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Why Is Bitch A Bad Word?

If a guy says the word bitch at the wrong time, this can happen. (image via wikimedia)

If a guy says the word bitch at the wrong time, this can happen. (image via wikimedia)

When I was a kid and called my dog a bitch, my parents punished me.  I tried to argue to them that I was using the word bitch correctly.  A bitch was a female dog, I said, and that was exactly what our dog was.  I even pulled out a dictionary to make my point.

My dad then told me to look up the word belt, and I knew what he was suggesting, so I stopped arguing.  I was correct about the word bitch, but I wasn’t willing to pay the price for it.

For a long time afterward, I wondered why bitch was a bad word. First of all, bitch is a five-letter word.  Most bad words have four letters.  Sh**, d**m, f***, and even c***k and d**k, have four letters.

Plus, bitch is not a body part or a body function.  Most bad words refer to body parts that we’re not supposed to talk about or body functions we’re not supposed to talk about.  What was wrong about saying a word that meant “female dog”?

What I didn’t understand (and what nobody was willing to explain back then) was that bitch referred to “a female dog in heat,” so calling a woman a bitch implied she was slutty or of low moral character.  Centuries ago when the English language was developing, being called a bitch was worse than being called a whore because a whore was at least being practical.

According to the dictionary, bitch comes from the Old English word bicche which meant “female dog” around the 10th century.  Then sometime in the 1400s, people began using the word as a derogatory term for women.  Nobody knows the name of the person who used the word bitch or bicche as a derogatory term first.  It was tough to keep records of that kind of thing back then.

Despite the recent sexual revolution and changes in language and attitudes, the word bitch is still considered bad.  Maybe it’s not as bad as it used to be, and I hear women use the word more frequently than men, but I still don’t say it much.  I’m more likely to say “son of a bitch” than bitch by itself.

Son of a bitch is an extension of bitch and might even be more commonly used than bitch (I have no proof of this).  When I stub my toe, I don’t yell out “Bitch!”  I yell out “Son of a bitch!”  “Son of a bitch!” is fun to say.

Plus, you’re usually not accused of being a misogynist if you say “son of a bitch,” even if you’re a guy (or a misogynist).  You’re still implying that somebody’s mother is a bitch, which would be considered misogynist if you thought bitch was a misogynist term, but people don’t usually make that accusation, especially after you’ve stubbed your toe.

The word bitch has several meanings now.  Bitch can be used as a noun, which I avoid.  Bitch can also be a verb, as in to complain.  I use the word gripe instead of bitch if I need a one-syllable word for complainGripe doesn’t quite have the forcefulness of bitch, but it makes its point without offending anybody.

Nowadays, calling a woman a bitch implies that she is mean or cold-hearted.  In some ways, the current meaning of bitch is almost the opposite of slutty, which is strange because slut is also a dog reference.  Calling a woman a slutty bitch would either be redundant or an oxymoron.  Either way, I wouldn’t suggest saying it.

Bitch isn’t the only word that’s caused me problems.  Back when I was I a kid, I also got in trouble for saying the word crap.   Looking back, it ticks me off so much that I even wrote an ebook about it .

Bad Sentences in Best-Selling Novels: Cross the Line by James Patterson

(image via wikimedia)

(image via wikimedia)

James Patterson writes a lot of books.  It’s tough to gripe about it too much because almost every book he writes becomes a best-seller.  Despite his success, I’ve thought that an author who puts out as many books a year as he does might not be worried about quality.

To demonstrate this point, I chose an excerpt from Patterson’s latest Alex Cross thriller, Cross the Line.

Chapter Two of this book has one of the least dramatic, least emotional death scenes I have ever read.  To keep this blog post short, I’ve added my comments in parenthesis. At the beginning of this scene, the two victims Edita and McGrath are leaving a Whole Foods store after a couple pages of banter:

*****

They turned to head south, Edita a step or two ahead of him.

A second later, McGrath caught red fire flashing in his peripheral vision, heard the boom-boom-boom (Lazy sound effect?) of rapid pistol fire, and felt bullets hit him (Wouldn’t the bullets hit him before he heard the sound?), one of them in his chest.  It (More than one bullet hit him, so the pronoun should be “they” unless it was only the bullet that hit him in the chest that brought him down.) drove him to the ground (That’s it?  He didn’t feel anything right away?).

Edita started to scream but caught the next two bullets (where?) and fell beside McGrath, the organic groceries tumbling across the bloody (already?) sidewalk.

For McGrath, everything became far away and slow motion (what does that even mean?).  He fought for breath (cliché).  It felt like he’d been bashed in the ribs with sledgehammers (poorly written cliché).  He went on autopilot, fumbled (he’s fumbling while he’s on autopilot?) for his cell phone in his gym-shorts (gym shorts seems like an irrelevant detail at this point; maybe the gym shorts should have been established earlier in the scene) pocket.

He punched in 911, watched dumbly as the unbroken bottle of Clifton Dry rolled away from him down the sidewalk.

A dispatcher said, “District 911, how may I help you?” (That’s a very polite dispatcher.  Dispatchers in my area start with “Is this an emergency?”)

“Officer down,” McGrath croaked.  “Thirty-two hundred block of Wisconsin Avenue.  I repeat, officer…”

He felt himself swoon (“swoon” implies falling down and he’s already on the ground) and start to fade.  He let go of (weak verb, maybe use “dropped” instead) the phone and struggled to look at Edita.  She wasn’t moving (weak verb phrase), and her face looked blank (cliché) and empty (cliché)

McGrath whispered to her before dying (this action is out of sequence).

“Sorry, ED,” he said (“whispered” has already been established).  “For all of it.”

*****

James Patterson is doing something right as an author.  After all, he’s sold more books than every other author who has ever lived combined (slight exaggeration).  Even so, this scene left me feeling nothing for the murdered victims.

I’ve never been shot, and I’ve never died before, so I’m no expert on how people react to these situations.  Still, I imagine that the human mind goes through a lot.  That final moment when a character realizes he/she is going to perish should reveal something about that character.

What would I think about in that situation?  Did I leave the stove on?  Will my wife remember to pay all the bills on time?  Crap, I’ll never see my kids grow up or know who won the Super Bowl this year.  A writer should be able to come up with some details, anything, to make a death scene emotional.

Maybe I’m being too nit-prickety.  Maybe I am biased against James Patterson and don’t recognize his story-telling skills.  Maybe I should take his masterclass to learn why everything I’ve written about that scene is wrong.

But in the meantime, here’s my own ebook about a story I wrote that got me in trouble at school.

Nobody has asked me to teach a masterclass.

The Literary Rants: Unrealistic Writing Goals

(image via Wikimedia)

Maybe this author needs to adjust his goals.  (image via Wikimedia)

When it comes to writing, the wrong goal can be a killer.  Last year, a blogger I follow stated that her writing goal was to publish a blog post every day for the entire year.  Sometime in March, she suddenly burned out and stopped writing.  At least, I think she stopped writing because of burn-out.  It’s easy to burn out if you set your goals too high.

Another blogger wrote a goal to gain ___ followers in a given year.  Despite being a really good writer, the blog didn’t get many new followers that year, and the writer quit blogging, I think out of frustration.  You can control the quality of your writing, but you can’t control the number of followers you get.

When I set goals, I try to make it something I control.  It would be nice to get ____ followers, but I’m too much of a control freak to set a specific number and then get frustrated when other people don’t cooperate.

I’ve done a lot of writing over the last five years since I started blogging.  I haven’t written as much as some other writers (especially James Patterson) but my production hasn’t been bad for a married guy with kids and a full-time job that has nothing to do with writing.

In order to write a blog about reading and writing, I’ve had to set up routines and realistic goals that keep me from burning out.

 I only finish books I want to finish.

If I’m going to be a writer, I have to be a reader too.  At least, that’s what most writers say.  But I don’t want to waste time with books I don’t enjoy.  I’m not a student anymore.  Nobody can force me to read any books, even if the book is on a MUST-READ list.  So to encourage me to read, I only read books that I’m enthusiastic about.  Out of the 20 books I start, I probably finish only one.

 When I stare at the computer screen for more than 10 seconds, I quit writing.

There’s always something else to do besides writing, such as errands to run or chores to complete or books to read.  I usually get my best ideas when I’m in a situation where I can’t write, so doing something else can keep me creative.  Plus, getting chores and errands done gives me time to write later on when the right ideas/words come back to me.

 I sit for only 15 minutes at a time.

Sitting too long is bad for my back, so I get up and move around.  I don’t set a timer or anything like that, but I can just feel when I’ve been sitting too long.  This applies to reading, writing, and even watching football.  There are a lot of things to get done, and moving around helps me get things done while still giving me time to read and write.

 I  need to get enough sleep.

I’d rather have a little time to write and be rested than to have of lot of time to write while I’m tired.  I don’t know about other aspiring writers, but I have to be alert in order to write.

If I follow my routines, I might not get as much reading/writing done as I want, but I know I’ll get something accomplished, and I know I won’t burn out.  And that’s what I want to do ; follow my routines and accomplish something without burning out.

******

A lot of writers write books about writing.

My ebook is about the time I wrote a story in high school and it got me in trouble.

Awkward Sex Scenes in Books

(image via wikimedia)

WARNING!! Adult situations will be discussed using graphic language.  (image via wikimedia)

Sex can be awkward in real life, so it makes sense that writing sex scenes can be just as uncomfortable.  If the wrong words are used in a sex scene, readers laugh.  If a particular act seems unnatural, readers laugh.  Writers usually don’t want readers laughing at their sex scenes, so authors have to be careful about how to approach an intense romantic moment.

The following excerpt from the book Men Like Air by Tom Connoly was selected by The Literary Review as a contender (but not the winner) for its 2016 Bad Sex in Fiction Award.

As an aspiring author, I’d like to examine what makes the following scene thought of as bad or awkward:

 Often she cooked exotic meals and put chillies or spices in her mouth while preparing the food and s***ed him while the food cooked and then told him to f*** her while his manhood was burning rock-hard with fire.

First of all, sex during food preparation/consumption can be dangerous.  I wouldn’t try it in real life, but in fiction, it provides opportunities, and the author leaves some unanswered questions here.  For example, were the chillies and peppers in her mouth while she s***ed him?

This could be interesting, except once food is introduced to the mouth, teeth and saliva make it unappealing.   Men are visual, and the image of food mashed up in an open mouth can overcome sexual desire.  Because of this, the author should be clear about what is going on.  Food preparation/consumption during sex sounds great in fiction (and looks fun in a movie), but in real life it can cause some issues.

Another problem in the sex scene excerpt sentence was the term “manhood.”  It’s tough to describe the male body part without making a reader laugh.  If I provided a list of common words/euphemisms for the male body part,  a bunch of readers would laugh.  And If you have to choose a euphemism, “manhood” is awkward.  Nobody uses “manhood” in everyday conversation.

For example, when a rude driver cuts me off on the freeway, I don’t wave my fist and yell out “You manhood!”

“Manhood” is by nature an awkward word and probably shouldn’t be used in a sex scene, especially since the author was comfortable using “f*ck.”  If an author is going to use a blunt word like “f*ck,” then the author shouldn’t mind using a blunt replacement for “manhood.”

There’s good news about manhood and related words.  Sometimes a writer doesn’t even need a euphemism for the male body part.  In the context of this sex scene excerpt, the male body part is implied .  The author could write “He was burning rock hard with fire” and even the most naïve reader will know exactly what is rock hard.  We don’t need the euphemism.  We don’t need a picture.  We get it.

Also, the woman partner doesn’t need to tell the guy what do when he’s rock hard.  Most guys in that physical state can figure out what to do.  Now if the female is engaging in dirty talk by telling the guy what do, then the author is leaving out crucial information.  Dirty talk is an art and if she’s engaging in it or just giving instructions, the author needs to give information.  A woman rarely just says to f*ck her and that’s it.  At least from my experience, it doesn’t happen that way.

Since sex is a normal part of life, authors should be able to write about it without readers mocking the scene.  By avoiding the mistakes in today’s excerpt, you too can possibly write a sex scene that your readers can enjoy with a straight face.

*****

A couple years ago, I put a sex scene in my ebook, but… sigh… it didn’t win any bad sex in fiction awards.

The Literary Rants: James Patterson’s Bookshots

If you like James Patterson, you'll never run out of his books to read.

The good news is that James Patterson fans will never run out of books to read.

If there’s one thing the world doesn’t need more of, it’s new James Patterson books.  Patterson, the prolific author with lots of help (meaning “lots of co-authors”), put out at least 15 new books in 2016, and that’s just the start.  Now he has a new line of co-authored novellas called Bookshots.

Bookshots are short books, maybe 150 pages, and they’re cheap.  Just like other Patterson books, it’s not clear how much of each book Patterson actually writes.

In a way, these Bookshots look a lot like Goosebumps, meaning these books are thin with cheesy covers.  I have no problem with Goosebumps because my daughters used to read them, but Bookshots aren’t necessarily in the YA section.  In fact, the Bookshots I’ve seen take up a bunch of space in the Fiction/Literature section of my local B&M Booksellers, meaning that James Patterson books are taking up more and more shelf space.

I have to give James Patterson credit; when he starts a project, he goes all-out.  He isn’t content in glutting one genre.  He’s determined to branch out into every direction he can.  Pyramid schemers are probably kicking themselves for not thinking of this first.

Other more-talented authors could do what James Patterson is doing.  If Stephen King chose to put out 20 books a year and create a pulp/novella category, he could put James Patterson out of business.  JK Rowling could do this too.  Thousands of amateur writers are trying to create their own fantasy worlds, and Rowling could make all of them best-selling authors by putting her name on their books.  Even George RR Martin should hire some co-authors to finish his Game of Thrones series before HBO does.

These authors (and many more) have probably have thought about doing what James Patterson is doing, but only James Patterson has decided to actually go through with it.

I know that since I’m an aspiring author, I shouldn’t criticize another author, especially since my writing has its own flaws.  I’m a polite guy, and I usually consider other people’s feelings before I get critical of them, especially other writers, but I’ve decided that if I’m going to criticize another writer, it should be James Patterson.

For one thing, James Patterson doesn’t care what I think.  I don’t have to worry about hurting his feelings or his business because I’m nothing to him.  Even if he did get annoyed with me, he could tell one of his co-authors to destroy me for him, and even that would take more effort than a guy like me is worth.

Maybe these Bookshots are a blessing in disguise.  If I absolutely had to read another James Patterson book, I’d rather read a really short book than a long one.  And if I absolutely had to spend money on a new James Patterson book, I’d rather spend $4.99 than $19.99.  So maybe James Patterson really is looking out for his fans.

Sometimes I get become sad when I finish every book a great author has written, and I know there’s nothing left by that author for me to read.  I’m not calling James Patterson great, but at least with Bookshots I know I’ll never run out of James Patterson books to read.

*****

Just like a Bookshot, my ebook is short and cheap.

Unlike most Bookshots, my ebook has only one author.

Bad Sentences in Classic Literature: The Shining by Stephen King

(image via wikipedia)

(image via wikipedia)

The Shining by Stephen King might not be a classic yet, but it probably will be.  It was written in the 1970s, and people still read it today and it’s still relevent, so I’m guessing that people will still read it 50 years from now.

Even though The Shining is a great book, it has some bad writing in it.  At least, by Stephen King’s standards, there are some bad sentences.    In his book On Writing,  Stephen King maligns the adverb with one of the all-time most famous quotes about writing: “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs,…”

When the Modern Master of Horror equates a part of speech with eternal damnation, you have to take that seriously.

On the other hand, Stephen King uses a lot of adverbs in The Shining.  What am I supposed to believe, Stephen King’s opinion of adverbs or The Shining?

The following bad sentences from The Shining are within a few pages of each other in “Chapter Ten- Hallorann”:

“This time they all laughed, even Danny, although he was not completely sure what the joke was,…”

The word completely wasn’t necessary.

“It (the main room) had cleared greatly during the half hour they’d spent in the kitchen.”

The word greatly wasn’t necessary.

“The nuns who had been sitting by the fire were gone, and the fire itself was down to a bed of comfortably glowing coals.”

The word comfortably does describe the degree of glowing, but it might not have been the best adverb to use, and I’m not passionate enough to come up with a better one.

A sentence doesn’t need an unnecessary adverb to be a bad sentence.

“Halloran commenced to tour them around the most immense kitchen Wendy had ever seen in her life.”

This is a sentence that my writing teachers would have red-marked.  Of course Wendy had never seen a kitchen like that IN HER LIFE, my instructors would have said.  When else would she have seen a kitchen like that?  In her after-life?  In her pre-life?  When she was fetus?”  In other words, the phrase “in her life” wasn’t necessary.

Also, the phrase “commenced to tour them around” is wordy.  Replacing that with “toured them around” or “showed them around” would have been more direct and less clumsy.

And below is my favorite bad sentence in The Shining:

“He (Halloran) turned to the Torrances as she (Sally, a young maid) strolled away, backside twitching pertly.”

Haha!  Stephen King actually wrote backside twitching pertly.  To be fair, but this was written in the 1970’s.  Maybe backsides twitched pertly back then.  I’m not sure what backsides do nowadays because I don’t usually write about backsides.  I think they sway a little bit.

If I ever used the phrase “backside twitching pertly” in my conversations at work, I’d get fired or sued.  There are some things that polite folk should never mention in public, and one of those is “backsides twitching pertly.”

That’s okay.  The Shining is still The Shining, and I’ll think it’s great no matter what.

*****

I read The Shining when I was in junior high school decades ago.  Back then, I’d get in trouble for saying the word “crap.”

Looking back, it ticks me off so much that I wrote this ebook, Crap Is NOT a Bad Word!

The Literary Rants: Bad Sex in Fiction

If the author doesn’t stop the scene right here, too many things can go horribly wrong. (Image via wikimedia)

If the author doesn’t stop the scene right here, too many things can go horribly wrong. (Image via wikimedia)

Sex in literature is the opposite of sex in real life.  Most people would rather have bad/mediocre sex in their personal lives than none at all, but in most fiction, sex just makes things worse.  Sometimes the sex in fiction is so bad that it can win an award.

A couple weeks ago, The Literary Review gave out its Bad Sex in Fiction Award (poorly-written sex scene in an otherwise good book) to The Day Before Happiness by Erri De Luca.  I’d never heard of this book (I’m sure the author has never heard of my books either), but I have to admit that the sex scene stands out:

 ‘My prick was a plank stuck to her stomach. With a swerve of her hips, she turned me over and I was on top of her. She opened her legs, pulled up her dress and, holding my hips over her, pushed my prick against her opening. I was her plaything, which she moved around. Our sexes were ready, poised in expectation, barely touching each other: ballet dancers hovering en pointe.’

I don’t want to get too technical, but this author makes a couple basic mistakes.  First of all, never use the word prick to describe a male body part.  Prick implies small, and no guy would use that word when describing himself in a sex scene.  Shlong is better because shlong has the word long in it, and every guy likes to think of himself as big.

Plus, calling the male/female body parts sexes is kind of awkward.  Maybe sexes is better than prick and whatever word you use for the female counterpart, but it’s still kind of awkward.  I’d say it makes the scene feel kind of stiff, but that could be taken the wrong way.

Stiff.  Haha.  It’s difficult to write a sex scene, but it’s also hard to critique one too.

Hard.  Haha.

According to The Literary Review article, winners seem to not attend the award ceremony.  That sounds like sour grapes to me.  If I won a bad sex in fiction award , I’d attend.  I mean, it depends on where the ceremony was held and whether my expenses were paid or not, but I’d feel no shame in winning an award for writing a bad sex scene, especially if the flight, meals, and lodging are paid for.

The problem with writing a bad sex scene in an otherwise good novel is that nobody cares about the “otherwise good novel.”  All of that effort put into the “otherwise good novel” has been wasted because of a bad sex scene.  That’s how real life is too.  If a guy goes on a date, and the date leads to a romantic encounter, all the guy will remember is the romantic encounter.  The other details disappear from our memories.  Where did we eat?  What movie did we see?  What beachfront property did we take our romantic stroll down?  Once the sex happens, all that previous stuff fades from our memories, even if the sex wasn’t that great.

I almost feel bad for The Day Before Happiness.  Maybe it was actually a good book.  Now we’ll never know, all because the book has a bad sex scene in it.  At least it won an award.

*****

I wrote a sex scene in my ebook, but the Literary Review didn’t notice it.  Sigh.  I might have attended the ceremony.

The Best of Everything 2016

This might not be the best, but it's at least best-selling.

This might not be the best, but it’s at least best-selling.

With the year 2016 coming to an end, the bombardment of “Best of…” lists has begun.  It’s the go-to of lazy writing.  When in doubt about a possible topic in December, desperate writers can just do a “Best of…” list.  These are easy to write, but there are too many out there to actually read them all.

To spare you the effort, here is a group of “Best of…” lists already compiled for 2016.  Now that you have the chance to read the lists you’re interested in, you can ignore the rest of the lists that you are certain to run across.

Don’t get me wrong.  I know that judging something as “the best” is subjective.  When it comes to stuff like “Best Books of the Year,” nobody can truly judge that because everybody’s opinions are different.  Plus, nobody has read every book that has come out this year.   But that doesn’t stop some of us from coming up with our own lists or from reading them either.

Also, using the word everything in the title “The Best of Everything” is hyperbolic on my part.  Of course, I can’t cover the best of “everything.”  I can cover the best of a lot of stuff, but the phrase “The Best of A Lot of Stuff” doesn’t sound dramatic enough to use as a title.  Readers can usually forgive hyperbole in a title if it’s explained in the article.

So in order to save you a lot of time over the next couple weeks when all the “Best of…” lists come out, here is…

THE BEST OF EVERYTHING-2016

The Best Books of 2016- Publishers Weekly

The Best-Selling New Releases of 2016- Amazon

The Best Television Shows of 2016- Variety

The Best Songs of 2016- Rolling Stone Readers Poll

Best Albums of 2016- Billboard

The Best Movies of 2016- NY Times Critics

The Best New YouTube Channels of 2016- Indie Wire

The Best (Most Popular) YouTube Videos of 2016- Buzzfeed

The Best Cars of 2016- Car and Driver

The Best New Tech of 2016- Popular Science

The Best Video Games of 2016- The Guardian

The Best (or Most Googled) Memes of 2016- Time

The Best Fast Food Restaurants of 2016- MSN

The Best (Most Addictive) Websites of 2016-Livewire

The Best (Most Amazing) Scientific Discoveries of 2016- Listverse

The Best (Most Notable) New Words in the Oxford Dictionary- The Telegraph

By the time you’ve read through all of these 2016 “Best of…” lists, you might not be an expert in everything, but you’ll have a layperson’s knowledge about everything.  You’ll have just enough knowledge to be dangerous.  Even better, you’ll be ready for the Predictions for 2017  lists that will be coming out next.

*****

Just so you know, here is The Best Ebook That I Published in 2016.

The Literary Rants: Amazon Prime Book Selection

(image via wikimedia)

(image via wikimedia)

Maybe a rant shouldn’t start with a positive comment, but Amazon Prime is a great name for a service.  Everybody should want to be a member of something Prime.  Amazon Prime is even a better name than Kindle Unlimited.  I mean, Unlimited is a pretty cool word, but in this case “unlimited” is limited to the Kindle, and that’s not truly Unlimited.  If I’m part of Amazon Prime, that means I’m Prime on everything on Amazon, not just the kindle.

Everybody who has Amazon Prime wants deals.  We get deals on sales, deals on shipping, and we get limited music and video streaming for free.  If you use all of the services, Amazon Prime can be worth the money.

If you’re a member of Amazon Prime, you even get a small selection of ebooks to read for free on the Kindle.  The only problem is that Amazon’s book selection for Amazon Prime is limited.  For one thing, only ebooks are available for free on Amazon Prime.  I have no problem with that.  It wouldn’t make financial sense to send out actual books for free.  That would cost Amazon a lot of money.

Right now, one of the ebooks available is Guns by Stephen King.  Are you serious?  Out of all the books that Stephen King has written, THAT’S the free ebook?  If I remember correctly, Guns was only 99 cents when it came out.  Plus, it’s the one book by Stephen King that I really don’t want to read.  I’m not a gun advocate, but I don’t like to read what celebrities (or famous authors) have to say about political issues.  They don’t care what I think, so I don’t want to listen to them either.  If Amazon wants to give us free Stephen King, give us some of the old stuff that’s available cheap anyway.  Different Seasons would be awesome for free.  The Shining would be pretty cool too.

I understand why Amazon doesn’t want to put its best stuff on Prime, and I wouldn’t expect them to.  But every year I think about discontinuing my Amazon Prime.  I take advantage of shipping, and videos, and music, but all of those services get offered by other venues now.  Amazon is still convenient, but their competition is getting better too.

What I’d like to see are more books by popular authors.  If Amazon offered maybe one ebook each from popular authors, I’d read that one book, and maybe be willing to pay for the next one by the same authors.  Then again, books take a long time to read.  If Amazon gave away too many books, then a reader like me could find a way to never pay for another book again.  But I’m paying for Prime, so Amazon would still be getting my money.

I understand that Amazon Prime has to be careful about its free book selection because it can’t compete too much with Kindle Unlimited.  If too many books are offered for free on Prime, then Unlimited users might get ticked off and drop that service.  I understand that, but still…

How’s that for an argument?  “But still…” rarely works, but I keep going back to it.

As far as problems go, limited free book selection on Amazon Prime isn’t the most worrisome.  I don’t lose any sleep over it.  Amazon prides itself, however, on getting things right for its customers, so it would be nice when I click on Amazon Prime to see a better selection of best-sellers and award-winners and other kinds of books that are in demand.

Even though this is a rant, I’m not trying to insult Amazon.  I like Amazon.  I’m merely offering a humble suggestion how to improve a service that I already kind of like.  I just want Amazon Prime to live up to its name.

*****

I also don’t want to criticize Amazon too much because it’s the only place where you can find my ebook .

The Literary Rants: Classic Novels Get Banned and Unbanned

Aw, not this again!

Sigh! Not this again!

The novels To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain just got banned from a public school library again a couple weeks ago.  I won’t name the school district  which banned the books because I don’t want to pile on.   To be fair, the books got unbanned a few days later.

It has to be embarrassing to be the school district that still bans To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  It’s not like these books are gathering dust anywhere.  Everybody knows about the content of these novels, and they’re still cherished American classics.

Even so, this won’t be the last time these novels get banned.  I’m not sure when Huck Finn or To Kill a Mockingbird are going to get banned by another school district, but it’s probably going to happen soon.

It was offensive language (the N-word) that got these books taken off the library shelves.  I understand, no school wants to get bad publicity for giving students books with N-words in it.  In today’s environment, if the wrong person writes or says the N-word, that person gets fired.

It’s tough to be in the crossfire between sensitivity and mockery today.  If you’re seen as insensitive and ignore the complaint about N-words in books, you could get fired (or even worse, be forced to attend seminars about sensitivity),  but if you respond to the complaint then you can get mocked for being stupid enough to ban To Kill a Mockingbird.  Most people need a paycheck, so they choose to get laughed at rather than get fired.

Sometimes a lack of common sense causes problems where none should exist.  In this case, the temporary ban was caused by a policy that said one complaint about a book was enough to warrant removal and an investigation.  Maybe this policy is needed for some of today’s YA fiction, but every librarian should know about To Kill a Mockingbird or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  Any librarian should greet a complaint about one of these books with an eye roll and an insincere, “We’ll look into it.”

A possible solution would be to publish a version of these classic novels without the N-word.  In the case of To Kill a Mockingbird, you’d have to clear it with the estate (and the estate probably wouldn’t agree), but Huckleberry Finn is public domain, so we can do what we want and Mark Twain (and any of his money-grubbing relatives) can’t do a thing about it.

All a publisher has to do is replace the N-word with the phrase “heckuva guy,” and the sensitive reader would no longer be offended.  Nobody gets offended by somebody who’s a “heckuva guy.”  And even though using “heckuva guy” instead of the N-word changes the meaning of the novels a little bit, it might be worth it if more readers become more comfortable with these classics.

If publishers do this, school libraries all over the United States could have sanitized copies of To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to entertain and enlighten even the most sensitive of readers and their parents.

I’m not a fan of banning books, but if you do, at least pick something original.  Here are  a few books that I think should get banned.  I’m not saying these books absolutely should get banned.  I just mean that sometimes on a slow news day you might want to ban a few books just to get the juices flowing, so if you do, here are a few books that haven’t been banned before (or at least haven’t made the news for getting banned).

*****

Despite lots of profanity, my ebook has never been banned from a school library.