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Literary Glance: The Outsider by Stephen King

I’ve just started reading The Outsider by Stephen King, and the first victim (I’m guessing there will be more) is a teenage boy who has been mutilated with a bloody stick shoved up his butt.  Normally, I wouldn’t be specific about graphic violence, but just last night I saw a scene on a Netflix show where a teenage boy is tortured with a mop stick shoved up his butt.  This Netflix show is marketed to teens for them to binge watch, and it’s kind of mainstream.

Is this a new thing for mainstream entertainment, to depict boys getting stuff shoved up their butts?  Or is it just a coincidence?  I don’t know.  The creators of this entertainment might say that the shock can inspire conversation about something that needs to be talked about… like… stuff being forced up kids’ butts?  To me, it inspires conversation that mainstream entertainment might be run by a bunch of weirdos.

Maybe I’m wrong (it happens a lot), but sticking stuff up a fictional kids’ butt for shock value is kind of lazy.  Killing a kid or torturing a kid in a story should be enough of a shock, if you’re the type who values that kind of shock.  Stephen King has a history of writing about shockingly bad stuff happening to kids.  If two fictional kids hadn’t had stuff shoved up their butts within a few days of each other, maybe I wouldn’t have noticed it.

The thing is, I wasn’t even shocked by either situation.  Both times I thought the creators were trying too hard, which might seem contradictory to my earlier statement that the stuff up the butt was lazy.  Both Stephen King and the Netflix show were trying too hard to do something shocking, but they came up with a lazy way to do it.

The bloody stick up the butt isn’t the only problem I have with The Outsider.  The dialogue so far is really bad.  King’s characters use forced slang.  Teenagers refer to the police as “5-0.”  An old person talks about his dog doing “a number one and a number two.”  An editor should have encouraged King to ease up on the forced euphemisms.  These are simple fixes; just refer to the police as “cops,” and say the dog is “taking a dump.”  You can never go wrong with talking about “cops” and a dog “taking a dump.”  I’m not a bestselling author, but I stand by that advice.

Don’t get me wrong.  There are some good scenes early in The Outsider.  Despite the flaws so far, it might be worth reading.  But Stephen King should be able to write good scenes without the glaring clunkiness.  If he can’t do it, then an editor should fix some of the clunkiness.  Then again, he’s Stephen King and people will buy the book no matter what, so editors probably don’t want to tick off Stephen King.

If I were an editor with a family and bills to pay, I’d accept whatever Stephen King gave me because I wouldn’t want to get fired.  If I were a financially independent editor, I’d red-mark King’s drafts.  I’d red-mark them even if the drafts were perfect, just to see his reaction.  I’d love to see how Stephen King responds to criticism, now that he can write just about anything.

*****

What do you think?  Is it weird that a TV show and a bestselling novel released within a week of each other would feature boys tortured with something up the butt?  Is this a trend and I just don’t know about it?  Would you red-mark Stephen King’s rough draft if you had the chance?

Pulitzer Prize Winning Author Gets Accused of Sexual Harassment

It seems like every segment of society is getting rocked by the #MeToo movement, and publishing isn’t immune.  A couple weeks ago a kind of famous author was accused  by multiple women of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior.  I usually don’t write about current events and social issues, but this guy who’s been accused wrote a novel that won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. He might not be a rich and famous author like Stephen King or James Patterson, but a Pulitzer Prize is prestigious and forever.

I’m not surprised that authors are getting accused of sexual harassment stuff.  There’s a hierarchy in the book business, and every hierarchy has the potential for abuse.  Plus, a lot of male authors are kind of homely looking awkward guys who might have struggled romantically until they became successful authors, and maybe being a successful author didn’t help much.  Being a famous homely author isn’t the same as being a famous actor or singer or athlete.  Most people don’t read much, so most people don’t know who the famous homely author is.  They just know that he’s homely.

Women who are into literature probably don’t expect to get hit on (or be sexually harassed/assaulted) by a Pulitzer Prize winning author.  Women who read books are going to be smarter than the average woman (or man), but they still might not know what to do right away when they’re being sexually harassed/assaulted.  Instead of going public right away, they might want to be polite and keep quiet, but that won’t stop the inappropriate/illegal behavior from happening again.

At first, I thought maybe the Pulitzer Prize winning author was just an awkward guy who was clumsy at romantic gestures (until I read more about it).  Some guys need a little help at that kind of thing.  A normal clumsy guy will stop when a woman tells him to.  Some might not get the hint right away but will stop when a woman yells out: “DON’T TOUCH ME, YOU F***ING CREEP!”

It’s probably tough for a polite woman to tell a guy that he’s a F***ING CREEP!!!  Polite women like to be precise with their language and follow social norms.  Calling a guy a F***ING CREEP to his face (preferably in public) causes a scene, and polite women often don’t want to cause scenes, which unfortunately is why a potential F***ING CREEP would get overly aggressive.  If a guy is making unwanted advances, women shouldn’t feel the need to be precise with language or be polite.

DON’T TOUCH ME, YOU F***ING CREEP is a socially acceptable response to an unwanted overly-aggressive advance.

Calling a guy a F***ING CREEP to his face immediately is more effective than waiting a few years to say anything or writing a tweet.  Again, I’m not blaming the women for waiting.  It’s tough to respond immediately to surprise situations.  I’m just saying now that everybody is aware it happens, there’s an effective immediate way to respond.

Just so you know, I was never called a F***ING CREEP in high school… or… uh… any other time in my life.  I saw it happen to…. uh… a friend of mine.  And it changed… his behavior forever.  It even changed mine, and… it didn’t even happen to me.

Sexual harassers aren’t just the average clumsy guy, however, and they might be a bit selective with their potential victims.  For example, a former president’s daughter recently interned with a famous Hollywood producer who has been accused of a lot of bad stuff.  The Hollywood producer knows to leave a former president’s daughter alone.  That producer would instead go after a young woman (or guy) from a no-name middle class family with little money and no clout.  A woman (or man) from a family with no clout can often be intimidated into not saying anything.

Victims might feel guilty for making an accusation of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior.  Even in the case of the homely Pulitzer Prize winning author, victims ( or at least one of them) might have been hesitant to say anything because the author was too important to a certain demographic community (just to be clear, it was NOT the homely guy community.  The homely guy community as a demographic has no power).  If a guy is a F***ING CREEP, then it shouldn’t matter what other demographic group he belongs to.  The F***ING CREEP part overrides everything else.

The thing is, I kind of liked the Pulitzer Prize winning novel that author wrote.  I don’t think his Pulitzer Prize should be revoked or anything.  Maybe an asterisks (or three) should be next to his name.  After all, it’s not the Pulitzer Prize’s fault that the author might be a F***ING CREEP.

Literary Glance: The 17th Suspect by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

I just read the rough draft of the first seven chapters from The 17th Suspect, the new novel by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro.   For a rough draft, it was okay.  There’s the possibility of a decent story in that draft somewhere.

The first chapter features a murder with no emotional impact at all, and that can be a problem, but maybe that can get fixed with a couple quick rewrites.  Maybe the lack of emotion was intentional, but as a reader, I want to care about what happens to the murder victim (or maybe even the murderer).

The second chapter introduces Yuki Castellano, one of the protagonists.  A lot of readers probably know the protagonist from rough drafts of other James Patterson novels, but I haven’t read those rough drafts, so my brain has to fill in a lot of blanks.  Filling in the details can be okay sometimes, but the first several chapters with Yuki contain almost all dialogue, and there’s no sense of setting.  I’m confident an experienced author like Patterson can fix all that on a rewrite.

So far, this rough draft is kind of blah for a crime drama, but it’s not as bad as some other James Patterson rough drafts.  The worst that I’ve read was his Bookshots a couple years ago, but I haven’t read everything James Patterson has written.  That’s okay.  Rumors suggest that even James Patterson hasn’t read everything he’s written either.

I don’t know about the serial killer in The 17th Suspect, but I think I’ve seen a sexual harassment/rape case like the book’s on a television crime show.  There are so many television crime/legal shows that it’s tough to come up with an original case for a novel.  I wouldn’t even try to write a murder mystery or legal drama anymore because there have been so many murder mystery and legal drama television shows, and it’s tough reading them too.  Why would I spend hours and hours reading a murder mystery when I just saw the same case on some television show that I can’t think of anymore?

The 17th Suspect is the 17th book in the Women’s Murder Club series.  I’m guessing from what I’ve read that the women in the murder club solve the murders instead of committing them.  Maybe that’s what this series needs after 17 books.  One of the women in the murder club can finally snap.  It would put the other women in the murder club in a bad position.  The good news is that they solved the murder; the bad news would be that their murder club just got smaller.

James Patterson and whatever publishing company that puts out his books have made a fortune writing rough drafts and publishing them.  I’m pretty sure (from what I’ve read) that not much effort was put into The 17th Suspect.  Writing a series has to get dull after a while.  Once you hit double digits, you must get bored with it.  The brain yearns for novelty, and this is especially true with creative people.  I might mock some of James Patterson’s rough drafts, but I know he’s got an imagination, and writing 17 books with the same characters has to be getting old, even with a co-writer who might be doing most/all of the work.

I’d kind of like to read a book that James Patterson actually put some effort into.  I know he can do it.  He did it, I think, maybe 25 years ago.  He could even advertise this new book (that has been revised several times) as… “The Book I Actually Wrote Myself and Put Effort Into!!!”  Even if he wrote the novel in one day, he could still wait six months just make it look like he put effort into it.  He could write it in one day, hire a bunch of editors/coauthors to work on it, and teach his Masterclass for five months, and at least pretend he worked on the novel for six months.

Even if James Patterson isn’t writing real books anymore, he could at least pretend.

But I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

My Wife Accused Me of Mansplaining

(image via wikimedia)

My wife accused me of mansplaining, and I handled it by… mansplaining. Now she’s pissed off at me.  That’s the short version.

My wife and I were having a discussion about finances and remodeling.  It wasn’t an argument.  We’re at the point where we can usually discuss things and disagree without actually arguing.  That’s a pretty good place to be in a marriage.  The bad part about that, though, is that I can get a little too comfortable with myself and slip up.  You should never get too comfortable in a relationship.

Anyway, my wife wants to move ahead with some more remodeling and I want to wait a few more months.  I was reviewing the financial numbers with her, going month-to-month, and then week-to-week to show why it would be better to wait (too many unpredictable surprises could happen in the next few months and I want more money to handle those surprises), and my wife accused me of mansplaining.

Mansplaining?

I’d heard of mansplaining before.  I knew what it was, but it was one of those things that other men would get accused of.  How could I get accused of mansplaining?  I consider my wife’s point of view.  I have often changed my mind because of my wife’s opinion.  It was ridiculous of her to accuse me of mansplaining.  As often happens with me when something unforeseen happens, my brain glitches.

“It’s not mansplaining,” I said.  “It’s called logic.”

I meant this partially in humor and partially in seriousness, but that combination doesn’t always translate in my monotone voice.

“I meant that to be funny,” I clarified.  I’d never been accused of mansplaining, even at work.  Most of the women where I work probably mansplain, not because they’re men, but because there’s a lot of… explaining involved… with… stuff that needs… explaining… because it needs to be… explained.

If mansplaining is brought up too early in a relationship, it can destroy it.  The woman doesn’t like feeling like she’s being talked down to, and the man doesn’t like being accused of mansplaining, and he’ll get defensive, and then they break up and call their friends and complain to them about how horrible their ex is.  The accusation of mansplaining means the point of whatever was said is lost.  The man might (or might not) be right, but we’ll never know because the issue has changed to how something is explained.

Luckily, my wife and I have been married for over 20 years.  We can handle the mansplaining and the accusation of it.  Maybe I can pre-empt any opinion or commentary with a mansplaining alert.  If I announce ahead of time that I’m about to mansplain, it might make the mansplaining more tolerable to women who are sensitive to it.

I won’t apologize for mansplaining, though.  If I’m a man, then there’s probably a biological reason why I mansplain.  There’s also a thing called manspreading, but there’s a biological/physical reason for manspreading, and it makes logical sense for men to manspread when they sit.  There must also be a logical reason for men to mansplain too.  If I mansplain because I’m a man, then I’m not going to apologize for being a man.  If I’m mansplaining for another reason, then it shouldn’t be called mansplaining, and the accusers should apologize to men for falsely diagnosing what they think is wrong.

I don’t think my wife is going to accuse me of mansplaining again.  When my daughters heard about it, they laughed in front of my wife.  I’m not sure if they laughed at the idea of mansplaining or the idea that I did it, but they laughed in front of my wife.  I think my wife was having a bad moment when she accused me of mansplaining, and I don’t mean a female kind of bad moment because that would be a form of mansplaining.  I mean, she was having a bad moment like anybody can have a bad moment at any time of the day, week, month, or year.

A man has to be careful when he talks about a woman’s bad moments.  If a man’s remarks about his girlfriend/wife’s bad moments are misinterpreted, than a worse argument could happen and that could lead to a break up and any remarks about the situation would be called EX-plaining.

And that’s usually bad for a relationship.

Literary Glance: The Hellfire Club by Jake Tapper

When I first saw The Hellfire Club by Jake Tapper at #3 on the New York Times Bestseller List in its first week, I thought, oh great, another book written by a celebrity.

The author Jake Tapper is a reporter/anchor for CNN, so he knows a bunch of people in the publishing industry.  If he doesn’t know them, then he knows a bunch of people who know a bunch of people.  And if they don’t know a bunch of people, they know a bunch of people who know a … you get the idea.

Jake Tapper isn’t the only news reporter/anchor/host to write a book.  It seems like every on-air personality at FOX News has a book out.  It must be written into their contracts that on-air personalities write at least one book every couple years.  I can understand a news anchor writing a nonfiction book that is kind of related to current events, culture, or history.  I can understand that.

But a novel?  Either Jake Tapper is really arrogant, or he’s a pretty good writer, or he hired a pretty good writer who didn’t mind giving Jake Tapper credit.  And then that novel hits #3 in its first week?  That’s either a pretty good book with quick word-of-mouth, or it’s an author with some serious connections.

Is The Hellfire Club a bestselling novel on its merits?  I guess some people would say the “merits” for a bestselling novel would be book sales, but I’m looking at quality of writing.  Is Jake Tapper’s writing on par with normal bestselling authors like John Grisham, James Patterson, orDanielle Steel?  To be honest, I don’t know because I haven’t read the whole book yet.

But here’s the first sentence:

He snapped out of the blackness with a mouth full of mud.

That’s not a bad first sentence.  I’ve read a bunch of first sentences from bestselling novels that are way worse than this.

The first scene isn’t bad either.  The pace is okay, the action is easy to follow, the dialogue isn’t clunky or forced.  In my opinion, this novel compares favorably to a bunch of other novels in the thriller genre.  That might not be saying much when you look at some of the other novels in that genre.  Most of the sentences so far in The Hellfire Club are well-written, but there are still a few examples of clunkers, such as:

Charlie exited and joined LaMontagne, who was staring at what at first appeared to be a bundle of discarded clothes in a narrow drainage ditch but upon closer examination proved to be a young woman lying on her right side, facing away from the road, her left arm twisted awkwardly behind her.

This long sentence killed what could have been a dramatic scene.  The two characters discover a dead body that will probably be important to the story, but the discovery feels rushed.  Sometimes when I see a clunker of a sentence, I fix it, but the last time I fixed a famous author’s sentence on my blog, I missed a few grammatical mistakes in my own writing.  True, I write my blog for free, but I try to keep the writing as mistake-free as possible for a guy with a full-time job that has nothing to do with writing.

Anyway, the writing quality so far in The Hellfire Club is okay for a bestseller, but this novel probably wouldn’t be a bestseller if the author wasn’t Jake Tapper, or a guy with connections like Jake Tapper.  I don’t blame Jake Tapper.  If I were in his profession and had his connections and wanted to write a bestselling novel, I’d do the same thing.  You almost have a responsibility to use your connections to your advantage (as long as it’s done legally).  I’m not complaining about Tapper using his connections to write a bestselling book.  I’m just saying The Hellfire Club probably wouldn’t be a bestseller if the author wasn’t a famous guy with connections.

But it’s still waaaaay better than anything I’ve read by James Patterson.

Famous Author with Cool Name Says He’ll Run for President!

(image via wikimedia)

First of all, I don’t think Brad Thor is a real name.  I’ve always been very clear about that on this blog.  I know people have first names for last names sometimes, and I don’t really have a problem with that, but Thor is too cool of a last name.  If I met a guy named Jake Hulk or Todd Studd, I’d say those names were fake too.

Secondly, I try to avoid political stuff because it can be so divisive.  Yes, politics is everywhere, but we need some unifiers that can always bring people together.  Sports, movies, and music can be great unifiers, but political injections can ruin these.  The same is true with books.  Books can be unifiers too, especially for smart people who like to read.  Maybe saying “smart” is biased, but I don’t know too many intellectually-challenged people who like to read a lot.  It could happen, I admit, but I don’t see it.

Brad Thor, author of a bunch of military-thriller novels, announced last week  that he was thinking about running against President Donald Trump in the 2020 Republican primary.  This didn’t get reported a lot on the news.  Donald Trump hasn’t tweeted about it (he has other things to deal with first, I guess).  Maybe political wonks aren’t taking this seriously (they didn’t take Donald Trump seriously either).

I’m not going to delve into the reasons Thor might run (because that gets political), but since he’s a writer, and I comment about books/writing, I thought I should mention it.   I promise I won’t take sides, though.  I have my own strong opinions, but I’ll respect readers (who don’t care about my political views) by keeping my opinions to myself.

The best part of Brad Thor’s campaign would be the opposition research (if his opposition feels like he’s worth it).  For years I’ve been telling the world that Brad Thor is not really Brad Thor’s real name.  I have no proof of this.  All evidence that I’ve seen indicates that Brad Thor is Brad Thor’s real name.  It’s supposedly not a pen name, but I don’t believe that.

Brad Thor is too cool of a name to be real.  It’s so cool that it’s almost like one of those fake joke names like Anita Dick or Eric Shawn.  Nobody really gets named Anita Dick or Eric Shawn, unless the parents are intentionally being jerks.  Nobody really gets named Brad Thor either.  It’s too cool a name, and no parents are that cool.

I wouldn’t mind if Brad Thor just came out and admitted that Brad Thor was a pseudonym.  I respect a good pseudonym.  I just resent the arrogance of pretending that his cool fake name is real.  And now it looks like Brad Thor might make the mistake of running for president.

Running for president is no game.  Somebody will find out what Brad Thor’s real name is.  And then Brad Thor will have to shamefully admit that he’s been lying all this time about his cool name.  Lying about a cool name might not be the worst thing a public figure can do.  It might not be worse than using taxpayer money to hire prostitutes or covering up a break-in, but it could be a political career killer.  It’s so bad that I can’t offhand think of anybody who’s tried it.

Normally I would say that running for president is a great way to sell more books.  But when you have a cool name like Brad Thor, you shouldn’t need to run for president to sell books.

Shocking!! The Winds of Winter Won’t Get Released in 2018!!!

Okay, this probably doesn’t surprise anybody.  Last week Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin announced on his blog that The Winds of Winter won’t be ready for publication in 2018. Instead, he’s putting out some history book called Fire and Blood about the Targaryen kings.

Are you serious?  Fire & F***ing Blood??  Nobody cares about that!  The world wants The Winds of Winter!!!!

I don’t even read the Song of Ice and Fire books, and this ticks me off.  It’s been several years since the last Games of Thrones novel, Martin is working on a bunch of projects, his blog posts are long when he should be writing The Winds of Winter instead, and the HBO series has caught up with his books.  In other words, finish A Game of Thrones!

I don’t even want to know what the book fanatics are feeling.  Like I said, I don’t read the Song of Ice and Fire series, but I empathize with the frustrated fans.  When I was a kid, I got depressed after I saw The Empire Strikes Back because there was a cliffhanger and I knew I’d have to wait three years for the next movie.  That was a crappy feeling, so it has to be even worse for Game of Thrones fans when The Winds of Winter deadline keeps getting pushed back.

On the other hand, the books might be a lot better if George R.R. Martin takes his time.  When George Lucas met his three-year deadline with Return of the Jedi, he gave us Ewoks.  Maybe if Lucas had waited an extra year, he might have come up with something better.  Fans will be pissed if the White Walkers are defeated not by dragons and Valyrian steel, but by tiny furry huggable creatures.

It wouldn’t be so bad if Martin was devoting all his time to The Winds of Winter, but he isn’t.  George R.R. Martin spends a lot of time writing stuff that isn’t A Song of Ice and Fire.  He writes Dunk and Egg stories.  He writes histories of his fantasy world.  To me, those are things he should write AFTER he’s done with A Song of Ice and Fire.  Dunk and Egg stories are okay, but I want to know what happens in Westeros.  And I really don’t give a flip about Targaryen kings.

If George R.R. Martin passes before he finishes A Song of Ice and Fire (and I really hope that doesn’t happen), the first thing that some readers will think is “Now I’ll never find out what happens next!  What a rip-off!”  They might feel guilty for thinking it, but it’ll be tough not to think it.

Maybe George R.R. Martin doesn’t want to finish Game of Thrones.  Every time he falls behind, it gets him a lot of attention, and a bunch of fans remind him how they can’t wait to read his next book.  That probably feels great.  Once he’s done with the series, that’s it.  His readers will be exhausted, and a bunch of them will be angry at how he ended the series.

No matter how Martin ends the series, somebody will be angry.  It’s impossible to finish a series like Game of Thrones without making some readers mad.  Maybe he thinks he’d be better off by never finishing the whole series.  But I don’t care what Martin thinks; waiting forever for a book series that will never be completed is way worse than waiting three years for a trilogy that ends with Ewoks.

*****

What do you think?  Is seven years between books too long?  Should Martin spend his time writing anything he wants (like 900 page history books about Westeros)?  Or should his first priority be Game of Thrones/Song of Ice and Fire?

Literary Glance: Noir by Christopher Moore

Titling a film noir parody Noir seems kind of lazy.  Titles are the best part of some film noir movies.  I mean, film noir titles are short: NotoriousThe Big SleepDouble IndemnityRebecca. Shadow of a Doubt.   A book title can’t get any shorter than Noir.  Except maybe It or TheIt wasn’t film noir.  I’ve never seen a book titled The.  I’m sure somebody has written it, but I haven’t seen it.  M might be the best film noir title ever because it’s only one letter.

The title Noir is just kind of obvious. It hits the reader over the head with what the book will be about.  There isn’t much subtlety in the title Noir.  Then again, the cover makes it kind of obvious too.  I guess the title doesn’t matter when you have a cover like that.  With a cover like that, the book didn’t need a title.  No title would be even shorter than a short title.

The problem with Noir, once you actually start reading it, is that it sounds more like a Christopher Moore novel than noir.  To some, that’s not a problem.  That’s not really a problem for me either, except Moore’s writing style is the opposite of noir. Noir should have short, choppy sentences with slightly tacky descriptions and short direct dialogue.  Instead, a lot of the sentences (including the dialogue) are long and meandering.

The first example is the first sentence in the book:

I did not scream when I came in the back door of Sal’s Saloon, where I work, to find Sal himself lying there on the floor of the stockroom, the color of blue ruin, fluids leaking from his various holes and puddling on the ground, including a little spot of blood by his head.

That’s not a noir sentence.  I know I’m not a noir writer, but I’ve read a few books that were turned into movies that are considered film noir, and that sentence didn’t feel like film noir.  I tried to split the sentences in a way that a hard-boiled detective author might write it:

I did not scream when I came in the back door of Sal’s Saloon.  There was Sal himself, lying there on the floor of the stockroom, the color of blue ruin, fluids leaking from his various holes and puddling on the ground, including a little spot of blood by his head.

Yes, I left out the fact that the narrator works at the saloon, but that becomes obvious without it ever being stated.

The next scene is when the femme fatale is introduced in Chapter 1:

She had the kind of legs that kept her butt from resting on her shoes- a size-eight dame in a size-six dress and every mug in the joint was rooting for the two sizes to make a break for it as they watched her wiggle in the door and shimmy onto the barstool with her back to the door.

To me, that long sentence is a bit confusing.  Noir should be short but make the same point:

She had the kind of legs that kept her butt from resting on her shoes.  She was a size-eight dame in a size-six dress, and every mug in the joint was rooting for the two sizes to make a break for it as they watched her wiggle onto the barstool with her back to the door.

I split the sentences and dropped an unnecessary prepositional phrase, and now it sounds like noir (to me) and not like an author writing a parody of noir.  Maybe everybody else disagrees with me, but I’d rather read a parody that sounds like the real thing than a parody that’s obviously written as a parody.

Maybe it’s arrogant of me to rewrite the sentences of bestselling authors, but I don’t like to point out problems without offering possible solutions.  Maybe Moore’s writing style here isn’t really a problem.  Maybe my solution just makes it worse.  Even though I tampered with the sentences, I’ll still keep reading Noir.  I like Noir, even if it doesn’t really feel like noir.

If You’re Tired of BOOKS YOU MUST READ Lists…

First of all, BOOKS YOU MUST READ lists are kind of arrogant because the list makers are assuming that they know what’s best for everybody.  As far as I’m concerned, the only books you MUST read are those that are assigned in school (if you want a good grade) and books that are assigned for your job (if you want to get paid).  Other than that, there are no BOOKS YOU MUST READ.

Sometimes out of curiosity I’ll read a BOOKS YOU MUST READ list just to see what’s on it.  If I’m really contrarian that day, I’ll look at all the BOOKS YOU MUST READ that I haven’t read and feel like I’m a rebel.  I must read all these books, and yet I know I never will.

Even better than a BOOKS YOU MUST READ list is this 21 Books You Don’t Have To Read list.   I like the approach this list takes.  Here are 21 books that we’ve been lectured to read for a long time, and the list not only tells us we DON’T have to read these books (not that we need their permission), but then there are alternatives for the books that we no longer have to read.

Another benefit of this list is that it’s not a gallery.  Most websites would have put each of the 21 entries on a separate page, forcing the readers to click each page and allowing the website to collect cheap hits.  I despise galleries, and I stop reading whenever I see them.  I want my lists where I can scroll up and down with ease.  I don’t try to collect cheap hits on my own blog, so I don’t want to reward another website’s bad behavior by giving them cheap multiple hits when they could have easily put everything on one page.

I don’t agree with everything on the list (Who would?), but at least I agree with the approach.  For example, the first book on the list is Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry.  Lonesome Dove is on a bunch of BOOKS YOU MUST READ lists.  I like Lonesome Dove a lot, but I wouldn’t call it a MUST READ.  I mean, if I ever made a MUST READ lists, it might have Lonesome Dove, but I don’t do MUST READ lists.

The complaint about Lonesome Dove from the lister is “…that the cowboy mythos, with its rigid masculine emotional landscape, glorification of guns and destruction, and misogynistic gender roles, is a major factor in the degradation of America.”

What?  I mean, I’m not even sure what that criticism means, and the lister doesn’t explain it.  Instead, the lister gives The Mountain Lion by Jean Stafford as the alternative because “It’s a wicked, brilliant, dark book set largely on a ranch in Colorado, but it acts in many ways as a strong rebuttal to all the old toxic western stereotypes we all need to explode.”

The way this critic judges books is different from the way I judge books.  My complaint about Lonesome Dove is that it’s unnecessarily slow at the beginning and the sequels suck.  When a critic starts writing about “misogynistic gender roles” and “old toxic western stereotypes,” I think a book’s agenda might be more important than the book’s quality to the critic.  To me, a good book is a good book, but agenda fiction almost always sucks.  The Mountain Lion by might be a good book.  I’ll probably never know because this critic just turned me off from it.

Luckily, each book gets a different critic, and most don’t seem driven by agendas.  My only other criticism is that some of the novels haven’t appeared on any BOOKS YOU MUST READ lists that I’ve seen.  For example, I’ve never seen Good-bye to All That by Robert Graves or Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger on any BOOKS YOU MUST READ lists.  Maybe I haven’t read enough BOOKS YOU MUST READ lists to have an opinion.

At any rate, this article is a great idea.  I wish I had thought of it first.

*****

What do you think?  What book have you seen on BOOKS YOU MUST READ that don’t belong?  What book would you replace it with?

Literary Glance: Less by Andrew Sean Greer

When I heard that the novel Less by Andrew Sean Greer had won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, I thought I’d better read it.  To be honest, I had never heard of Less.  I knew nothing about it.  But I had a feeling.  I wondered if the main character of the novel would be named Les or Less.  I usually don’t like book titles that are just a character’s name, but I try to stay open-minded about these things.

“Please don’t be about a guy named Less,” I said to myself as I glanced at the book cover.

“Please don’t be about a guy named Less,” I said to myself as I opened the book to the first page.

“Please don’t be about a guy named Less,” I said to myself as I began to read the first sentence:

From where I sit, the story of Arthur Less is not so bad.

Aaaaargh! It’s about a guy named Less!!!

Look at him, seated primly on the hotel lobby’s plush round sofa, blue suit and white shirt, legs knee-crossed so that one polished loafer hangs free of its heel.  The pose of a young man.

AAAaaarrrrgh!  And the narrator has a condescending tone about Arthur Less.

His slim shadow is, in fact, still that of his younger self, but at nearly fifty he is like those bronze statues in public parks that, despite one lucky knee rubbed raw by schoolchildren, discolor beautifully until they match the trees.  So has Arthur Less, once pink and gold with youth, faded like the sofa he sits on, tapping one finger on his knee and staring at the grandfather clock.

Aaaaargh!!!  And this Arthur Less is a loser!  What a hack move!

I don’t mind authors making hack moves.  Sometimes an author has to use a gimmick or make a hack move to get a book published.  But this hack move just won this author a Pulitzer Prize.  I mean, the television show WKRP in Cincinatti used the same joke with its character Les Nessman back in the 1970s.

“I believe you can tell a lot about a man’s character from his name,” some braggadocios dude would say while introducing himself.

The audience would then laugh while the camera close up focussed on Les Nessman’s face… because his name was Les.  It was okay for a 70s TV show to use hacky jokes because they have to come up with 25 weeks of material in one year, plus it was the 1970s.  But this novel Less won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

The worst part of Less is that this loser Arthur Less has still sold more copies of his books than I have.  I can’t even call Less a loser.  Of course, I’m fairly successful in a field that has nothing to do with writing, but it still irks me.  And I’m not calling Arthur Less a loser because of his book sales or his last name.  It’s because the narrator speaks so condescendingly of Arthur Less.

Maybe the rest of the novel is better.  Maybe Arthur Less meets a protégé named Moore who changes his life.  Maybe the author’s condescending tone eventually changes.  Maybe Arthur Less finds some value in his life that a condescending narrator wouldn’t understand.  I hope so.

I have to admit, Less has a pretty cool book cover.  If I judged books by their covers, I’d buy Less without a second thought.  But as a writer who respects Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winners, I expect more from a book than a cool cover, not Less.   AAArrrrgh!!!