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10 Famous Meaningful Literary Quotes That Are Complete Nonsense

The Great Gatsby has a bunch of meaningful quotes that are nonsense, but only one makes this list

Literary quotes are great because they can express important thoughts in creative and memorable ways.  Quotes in literature are meant to be deep but easily understood, so lots of thought has been put into these words and phrases that make up meaningful literary quotes.

It’s easy to find famous meaningful literary quotes today in the internet age.  Plenty of websites list literary quote after quote, and if a meaningful literary quote shows up on more than one list, then I consider it famous.

But maybe these famous meaningful thoughts aren’t as deep as readers feel.  Maybe some of these famous deep literary quotes are instead just plain nonsense.

Judge for yourself.  Are these literary quotes meaningful, or are they just gibberish?

1.  “Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”– F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Nonsense.  “All the people in the world” haven’t had all the advantages that I’ve had, but maybe I haven’t had all the advantages they’ve had either.  How am I supposed to know which advantages each person has had and hasn’t had?  We don’t have the time or the ability to figure all that out.  Therefore, we should feel free criticize, as long as we don’t mind being criticized too.

2.  “The reason death sticks so closely to life isn’t biological necessity — it’s envy. Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs at what it can. But life leaps over oblivion lightly, losing only a thing or two of no importance, and gloom is but the passing shadow of a cloud.”—Yann Martel, Life of Pi

Nonsense.  That entire paragraph is pure speculation with no empirical proof or data to support it.

3.  “People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.”—Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Nonsense.  I don’t mean to be a downer, but that’s just giving people false expectations.  People are capable of a lot of great things but “doing what they dream of” is way too general, especially at any time in their lives.  That’s just pandering to a gullible audience.

4.  “Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic.” —Frank Herbert, Dune

Only one step beyond?  Nonsense.  I don’t know how many steps beyond logic the real universe is, but it’s way more than one.

5.  “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”—Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Nonsense  The heart is impulsive and can steer you in the wrong direction.  If you only follow your heart, you will become a short-term thinker who makes a ton of bad, selfish decisions.  You’re supposed to use your brain and your heart and your… okay, now I’m spouting nonsense too.

6.  “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”—Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Nonsense.  The word “agony” by itself is a bit strong for “bearing an untold story,” but the “no greater agony” is bunk.  There are plenty of things that are a greater agony.  Sometimes the experience or trauma of the untold story is worse than the “untold” part.  Sometimes telling the story would be worse than keeping it secret.

7.  “People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.”—Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

I’m not convinced that Eat, Pray, Love is literature, but I despise the term “soul mate,” and any quote that involves the term “soul mate” is nonsense, unless the quote is calling the term “soul mate” nonsense.  To make things worse, people who believe in “soul mates” have high divorce rates.  I have no empirical proof to back that up because after the divorce, the people who believed in soul mates often deny they ever believed in that foolishness.

8.  “Not all those who wander are lost.”—J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Nonsense.  Who said that everybody who wanders is lost in the first place?  I thought it was common knowledge that some people who wander do so for different reasons.  I like to wander just to clear my mind, but not in any “I’m lost” kind of way.  I’m not a fan of people making arguments against ideas that nobody really believes.

9.  “We need never be ashamed of our tears.” Charles Dickens- Great Expectations

Nonsense.  Men should never shed tears during a movie.  That’s downright embarrassing.

10.  “The Answer to the ultimate question of Life, The Universe and Everything is…42!”- Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

This might be the most nonsense of nonsense quotes because it was meant to be nonsense and people actually waste time trying to figure out its meaning.    It doesn’t even make sense.  Out of all the numbers that could have chosen, 42 is just random.  12, I could understand.  Maybe you could make a case for 7 or even 13, but 42?  Where did Douglas Adams even… now I’m thinking about it.  Douglas Adams just got me!  AAAAaaaarrrrgh!

*****

Enough about me!  What do you think?  What famous deep literary quotes do you know that truly don’t make much sense?

5 Horrible Ideas for Children’s Books that were actually published

A lot of non-writers  think children’s books are easy to write.  From their points of view, a children’s book author just needs to write down a cliché positive message and draw some colorful pictures, and the children’s book is ready for publication.  It’s true that anybody can write a forgettable children’s book.  It’s difficult, however, to put together a book that kids will want to read over and over again.

Because of this, authors and publishers have come up with some truly horrible ideas for children’s books.

Below are five horrible ideas for children’s books that were actually published:

1.   Go The F**k To Sleep and You Have To F*****g Eat and now F*CK Now There Are Two of You by Adam Mansbach

Putting profanity in a book title is the cheapest of cheap ploys to sell books.  Yeah, it works, but it’s still a cheap ploy.  It’s even worse when you censor the vowels.  If you’re going to be edgy, be edgy enough to spell out the profanity.  Profanity in a book title is a sign of desperation, but the worst is when you put the profanity in a children’s book title.

The first F**k book by Adam Mansbach,  Go The F*ck To Sleep, amused some adult readers for a few pages, but almost everyone agreed that the premise gets old quickly, even when Samuel L. Jackson reads it out loud.  My two-year-old daughter (a member of the target audience) didn’t think the book was very entertaining, and the next day her day care called to tell me my daughter was yelling the F-word and giggling demonically.

I don’t blame my parenting; I blame the author… and the day care.  Always blame the day care.

The second book, You Have To F*****g Eat, didn’t add anything new to the schtick, but this time I kept it away from my kids.  Now the author has a third(?) book, F*ck, Now There Are Two of You , which makes the parents sound ungrateful.  This latest book looks like it’s the same schtick, which had already gotten old by the end of the first book.

If the author Mansbach wants to revive the tired franchise, I’d suggest a change of attitude in about 15-20 years with F*ck Yeah, Now We Have Grandkids!

2.   Healthy Holly  by Catherine Pugh and illustrated by some guy who probably didn’t know what he was getting himself into

Maybe the idea of Healthy Holly wasn’t so bad.  Alliteration combined with better nutrition for children sounds like a good idea if executed correctly.  Unfortunately, the author Catherine Pugh was at the time the mayor of Baltimore and forced an obscure city department to buy thousands of overpriced copies of her book.  Eventually, Mayor Pugh got caught and had to resign.  Very few copies of Healthy Holly have been found, so few that that speculators believe that one day they will become collector’s items.

Healthy Holly had some problems, even without the political corruption.  It was a message book.  Children’s books shouldn’t be “message” books.  If there’s a message in a children’s book, it should be incidental and look accidental.

I’ve heard prison food isn’t too healthy.  Then again, corrupt politicians rarely get prison time.  Still, Healthy Holly was a pretty horrible idea.

3.   Give Please A Chance by James Patterson and Bill O’Reilly

Give Please A Chance is the kind of children’s book that makes parody obsolete.  Bill O’Reilly is known for one of the greatest meltdowns in television history (it never gets old).  He’s also known for getting kicked off FOX News because of sexual harassment allegations against him.  He was also known for loud opinions and slightly confrontational interviews.  When it comes to writing books about saying the word “please,” Bill O’Reilly might not have been the best choice.

His coauthor James Patterson has sold more books than just about anybody.  He also coauthors most of those books, so we don’t how many of those books he’s really written, and most of those books are really crappy, so at the very least, James Patterson has put his name on more crappy books than anybody else.

You can tell that James Patterson was involved with Give Please A Chance because each page has only one or two sentences, just like most of his novels.  You can’t tell what Bill O’Reilly contributed to this book.  Still, Give Please A Chance shouldn’t have been given a chance, at least not by these two authors.

4.  The Berenstain Bears  by Stan, Jan, and Mike Berenstain

I don’t have anything against the original Berenstein Bears but, it was a horrible idea to change their names from Berenstein to Berenstain.  Everybody knows it was originally The Berenstein Bears. I read a bunch of Berenstein Bears books when I was a kid.  Everybody remembers it as The Berenstein Bears.  Then somewhere along the way, the powers that be changed the name to The Berenstain Bears.

I don’t why they did this.  I don’t know how they came into my house and switched out the books without ever getting caught by anybody.  Millions of books all over the world got switched out and nobody was caught.  There are even a few psychopaths who claim that it’s been The Berenstain Bears the entire time and that we either have bad memories or are lazy readers.   I don’t trust anybody who says it’s been the Berenstain Bears the whole time.  I don’t know what the truth is, but that’s not it.

I know things are getting bad because I just saw a copy of Frankenstain by Mary Shelly at the local bookstore.

Wait a minute.  Hasn’t it always been Frankenstain?

5.  The English Roses  and other books by… Madonna????

My first reaction when I heard that Madonna writing children’s books was… Why the heck is Madonna writing children’s books?

If I remember correctly, Madonna became famous in the mid-1980s by marketing “provocative” music videos to pre-teen girls.  A decade later she put out a coffee table book called Sex.  Yeah, I’m leaving out a lot of information, but everybody knows who Madonna is.

Don’t get me wrong.  I have nothing against a celebrity who writes a sex book.  But if you write a sex book, you shouldn’t write children’s books.  You do one or the other.  If you do both, you’re just greedy.

I’m not sure why Madonna would have wanted to write/market children’s books.  I’m suspicious of the motivations behind it.  Out of all the books on this list, this was the worst idea.  Ironically, the books aren’t bad.  The illustrator did a good job, which is 90% of a children’s book.  I didn’t see anything sexual or deviant in the book.  I didn’t read the book word-for-word because it seems kind of girlie, but maybe… it… wasn’t… bad.

*****

Even though I’m a parent, I’m not an expert on children’s book.  Still, it was easy coming up with five horrible ideas for children’s books that still got published.  What do you think?  What books did I miss?  What horrible ideas for children’s books have you seen?

 

3 Reasons To Finish Books That You Don’t Like

If it’s unabridged, there’s no shame in NOT finishing a classic novel.

Should you finish reading a book, even if you don’t like it?  It’s an internal debate that many book readers have.  If a tedious or overwritten book is assigned reading or required for a job, most people will read it.  When there’s money or a grade involved, book readers have no qualms about finishing a book.  But books for personal pleasure are a different matter.

When I first started reading, I took pride in finishing every book I started.  In elementary school, I finished Harold and the Purple Crayon, even though Harold was getting out of control.  In middle school, I finished The Winds of War and War and Remembrance, even though I was being mocked for carrying big books around the school (they were WAR books, I explained, so that made it cool).

In high school, I finished Noble House, despite having to read a bunch of Willa Cather books in my English class.  In college, I finished reading The Mists of Avalon, even after my girlfriend broke up with me for calling it a “woman’s book.”  When I found out later how abusive the author had been to her family, I kind of regretted reading the book… and it also kind of explained my ex-girlfriend’s weird behavior.  I was probably lucky she had broken up with me.

Anyway, somewhere along the way, I lost my passion for finishing books.  I became more critical of books I read and I began noticing how much time it took to read some of them.  I finished Sarum by Richard Rutherford, but I gave up on Russka.  I stopped reading a Colleen McCullough Rome book within the first hundred pages (I almost got kicked out of my family’s Thanksgiving dinner for that) because I already knew what was going to happen (and the book was waaaaayyyy too long).

Now that I’m older, I don’t finish books if I don’t want to.  Maybe I should finish most books that I begin.  Maybe I’m too casual about which books I finish and which books I set aside.  Either way, here are…

3 REASONS TO FINISH A BOOK, EVEN IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT

  1. You get a Sense of Accomplishment.

When I was in junior high, I read a bunch of classics like The Iliad and The Three Musketeers and (an abridged) Les Miserables because I’d read the classic comics and could tell what was going on in the books, even if I didn’t understand all the language.  Still, I felt proud that I had read unabridged versions of these classics (I didn’t figure out that the Les Miserables was abridged until later).  I felt that sense of accomplishment.

Then high school teachers began assigning books.  Oddly enough, the sense of accomplishment vanished when I was forced to read novels.  I probably would have enjoyed Of Mice and Men and Brave New World if they hadn’t been assigned.  There is little sense of accomplishment when the reading is forced.  I was happy with my good grades, though.

Once I graduated and started my profession (which has nothing to do with reading or writing), I chose to read for fun rather than for accomplishment.  But I remember what that feeling is like.  Finishing a book just for that sense of accomplishment might be worth it for some readers.

  1. You can actually judge a book if you finish it.

You don’t really know if an entire book sucks until you’ve read the whole thing.  Years ago, I gave up on a novel called The Passage by Justin Cronin about halfway through it.  I heard later that the ending was pretty good and that I had missed out on a good ending simply because I was too eager to give up on the book.  Maybe I should have finished it, but I still know a huge portion of it sucks.  That’s enough for me.

Even so, if two people disagree about the quality of a book but only one person has finished it, the reader who has finished the book has the more valid opinion.  The quitter can still have an opinion, though.  For another example, I haven’t read all of Moby Dick from beginning to end.  I have read a lot of sections of Moby Dick.  I can have an opinion about why readers don’t like it or don’t want to finish it.  But if a reader has actually read Moby Dick from beginning to end (and understands it), then I recognize his/her opinion is more valid (in some ways) than mine.

  1. You finish what you start!!!!!!

I grew up in a household where we were taught to finish what we started.  I learned that you don’t leave a job unfinished or halfass…errr…  halfhearted.  You give 100%, or you give nothing.  You eat all the food on your plate.  You stay awake during church.  You complete all your homework.  And you finish every book you start.  Once that’s ingrained, it doesn’t go away… until your parents aren’t looking.

To this day, I eat all the food on my plate (but I get to choose the food now), I stay awake in church (when I go), I make sure all my work gets completed (so I get paid). But finish every book I start?  Not anymore.

*****

What do you think?  Should you finish reading every book that you start reading?  What books did you finish, despite getting no enjoyment from them?

5 Famous Books That Should NOT Be Made Into Movies

Everybody knows that a bunch of great novels have been turned into great movies.  Sometimes, moviegoers don’t even realize their favorite movie was based on a book.  For example, some movie critics don’t know that The Godfather was a bestselling novel written by Mario Puzo before it became a great movie.

There are already a bunch of lists that show famous books that have been turned into great movies.  But what about the neglected famous books?

Not every famous book would make a good movie.  A lot of great books haven’t translated to the silver (or pocket) screen very well.  The recent movie version of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline Engle was pretty bad (and I like the book).   Despite several attempts, I’ve never seen an interesting version of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  I’m not suggesting that these books should never have been turned into movies.  I’m just saying the above movies would be tough to do.

Below, however, are some books that should NEVER be turned into movies:

1.  A Million Easy Pieces by James Frey

Yes, it’s too late.  I know A Million Easy Pieces is already being made into a movie, but it still shouldn’t happen.  Maybe it can still be stopped.  The book was originally promoted as a memoir, and then it turned out to be a lie.  Maybe A Million Easy Pieces works as fiction.  I don’t know, and I don’t care because I’m not going to read it.

Lying about a memoir is a sneaky writer trick, and I don’t want to reward bad behavior by reading his sneaky memoir book or watching the movie based on his sneaky book.  I know that Hollywood rewards bad behavior all the time, but I don’t have to participate in that, and I won’t.

2.  The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

For a long time, nobody made The Catcher in the Rye into a movie.  I never wanted a movie version because even when I was a teenager, I thought Holden Caulfield was a whiner.  Before Holden Caulfield, fictional kids could have flaws but they tried to do the right thing.  Tom Sawyer wasn’t perfect, but he protected Becky and he saved an innocent man from being convicted.

What did Holden do?  He said “damn” and “hell” a lot.  Anybody can do that.   The world is full of Holden Caulfields, so we don’t need a movie.

Author J.D. Salinger didn’t want a Catcher in the Rye movie either but for reasons that are different than mine.  I think there are a couple recent attempts to do it, but I had to search to find them, so they don’t count for much.  If we went this long without a big budget The Catcher in the Rye movie, we don’t really need one, and it shouldn’t happen.

3.  A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Since The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is being made into a movie, I figured other recent Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winners would be next.  I liked portions of A Visit from the Goon Squad, but what makes it unique as a book (point of view and tense changes) might make it suck as a movie.  The story is okay.  I like to see authors experiment a little bit.  I’m not sure the story is compelling enough for a movie.  I think HBO has/had the rights to it, but I haven’t heard about or seen any finished product.

If the book had literal goons, then it might make a great movie.

4.  Becoming by Michelle Obama

Yes, it’s one of the bestselling books of all time in the United States.  Yes, movie makers can’t resist books that make ton of money, so somebody is going to make a movie.  And the movie will probably suck.

Despite its sales, Becoming wasn’t that great of a memoir.  Michelle Obama has led an interesting life, but she didn’t make herself sound very interesting.  She made herself sound almost two-dimensional in a rock star life.  If Becoming becomes a movie and it sucks, critics will hesitate to say so because they won’t want to be called haters or right-wing extremists.  The support of her movie will be political, just like much of the support for her book.

But politicians and Hollywood creators can’t resist money, so somebody will try to make a movie out of it.

5.  The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring by George R.R. Martin

Since Game of Thrones season 8 was embarrassingly bad, fans want the last few seasons to be redone in a way that matches the high quality of seasons 1-4.  To that I say, “Pffffft!”

Game of Thrones is done.  I don’t mean “done” like “dead to me” or anything like that.  I just mean that the television/cinematic version is completed and, like it or not, a remake version wouldn’t work.

Face it, matching the quality of seasons 1-4 would be nearly impossible.  I think you can even stop watching at the end of season 4 and be satisfied.  At the end of season 4, several story-lines have been resolved, some stupid story-lines haven’t been introduced yet, and several popular characters who die later in poorly-written ways are still alive.

Even though I believe A Dream of Spring is just a dream, George R.R. Martin might still finish his A Song of Ice and Fire series (I’m somewhat doubtful), but it shouldn’t be redone again, either as a movie or as a television series.

+++++

What do you think?  What books do you think should NEVER be turned into movies (or any type of show for television or streaming services)?

5 Reasons Why School Is Good For You

Hang in there, kid! There’s a purpose to all that sitting around. (image via wikimedia)

It’s back to school time, and kids throughout the country are complaining about going back.  Nobody likes going back to school, not even the teachers, and it’s easy to understand why.

It’s also easy to list what’s wrong with school.  Kids just sit in their desks all day while the teachers talk and talk.  A bunch of the kids smell really bad.  Teachers give too much homework.  Teachers yell at the kids for no reason.  The food in the cafeteria is nasty.

Even parents and taxpayers have complaints.  Public education is “one size fits all.”   Schools teach to the tests.  The students don’t think the rules apply to them.  The parents don’t think the rules apply to their kids.  The students don’t think their teachers care.  The teachers don’t think their students care.  Not enough money is spent on education.  Even if you think the education system gets enough taxpayer money, too much of that money in education gets wasted on unnecessary stuff.

Everybody has complaints about school.  Some of these complaints might even be valid.

But we don’t have to be so negative about school.  School is actually good for you, even if it sucks and nobody wants to be there. Here are five reasons why school is good for you.

1.  School teaches you to get up early.

When you’re older, you’ll probably have to get up early to go to a job you don’t like.  Very few people get their dream jobs without suffering first.  School is like your first job that sucks, only you don’t get paid.  If you can succeed at school, then you can succeed at work.  If you can’t succeed at school, maybe the money of a job will motivate you.  But succeeding at school will still help.

2.  School teaches you to get bossed around.

Nobody likes getting bossed around, especially kids.  But school helps you learn how to deal with it.  Yeah, your teachers can be strict or obnoxious.  Some might even get too close and speak with coffee breath right in your face.  Unfortunately, your future bosses probably won’t be much better.  Schools prepare you to accept instructions from somebody you don’t really want to listen to.

3.  School teaches you to keep track of time.

Even if you’re constantly late to class, you can still keep track of time until the class ends by staring at the clock (if it works) or your phone (if the school allows you to keep one with you).  Then you can test your sense of time by ignoring the clock and then estimating the time as you go.  After years of estimating time, I can now accurately calculate the time, even when I haven’t checked it in hours.  My ability to tell the time without assistance stuns my family and friends.  It’s like my mutant ability.

I credit school for that.

4.  School makes you appreciate freedom.

Freedom is awesome, but sometimes people don’t appreciate it.  Do you know what makes people appreciate freedom?  Eight hours of school.  The first week of vacation is the sweetest time in the lives of many children, but as the summer continues, children and teenagers appreciate it less and less… until the new school year approaches.

When you’re an adult, you usually don’t get summer vacation (unless you’re a teacher).  Adults might envy kids and their summer freedom, but then adults remember how horrible school was, and then they appreciate their everyday lives even more.

5.  You might learn a skill that will help you get hired.

Yeah, some people might see this as a long shot, but it happens sometimes.  You might find out that you’re good at math and that you actually like it.  You might discover talents that others don’t have, like a knack for public speaking, or a love of research and analysis, or an ability to mix chemicals without blowing anything up.

Most schools have extracurricular activities that aren’t available anywhere else and give you a chance to have fun and do stuff you like.  It’s true that you have to sit through seven hours of school to get to those activities, but that’s okay; it teaches you that everything has a price.

Some critics might say that I’m setting up expectations that are too high, but I don’t know.  Sometimes if you have a bad attitude, you can make school seem worse than it is.  I’m just trying to help you (or somebody else) see the good in school.

Whether you like it or not, if you’re a kid, you probably have to go to school.  Everybody has had to go through it, and it might seem pointless, but if you have the right attitude, school can be very good for you.

 

5 Misleading Quotes about Writing Written by Famous Authors

If you bleed so much when you type, maybe you should quit writing… or quit drinking. (image via wikimedia)

Aspiring authors often love quotes about writing, and nobody writes better quotes about writing than famous authors.  When a famous author writes a quote about writing, a bunch of people will see it because the author is already famous.  If the average author writes a quote about writing, nobody will see it, so it doesn’t matter how awesome the quote is, at least not until the author becomes famous.

There’s a good reason why famous authors have more credibility when it comes to quotes about writing; nobody knows more about writing than a famous author. Some quotes about writing have become so widely known that they’re almost accepted without second thought.

But what if these famous quotes are misleading? What if these famous authors weren’t meaning to be taken literally?  What if the famous authors were just messing with us? What if famous authors were toying with our emotions and fragile egos?

Below are five famous quotes about writing that MIGHT be misleading:

QUOTE #1 “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”- Ernest Hemingway

WHY IT MIGHT BE MISLEADING

Aspiring authors have enough problems, like being rejected, being ignored, and being over-criticized. We don’t need to hear about bleeding at a typewriter.   I have never bled at the typewriter, and for my first ten years of writing, I actually used a typewriter. Unfortunately, I never learned keyboarding skills, so I was a two-fingered hunt-and-peck typist who used lots of White-out. If anybody should have bled out at the typewriter, it would have been me (or I). I did not bleed at the typewriter. Hemingway should not have left the impression that it’s normal to bleed at the typewriter. If you bleed while you’re writing, stop writing and maybe see a doctor.

QUOTE #2

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.”- Stephen King

WHY IT MIGHT BE MISLEADING

I know Stephen King likes to scare readers with his horror novels, but this quote sounds like he’s trying to scare us aspiring writers with his advice. I love the moment just before I start. I’m optimistic when I start. The scary part is when I know I’m about to be critiqued. And even that’s not scary. I’ve gotten to the point where I’d rather have my writing get insulted than get ignored.

If there’s a scary moment in writing, it’s when I see somebody’s facial expressions while he/she is reading what I wrote. With so much done online nowadays, I don’t see facial expressions anymore, so there is no scary part. Stephen King shouldn’t try to scare aspiring authors like that. He should have better things to do.  I hear that he spends a lot of time on Twitter now.

QUOTE #3

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” Mark Twain

WHY IT MIGHT BE MISLEADING

If I had literally followed this advice in high school, I would have failed my English classes. I was tempted to follow this advice. After all, it was from Mark Twain. I came very/damn close to littering one of my stories with a bunch of damns and then defending it to my teacher by saying Mark Twain said it was okay.

A couple friends (now that I think about it, I don’t believe they were really my “friends”) encouraged me to use a lot of damns. They thought it was a damn good idea. When I chose not to, they said I was damn cowardly. I said I was damn smart, and a teacher heard me. He told me to watch my language, and then he left to smoke a cigarette in the parking lot. I was damn lucky. The problem with exchanging “very” with “damn” is that if you do it too often, you talk like Holden Caulfield and it gets damn old damn quickly.

QUOTE #4

“Literature is all, or mostly, about sex.” – Anthony Burgess

WHY IT MIGHT BE MISLEADING

I don’t know what Anthony Burgess looks/looked like, but I picture him as an old man. The last thing an old man needs to do is talk about sex, especially if he’s a writer. This quote makes writers look like a bunch of perverts. We’re no more perverted than the perverts who read our stuff, but still, Anthony Burgess should at least try to hide it and not push his pervertedness (also known as “perversion) on the rest of us.

Literature is about relationships. Sex is merely one part of a relationship. Maybe it gets discussed in a particular book, maybe it doesn’t. But other aspects of the relationship are important too, like… like… like…

?

QUOTE #5

“If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor.” – Edgar Rice Burroughs

WHY IT MIGHT BE MISLEADING

Putting potential readers through 100 bad stories just to get to one good one is pretty poor. Hey, I can talk. I read the first Pelucidar book. Edgar Rice Burroughs could write a lot of stuff, but it could also get old, unless you don’t get tired of the chase, captured, rescue, chase, capture, escape, chase, capture, rescue/escape formula.

I know, I know, Edgar Rice Burroughs had bills to pay, and a lot of people out there were reading his books, but I think his quote encourages bad writing. It implies that if you simply write a lot, chances are SOMETHING is going to be good, almost by accident, almost by chance.   Maybe that worked for Burroughs (some critics would say ALL of his stories were bad and his body of work is proof that his quote is wrong, but I wouldn’t go that far. He did create Tarzan, after all).

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There are a lot of writing quotes by famous authors out there (and there might be a writing quote that says not to start a sentence with “there”). What other quotes about writing do you think are misleading?

Did James Frey Really Cry on Oprah?

Oprah chose this “memoir” for her Book of the Month Club, and then the author cried on her show… I think… when she accused him of writing lies… I think.

I’m not sure if James Frey really cried on Oprah Winfrey’s show 15 years ago.  Just so you know, I don’t care that much if he did or didn’t; I’m more worried about my potentially bad memory.  I have a vivid memory of James Frey crying, but now I can’t find proof.

I’m getting to the age where I’m starting to not trust my memory.  I still have a pretty good recollection of stuff that’s happened in my life, but now my brain inserts my family into these memories.  I remember hanging out with my wife in college, even though we didn’t meet until six years after I’d graduated.  I remember seeing my wife and daughter at a couple family get-togethers back when I was a kid, before my daughter was even born.

Here’s how my memory could cause problems for my blog.  A few days ago, I made a video (you can find it here) about the line between embellishing and outright lying when you’re writing.  I used James Frey’s memoir A Million Little Pieces as an example of an author lying.  When I recorded the video, I mocked James Frey for crying on Oprah Winfrey’s TV show maybe 15 years ago when she busted him for lying.  Before I put the video up, I thought, you know, I’d better verify that James Frey actually cried on Oprah before I put up a video of me mocking him for it.

The thing is, I remember watching that episode on the day it was on.  My wife used to watch Oprah and she suggested that I might be interested that day because of the guest James Frey and the topic.  I remember James Frey crying because I called him a derogatory name (one that rhymes with wussy) and told him that that fake crying doesn’t work anymore (evidently he didn’t hear me and I was wrong).

My wife kind of remembers him crying.  She says he started crying after Oprah pointed out to him that he wasn’t reacting at all to her accusations.  From my perspective, that’s still crying.  If that’s why I mocked him over a decade ago, I stand by it.  If my memory is faulty and he didn’t cry, then I have to take back my mockery, which also wouldn’t have happened.

I think it’s weird that I can’t find a clip of the full interview, but I’m not making any crazy accusations about it.  I’m sure Oprah owns the footage and controls what clips from her shows get played and which get buried.  If James Frey indeed cried on her show, I wonder why she would hold onto that part of the clip in her vault, but I’m not even sure he actually cried, so I can’t accuse her of hiding footage.  At least, I couldn’t accuse her without looking crazy.

This reminds me of the Mandela Effect, which is when a bunch of people misremember an event in such a way that their memory can be proven false.  For example, a lot of people believe that Nelson Mandela was still imprisoned when died a few years ago.  Oddly enough, I remember Nelson Mandela being freed and then even thriving politically before his death.

Here are some other popular examples of the Mandela Effect:

The Berenstein Bears vs. The Berenstain Bears

Shazaam the movie starring Sinbad vs. Kazaam the movie starring Shaquille O’Neil

“Luke, I am your father” in The Empire Strikes Back vs. “No, I am your father.”

“If you build it, they will come” from Field of Dreams vs. “If you build it, he will come.”

Some theorists say that powerful forces (government, financial, magical,) are messing with the populations for whatever reason (confusion,  mind control, fun).  Some think that this is proof of parallel universes occasionally merging.  Others just think it is weird.

I admit that I don’t pay attention to details enough to have strong opinions on most of these.  I rarely even notice when my wife changes her hair, so I’m not going to commit to an opinion about a childhood memory.  I know when Kevin Costner built it, a lot of people showed up.  I thought Darth Vader being Luke’s father was a cop-out twist.  Whether Kazaam was a movie or not, it doesn’t matter; it would have been stupid either way.  An old copy of a Barenstain Bears book that I own says Berenstain Bears; if some force is strong enough to change a copy that old (and every other copy that old), I don’t want to mess with it.

My memory about James Frey crying on Oprah might not be the best example of the Mandela Effect because I don’t think there’s any mass memory involved.  I don’t think anybody else cares if James Frey cried on Oprah.  If my memory says James Frey cried on Oprah and a video shows up with the entire interview and no weeping, nobody else is going to care.  I might not even care.  I’d just say, “Aw, dang it, I misremembered that.”

And I’d go on to misremembering something else.

What do you think?  In what ways has your memory tricked you?  Did James Frey really cry on Oprah?

Will you dare take… THE ULTIMATE READING QUIZ????

(image via wikimedia)

Most people don’t like taking quizzes because they don’t like being put under pressure or they don’t want to get judged on their scores.  If you’re not forced to take a quiz, however, and if nobody judges you on your score, then everything changes.

I haven’t been forced to take a quiz in years, and I’m a much better person for it, but I’ve taken this quiz.  I even wrote this quiz, and it didn’t hurt me a bit. So what are you waiting for?  Take the quiz!

A.  A friend declares that a book he/she has just read is “THE BEST BOOK EVER!!!!!”  What do you do?

  1. Trust your friend’s judgment and try reading the book.
  2. Tell your friend that you’ll read the book but then never get around to it.
  3. Calmly tell your friend that you know he/she has not read every book ever written so he/she is in no position to judge whether or not a book is the best ever.
  4. Tell your friend about another book that you think is “THE BEST BOOK EVER!!!!” just so he or she knows how it feels.

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B.    When you see a copy of Moby Dick, your first reaction is

  1. To feel a smug satisfaction, knowing that you’ve already read it and understand all the symbolism and themes of the novel.
  2. To feel that your life is a little empty since you haven’t read it, but you’ll get to it.
  3. Turn away in disgust, knowing that you’ll never read it and you’re proud that you’ll never read it.
  4. Moby Dick.  Ha ha ha ha!  Dick.  Ha ha ha!

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C.     You find out that a book that you truly love is about to be made into a movie.  What is your reaction?

  1. Obsessively watch for news about the casting and release dates of the movie.
  2. Make a mental note to be on the look-out for it, but you don’t put much thought into it.
  3. Watch the movie and intentionally catalogue every flaw in it.
  4. You know it’ll suck because every movie based on a book sucks.

*****

D.   A famous author is having a book signing while you’re there.  What do you do?

  1. Grab a copy of the new book, stand in line, and gush when the author signs it.
  2. Find a beat up copy of an old book and hope that the author doesn’t call you a cheap skate.
  3. Stand in line without a book so you can at least brag that you’ve met the author.
  4. Who cares?  All authors do is write books.  Anybody can write books.

*****

E.    An acquaintance recommends a book from a genre you don’t care for (maybe sci-fi/fantasy, a trashy romance, or literary fiction).  You automatically think…

  1. I’ll have to give that book a try.
  2. Maybe it’s a good book, but it’s probably not for me.
  3. Oh, it’s one of “those” books.
  4. There’s a good reason why this person is only an acquaintance.

*****

F.    How long does it take you to decide whether or not you’ll finish reading a book?

  1. You’ll finish reading a book no matter what.
  2. You’ll read at least half of it and give it an honest chance.
  3. If it doesn’t grab you within the first few pages, you’re done with it.
  4. If it doesn’t have a cool cover, forget it.

*****

G.    When a teacher at school assigns (or assigned) a novel, what is your initial response?

  1. If this book is in the school curriculum, it must be very interesting.
  2. I’m already reading a good book, but I guess I’ll juggle both.
  3. If this book is in the school curriculum, it must really suck.
  4. Flippin’ school!  You’re not gonna tell me what to read!

*****

H.   A book that you really want to read comes out in hardback and is very expensive.  What will you do?

  1. You shell out the $30.00+ because you’ll read this no matter what.
  2. Check the book’s availability at the library and then maybe buy it for $12.99 on your Kindle.
  3. Wait for the paperback and hope that it’s not one of those $15.00 paperbacks.  $15.00 for a paperback?  That’s ridiculous!
  4. No book is worth putting that much effort into.  You’ll read whatever you want whenever you feel like it.

*****

I.     You’re reading an intensely sad scene from a book while in a public place and are about to cry.  How do you respond?

  1. You openly weep because you’re completely wrapped up in the book and don’t care what anybody thinks.
  2. You read the book in short increments so that you don’t cry in public.
  3. You stop reading the sad book and do something else.
  4. You never read in public because you’re afraid you’ll get conked on the head.

*****

J.     You’re reading a really good book in a public place when you notice a person who needs assistance in an emergency situation.  What do you do?

  1. Put the book down immediately and help out.
  2. See if somebody else is around to help before you stop reading.
  3. Finish the page/chapter/book that you’re on before you help.
  4. Stop reading immediately, record the emergency situation with your phone, and post it online for clicks.

*****

SCORE

10-15 Points- You are an open-minded reader and are sensitive about others’ feelings.

16-25 Points- You are independent-minded but willing to try new experiences occasionally.

26-35 Points- You are fiercely loyal to the books you love but are sometimes called inflexible and stubborn by people who just don’t understand you.

36-40 Points- You don’t read (or play) well with others.

*****

BONUS QUESTION- This one doesn’t count!

After finishing a reading style quiz, what do you immediately do?

  1. Leave a comment that announces your score and gives feedback.
  2. Add up your score but keep it to yourself.
  3. Ignore the score and move on to another article.
  4. Click the “Like” button without having even read the quiz.

*****

See?  That wasn’t so bad, was it?  What was your score on THE ULTIMATE READING QUIZ?  What other questions would you want to see asked?

When Does A Writer Become A Liar?

(image via Wikimedia)

Telling the truth can be counterproductive for a writer.  Even when authors are writing something that’s supposedly “based on a true story,” they might embellish a little.  They sometimes make up dialogue because people usually aren’t as witty in real life as they are on paper.

Writers might leave out crucial details to make one person look worse than he or she is (or make him or look worse).  They might make up details that no normal person would remember, like weather and clothing, just to make readers feel like they’re part of the story.  Without these details, the truth could seem to be downright boring.

Some authors don’t even use their reals names.  Samuel Clemens wrote his books as Mark Twain.  Or was it the other way around?  Stephen King started off his writing career as Richard Bachman.  Some female authors like S.E. Hinton and J.K. Rowling abbreviate their first names so that male readers don’t get turned off by reading a female author.   Male author Dan Mallory used the pseudonym A.J. Finn for his novel The Woman in the Window so that readers would think he was female (I think… I might have misremembered that).

I’m pretty sure Dan Mallory lied about having brain cancer, though, and that’s probably worse than using an unethical(?) pseudonym.

At any rate, part of writing is being just a little bit dishonest.  Authors like to call it creative liberty.  A little embellishment can make stories, even those based on actual events, much more interesting.  But at what point does embellishment become outright lying?

For more about liars and writing, WATCH HERE!

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction Winners, 2019-2009: A Review

Winning a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is way better than getting a book on the bestsellers list.  At least, in my imagination, it would be.  I haven’t accomplished either, so I guess I wouldn’t know for sure, but theoretically, a Pulitzer Prize would be awesome.

First of all, a Pulitzer Prize is forever.  A book can disappear from a bestsellers list within a week, but that’s not true for a Pulitzer Prize.  Once your book wins a Pulitzer Prize, it’s there forever.  I don’t think any author has lost a Pulitzer Prize once it’s been won.  Even James Patterson hasn’t won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction yet.  He might team up with a literary fiction author to give himself a chance, but he might have to put his name in really small letters on the cover if he’s serious.

Anyway, nobody who likes literary fiction wants to read about James Patterson, so without further ado, here are recent recipients of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction:

2019 The Overstory by Richard Powers

It’s a story about trees, but not really. It’s a story told from the point of  view of trees but not really.  It’s a bunch of stories not about trees not necessarily told from the point of view of trees, but not really.  If The Overstory hadn’t won a Pulitzer, I never would have tried reading it, but it did, so I did.  I don’t want to overdo my praise for The Overstory, but it’s better than anything James Patterson has written lately.

2018 Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Here’s a Pulitzer Prize winner with a hack title.  Less is about a guy named Arthur Less, a struggling writer for whom the narrator seems to feel contempt.  Book titles with a character’s name seem lazy to me, but this novel won a Pulitzer, so I guess I can’t judge.  Still, when it comes to Pulitzer Prizes, I expect more, not Less.

2017 The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

This is a great novel about the Underground Railroad, but you’d better know your history before you read it.  I feel sorry for the U.S. history student who reads The Underground Railroad and then takes a test in U.S. history class about the Underground Railroad.  The history student’s results might not be all that good.

2016  The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

When I heard The Sympathizer was the Pulitzer Prize winner for 2016, I ran out to the local book store and bought myself a copy without the “Pulitzer Prize for Fiction” label.  I don’t know why those book cover labels bother me, but they do.  Even though The Sympathizer was way better than anything James Patterson has written, I feel like the author was trying too hard to make this an important book.  That might seem like an odd criticism, and I’m not sure I can defend it now, but that’s how I felt when I read it a couple/few years ago.

2015   All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

I know a lot of people who have read All the Light We Cannot See (or claimed to have read it), and nobody I know despises this book.  Usually a Pulitzer brings about a ton of extra criticism, but I haven’t seen any post-Pulitzer backlash for this like I’ve seen from other winners (especially The Goldfinch and A Visit from the Goon Squad).

If a book can be a long-term bestseller AND a Pulitzer Prize winner and NOT get post-award backlash, then that book must be AWESOME (except saying it’s AWESOME would be setting expectations too high and cause more undeserved backlash).

2014  The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

This is what I’m talking about, a polarizing Pulitzer Prize winner that’s been a bestseller for a long time.  A lot of readers love it, and a lot of readers hate it.  Readers complain that it’s too long, too slow, and has sections that don’t make sense or contribute to the story.  Others say the book is brilliant.  Being “brilliant” implies that that readers who complain about the book just don’t get it.  Readers who complain about it might say they “get” it but it’s not as brilliant as readers who love it say it is.

I haven’t read it.  By my standards, it’s pretty long.

2013  The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson

North Korea is a rare setting for a novel, and the author uses a bunch of literary devices to describe all the horrible stuff going on there, so it’s more than just a laundry list of human rights abuses.  I don’t like reading about human rights abuses, even when I know they’re fictional.

In The Orphan Master’s Son, the orphan master treats his son more harshly than the orphans in his care.  That’s how it goes.  When I was growing up, a friend of mine’s mom was a teacher, and one year he had to be in his mom’s class for the whole year, and he was miserable because she was always on his case.  I’m sure it wasn’t as bad as being an orphan master’s son in North Korea, but still.

2012  No Award

I respect an award where there isn’t always a winner (or recipient).  There shouldn’t always be a winner just because there’s an award available.  There should be standards!!  If no novel written in 2012 meets those standards, then so be it.  I wish the Heisman Trophy (for college football) had a No Award option.

2011  A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

As a writer, you can’t go wrong with a metaphor as a title.  As a reader, I can get confused with metaphors because I’m kind of literal.  When I read A Visit from the Goon Squad, I was expecting an actual goon squad.  I like books with goon squads.  I don’t like goon squads in real life because they’re dangerous, but I like goon squads in literature because they make books interesting.  Just so you know, there are no real goon squads in A Visit from the Goon Squad.  That doesn’t really spoil anything.

2010  Tinkers by Paul Harding

Here’s another polarizing Pulitzer winner.  Readers either love Tinkers or hate it.  Some critics call it poetic, and others say the author tried too hard.  I know what those critics mean.  In this novel an old man is on his death bed thinking about his life with his family around him.  It seems like a common idea.

I’ve read books and seen movies with that concept, but Tinkers uses a lot of metaphors regarding clocks and time. Some critics say the author tried too hard to make this book deep, but Tinkers won a Pulitzer, so who cares?  If I’m the author and I’ve won a Pulitzer, I don’t care if critics say I tried too hard.  Trying too hard shows you care.  It’s better than not trying hard enough.

2009  Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Sometimes a book title with only a character’s name can be confusing.  Did Elizabeth Strout write Olive Kitteridge?  Or did Olive Kitteridge write Elizabeth Strout?  Elizabeth Strout would have been a cool fictional name, and Olive Kitteridge would be a cool author’s name.  At least when Jane Austen wrote Emma, she didn’t give Emma a last name.  If Emma had been given a last name, I might have gotten Jane and Emma confused too.

BONUS BOOK

2008  The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao  by Junot Diaz

This is the opposite of Olive Kitteridge.  Take a character’s name and add a bunch of adjectives to it.  Plus, there are tons of pop cultural references in this book.  I wonder how it will hold up 20, 50, even 100 years from now.  When somebody reads The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao in 2108, will readers be turned off by all the references that are no longer in the cultural lexicon?  That’s the thing about being a Pulitzer Prize winner; it’s forever.  At least, it’s forever as long as people still read books.

*****

What do you think?  Would you rather write a bestselling novel or a Pulitzer Prize winner?  Which Pulitzer Prize winning novel above is your favorite?