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What was the deal with… Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis?

Out of the three most famous authors in the literary Brat Pack of the 1980s, Less Than Zero author Bret Easton Ellis seemed to me to be the strongest writer. He didn’t use an obvious gimmick like Tama Janowicz (starting off a book with a paragraph about dicks) or Jay McIerney (writing in the 2nd person present tense). He also focused on youthful Los Angelos debauchery instead of youthful New York debauchery.

I was a college student when Less Than Zero came out, and I had no interest in reading it because I was already a college student and wasn’t interested in the literary debauchery of other college students, especially students from elite colleges. I went to a state school and for the most part had to pay my way. I didn’t want to read about privileged students.

Now that I’m in my 50s, I’m really not interested in college debauchery, unless it’s funny.

Anyway, at the time, I wondered how young authors like those in the Literary Brat Pack managed to get published. Who in the literary world would have wanted to read their novels?

Ellis had an advantage over other writers my age because his writing instructor was famous writer Joe McGinnis who probably helped Ellis get a book deal. My writing instructor in college was a guy who once brought in a somewhat known literary author of the 1980s to speak, but I don’t think the author really knew my writing instructor.

Don’t get me wrong. If Joe McGinnis had been my writing instructor, I still never would have gotten a book deal, so I’m not complaining; I’m just pointing it out.

In this early scene from Less Than Zero, the narrator Clay has returned to Los Angelos on Christmas break from his first semester in college and is going to a high school friend’s Christmas party:

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There are two Christmas trees, one in the living room and one in the den and both have twinkling dark-red lights coloring them. There are people at the party from high school, most of whom I haven’t seen since graduation and they all stand next to the two huge trees. Trent, a male model I know, is there.

“Hey, Clay,” Trent says, a red-and-green-plaid scarf wrapped around his neck.

“Trent,” I say.

“How are you, babes?”

“Great. Trent, this is Daniel. Daniel, this is Trent.”

Trent offers his hand and Daniel smiles and adjusts his sunglasses and lightly shakes it.

“Hey, Daniel,” Trent says. “Where do you go to school?”

“With Clay,” Daniel says. “Where do you go?”

“UCLA or as the Orientals call it, UCRA.” Trent imitates an old Japanese man, eyes slit, front teeth stuck out in parody, and then laughs drunkenly.

“I go to the University of Spoiled Children,” Blair says, still grinning, running her fingers through her long blond hair.

“Where?” asks Daniel.

“USC,” she says.

“Oh yeah,” he says. “That’s right.”

Blair and Trent laugh and she grabs his arm to balance herself for a moment. “Or Jew SC,” she says, almost gasping.

“Or Jew CLA,” Trent says, still laughing.

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From the parts I’ve read, I don’t see anything special about Less Than Zero.

I think it’s interesting that out of all the characters, only the narrator doesn’t participate in the bigoted comments. Maybe Clay is a decent guy. Maybe the narrator needs to be portrayed as sympathetic to the reader before engaging later in the debauchery that’s sure to take place. Maybe the author was afraid to let Clay participate in the conversation because he didn’t want readers thinking the author himself was the narrator and a bigot. What a wuss!

As a side note, I don’t know what they were teaching in elite writing classes back in the 1980s, but I noticed three missing commas and at least one misplaced modifier in that excerpt. I would point them out, but then I might be accused of being a Grammar Nazi. I don’t think literary authors from elite universities like being corrected by unpublished bloggers from state schools.

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But enough about me! What do you think? Was there anything special about Less Than Zero that made it worthy of literary attention?

Changing the N-Word in Rap Lyrics: “Damn, It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta” by Geto Boys

When you like a song, you want to sing it, no matter what genre it is. This has caused a problem with rap because a lot of rap artists put the N-word that almost rhymes with trigger in their lyrics.

These artists say that the N-word that almost rhymes with trigger puts authenticity into their lyrics. Unfortunately, that means certain people can’t sing/rap the lyrics.

After all, other certain people don’t like certain people saying the N-word that almost rhymes with trigger. Certain people who care what other certain people think will edit themselves while singing rap lyrics or not sing them at all (unless there are no other certain people around).

If the N-word that almost rhymes with trigger stops certain people from singing rap, I’m all for it. Most certain people sound stupid rapping. But I’m a problem solver, not a complainer. If my young adult daughter likes rap, and it seems to be marketed to every sub-demographic within her age group, then she should be able to say the lyrics without getting lectured/fired/cancelled.

A few weeks ago, I took a couple paragraphs from Mark Twain’s classic novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and replaced the N-words that actually rhyme with trigger with the term Nice Guys (read more at Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain: Replacing the N-Words with Another N-Word).

Nice Guys has a positive connotation. It starts with the letter N. It has two syllables. The second syllable begins with the G sound. It seemed like Nice Guys would be a great replacement for the N-word that actually rhymes with trigger.

When I thought about trying this experiment with a song, the first example I thought of was “Nice Guys in Paris” by JayZ and Kanye West. This seemed like a great choice because almost everybody knows who JayZ and Kanye West are. Plus, the song has Nice Guys in the title. A song that has Nice Guys in the title would surely have a ton of Nice Guy usages in the lyrics, right?

No. “Nice Guys in Paris” rarely uses the term Nice Guys. At least, it doesn’t use Nice Guys enough to conduct the experiment.

So I delved into the past and thought of “Damn, It Feels Good to be a Gangsta” by the Geto Boys. Every guy in a certain group of people likes “Damn, It Feels Good To be a Gangsta” because of the movie Office Space. Yeah, there’s a lot of profanity in the song, but it still evokes strong positive vibes in guys of a certain group of people.

So here’s how “Damn, It Feels Good To be a Gangsta” looks/sounds with Nice Guys instead of the N-word that almost rhymes with trigger.

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Damn it feels good to be a gangsta
A real gangsta-ass Nice Guy plays his cards right
A real gangsta-ass Nice Guy never runs his f***ing mouth
‘Cause real gangsta-ass Nice Guys don’t start fights
And Nice Guys always gotta high cap
Showing all his boys how he shot ’em
But real gangsta-ass Nice Guys don’t flex nuts
‘Cause real gangsta-ass Nice Guys know they got ’em
And everything’s cool in the mind of a gangsta
‘Cause gangsta-ass Nice Guys think deep
Up three-sixty-five ayo 24/7
‘Cause real gangsta-ass Nice Guys don’t sleep

If you don’t know the song, here’s an edited version from Office Space.

And if you prefer the original version…

*****

What do you think? Is the term Nice Guys a good replacement for the N-Word that almost rhymes with trigger. Should certain people feel comfortable singing “Damn, It Feels Good To Be a Gangsta” using the term Nice Guys?

Family Apologizes for Dead Author’s Controversial Statements

Famous author Roald Dahl is known for books like The BFG and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But even though Dahl died decades ago, his family has recently apologized for some comments Dahl made in several interviews over the years.

Unfortunately, the apology was not accepted gracefully.

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The family of children’s book author Roald Dahl has issued a belated apology for his history of anti-Semitism.

“The Dahl family and the Roald Dahl Story Company deeply apologise for the lasting and understandable hurt caused by some of Roald Dahl’s statements,” read the comment on the official Dahl website.

The apology comes three decades after the British author’s death in 1990. Over his nearly 50-year career, Dahl wrote such classic children’s books as MatildaJames and the Giant Peach, and The BFG.

He also made some anti-Semitic comments.

In one example, in 1983 Dahl reportedly told Britain’s New Statesman magazine that “there is a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity. … Even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them for no reason.”

Read more at Roald Dahl’s Family Apologizes For His Anti-Semitic Comments.

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What? THAT’s the quote that Dahl’s family is apologizing for? I was a kid growing up in 1973, and I heard stuff that was way worse than that back then. Back in 1973, there were people whose biggest complaint about Hitler was that he started a two-front war. At least Dahl called Hitler a stinker.

I don’t believe in apologizing for somebody else’s behavior or words, even if I’m associated with that person. I might acknowledge the bad behavior and say that I don’t agree with it or condone it, but I won’t apologize for it.

I’m not a fan of people who apologize for the behavior of others, but even worse are people who can’t accept apologies.

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The group (Campaign Against Antisemitism) added that the apology was “encouraging,” but that it’s “a shame that the estate has seen fit mere to apologise for Dahl’s antisemitism rather than to use its substantial means to do anything about it.”

“This apology should have happened long ago — and it is of concern that it has happened so quietly now,” said Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. Dahl’s “abhorrent antisemitic prejudices were no secret and have tarnished his legacy.”

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When it comes to apologies, my philosophy is that you either accept the apology or don’t. When somebody offers me a sincere apology, I accept it. I don’t complain about how long it took and then tell the offender to give me money.

If the apology isn’t sincere, I might ask a bunch of questions like “What exactly are you apologizing for?” I don’t accuse the apologizer of being insincere. I just ask specific questions and see how defensive the apologizer gets.

But enough about me! What do you think? Do you apologize for the behavior of other people? Do Dahl’s comments “tarnish his legacy,” or is that just how some people felt back then? What famous authors have said or done stuff that tarnish their legacies?

Clickbait List Alert! 20 Best Movies Adapted from Novels

This novel is on almost every book list.

I know! I know I should have known better! Clicking on an internet list is like making eye contact with a kiosk salesperson at the mall; you just don’t do it.

But I did, so it’s too late. A weekly entertainment site posted a list of 20 of the Best Book Adaptations of All Time. I should have known not to read it. The title said “… OF ALL TIME.” Nothing good comes from a title like that.

According to that recent clickbait list, here are the best book-to-movie adaptations OF ALL TIME!!!!

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  1. Emma by Jane Austen
  2. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Lincoln the movie)
  3. Room by Emma Donaghue
  4. The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
  5. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  6. I, Tina by Tina Turner (What’s Love Got To Do with It? the movie)
  7. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  8. Little Women by Louise May Alcott (‘m not sure which movie version was the best)
  9. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (and Truman Capote)
  10. Le Transperencig… whatever (Snowpiercer the movie)
  11. The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
  12. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John LeCarre
  13. Poldark by Winston Graham
  14. It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
  15. Outlander by Dians Gabaldon
  16. The Mazerunner by James Dashner
  17. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  18. Normal People by Sally Rooney
  19. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  20. Atonement by Ian McEwan

Read the list and the reasoning behind each choice (if you care) at 20 of the best book adaptations of all time.

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At first, I thought this list was devised to get people arguing. The list creator makes some obviously bad choices, such as over-representing recent books and movies, which causes readers (suckers like me) to react. Making a good list would be counter-productive because nobody would respond to a good list.

A better list (in my opinion) would include classics such as The Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum, The Godfather by Mario Puzo, Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, or The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley. But a good list probably doesn’t start much conversation.

Then again, maybe the list was to promote book sales for authors that the weekly entertainment site writer likes (or is tied to). The weekly entertainment site can’t make much/any money from increased sales of The Wizard of Oz. But it can maybe give The Princess Diaries a slight boost, and then the entertainment site can promote that author’s new novel, get a couple high profile interviews, and maybe even receive a little incentive (kickback) from the book publishers.

I’m not making any accusations. I’m just wondering. Maybe it’s a possibility. Maybe I’m overthinking it. Maybe the creators of this list simply have limited historical perspective. Maybe….

AAAaaaarrrrgh! This is what I get for clicking on an internet list!

Is This Book Overrated? The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead is kind of an impressive book. It was a New York Times bestseller. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2017. It even has an impressive array of positive reviews on the back cover.

I’m reluctant to buy books because I rarely finish reading them anymore, but when I found a cheap copy at a used bookstore, I bought it. After all, it won a Pulitzer. Even if I didn’t like the book (I don’t always enjoy Pulitzers), I could find somebody else who’d appreciate it.

I actually finished reading The Underground Railroad, so that’s something. On the other hand, it took me more than six weeks to read it. I’m not that slow of a reader. I just didn’t feel like reading The Underground Railroad sometimes. And my reaction to the book was much different from those whose positive reviews ended up on the back cover of the book. For example:

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Oprah Winfrey wrote: “Kept me up at night, had my heart in my throat, almost afraid to turn the next page.”

I wouldn’t go that far. The Underground Railroad didn’t keep me up at night. I thought the author Whitehead didn’t write tension very well. Scenes that should have been riveting weren’t. Even though the book moved at a pretty good pace, I rarely felt suspense while I was reading. Maybe there was some suspense at the end of the chapter in North Carolina and toward the end when the reader finds out what happened to Mabel. Even worse, the Tulsa-like slaughter felt like it was written by a tired author going through the motions.

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People (magazine) wrote: “A great adventure tale teeming with memorable characters…

I disagree. It was a decent adventure with a couple memorable characters, but most of them had very little personality. They were very courageous, or very smart, or very evil. Even the protagonist Cora didn’t have much personality, except maybe she was stubborn and very determined, but those aren’t memorable character traits for a major character in a major novel. Homer was probably the most memorable character; at least he was the only character who wasn’t predictable.

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Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times wrote: “He (Colson Whitehead) has told a story essential to our understanding of the American past and the American present.”

That’s a bit overstated, especially if the reader believes that the Underground Railroad was literally an underground railroad. A reader should have a lot of background knowledge before reading The Underground Railroad; if not, the reader could get really confused about what happened when in United States history, especially during the South Carolina section of the novel.

The literal underground railroad itself wasn’t used as much as I thought/hoped it would be. The concept of a literal underground railroad was cool. The idea of it carried me through what I thought was a lackluster opening. Once it was introduced, the underground railroad was underused, especially at the abrupt end.

The Underground Railroad won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, so maybe there’s something that I’m missing in this book. I’m not saying it should NOT have won a Pulitzer Prize because I haven’t read the other nominees, and I’m not the type of blogger who’ll read other nominees just to see if the winner deserved it. However, I think it was at the very least overrated.

*****

What do you think? If you’ve read The Underground Railroad, what am I missing? Was Cora meant to be uninteresting? Was she interesting and I was just expecting too much? What other highly regarded books do you think are overrated?

What Should Have Been… The 2020 Word of the Year?

(image via wikimedia)

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary claims that the word pandemic is the 2020 Word of the Year. It probably doesn’t matter much. The word pandemic doesn’t receive anything for being Word of the Year, except for a little bit of extra attention, which is unnecessary because pandemic has already received a lot of attention this year.

When it comes to Word of the Year, nobody actually receives an award or anything. And unlike a lot of awards, the standards for Word of the Year seem to be objective. Dictionaries (or the people who run them) judge Word of the Year, not by how much they like a word, but by how often a word is researched online.

At least it isn’t a bunch of dictionary word geeks sitting around and debating which words qualify and which don’t.

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Sometimes a single word defines an era, and it’s fitting that in this exceptional—and exceptionally difficult—year, a single word came immediately to the fore as we examined the data that determines what our Word of the Year will be.

Based upon a statistical analysis of words that are looked up in extremely high numbers in our online dictionary while also showing a significant year-over-year increase in traffic, Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year for 2020 is pandemic.

The first big spike in dictionary lookups for pandemic took place on February 3rd, the same day that the first COVID-19 patient in the U.S. was released from a Seattle hospital. That day, pandemic was looked up 1,621% more than it had been a year previous, but close inspection of the dictionary data shows that searches for the word had begun to tick up consistently starting on January 20th, the date of the first positive case in the U.S.

Read more at Word of the Year 2020 | Pandemic.

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I prefer to choose my words of the year by how often I hear words used in casual conversation (so I guess I’m a word geek after all). From my own anecdotal, nonscientific evidence, I think the Word of the Year for 2020 is…

SUCKS.

I probably heard the word sucks and said the word sucks more frequently than any other word in 2020.

Here are some common examples:

“2020 sucks.”

“COVID-19 sucks.”

You get the idea. I know the word sucks has been used more frequently than any word on Merriam-Webster’s list. The problem with sucks is that it’s always been used a lot, even before 2020, but it seems that sucks usage has been way up this year.

To be fair, I liked a lot of 2020, but some people aren’t ready to hear about positive stuff right now. So in keeping with what I think should be the 2020 Word of the Year…

The word pandemic sucks!

*****

What do you think? What do you think the criteria should be in judging the Word of the Year? What do you think the 2020 Word of the Year should be?

Kindness or Narcissism? Giving Away Free Copies of Your Books

Is it charitable, or is it narcissism? (image via Wikimedia)

A famous political figure author made news last week by donating 105,000 digital copies of his book to high school students and teachers in his home city.

This might be a cool idea, giving digital copies of his book away. It saves paper. It means students wouldn’t have to spend money on his book.

Then again, maybe high school students don’t give a flip about his book. Maybe the school district could have used copies of other books that are in high demand or in the curriculum.

May be the author thinks too highly of himself if he thinks high school students really want to read his book. They might like an autographed copy, but digital?

Since the author involved is a major political figure, most people will form their opinions based on their personal politics rather than the author’s actions.

I’m wondering, when a famous (or even struggling) author gives away copies of his/her books, is it a form of genuine giving or is it an act of narcissism? I actually don’t know, so in the excerpt below, I’ve removed the names. If you had no political bias, what would you think?

And if you have no political bias, what do you think?

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High school students and teachers at City Public Schools received an email Monday morning that didn’t tell them exactly who would be at their virtual assembly that afternoon but gave some strong hints: The speaker had “strong ties to city,” “millions of Twitter followers” and “made history multiple times throughout their career.”

Hours later, those who tuned in to the live-streamed assembly were greeted by famous author, who surprised districts’ 105,000 high schoolers and thousands of teachers with free digital copies of his new book, “Title.”

Read the unedited version and more at Obama, in surprise appearance, gives 105,000 CPS students free digital copies of ‘A Promised Land’ .

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What do you think? Is giving away digital copies of your book really an act of giving? Or is it narcissism? Would you give away 105,000 copies of your book (if you could afford it)? How many free copies of your books could you afford to give away?

Fun with Literary Gimmicks: Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu

Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu has just won the 2020 Nation Book Award for Fiction. I appreciate literary awards because without them I would miss out on a bunch of award-winning books that I’ve never heard of.

Even though I read (or skim through) a lot of books, the beginning of Interior Chinatown threw me off because it’s written in 2nd person.

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Int Golden Palace

Ever since you were a boy, you’ve dreamt of being kung Fu Guy./ You are not kung Fu Guy/You are currently Oriental Guy Making a Weird Face, but you’ve been practicing./Maybe tomorrow will be the day.

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The risk of opening in 2nd person is that the reader can deny the opening statement and stop reading:

Author: Ever since you were a boy, you’ve dreamt of being Kung Fu Guy.

Reader: No, I haven’t. (Gets annoyed, slams book shut, returns book to shelf)

Sigh! As a reader, I probably should go further to see what this narrator guy is talking about. A few pages later, the author/narrator explains how difficult it is for him to get a decent role in movies/television.

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Roles

First you have to work your way up. Starting from the bottom it goes:

  • Background Oriental Male
  • Dead Asian Man
  • Generic Asian Man Number Three/Delivery Guy
  • Generic Asian Man Number Two/Waiter
  • Generic Asian Man Number One

and then if you make it that far (hardly anyone does) you get stuck at Generic Asian Man Number One for a while and hope and pray for the light to find you and when it does you’ll have something to say and when you say that something it will come out just right and have everyone in Black and White turning their heads saying wow who is that, that is not just some Generic Asian Man, that is a star, maybe not a real, regular star, let’s not get crazy, we’re talking about Chinatown here, but perhaps a Very Special Guest Star, which for your people is the ceiling, is the terminal, ultimate, exalted position for any Asian working in this world, the thing every Oriental Male dreams of when he’s in the Background, trying to blend in.

Kung-Fu guy.

Kung Fu guy is not like the other slots in the hierarchy-…

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And then the narrator talks some more about Kung Fu guy. The author/narrator’s obsession with kung fu threw me off a little bit because I thought nobody cares about kung fu anymore. Maybe 10, 20, 30, or 40 years ago, but not now. When was the last time a kung-fu movie hit it big in the United States? Is it even a stereotype anymore?

If the author is making a point about Hollywood’s stereotyping, then part of me is… so what? All demographic groups complain about how they’re portrayed in Hollywood.

They’re not wrong. It’s just that everybody already knows that media relies on stereotypes, and I don’t need a novel (a form of media) pointing it out in the first few pages. From my point-of-view (a guy who doesn’t give a flip about actor problems), knowing the character first might have gotten me more interested in the book. But who am I to judge? The book just won an award.

Good job, Kung Fu Guy wannabe. Winning a National Book Award beats being Kung Fu Guy any day.

What do you think? Would you rather be Kung Fu Guy or win a major book award? How much of a book written in 2nd person can you read before you start denying the stuff the narrator is saying about you?

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey Reveals Shocking Secret!

Fans of famous actor Matthew McConaughey have a few reasons to buy his memoir Greenlights . Matthew McConaughey seems like a cool guy. I’d rather read a book written by a cool guy than one by a guy who comes across as a dick. McConaughey has photos of him going shirtless, so some of his fans will like that.

Plus, he tells a bunch of stories from his childhood. Everybody likes reading about childhood stories, as long as they’re funny and not too preachy.

McConaughey mentions that he used to get his mouth washed out with soap. I don’t think parents do that to kids anymore, but it was common back in the 1970s when McConaughey and I were growing up. When I mention getting my mouth washed out with soap, my daughter doesn’t believe me. She would be shocked that this happened to a celebrity like Matthew McConaughey too.

People will believe Matthew McConaughey, even though he has the word Con in his name. He even has the word Hey in his name. It’s almost like his last name is warning everybody that he’s a con. That’s not hiding in plain sight; that’s actually plain sight. But people will believe him anyway.

Anyway, here’s the mouth washing out excerpt from Greenlights:

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I got my mouth washed out for saying “shit,” “damn,” and “fuck,” but I only ever got into real trouble for the using or doing of the words that could harm me. Words that hurt. The words that helped engineer who I am because they were more than just words; they were expectations and consequences. They were values.

My parents taught me that I was named my name for a reason.

They taught me not to hate.

To never say I can’t.

To never lie.

*****

If you like that kind of writing, you’ll probably like Greenlights. If you don’t like that kind of writing but still like shirtless pics of shirtless Matthew McConaughey, you don’t need to read Greenlights as long as you have the internet.

And here’s an excerpt from my own ebook Crap Is NOT a Bad Word, where I also mention getting my mouth washed out with soap (But I don’t have pictures of me shirtless).

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Getting your mouth washed out with soap is a lot worse than it sounds. It happened to me a few times when I was a kid, and I don’t have the words to describe it. It was just pretty bad.

It started when I said the crap in front of my mom. When she told me not to say the word crap, I said it again. Then she warned me that if I said crap one more time, she’d wash my mouth out with soap. I weighed my options. How bad could soap be? I liked saying the word crap. So I got in my mom’s face and said the word crap, and she dragged me to the bathroom and shoved a lathery bar of soap into my mouth. After I sputtered and gagged and spit, I vowed that I would never say the word crap again, at least not in front of my mom.

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If you like that kind of writing, you’ll probably like Crap Is NOT a Bad Word.

But enough about me! What do you think? What childhood punishments from the past seem really weird today? Would you read Matthew McConaughey’s book if it hadn’t been written by Matthew McConaughey? Would you read Matthew McConaughey’s book even if it didn’t have pictures of him going shirtless?

Tolkien and Another Book of Middle-earth World Building

It’s amazing how many books dead people can get published. 25 years ago, I used to resent L. Ron Hubbard because he was dead and still seeming to get a new book published every year. I was resentful because I was trying to get a book deal and couldn’t, and I saw this dead guy getting new books published all the time.

Being resentful was stupid, I know; at least I was still alive (and still am).

J.R.R. Tolkien has been dead for a while too, but now he has a new book coming out. It’s been a while since Tolkien has had a new book out, and I appreciate Tolkien more than I do Hubbard, so I’m not resentful at all.

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After all these years, there’s still more to learn about Middle-earth. On Thursday, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced they will be publishing what they describe as a “previously unseen” collection of writings by The Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien. This new volume will be titled The Nature of Middle-earth.

HMH VP and publisher Deb Brody describes The Nature of Middle-earth as “a veritable treasure-trove offering readers a chance to peer over Professor Tolkien’s shoulder at the very moment of discovery.”

“For him, Middle-earth was part of an entire world to be explored, and the writings in The Nature of Middle-earth reveal the journeys that he took as he sought to better understand his unique creation,” Brody said in a statement. 

Read more at New collection of J.R.R. Tolkien’s writing coming next year.

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There’s a part of me that thinks an obsession with world building is a waste of time. I’m not talking about a story or a book series about a fantasy world. I’m talking about volume after volume of fake history.

There’s a lot about real history that I don’t know. Before I spend hours learning about a fantasy world, I’d rather learn about a real culture that I know nothing about. To be honest, I rarely go out of my way to learn about new cultures, but I never go out of my way to learn about fake histories.

The thing is, I don’t even trust our own history books. I’m pretty sure history books on Earth are filled with distortions and outright lies. If the Tolkien estate found a Middle-earth history book buried in the attic that claimed The Lord of the Rings was a lie, that the Hobbits created Bilbo and Frodo to give Hobbits undeserved credit in the war against Sauron, then I’d read that book. I might even pay full hardcover price for that book.

Who would you believe? The Lord of the Rings? Or Tolkien’s newly-found manuscript that claimed The Lord of the Rings was a lie? That would be a Middle-earth history book worth reading!!

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What do you think? Am I being a little harsh with world building? What fake world would you be most willing to learn about?