September 2nd, 2010
Throughout much of my short-lived academic career, I studied post-colonial literature. Shocking, I know. In particular, I wrote about the Manichean allegory, this idea of opposites naturally imbuing a sense of “good” and “bad” just by their very existence (black vs. white, colonizer vs colony, etc.). And then I got out in to the real world and discovered that while prejudice and all kinds of other things that were so important to me during my academic life have drifted away into the larger concerns of “how do I pay my mortgage” and “do I really care if someone [read my Alma mater Queen's University) always addresses me with the derogatory "Miss" on my mailed communications?" (sort of but not really)...
Anyway, the media loves a good Manichean allegory don't they? What easier way to invent controversy than to present two opposites. But then again, it's not just journalists, bloggers, twitters, people on Facebook -- they're all told to "like" things (inferring that they perhaps "don't" if they refuse to click), make decisions, form opinions -- create polar opposites. And now the one act that used to bring everyone together, reading, which by its very nature has no "opposite" in the Manichean sense (I guess you could be "anti"-reading [I'm aghast at the thought] or be illiterate) because the moment you read a sentence, even if its the back of a cereal box, your world is somehow different, has become polarized as of late.
Oddly, it’s not the written word that’s causing the problems. It’s not a particular text or even a series of words put together by an author: it’s the very act of reading and how you choose to do it. Seems like you’re either “for” or “against” ereaders, either “defending” or pontificating over the actual idea of a physical book, and the idea that people can be polarized around an action that by its very nature brings human beings together makes me a little angry.
This article on Salon is making the rounds on Twitter today: “E-reader revolt: I’m leaving youth culture behind.” The author has avowed to never, ever, ever, never read a book on an ereader:
For me, there’s just still something universal about ink on paper, the dog-earing of yellowed pages, the loans to friends, the discovery of a relative’s secret universe of interests via the pile on their nightstand. And it’s not really hyperbole to say it makes me feel disconnected from humanity to imagine these rituals funneled into copy/paste functions, annotated files on a screen that could, potentially, crash.
And then, this morning (also via Twitter), I quickly browsed an article in the NY Times called: “Of Two Minds About Books.” The gist of which is that couples are at odds with one another, not over their chosen reading material but, instead, of HOW they like to read. She’s p-book; he’s e-book, and goes on to find about a half-dozen more varied couples to discuss the differences in how they choose to read.
Funny, but did I miss the universal memo that states we have to pick sides? That by buying and reading books electronically means that you swear unapologetically to never go back, to never change, to never switch from one to the other?
I’ve been thinking a lot about my own reading habits lately. To anyone who has ever heard me lecture before (in a classroom, at Book Camp), you know that I’m passionate about reading in all its formats. As long as people are buying books, no, more importantly, reading books, it doesn’t matter to me whether you do it on an iPad, a Kindle, a p-book, a phone, a blackberry, or via audio. What matters is that people are consuming content, voraciously in the case of the Stieg Larsson trilogy, talking about it, finding it, spreading it, and to create conflict out of the fact that you NEED to choose between one or the other misses the point. Isn’t it just amazing that people have so many more options now with which to devour content?
My own reading habits have been forever altered by my iPad. I’m not going to lie — it’s an amazing life tool, but I don’t read exclusively on it. I’ve discovered that I don’t like reading it in bed, so I’ve got a p-book on the go that sits on the nightstand. I’ve also found (as noted in an earlier post) that it’s way better for commuting than content in a traditional format. But it sucks to read on the deck at the cottage (the whole glare issue). So, it’s really a moment-by-moment decision for me rather than a complete lifestyle change as so many of these articles suggest. I’m tired of having to choose one OR the other, they can both co-exist within my life and, in different ways, satisfy my never-ending craving for the written word. I mean, why do we have to choose? Anyone who judges a person by their preference commits a horrible crime against reading in my eyes — the same people who come down on Oprah for having a book club and use the word “populist” to describe anything.
All books, all print, all media, all words contribute to the health and success of this business — to our culture, to our collective conscious, to our imaginary lives, and I for one will never choose one over the other, nor will I make grandiose statements about the “value” of reading one way over the other. Just read people. And then make some noise about what you’ve read. Then someone needs to come and give me a hug.
August 25th, 2010
Like I start off so many of my posts, I’m going to make a confession. I work for the Canadian publishing company that will release Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom next week. Even for those of you outside my industry, it’s impossible to miss the chatter flying around the interweb about the author and his new novel, the NY Times coverage (2 reviews, etc), Jodi Picoult, Jennifer Weiner, Laura Lippman, and the myriad other peeps tweeting about the dust-up. Essentially, and I’m not going to call it sour grapes, but Picoult tweeted last week that the Times lavishes critical praise on “white male literary darlings” and virtually ignores commercial fiction authors.
And while that might be true, that the newspaper doesn’t necessarily cover and/or review commercial fiction with the same, let’s say verve, that it would a novel by Franzen, in the end, why does she care so much? Is it as simple as a writer’s craving to be accepted by the denizens who look to the Times as the cultural beacon for the world? Is it sour grapes for not releasing a novel poised (and perhaps over-praised but still) to become a huge book in the collective literary consciousness?
I’ll make another confession. I’ve never read Picoult — her books don’t appeal to me. So I can’t really hold up her prose against Franzen’s. I have, however, read Freedom and it’s one hell of a novel. While it might not be deserving, say, of the cover of Time (which featured the author this month), it’s certainly one of the best books I’ve read this year and nowhere could I say this about it: “There’s a twist at the end and lots of saccharine, predictable moments in between.” (from The Globe and Mail‘s review of Picoult’s latest book).
Does Picoult really want the notoriously rough Michiko Kakutani reviewing her books? How come I can already read the review in my mind — “here’s a novel full of predictable plot points, terrible amounts of wrought emotions and suffering from the curse of the “book a year” crowd.” However, I know that’s not her point — that Picoult’s trying to bring to light the fact, one that Jennifer Weiner has been relaying for many, many years, that the Times doesn’t treat women’s fiction with the same “ohmigodthisissoawesome-ness” that they do a book by say, Franzen. That they don’t review, interview, lavish praise upon many commercial writers the same way they do the literary establishment. And that this deems much of commercial fiction as “unimportant” in terms of anything other than sales.
But someone needs to discuss culture (read: review) in a rational, intelligent and furious way. If not the NY Times then who? And regardless of whether or not Picoult wants to take issue with the WMFB (white males from Brooklyn) who seem to be driving the literary establishment in the US these days, it’s still unmistakable that their talent is certainly contributing to, if not defining, our current written culture in an undeniable way. But this kind of smells a little, “oh the popular kids really suck why can’t I be a popular kid” for my liking.
Maybe I’m reading too much into it — but, then again, I know how important the Times is to my industry. Entire meetings are given over to discussing the bestseller list; books used to be made on reviews; independents up their orders based on whether or not a title has good blurbs from them, and so on. Yet, none of that seems to have any affect upon the sales of either Jennifer Weiner or Jodi Picoult. They both write novels that sell like stink and that allow companies like mine to publish other books that won’t get reviewed but will probably end up on a list like this one. Many, many worthy writers don’t get reviewed in many, many papers. It’s practically impossible to get coverage in Canada for kids books; sure, everyone will report on a trend and offer up the odd “supplement” but regular, week by week coverage of middle grade fiction’s non-existent. Perhaps those authors should be complaining too. But if we’re about to keep complaining how about we discuss the death of papers, their lack of ability to monetize, shrinking book coverage in general, and the overall collapse of the publishing industry (yawn). There’s not enough room to discuss every book published in America and someone, somewhere has to make a decision about what’s WORTHY of being covered and what’s not. I’m okay with that. It’s not like there aren’t alternative places for people to read and review popular fiction, right? Hell, I’ve just spent the summer pretty much doing just that — reading and reviewing popular fiction. I, however, don’t have the clout of the Times, naturally, and does that upset me, not really.
So, call me a literary snob — put me in the camp that labels Jennifer Weiner’s novels chicklit, allow me to judge Freedom beside Fly Away Home, and there’s no contest. Yes, Weiner’s latest novel grabbed me emotionally and kept me on the edge of tears for most of the reading. Yes, it’s about women, relationships, and family. But so too is Freedom — half of the novel reads from the perspective of the female protagonist, Patty Berglund, a stay-at-home mum who struggles with her place in the world, tries to understand the feelings she has for her husband, his best friend (an enigmatic Jeff Tweedy-esque rock star) and severely parents her two children. But there’s a richness and a depth to Franzen that isn’t there in the other novel. There’s a scope of the human condition that doesn’t come from the cliched, “ripped from the headlines” plotline that starts off Weiner’s latest book. Yes, women’s fiction is undervalued, hell, I’d even say that Harlequin romances are undervalued — when I was writing back cover blurbs I read more than a dozen or so that were not just great reads but excellent ones (I read quite a few raspberries too) but I wouldn’t ever label them “literary” as I would the Franzen. I wouldn’t label Weiner literary either and that’s the number one reason why I wouldn’t expect to see it reviewed in the Times, Entertainment Weekly, sure — because that’s what commercial fiction does, it entertains. There’s no shame in it, and why not celebrate the differences instead of whining about the coverage, instead of flogging that dead horse why not just stand up and shout: “proud never to have been reviewed in the Times.”
There’s probably a huge feminist issue with undervaluing the “chicklit” label in general, but why not embrace it instead of fighting against it at every turn. Why kick up a fuss in the first place unless you really want to be judged on the same level as Franzen by the same people, the same reviewers — and then what’ll someone say when the coverage is less than glowing? Will there then be the same brouhaha over the kind of coverage, the negative reviews, the harshness of the criticism? I doubt it. But I know one thing for sure, it certainly won’t affect their sales — the ability for Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult, enviably, being able to make a living from their pen as Aphra Behn attempted to do all those years ago. We’ve come a long way indeed. Women drive this industry. They buy the majority of the books, edit bucket loads of them, find authors, nurture authors, create culture, discuss culture, form book clubs, read Oprah, etc. The real issue here isn’t that women’s fiction is ignored by the literary establishment. The real issue here is the age-old fact that women will read all kinds of genres — men, not so much. And if we’re out to criticize the establishment, why not take a poke at the fact that women’s fiction seems to always be packaged in the same way: floaty white covers, pictures of shoes, foggy, pretty scenery — why aren’t these writers demanding that their publishers take a step back and repackage the books so they’re taken more seriously?
The more I write about this, the more I read about, the more I think that it’s not so much the review that sparked the debate, it’s the idea that there are gender divides in our industry that maybe shouldn’t be here. But, regardless, I’ll be one of the many who puts Freedom up on a pedestal for how it deals with human nature in the world today — the issues that it raises, how Franzen writes about people, their plights, their inner lives, and the emotional consequence of actions. It’s a deep, engaging, political novel, one that feels fresh as compared to the rote books of late from his contemporaries (McEwan, Irving, I’m looking at you), and I frankly don’t care whether Jodi Picoult likes it or not. I’d urge anyone to read it and then try to disagree with me. It might not be the book of the decade but it’s certainly about to become the book of the year.
December 6th, 2009
We slept in this morning, and I’ve decided that today will not be a complete waste, as was yesterday. The work week was exceptionally long, with sales conference and a general sense of wariness on my part, and so we went out on Friday night with friends for much-needed release. Of course, in my semi-non-drinking state, the three pints that I had rendered me utterly useless almost all day yesterday. And so I watched Jersey Shore online after Zesty sent a funny note about it last week. Good grief. It’s hard not to judge these people. And I suppose that’s the point — the strange obsession that we have with “reality” television seems to be ruining entertainment, as Vanity Fair pointed out in its December issue — as we spend hours (as I did) following the lives of vapid, self-involved, idiotic wastes of earthly space from a fairly protected sense of being morally better than they are.
As everyone starts to follow the Copenhagen conference (the Globe had extensive coverage of global warming in this weekend’s Focus section), a huge discrepancy between where pop culture seems to be headed and the real issues facing our society today. In short, I kind of feel like the environment just doesn’t matter to the masses. I’m sure I’m making ridiculous generalizations, and shouldn’t just use the vapid, ridiculous “characters” from Jersey Shore as my test subjects, but I was honestly disgusted by their lack of awareness, the amount of garbage they produced on screen (all those disposable cups!), and the kinds of things that caused an emotional reaction (feeling “outcasted” and fighting in bars). The men use bucketfuls of product on their hair and the girls who claim they’re “all natural” (in that they aren’t augmented) while piling on ridiculous amounts of make-up and wearing next to nothing.
Maybe I’m just trying to attach a sense of righteousness where it doesn’t belong. The stereotypical muscle-bound meat heads and the girls who love them seem to be partying their way into a z-level fame. These kids can’t aspire to much or else they wouldn’t be on the show in the first place and I often wonder if these shows aren’t meant to depress the viewership as much as appeal to it. How can you not feel defeated about the state of feminism when you watch young girls come up into a house of strangers, allow themselves to be filmed jumping half-naked into a jacuzzi, and pull off their underwear while the three other women in the house call them “skanks” and “whores.” In the same breath, two of the four women in the house then go on to cheat on their significant others while being so drunk they can’t remember what happened, one girl gets “sloppy” (which none of the men appreciate?) on the first night, and the last girl, nicknamed “Sweetheart” leads one roommate on only to make-out minutes later with another fellow from the house. Where’s the dividing line between skank and whore? The determination lies solely with whomever shouts the loudest?
I shouldn’t have watched it. The comedic value of it all was lost on me. Or maybe I’m just too serious these days. Feeling a little lost and neglected in terms of my own life and far too hungover yesterday to contemplate anything more intellectual. But when and how did society fall so far and how do you think these kids are going to feel about themselves when they gain some perspective? Some of them are simply old enough to know better — a man on the cusp of his 30s who is still chasing tail and judging his success in life by how many women are entrapped by his abs should be ashamed of himself. The idea of instant gratification is taken to the nth degrees by this snippet of American life. These kids don’t really want to work (their room and board is paid for by working a shift or two a couple of times a week in a t-shirt shop), their values are family-orientated in a way (they’re mainly Italian-American) when it suits them, there’s no discussion of safe sex, common decency seems non-existent, and sexism on both counts gets confused with sexual attraction in ways that make me feel far, far older than my years.
And the whole time I’m watched, mindful of being entirely the wrong demographic, I kept thinking: we’re wasting the earth’s precious resources on this sh*t. And no one seems to care. I wonder how ironic Pauly D’s Cadillac tattoos will be in however many years when there’s no more gas and there’s nothing left to power their beloved cars. Do you think he’ll even understand the irony?
November 29th, 2009
We had saved up our entertainment budget and put our Air Miles to good use (movie passes) so my RRHB said, “why don’t we go to the movies.” At first, he wanted to go see 2012, and then he actually read the reviews. Looking up showtimes, I noticed that The Road was screening at the Queensway, so I suggested we see that instead — it took a little convincing. It’s honestly one of our favourite books — and that doesn’t happen often. We have drastically different taste in reading material.
This film has so many things working in its favour: excellent source material, Viggo Mortensen, a score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, and a director, John Hillcoat, who has a bit of a track record (he directed The Proposition). All the pieces are there, but the film doesn’t quite reach its potential. It’s too long, and the liberties that they take to adapt it to the screen didn’t quite work for me.
Let’s pause for a moment because by no means is this a bad film. Quite the opposite, actually, it’s a very good film. I just wanted it to be a great film (and so did A.O. Scott).
So, let’s start with the positives — Viggo Mortensen plays the Man, the narrator, the father who takes his only child on the road after the apocolypse, consistently heading south because it means survival. He’s excellent: nuanced when necessary, protective, angry, solid, and worthy of the role. The young fellow (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who plays the son was good too — and the pair, worked significantly well together. There’s a lovely balance to the film, don’t get me wrong, the story is heartbreaking, between the son who only knows this ravished world and the father who still remembers aspects of what it was like before the cold. The two of them work this contradiction exceptionally well.
For the most part, it’s a faithful adaptation of the novel. But there are Hollywood elements that I wasn’t sure the story needed: the history of the man’s relationship to the boy’s mother (played by Charlize Theron), a strange trip back to his childhood home (did I miss that from the book?), and cemented the ending.
In a way, it’s these very “movie”-like parts that kind of ruined the film for me — I wanted more The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and we got a little too much of a film like Gerry. I felt the book deserved something a little more stylized, a little less Hollywood, and a little more reflective of McCarthy’s book. More varied dialogue between the two would have helped. It wasn’t to be done away with as a minor part of the book sacrificed as a means to pump up the action so the movie could be more broad-reaching. They tended to repeat the same conversations over and over again — and I remember this differently in the book. The film could have been shorter too — that’s one of the things that I admire about McCarthy’s writing — it’s effective because it’s so sparse.
One thing about the picture that’s utterly worth raving about is the art direction. It’s sobering to see the remnants of our civilization laid to waste and even more so to see humanity loose its essence as food becomes increasingly sparse. The whole film feels bathed in this greyish light, burned out fields where trees used to stand, garbage everywhere, stuff that people hold tight to becomes meaningless if you can’t eat it — strands of pearls are stepped on and over and money blows around like paper. The film looks amazing. Truly. Like I said, it’s a good picture, totally worth seeing in the theatre, and wholly deserving (fingers crossed) of its Oscar potential.
But, holy crap were there knuckleheads in the theatre with us. It was packed but I’m not sure people knew what film they were seeing. Or taking their teenagers too? Wha? I know! One family left twenty minutes in and the kid beside me was half-asleep before the film ever really started. When the movie was over, the group of drunken middle-agers in front of us stood up and said, “Well, they sure were spare on the action in that weren’t they?” I honestly wanted to ask them if they’d even heard of the book, but I held my tongue. Sort of…
November 23rd, 2009
Oh, be ready to throw the tomatoes at me, yes, I spent hard-earned money to go see New Moon for our Undeath Match. Luckily, I was accompanied by someone (Rachel) who both saw the cheese potential (so bad it’s good) and has a similar penchant for some good, old girlie fun. But, wow, is this film ever bad.
Like, really, really bad.
For anyone living under a rock, a soppy teenage girl (Bella Swan, what a stupid name) is abandoned by her mother (awesome role model there) who got remarried and shipped her off to Forks, WA to be reared by her silent but sturdy father (town sheriff, natch), falls in love with a “smoldering” perma-teenage vampire (Edward Cullen). They swoon. They stare into one another’s eyes. And by the end of Twilight, they were actually an honest to goodness couple — chaste even by Mormon standards — but a couple nonetheless. Enter New Moon and all the horrible metaphors that title implies.
Open Scene: It’s Bella’s birthday. Of course, no one’s allowed to give her presents (because teenage girls just HATE stuff), and no one listens to her. Yawn. There’s a party at the Cullen Manor and she gets a paper cut. Oh, the blood! It’s so hard for the vampires to resist. Why? Because they’re vampires, that’s what they do, they suck the blood. Yawn. Edward decides that it’s over, for Bella’s own good. Because Bella, for the love of Pete, has no mind of her own. He leaves. She dies inside and suffers from an almost life-ending depression coupled with sweat-stained, sheet-scrunching nightmares.
Enter buffed up buddy Jacob who glides in with the cheesiest wig to end all wigs and abs to rival Tim Riggins. He’s the only one who can pull Bella out of her post-Edward coma. They build motorcycles together because she needs to live on the “edge.” Why? Oh, because that’s when Spectral Edward shows up to tell her what to do. Again, why? Because Bella has no brain nor mind of her own. Quadruple yawn. Oh, and Jacob’s a werewolf. Did I forget to mention that? Because all of her boyfriends are supernatural. She’s just that special.
Jake and Bella bond. He wants more but there’s a treaty in play, blah vampires versus werewolves, blah de blah. Edward moan, groan, moan. And I’m already tired of recapping the plot so let me just cut to a list of why this movie sucked so much I would have walked out if I was there by myself:
1. Why can’t teenagers have fun? Even a little? Why are they always pouting and acting all angrily and not doing anything remotely like regular kids?
2. Seriously, shut up Edward.
3. Bella stands in a meadow (even though a terrible red-headed vampire named Victoria is hunting her) alone as a dread-locked vamp says, “I’m going to kill you, okay?” She sort of shrugs and doesn’t move. Let’s repeat that, she does NOT MOVE. She just waits for Edward to come and save her but because he’s convinced being together would put her in too much danger, he’s nowhere to be found. Wha? Run little girl, run. Fight, kick, scream, just do something other than pout cross-eyed at the damn man.
4. Again, even when he’s not on screen I want Edward to shut up. Spectral Edward should have a sock shoved in his fog-inducing ass.
5. What happened to quality role models for girls? Where’s Judy Blume when you need her? Where’s Nancy Drew or Andie or Jo? Bella mopes around because of a boy, abandons her friends, who don’t even say WTF when she decides to start talking to them again, abandons both school and her parents to run off at the very slight chance she’ll even see Edward, and only acts when it relates to a boy (Edward or Jacob). She is consistently needing to be saved. She never, ever saves herself. And when they both say, “oh we can’t be together because you might get hurt or I might hurt you,” she curls up into a little ball and does a fat lot of nothing.
6. So, the whole wolf pack runs around with no shirts and cut-off pants. But when they change, what happens to the pants? The werewolves aren’t wearing them and they’re not flopping around anywhere on the ground. They magically disappear and then magically appear when they turn back. Those are some magical pants. Who cares about continuity when you have Taylor Lautner’s abs?
7. Shut up Edward.
8. If Bella’s dad’s supposed to be a cop, and a good cop at that, how come he never notices a) her boyfriends all have freaky eyes and often walk around all the time without shirts and b) that they’re supernatural? Hasn’t he lived in Forks his entire life and isn’t one of his closest friends a Native American?
9. The first movie sucked, but at least there was a cheese factor that made it kind of hilarious. That first moment when Edward sparkles, priceless. Here, they’re all dour and angry — pushing and pulling each other with no payoff.
10. The whole Team This or Team That is just dumb. Even though Edward got his ass kicked by the strange Michael Sheen headed cult thingy, Bella’s so obviously in love with him (and if you’ve read the spoilers and/or the books) you know what happens. In fact, it doesn’t matter what happens because it’s all filler anyway — it’s a road block in between the happy ending. The story’s been told a million times. However, IF I were to pick a side (and no serious, book-loving, 30-something woman has any right to even be talking about this), I’d have to go with Jacob. I know he has no chance but, let’s face it, Edward got his pasty-emo handed right back to him in that (SPOILER) battle toward the end, and rightly so. The werewolves, as goofy as they are running around the forest in basically their underwear, can truly fight. That was the best part of the film, actually. The wolves battling it out and ripping the heads of the vampires. Pretty, pretty awesome. But don’t tell Kimberly I said that.
11. SHUT UP, Edward.
I’ve been reading Twilight and I doubt I’ll review it here — what can I possibly say. Everyone knows the writing is horrible. It’s akin to the worst stuff I’ve ever read in some of the worst creative writing classes I’ve attended. She tells way more than she shows, Meyer has never met a useless, moronic detail she didn’t like, and, other than the setting, which I quite like, she breaks taboos that undermine the merit (if any) of her work. The struggle to be good, to be in love, all that good, juicy teenage stuff makes for good ingredients but what she cooks up couldn’t be any more contrived if she tried. And yet, she’s sold millions and millions of books. Let’s just hope she’s using some of her royalties for good and re-planting some of the trees she’s destroyed over the years. It’s like Stephen King pointed out, at least J.K. Rowling can write, you know?
November 20th, 2009
Last week I was excited to try Shortcovers — I’ve been reading manuscripts and classics on my Sony eReader for over a year, and now wanted to try to buy new content from a source that made it easy to transfer from device to device. Shortcovers promises this is easy. And let’s keep in mind that I am not one to be afraid of technology. But many, many things went wrong:
1. On my way home from The Giller Light, I thought — “cool, I’ll download the winner (The Bishop’s Man) to my blackberry and start reading it tonight.” No such luck, I searched and searched, and couldn’t find the book. #shortcoversfail.
2. The next day I thought, “it’s got to be there now,” as I searched for The Bishop’s Man again. There it was, kudos to Shortcovers for having it up quickly. When I clicked, I got a message that I needed to buy this book. “Sure,” I thought, and clicked to buy. I entered my credit card information. “This is not a valid credit card.” I did it again. And again. And again. And again. It. Would. Not. Work. #shortcoversfail.
3. Then, Friday as I was tidying up my office, I dusted off my Sony eReader (I haven’t been reading a pile of books electronically in the last little while), plugged it in and thought, “okay, I’ll buy the books from Shortcovers, dump them on my eReader, and then transfer them to my blackberry.” Logon to Shortcovers, buy The Bishop’s Man and Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, and download them to my Adobe Digital Editions. Adobe Digital Editions says, “here they are!” And I can see the books. Next step, “plug in your reader and it’ll automatically recognize it.” Nope. I followed all the steps and for the life of me could not get my reader to pick up the Shortcovers content; this might not be their fault — apparently I might need to update my Sony interface but because I’m at work, I don’t have adminstrative capabilities for my laptop, I couldn’t do that. #shortcoversfail.
4. Back to my blackberry. Apparently, once you’ve bought the books they should automatically download onto your phone because they’re paid for. No. They don’t. Oh, I can get the sample chapters but I’ve paid for the whole book — not just the sample chapters. Nothing happened automatically nor was there a single useful “help” section that could be of assistance. Also, there’s no phone number, just those annoying email customer service forms. #shortcoversfail.
5. Now, I’ve got two great books, both I’m dying to read digitally marooned on my laptop at work with no way of getting them anywhere else and feel like I’ve wasted $25.00. I HATE wasting $25.00. And what’s worse — I want the content, I want to be able to read it in both places, I want it to work. #shortcoversfail.
Anyone have any suggestions?
July 30th, 2008
Zesty and I went to Costco the other weekend and I bought a lot of stuff. Well, not a lot of stuff, but I was kind of like a kid in a candy store because I’m not a regular Costco shopper. So, for the bookish girl, seeing giant stacks of books incites a certain kind of glee, so of course I piled a bunch of ‘off the list books’ (ones that we don’t publish or that I can’t get reading copies for) into my cart. The first one I tackled was Liz Tuccillo’s How to Be Single. (Yes, I’m still on the chicklit kick). What a disappointing book. It’s stereotypical, bland, relatively plotless and utterly unbelievable.
The premise — five single women in NYC in their mid-to-late 30s love, redemption and self-satisfaction — falls short of actually driving the action of entire novel, so Tuccillo invents an entirely ridiculous ‘adventure’ for her main character, Julie Jenson. See, Julie’s unhappy being a publicist at a publishing company so she decides, on a whim, to march into the publisher’s office and pitch a book about “How to Be Single.” Julie will travel the world and meet all kinds of single women from all kinds of different countries and then she’ll write a book. It’s Eat, Prey, Love in spades. Only it’s not because what it means is that Julie, THE MAIN CHARACTER AND NARRATOR, introduces the action and her four best friends who only know one another through her, and then LEAVES THE CITY. But she still TELLS THE STORY.
So that means all the stories are told from Julie’s point of view, even though she’s not anywhere near the action of the other four characters: lawyer Alice (who left her job to be on permanent “man” hunt); Georgia (whose husband recently left her and the kids to take up with a samba teacher); Ruby (overweight and depressed about her dead cat); and Serena (a hippie cook who works for a famous family only to leave to try and become a swami). The whole book is full of situations that are completely and utterly unbelievable. Of course, Julie meets a wonderful man in Paris with only one hitch; he’s married, but wait! It’s an open relationship! Yawn.
And we could run through the bland things that happen to the other four women but it’s not worth the energy it would take for my fingers to type it out. Not one aspect of the book (until we get to the VERY end) is about the women living happy and fulfilled single lives. They’re hysterical, depressed, somewhat crazed, and on the hunt for the “right” man the entire time. Tuccillo doesn’t break down a single cliche or take the story in any remotely original direction. And, I’ve got to say, it’s honestly some of the worst dialogue I have ever read on paper. For the most part, I wasn’t remotely interested in what happened to a single one of these women. Because they didn’t feel real. They didn’t feel passionate. They were stereotypes of women I see in sitcoms. They were Rachel and Monica, Miranda and Carrie, and with none of the quirks that make those characters endearing or original.
I have to say too, that the premise of the novel, when you first pick it up, is interesting, and I would have enjoyed it a lot of there was a whiff of these women embracing their single lives and actually growing from beginning to end. I’ve already given my copy away and I don’t want it back.
March 8th, 2008
I was going to title this post, Fark You TTC, but then decided against it, as I’m somewhat more calm this morning after the debacle that was my trip home last night. I left work at around 5:30, stopped in at Shopper’s for some TV watching treats, and then deposited my token and waited for the Bloor/Danforth train to take me westbound. Only it didn’t. There was yet another emergency at Christie station, the second one that week, and not only were emergency crews dispatched but the ENTIRE LINE was shut down from St. George to Keele.
So I truck up to the southbound Yonge/University line and take the train down to College hoping that, despite the weather, the streetcars will still be running. I wait. A half-hour elapses. No streetcars going westbound. Hundreds of streetcars going eastbound. Hundreds of people going west. Completely empty but for one or two people in the eastbound cars. No transit to take any of us westbounders home.
So I decide to start walking. I hate standing around. I always feel that at least I’m going somewhere if I’m walking instead of just waiting for who knows how long for the magical streetcar to arrive. The sun goes down entirely. This means the sidewalks, wet with melting snow from earlier in the week, have turned into ice slicks. This is not good for people with TRHs.
But I walk anyway. It’s slippery but I’m managing.
I pass University, St. George, Spadina and make it as far as Bathurst where I almost fell after slipping into an intersection. Now I decide I’ve had enough and hail a cab. Only none are going westbound. They’re all going eastbound. It seems the entire universe is refusing to go in the direction of my house. After trying to flag two cabs to see if they’ll turn around, finally someone does, and even though it costs me $15.00, I get home at 7:10, a full hundred minutes after leaving work. Almost three times longer than normal.
Tell me, if it’s their ONLY job, to get people home, why is it that not a single person living in the west end, who takes either the College route or goes along Bloor, could get home? I know the weather sucks, but it’s CANADA, and haven’t they figured out any contingency plans yet? There’s barely a day that goes by that there’s not some sort of delay on the Bloor/Danforth line, but what’s the alternative? Oh wait, there IS no alternative. If you want to take the transit, you’re stuck with the TTC. If you want to be environmentally responsible, you’re stuck never getting places on time, never depending on the service to actually be there, and in one of the worst days of the winter, forced to walk on icy sidewalks because in AN HOUR OF WAITING not a single streetcar passes.
And how about refunding the $15.00 that I really didn’t want to spend on a taxi or even the fare that I wasted because the better way ended up being completely useless.
How much longer until I can ride my bike?
*Edited to add: And it’s not just me who’s frustrated. And good to know that the station I need to go to on a daily basis is known as a crime hot spot.
March 4th, 2008
To the poor soul who Googled this question and ended up here: “is writing fake memoir wrong,” let me just go on record to say yes, yes it is wrong. Oh so very, very wrong.
The most beleaguered category in literature these days, the poor traditional memoir, takes another beating this week with the news that Riverhead’s hotly reviewed Love and Consequences is fiction from start to finish. I get a little peeved when every bit of book media references James Frey in situations like this, if only because I still believe that there are parts of A Million Little Pieces that are true and the book in general is true to the form; but whatever, he lied, we all know that, maybe it’s time to move on and let the guy continue with his career.
But I do think that it’s quite different from writing an entire FICTIONAL book as this crazy woman has done and then passing it off as a memoir with the vain hope of ‘speaking for people who can’t speak themselves.’ Seriously? That’s the reason why? It had nothing to do with you sensationalizing other people’s misery and flaunting it all out so you could make a million or two from your book? (Perhaps not now that all the books have been recalled. Ouch. And poor trees. I hope the pulping machines can recover).
I’m kind of flabbergasted that Seltzer actually thought she could get away with it. That the little truth-meter in her mind wasn’t blaring when the media started calling and the NY Times raved about her book? And how mad must the sister be for to become the whistle blower? In this day and age, with fingers that fly and author pictures that appear on the web, did she think no one would recognize her? And when she started “speaking” for a neighbourhood, did she not think anyone would come forward and call her out?
It’s not so much the surprise that fake memoirs keep finding their way onto the shelves that surprises me, it’s more the fact that these writers are making it so much harder for the rest of the genre. Margaret Seltzer might just be an idiot (what would have been wrong with writing fiction?) who made a bad decision, but the more fake memoirs that come out and then are ripped to shreds by the Gawkers of the world, the harder it’ll be for people who honestly do have a story to tell and to sell to get published. It’s as if the memoir in its truly glorious, Joan Didion loving format, is dying a slow death.
And “homies”? Seriously?