal House were correct after all. My roommate got drunk a lot and chased women (most of whom were drunk). Even my drunk roommate liked Different Seasons when he read it. He still preferred getting drunk, but at least he understood why I read a lot.
Anyway, I gave my wife’s friend’s kid my copy of Different Seasons and told him to start reading “The Body.” He didn’t have anything else to do. His parents weren’t letting him use his phone, and he wasn’t interested in the football game on tv, so he was captively screwed, and he began reading the book. Maybe he was just being polite. If that was the case, I was impressed that he was at least pretending.
When the family left (and I was glad because my wife’s friend was kind of annoying), I told the kid he could keep the book, and he thanked me. Again, maybe he was just being polite.
I’d like to say that this kid finished Different Seasons and that now he reads a bunch of books on his own. Maybe he does, but I’ll probably never know.
My wife’s friend complained to her today that Different Seasons had a bunch of stuff that was inappropriate for a kid her son’s age. She was disturbed that I’d given her son that book without her permission. She was upset about it.
“His video games are probably worse than anything in that book,” I told my wife. “Plus, he has cable and the internet.”
“That’s what I said,” my wife exclaimed. “And now she’s mad at me too.”
It looks like I just busted up one of my wife’s friendships, with the help of Stephen King. I didn’t like my wife’s friend anyway. And I didn’t like her unannounced, uninvited visits. Now I don’t have to worry about my wife’s friend doing that again. And for that, thank you Stephen King.
I don’t have many friends, but maybe Stephen King can be my friend some day.
What book got you (or somebody you know) to start reading? What author would you like to thank, and why? What author do you think would be a cool friend to have?
When I told my wife a few days ago that she snores, she said without hesitation: “No, I don’t.”
I wasn’t surprised. Snoring denial seems pretty common. When I told my college roommate 30 years ago that he snored, he denied it. I too initially denied snoring when my wife accused me of it ten years ago. After she kicked me out of the bedroom, I decided to get myself checked out. Now I have a CPAP, which takes getting used to, but my wife and I are back in the same room again. I admit now that I snore, but I was initially a denier.
I don’t know how snoring deniers know whether or not we/they snore. We’re asleep when we snore. In my wife’s case, she snores lightly, like a purr. It’s endearing, but it might lead to heavier snoring. Her purring could be a gateway snore that will later lead to health problems, and I don’t want her to risk that.
At the same time, I didn’t want to get into a repetitive argument with my wife over snoring. After all, we live in the new millenium where we no longer have to argue forever about things that are easily proven true or false. That night in bed when she started breathing heavily and making light snorting noises, I grabbed my phone and videoed her. After a few seconds, I had irrefutable proof that my wife snored. There was no way she could argue with me now.
To be clear, I don’t normally have a need to win arguments. If I’m wrong about something, I’ll usually admit it. But I hate knowing that I’m right when somebody else thinks I’m wrong. I can live with it, but it bugs me. Plus, I didn’t want my wife to think I was lying about a simple matter as snoring. And with the phone, I had my proof.
When I began to show my wife the video on my phone, she stopped it and said: “That’s an invasion of my privacy.”
“I’m not putting it on the internet,” I said. “Just watch it. It’s proof that you snore.”
“Delete it,” she demanded.
“Just watch it,” I said.
I knew then there was no way my wife was going to watch herself snore. I could play it on the computer or on the television, but that would only make her mad, and I’d have to sleep on the couch, and that would have defeated the purpose of me wearing a CPAP. Plus, there would be no way for me to monitor her snoring, so I decided to concede.
Still, my wife doesn’t believe me when I tell her that she snores. She thinks I’m lying. Maybe she thinks I want revenge for having to wear a CPAP. Whatever the reason, she thinks she doesn’t snore. I’d understand if she said that she was surprised that she snores. But she said I was wrong, and she said it with lots of confidence.
“Snoring isn’t a character flaw,” I told my wife. “There’s no good reason to deny it.”
“I don’t like false accusations,” my wife said. “And reading in the middle of the night is a character flaw. That’s worse than snoring.”
Ugh, I thought. Sometimes I read in the middle of the night, and my wife claims the light from my phone wakes her up. It’s not the light that wakes her up; it’s her own snoring. When I leave the bedroom to read in another room, she claims my movement wakes her up too. If I switch positions in bed, that wakes up my wife as well, she says. I know she wakes up because the snoring makes her a light sleeper.
“There’s no reason to get defensive about snoring,” I said. “It’s just what your body does. It’s like denying that you sneeze or denying that your farts stink.”
“My farts don’t stink,” my wife said.
My daughters laughed at that, and then they stared at their phones, pretending that nothing had happened. I knew the discussion was over for the time being. When an argument degenerates into whether or not farts smell, it’s time to stop. But I’ll see that my wife gets her snoring checked out. It’s not that I have to be proven right. It’s a health issue.
What do you think? Should I give up trying to convince my wife that she snores? Is it wrong to video snoring spouses while they sleep? Is it really a character flaw to read in bed?
I don’t keep many books anymore. Up until a few years ago, though, I used to be a book hoarder. I was proud of my collection. But then my wife and I had kids, other stuff accumulated in our house, we started moving around a lot, and books became digitized.
With all that was going on, it was more convenient and practical to sell or give away most of my books. I don’t miss them. But there are a few books that I kept, and I’m glad I did. Each book that I kept has a story behind it, and those stories are more important than the stories in the actual books.
Book With Sentimental Value- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (pictured above)
Tom Sawyer isn’t my favorite book ever, but I like it, and this copy was originally owned by my grandparents. My grandmother gave this to my grandpa as a gift in the 1950’s, and then she gave it to me (I think) in the 1970’s when my grandfather wasn’t really reading that much anymore. I didn’t understand everything that was going on (I do now, but I won’t get into the details), but I knew enough to keep that book. I still have it. I’ll give it (or my wife will give it) to one of my daughters.
Another Book With Sentimental Value- The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov
My dad owned this copy, and it’s also beat up. I like this book too (I think I like beat up books), but I’m not sure I was meant to have it. I think it was on my dad’s bookshelf when I was a teenager, and I never put it back. It took me a long time to read (it’s three books, and I think I got bored for a while in the second book, but I’m not sure). Anyway, when I see this book, I think of my dad, and sometimes I even read a section or two.
The Books I’d Keep If I Still Had Them- The Wizard of Oz (and the other books in the series) by Frank Baum
I didn’t give these away on purpose. When I was growing up, my family had a complete hardbound collection of the entire Wizard of Oz series. I read them all (or most of them). My older brothers and sister read them before I did. My mom lent them to each of my siblings to read to their kids, and somewhere along the way, the books disappeared.
Everybody in my family claims that they gave the books back to my mom, but she doesn’t have them and doesn’t know which of her kids/grandkids had them last. I feel cheated because I didn’t have them for my own daughters. People think the youngest child in a family gets spoiled, but in this case I got screwed over.
The Book That I Know I Still Have But Can’t Find- The Godfather by Mario Puzo
I bought this beat up paperback at an obscure used book store back in the late 1970s. Everybody talked about The Godfather movies, but I couldn’t see them because I was too young, and cable/internet didn’t exist back then. So I read the book. And it was great. 40 years later, I still occasionally read this book.
Whenever I get reader’s block, I pull out this copy of The Godfather. It has magical powers. It cures reader’s block. I’ll be really pissed off if I don’t find it soon.
The Book I Wish I Still Had- The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
First of all, The Chocolate War might be one of the worst titles for a book. It’s a YA novel about boys written for boys, but the title probably turned off a bunch of teenagers who might have appreciated it if not for the bad title. I received a copy of The Chocolate War as a Christmas present when I was maybe 11 or 12. I thought the title was stupid then (I hope I didn’t say that to the relative who gave it to me), and I didn’t read it for a long time.
It was years before I finally read it. I don’t remember why I read it after waiting so long. All I remember is that when I read it, I thought: This is surprisingly good. I don’t know what happened to the original copy I own.
My Own Book That I Want To Pass Down- My Book About Me by Dr. Seuss
My mom gave this back to me a decade ago. I had forgotten all about it. I think I was 4 when my I completed it, and now I’m glad my mom kept it (Thanks, Mom!). Both of my daughters have their own now, and I’m keeping their copies until they’re adults.
The only problem with My Book About Me is that the short story that I wrote in the back of the book isn’t very good. And it needs a lot of revising and editing. What was I thinking when I wrote it?
Books with sentimental value are great. While reading the books, you can be entertained and bring back fond memories at the same time. What books have sentimental value to you? What books will you always keep? What is the story behind them? What book has magical powers for you?
Experts may disagree about which U.S. political insult is the best ever, but everybody agrees that it hasn’t happened in the current election cycle. In fact, the rhetoric in the 2016 presidential campaign has been really lame. Hillary Clinton has called Republicans her enemies. Donald Trump has pretty much insulted everybody, and everybody else has insulted him back. Even so, nobody yet has had a good zinger that historians will remember.
To be fair, it’s been a few presidential campaigns since anybody’s had a really good political insult.
1988? Now that was a great year for political zingers. Most people remember Senator Lloyd Bentsen telling Dan Quayle during the Vice-Presidential Debate that he (Dan Quayle) was no JFK. That was a memorable moment. But it wasn’t the best ever.
A couple months earlier in 1988, Texas Governor Ann Richards was speaking at the Democratic National Convention (yes, Texas used to have Democrat governors!!) when she said of George Bush (the first one):
“Poor George. He can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth!”
This might not seem like such an awesome political insult at first, but take a closer look. First of all, it was a combination of two idioms. Metaphors aren’t supposed to be mixed, but idioms are another matter. Governor Richards combined “he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth” with “he stuck his foot in his mouth” to say that Bush was both rich and stupid. And she said it without saying directly that George Bush was rich and stupid.
Secondly, Ann Richards delivered her insult with a Texas drawl. I’m not sure if Texans have drawls anymore, but Ann Richards talked with one when she wanted to. Her “he can’t help it” sounded more like “he caint hep it,” and that made the words sound endearing yet even more insulting at the same time.
Finally, the insult was kind of good-natured. It wasn’t delivered in a self-righteous or smarmy tone that politicians usually resort to. Whether it was funny or not is subjective, but it seemed like a lot of Republicans thought Ann Richard’s insult was funny (I only have anecdotal evidence to back that up). If both Republicans and Democrats think a zinger is funny, then that insult is in the “Best Ever” category.
Unfortunately for the Democrats, the best ever political insult had no influence on the presidential election. George Bush defeated Michael Dukakis that year, and six years later, Bush’s son defeated Ann Richards to become Texas governor (and then he later became President of the United States himself).
So if you want to thank/blame anybody for the president that was George W. Bush, you can thank/blame Ann Richards.
I don’t know if Ann Richards’s zinger was the best political insult ever because I’m not a political expert, and I haven’t heard or read about every political insult ever. But it’s been over 25 years since Ann Richards zinged George Bush, and people still remember it.
When an insulted politician’s son has to get into politics to avenge a political zinger directed against the father and then the insulted politician’s son becomes President of the United States, you know that the insult was a BEST POLITICAL INSULT EVER!!
What do you think? What other political insults throughout history should be considered as the “Best U.S. Political Insult Ever”? If you’re not in the United States, what do you think the “Best Political Insult Ever” is for where you live?
You have to be careful when you rant. If you get carried away during a rant, everybody thinks you’re crazy, and then you end up on the internet looking idiotic, and everybody laughs at you, and the whole point of ranting is lost. I can’t rant in public because I don’t want a video of me acting crazy, so I have to write my rants. It’s tough to show passion with the written word unless YOU ALL CAP EVERYTHING!!!!! But again, if you do that, everybody will think you’re crazy
BAD WORKING CONDITIONS AT AMAZON
I like Amazon because it’s convenient and cheap, but not everybody agrees with me. A couple months ago the New York Times reported on bad working conditions at Amazon and then last week a guy from Amazon wrote a response. I have to admit, my biases lean toward Amazon.
In its original article, The New York Times stunned its readers by claiming that Amazon employees cried at their desks a lot. The Times implied that something must be wrong at Amazon if employees cry at their desk. I wondered why Amazon hires so many people who cry at work.
Maybe I should get a job with Amazon. Sometimes I like to test my pain threshold. Sometimes I hold my hand in ice water and time myself while the pain becomes unbearable . My brothers and I used to smash each other’s heads against the wall to see who would get the first concussion. I’m too old for that kind of thing now (I get headaches a lot), but I’d like to see how long I could work for Amazon before I cry. At least I’d be getting paid a little. I never got paid for getting my head smashed against the wall.
AMAZON SUES FAKE REVIEWERS
Amazon also made news by threatening to sue people/companies who write fake book reviews on the Amazon website. I’ve thought about writing fake reviews for my own books on Amazon, but I’m glad I didn’t because I don’t want to be sued.
I also thought about writing fake book reviews on my blog. Amazon couldn’t sue me for that. But writing fake reviews for my own books would put me in an awkward position. Anybody reading my blog would wonder why all the positive reviews for my books were written in the exact same style as my books and my blog posts. I’d rather have no reviews than have fake reviews that made people wonder if my reviews were fake.
I know having reviews for books on Amazon looks a lot better than having no reviews for your books on Amazon. I understand the urge to do anything to get a competitive edge on book sales. To me, it’s like an athlete taking steroids (except maybe without the physical side effects).
I’d like to see the Amazon lawsuit happen (to somebody else) just to see what the verdicts and penalties would be. I wouldn’t want to sit through the proceedings, though. I’m not THAT interested.
NO NAKED WOMEN IN PLAYBOY
Playboy has announced that it’s no longer putting pictures of naked women in its magazines. With the internet, nudie magazines have become irrelevant. That’s okay. The internet has destroyed a lot of businesses. A few years ago, Encyclopedia Brittanica announced it was discontinuing its books and was going completely online. I thought, without books, what’s the point of an encyclopedia? The whole internet is an encyclopedia, but most of it is not appropriate for kids. The whole internet is also a Playboy magazine, but the internet is not as pretentious.
It’s not good when the former trend-setter has to start following somebody else’s trends. Playboy had a pretty good run, though. Very few people (or magazines) ever get to be trend-setters. The only thing I’m going to miss are the naked granny cartoons. They were funny. And I must be getting older because now I think the naked granny is kind of hot.
Once when I was taking a writing class, my instructor began discussing Catch-22 and the way the author constructed his sentences, and I almost blurted out that the author Joseph Heller had just published his latest piece of fiction in Playboy. There were a lot of women in that class, so I decided not to say anything. Maybe I was being selfish by not telling the class about Heller’s latest work. I let my own porn-shame hold me back. Back in the 1980s, there was a lot of porn shaming. If Joseph Heller publishes a short story in Playboy next year, male writing students in literature classes will be able to speak up.
NEW GAME OF THRONES BOOK
George R. R. Martin is publishing a new Game of Thrones book this month, but it’s not The Winds of Winter, which fans have been waiting for. Instead, it’s a collection of related novellas from various science fiction/fantasy anthologies. If I were reading Game of Thrones, I’d be pissed. As far as I’d be concerned, George R. R. Martin has one mission in life: finish A Song of Fire and Ice. Forget the novellas.
And book publicists shouldn’t announce novellas by proclaiming there’s a new Game of Thrones book coming out. It’s irresponsible, and it’s not clever, and it just makes a cranky guy like me not want to read anything related to Game of Thrones. To be fair, I’m not going to read A Song of Ice and Fire anyway, but book publicists should still be more considerate.
I don’t read a story if it goes over three books anymore. The Godfather was one book. The Lord of the Rings was three books. No stories should take longer to tell than The Godfather or The Lord of The Rings. That’s my standard.
What do you think? What literary topic would you like to rant about? If working conditions make employees cry, do you blame the employees or the employer? If an author is writing a really long series, should that author waste time with related novellas? Is a literary rant any good if James Patterson isn’t the topic?
I don’t talk about the word “f***ing” very often. I’m a polite guy, and f***ing” is not a topic that comes up in polite conversations. Every once in a while though, “f***ing comes up in literary conversations. A few years ago, author Elizabeth Gilbert started a literary debate by declaring that writing was “f***ing great.” A couple weeks ago, Chrissie Hynde told people not to buy her “f***ing book.”
Perhaps some context is necessary. Chrissie Hynde, lead singer for The Pretenders, just wrote a memoir Reckless: My Life as a Pretender and said something controversial in her book that critics disagreed with. I’m not getting into what she wrote or whether or not I agree or disagree because that would be for a different blog post. At any rate, Hynde defended what she wrote in her memoir during an interview when she said:
“You know? I’d rather say, just don’t buy the f***ing book, then, if I’ve offended someone.”
Maybe it’s the kind of thing only a famous person could say. If I said in an interview “…just don’t buy the f***ing book,” a bunch of readers would say “Fine” and nobody would buy it. Maybe Hynde is engaging in reverse psychology. Or maybe she doesn’t give a f***.
I’m not outraged by what she said, but if I were in her position, I’d be thrilled that somebody had actually read my book and was making comments about what I’d written. As an amateur writer, I know it’s tough it is to get people to read your words, especially when they have to pay a few bucks. Maybe Hynde doesn’t understand how many authors would love to write something that gets critics fired up.
Even so, I appreciate her approach to book promotion: act agitated and say something controversial. I just don’t think it would work for most authors. It might not even work for her.
One thing I’m curious about, though: What did Chrissie Hynde mean when she used the phrase “f***ing book”? Is she insulting her own book? Maybe not, because “f***ing” is not always an insult. It depends on how “f***ing” is used.
When somebody uses the word “f***ing,” it’s usually obvious what they mean. Everybody knows what “f***ing” means as a verb. If you don’t know, I’m not telling you, (or drawing you a picture or sending any photographs).
“F***ing” as an adverb usually means “very” or “really.” If somebody comments on my blog saying “You’re f***ing stupid,” I know that “f***ing” means “very.”
It’s when “f***ing” is used as an adjective that its meaning can be somewhat murky. As an adjective, “f***ing” can be very good or very bad. For example, I was once told that I was a “f***ing genius” at work, but before I could develop a superiority complex, somebody else called me a “f***ing idiot” on my blog. “F***ing” can go both ways.
When Chrissie Hynde said not to buy her “f***ing book,” she might have meant “stupid book,” not because she thinks her book is stupid but because she thinks the issue her critics are focusing on is stupid. Or maybe she didn’t mean anything by it. Maybe she called it her “f***ing book” because it sounded better that way.
Add “f***ing” to anything, and it just sounds better. Who cares what it means?
I don’t know if this was the worst book promotion ever. Maybe this was better than no book promotion at all because people like me are talking about it. Maybe no book promotion at all is the worst book promotion. So when I write a book and don’t promote it, I’m actually doing a worse book promotion than Chrissie Hynde.
What do you think? Does “f***ing” have a real meaning? Or do people say it just because it sounds good? Would you buy a book from somebody who said “Just don’t buy the f***ing book”? Is it worse to have no book promotion than telling people not to buy your f***ing book?
Maybe Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone isn’t a classic novel yet, but it probably will be. It’s been over 15 years since it was published, and people are still reading it. Most books are forgotten months after they were published. I’m betting the Harry Potter books will continue to be read for several generations, so I’ll go ahead and call it a classic now. If I’m wrong, 50 years from now people can come back and mock me for it.
Whether it’s a classic or not, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone has some bad sentences in it. It’s easy for for me to spot bad sentences because I’ve written a lot of them in my time. If my English teachers would have red-marked my paper for writing something similar, then it’s a bad sentence. If my writing group peers would have criticized me for writing something similar, then it’s a bad sentence.
The bad sentences in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone aren’t the long, confusing run-ons that can plague much of classic literature. JK Rowling’s bad sentences are more subtle. Readers who are into the books for pure enjoyment might not spot the bad sentences, but for somebody like me, who hasn’t truly enjoyed a book in years, bad sentences stick out.
Bad Sentence #1
He bent his great, shaggy head over Harry and gave him what must have been a very scratchy, whiskery kiss. (p. 15)
If I had written this sentence, my English teacher would have hammered me for the phrase “what must have been.”
“What do you mean ‘what must have been’?” my English teacher might have said. “Either the kiss was scratchy and whiskery, or it wasn’t. And don’t use ‘very.’ ‘Very’ is lazy.”
I’ll admit, I haven’t finished reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, but I don’t think readers ever found out whether or not the kiss was very scratchy and whiskery. Or maybe the kiss was “somewhat scratchy and whiskery.” I’ll never know for sure.
Bad Sentence #2
And the fleet of little boats moved off all at once, gliding across the lake, which was as smooth as glass. ( p. 112 )
My English teacher would have told me that “smooth as glass” was one of the laziest similes an author can write. It’s right up there with “as fast as a cheetah.” Maybe the baby’s bottom wasn’t good enough. If I had written “smooth as glass” in school, I would have gotten a giant red “CLICHÉ!!!!!!!” on my paper. Plus, the sentence started with the word “And,”but I do that too, so I won’t count it.
Which is smoother anyway, glass or a baby’s bottom? That’s one of those things you have to be really careful about if you’re determined to find out.
Bad Sentence #3
The entrance hall was so big you could have fit the whole of the Dursley’s house in it. (p. 113 )
2nd-person point-of-view? I was taught to NEVER use 2nd-person in fiction (except in dialogue). Even if it were acceptable in writing, this example of “you” came out of nowhere. It would have been an easy fix for an editor with something like: “The entrance hall was so big the whole of the Dursley’s house would have fit inside.”
Making the sentence even worse was the use of “big.” “Big” is a lazy adjective. Students all over the United States are taught not to use the word “big.” An author doesn’t need a thesaurus to find a more vivid adjective than “big.” I can’t believe publishers let a first-time author get away with the word “big.”
Bad Sentence #4
“It’s an invisibility cloak,” said Ron, a look of awe on his face. ( p. 201 )
“Of course the look of awe is on his face,” my English teacher would have said, had I written this sentence. “Where else would a look of awe be? On his hands? On his feet? On his stomach?”
Even though my English teacher would have been engaging in a bit of overkill, I would still get his point. This redundancy could have been easily fixed with the following:
“It’s an invisibility cloak,” said Ron in awe.
“It’s an invisibility cloak,” said Ron, his jaw dropping in awe
Maybe I’m being just a little nit-prickety. Then again, maybe not. Maybe published authors should be held to higher standards than public school students or struggling authors in writing groups. I don’t know. Either way, I know that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a wildly successful book, but I also know that even wildly successful books can have bad sentences in them.
What do you think? Are these sentences bad, or were my teachers and writing group peers overreacting? Should an aspiring author use the word “big”? Which is smoother, glass or a baby’s bottom? Is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone a classic? If not, (when) will it become one?
The problem with long books is that they take a long time to read. Most people, if given a choice, would rather read a short novel than a long one. At least, that’s what I think. I’ve never seen a stat for it, but I bet it’s true. It’s not necessarily a matter of laziness. With so much other stuff to do, it’s kind of inconvenient to read a book that’s too long, even if you like reading long books.
A few days ago I found an old copy of an abridged Les Miserables that I had read in junior high. This reminded me that even before the internet and cable television, I had other things to do besides reading long classics. Now that I think about it though, I didn’t have all that much to do, so I was probably just being lazy.
Either way, when a friend of mine saw that I had an abridged version of Les Miserables, he told me I was cheating. I thought, abridged is cheating? Maybe for a book written in English. Les Miserables was originally in French, so maybe the abridgment was really just a brief translation. I appreciate the brief translation. I’d read a brief translation of War and Peace or Crime and Punishment or Great Expectations.
I’m not sure what was left out of the abridged Les Miserables. The short version matched fairly well with the Classics Illustrated comic book. Maybe I should watch one of the movies to see what the abridged novel left out. I don’t remember any songs in the abridged version. Maybe that was it.
It’s not just the classics that need to be shortened. Even modern authors can be long-winded. George R R Martin has taken six books so far to tell his tale A Song of Ice and Fire. It was originally supposed to be a trilogy, and now it’s going to take seven or eight books (if he finishes at all). Literary times have changed. When I was a kid, an author would start to write a novel and then turn it into a long-winded trilogy. Nowadays, authors set out to write a trilogy and end up with seven books instead.
I might sometimes complain about James Patterson, but at least his books (the ones he writes AND the ones he doesn’t write) are short.
I have a tough time reading long books now that I have a family to raise, a wife whom I enjoy spending time with, a full-time job, and cable television and the internet. 500-page books or a seven-book series is a lot of time to demand from readers. In fact, I consider it downright inconsiderate for an author to write a book that’s more than 500 pages. Mario Puzo kept The Godfather to under 500 pages. JRR Tolkien kept The Lord of the Rings to three books. If they could do it, so should other authors with less awesome stories to tell.
I’d love to read an abridged version of A Song of Ice and Fire. Maybe that’s why the HBO series Game of Thrones is so popular. It takes a lot less time to watch five seasons of the TV show than it does to read the books. At least for me, it does.
Maybe I’m a hypocrite for complaining about long-winded authors. A couple years ago, I wrote a blog serial called “The Literary Girlfriend.” It was supposed to be about 15 episodes, and I thought I’d be done within a few months. Instead, it took over a year and 60 episodes. I laugh to myself when I think about it; I wrote a 60-episode romantic comedy. I bet even James Patterson hasn’t done that.
The problem with blog serials is that once they’re done and you’ve written a couple other blog posts, the blog serial disappears into blog oblivion. I’d call it “blogblivion (with a silent ‘g’),” but I don’t believe in creating new words by combining two existing words.
At the same time, I understand why blog serials disappear. Who wants to read a 60-episode blog serial? Readers can barely find time to read actual books by authors who’ve gotten published by real publishing companies. 60 episodes is a commitment, even if it’s a free commitment.
To help out, I’ve posted an abridged version of “The Literary Girlfriend.” I haven’t shortened any of the episodes. I’ve simply picked five episodes where you can for the most part tell what’s going on. And if you read only these five episodes (or fewer), I don’t consider it cheating.
“The Literary Girlfriend: The Abridged Version”
The Literary Girlfriend: Origin Story : This wasn’t the first episode, and she wasn’t a superhero, but it’s still not a bad place to start.
The Literary Girlfriend: Crazy Stuff : Of course, every couple has issues (but probably not THIS problem).
The Literary Girlfriend: A Conversation Between Two Women That Has Nothing To Do With Men Or Relationships : I received a little bit of criticism for this episode, but it’s important for a reason that has nothing to do with the title.
The Literary Girlfriend: Marriage Material : Mention the word “marriage,” and all chaos breaks loose.
The Literary Girlfriend: The Penultimate Episode : Final episodes are almost always disappointing. The high point is usually the next-to-last episode.
What do you think? What novel would you like to be abridged? Is reading an abridged novel a form of cheating? What book series would you like to see abridged? What blog post of yours would you like to pull out from blogblivion?
What’s better than a 60-episode romantic comedy blog serial? An ebook sequel called Nice Things!