slammerkinbabe: (!confused (wembley))
The other day, I read Madeleine L’Engle’s Many Waters for the first time. I’d read the first three books in the Time Quintet, but when I was a kid I started Many Waters and was really bored almost immediately. Reading it as an adult, I wasn’t bored, but I was confused, because she decided to take on the topic of Noah and the flood and yet dodged all the challenging parts of the story. It’s not just that she doesn’t explore in any kind of depth the consequences or, really, any of the disturbing aspects of the idea of God wiping out the entire world. The characters who are fated to drown are drawn as not very nice people, but they’re not drawn so harshly as to make it seem okay that they’re all getting axed by God. But she basically passes that over without making the reader feel like the flood is anything particularly cruel. spoiler cut for those who haven't read it (apparently I do spoiler-cuts for 30-year-old books now )

I know that a core aspect of L’Engle’s faith is that God is kind and merciful. Which is a vision of God I’ve always liked, but it’s also a vision that involves tossing out most of the Old Testament. And that’s fine by me, because I’m not someone who thinks the Bible is some sort of incontrovertible history/biography of God. My understanding of God casts a wider net, draws from different traditions. But if that’s not how L’Engle’s faith works, fine, cool. What I don’t get is her taking on one of the cruelest stories in the Bible and then refusing to address its cruelty. Why would you choose to write about the flood if you’re not going to engage with the emotional and moral implications of the story?

I saw the movie Noah in the theater and was actually kind of impressed by it, though Lord knows it wasn’t perfect (rock monsters, srsly?). But it didn’t pull its punches too much in confronting the horror of God’s killing everybody on the planet except for half a dozen people, and Noah’s single-mindedness in refusing to question the morality of every dictate he (thinks) he’s hearing from God is an interesting and, I think, illuminating take on the story. It wasn’t a movie that I was super-impressed by in the theater, but I find myself still thinking about it months after I saw it, so I guess it was doing something right. And I think the something was its willingness to face all the aspects of the story of the flood, including the troubling ones, honestly and thoughtfully.

I’m curious as to whether anybody reading this has read Many Waters and what their (your) thoughts are on it. I thought it was surprisingly facile for a Madeleine L’Engle novel, which was disappointing. But maybe I’m missing something.
slammerkinbabe: (!confused (wembley))
It's the first day of National Poetry Month and I'm frustrated with the Internet/the world, so have an excerpt from Octavia Butler's Parable of the Talents:

All too often,
We say
What we hear others say.
We think
What we’re told that we think.
We see
What we’re permitted to see.
Worse!
We see what we’re told that we see.
Repetition and pride are the keys to this.
To hear and to see
Even an obvious lie
Again
And again and again
May be to say it,
Almost by reflex
Then to defend it
Because we’ve said it
And at last to embrace it
Because we’ve defended it
And because we cannot admit
That we’ve embraced and defended
An obvious lie.
Thus, without thought,
Without intent,
We make
Mere echoes
Of ourselves—
And we say
What we hear others say.


Butler doesn't write the most stunning verse in the world (and freely acknowledges it), but this bit is so on point.
slammerkinbabe: (!deadpan (fascinating))
The other day I was rereading Akin to Anne, a posthumously collected anthology of stories about orphans by L.M. Montgomery. Now, I'm sure at least some of the readers of this journal (um, if there are any left :() are familiar with Montgomery's unfortunate propensity for saccharine, improbable plots in her not-so-good works, but this book is just beyond the pale. In order to exorcise it from my soul I decided to write true-to-life stories of what would actually happen to the orphans in these stories. I don't know if anyone who isn't overfamiliar with L.M. Montgomery will also find it funny, but what the hell.

With no further ado, here are

ALL THE ORPHANS
(all of them)

In “Marcella’s Reward”, a poor girl with a sick sister who needs to go to the country to recover encounters a very mean lady at work who keeps on berating her, but a lady who used to be her mother’s best friend doesn’t happen to be listening to her conversation and stay afterward to talk to her and then take Marcella and her sister to the country and adopt them. So they stay in the city and the sister dies, except that would probably have happened in the country anyway because country air isn’t full of medication.

In “Ted’s Afternoon Off”, a little prodigy of a violinist stays home to play the fiddle for a sick boy instead of going to the church picnic, but a professional violinist doesn’t happen to overhear him and decide to adopt him and give him lessons, so no one ever realizes how wonderful the boy’s playing is and eventually he grows up and becomes a storekeeper and only plays the violin on weekends. Also the sick boy probably dies because the prodigy violinist’s playing doesn’t have medicine in it either.

In “Freda’s Adopted Grave”, a little orphan girl who plants flowers on the abandoned grave of a forgotten embezzler doesn’t get found out by the sister of the embezzler who somehow never managed to get back to see her brother’s grave for 25 years but got back soon after Freda started taking care of the grave. So the lady doesn’t adopt Freda and Freda stays with her mean aunt and becomes embittered and is mean to her children when she grows up and then they are mean to their children and so on.

In “The Girl Who Drove the Cows”, the beautiful girl who drives the cows does not turn out to be related to the richest family in town and does not get adopted by them. So she settles into her job driving cows and doing farm work and eventually she isn’t beautiful anymore but no one cares because she’s just a farm girl anyway so whatever.

In “Why Not Ask Miss Price?”, nothing happens because this story from the title on is so fucking annoying that I refuse to recognize it as part of my reality.

In “Jane Lavinia,” Jane Lavinia the artist prodigy does not refuse to go to New York to develop her talent on account of hearing her stiff undemonstrative aunt crying about how she’ll miss Jane Lavinia once she goes, because Jane Lavinia is not an idiot.

In “The Running Away of Chester”, a little boy who runs away from his cruel abusive aunt and almost starves doesn’t happen to get a job in the nick of time, working for a wonderful kind woman who also happens to be his stepaunt once removed or something, so he doesn’t get adopted by her and live in bliss forever. He goes back to his cruel aunt once he’s on the brink of starvation and gets a beating for it, and after another seven or eight years of abuse he decides he hates the world and becomes a drunk when he grows up.

In “Millicent’s Double”, two girls who are not related do not turn out to look like identical twins because that doesn’t happen in reality. So the identical girl who is an orphan doesn’t go to a party pretending to be the other girl who is not an orphan, and she doesn’t feel horribly guilty later and confess her crime, which means she doesn’t tell the people who threw the party her real name and no one ever finds out that she’s the niece of a rich bachelor who would adopt her and take away all her cares forever if he knew. She just stays poor for the rest of her life and that’s all.

In “Penelope’s Party Waist”, a poor girl who wants desperately to go to a party but doesn’t have a dress decides to make one out of the lining of an old heirloom quilt that her aunt sent her, but at the party her kind grand-aunt that she never knew doesn’t recognize the material the dress is made out of and doesn’t come over to tell her how much she loved the girl’s grandmother and doesn’t adopt the girl. A gossip who recognizes the material writes a letter to the aunt who sent the girl the heirloom and the aunt gets furious and cuts the girl out of her will and the girl is poorer than before.

In “The Little Black Doll”, nothing changes because I love this story.

In “The Fraser Scholarship”, there is not a math competition where competitors whose last names are Fraser, Campbell or McLean receive preference over all the other competitors because that makes no sense at all. So the kid who wins the competition and whose stepfather’s name was Campbell but whose father’s name was Hanselpakker doesn’t have a huge moral crisis about accepting the award, and he never admits to his real name being Hanselpakker because seriously, Hanselpakker? So his long-lost rich aunt doesn’t recognize the last name and adopt him, so he doesn’t suddenly land in the lap of luxury, but he probably does okay by himself because he’s smart and hardworking. Good for you, little Hanselpakker.

In “Her Own People”, the orphan girl who is bitchy and embittered because she has no blood relatives that she knows of just gets more annoyed when this woman she hardly knows starts rattling on to her about how much God loves her and what a good and beautiful thing friendship is. So she doesn’t take the woman’s advice and doesn’t board for the summer at a house that turns out to be next door to where her dead mother’s relatives live, and she doesn’t lose all her bitterness and write a letter to the amateur evangelist talking about how much she loves God now. She goes somewhere else to board and remains embittered and eventually becomes an outspoken atheist and a big fan of HL Mencken and winds up being more interesting than any of the other characters in this book.

In “Miss Sally’s Company”, a sweet old lady who loves visitors and has like a million of them a week doesn’t pine away in sadness for a visit from two snotty girls who are her second cousins twice removed, because who the hell cares if your second cousins twice removed visit you or not, especially if they are snotty and obnoxious. So they don’t visit and she doesn’t care and there’s really no story but that’s okay because the story was stupid anyway.

In “The Story of an Invitation”, some girl who was invited to spend the summer with her aunt in the country gives her invitation to a poor, sickly orphan friend of hers, but it doesn’t turn out that a friend of the aunt is the sickly girl’s uncle and she doesn’t get adopted by him because SERIOUSLY enough with the damn long-lost relatives adopting people. The sickly girl probably becomes a teacher instead or something, I don’t know, she’s boring.

In “The Softening of Miss Cynthia” an old lady refuses to take in her dead brother’s child and sends him to be a live-in servant to a major asshole who works the boy almost to death. She repents of her actions when the boy gets really sick, but she doesn’t get to adopt him after all because he dies instead of getting better thanks to all the medicine and top-notch medical care she buys for him. So she feels guilty until the day she dies, just like a lot of people do about a lot of things.

In “Margaret’s Patient”, a healthy not-too-poor orphan girl who gives up her summer vacation to nurse a sickly very poor orphan girl doesn’t turn out to be related to her, thus eliminating two orphans with one stone, because WHAT THE HELL WHY WOULD SOMEONE ACTUALLY COLLECT ALL THESE IDENTICAL DUMBASS STORIES INTO ONE VOLUME, ARE WE SUPPOSED TO NOT NOTICE THAT THEY ARE ALL THE EXACT SAME STORY OR SOMETHING

In “Charlotte’s Ladies”, a little girl in an orphanage doesn’t happen to find two holes in the boundary fence of the orphanage, or if she does they just look out on a bunch of trees and ugly bracken instead of one looking out on the home of a woman who looks just like the mother of her dreams and the other one looking out on the home of a woman who looks just like the aunt of her dreams. So the two women don’t turn out to be sisters who both want to adopt her and move in together and blah blah blah fill in the blanks to get to the happily ever after. The little girl just grows up in the orphanage and becomes a teacher or a nurse or something, and she copes with having been an orphan because that’s pretty much what orphans do, just like the rest of us.

And that’s what happens to all the orphans in real life.
slammerkinbabe: (julie/carol otp)
Hrm.

A.S. Byatt: "Basing a character on a real-life figure is an 'appropriation of [their] lives and privacy".

Of course, her saying this has nothing to do with the fact that her competitor for the Booker Prize, Hilary Mantel, wrote a historical novel about Thomas Cromwell.

Some thoughts, though:

fictional musings [now with extra uncalled-for defensiveness regarding real-person fiction! )
slammerkinbabe: (reading)
My goodness, but this article bristling at America's (apparent) exclusion from the Nobel Prize for Literature is one of the zanier things I've read for awhile!

The premise of the article, which is actually interesting, was sparked by this quotation:

Horace Engdahl, the academy's permanent secretary, made that clear this week when he told the Associated Press that American writers are simply not up to Nobel standards. "The U.S. is too isolated, too insular," Engdahl decreed. "They don't translate enough and don't really participate in the big dialogue of literature. That ignorance is restraining."


So I'd certainly think that that would be debatable. And the Slate article does debate it. The problem is that I can't quite see how much of anything they say makes any, uh, sense.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • "America should respond not by imploring the committee for a fairer hearing but by seceding, once and for all, from the sham that the Nobel Prize for literature has become." They want us to secede from the Nobel Prize? Really? Will we have to fight a war? Is Slate going to go over to petitionsonline.com and craft a petition to try to get the American government to tell the Nobel committee we don't want no education Nobel Prizes? What?
  • "Though, while Engdahl decries American provincialism today, for most of the Nobel's history, it was exactly its "backwardness" that the Nobel committee most valued in American literature... Pearl Buck, who won the prize in 1938, and John Steinbeck, who won in 1962, are almost folk writers, using a naively realist style to dramatize the struggles of the common man. Their most famous books, The Good Earth and The Grapes of Wrath, fit all too comfortably on junior-high-school reading lists. Sinclair Lewis, the first American to win the Prize, in 1930, wrote broad satires on American provincialism with nothing formally adventurous about them." Oh, dude, I know you didn't just call John Steinbeck and Pearl S. Buck "anti-intellectual". And who in the hell ever said that a novel that isn't "formally adventurous" (I'm guessing that this means breaking traditional boundaries in terms of form and style, although dude still needs to learn to make some sense) is automatically "backward" and, it is implied, cowardly? He just ripped on Buck, Steinbeck, and fucking Sinclair Lewis. This is his defense of U.S. lit?
  • Oh, but bright side! "No one on either side of the Atlantic would quarrel with the awards to William Faulkner in 1949 or Ernest Hemingway in 1954." This is a stretch. Especially since if you caught me on an oppositional day I might quarrel with the award to Hemingway myself. I'd probably be wrong, but I'd have plenty of fodder for the argument nevertheless, I think.
  • "But in the 32 years since Bellow won the Nobel, there has been exactly one American laureate, Toni Morrison, whose critical reputation in America is by no means secure." ...WHAT

    NO, SERIOUSLY, WHAT

  • "To judge by the Nobel roster, you would think that the last three decades have been a time of American cultural drought rather than the era when American culture and language conquered the globe." We did what now? Is the worldwide profusion of McDonald's somehow supposed to affect our Nobel Prize in Lit standings? Because otherwise I'm not really all that clear on what he's talking about.
  • "Even Austrians and Italians didn't think Elfriede Jelinek and Dario Fo deserved their prizes." Man, if I were Elfriede Jelinek or Dario Fo I'd be itching to bitch-slap this guy. As it is, I'm itching to bitch-slap this guy. I didn't know much about the Fo pick (when was that, anyway?), but of the circle of my friends who are into this kind of thing and who had read Jelinek, all of them thought she was a great pick. I've been meaning to read something by her forever because her books look fascinating. And this guy is going on about how everyone knows she didn't "deserve" her prize? Who is this douche?
  • "But to prove the bad faith of Engdahl's recent criticisms of American literature, all you have to do is mention a single name: Philip Roth." Oh boy, here we go. I'll spare you all the guy's natterings about how Roth is super-super-cosmopolitan because he did interviews with lots of Europeans who won the Nobel themselves; clearly the roster of people he has interviewed should be the yardstick by which his Nobel potential should be measured. (Personally, I sort of think it more relevant that in writing about him I can't use the word "yardstick" without feeling extremely extremely dirty, although what relevance I think that should have, I can't really say.)
  • "Unless and until Roth gets the Nobel Prize, there's no reason for Americans to pay attention to any insults from the Swedes."

    OH

    I GET IT NOW

    YOU WANT PHILIP ROTH TO BE YOUR BOYFRIEND

    OKAY WELL I THINK JUST GOING RIGHT IN AND STICKING YOUR HEAD UP HIS ASS IS MOVING A LITTLE FAST, BUT I HOPE IT WORKS OUT FOR YOU

    YOU COULD MAYBE HAVE SKIPPED OVER THE PART WHERE YOU INSULT DORIS LESSING AND JOSE SARAMAGO, THOUGH, I DON'T REALLY KNOW THAT THAT WILL GET YOU ANY FARTHER WITH PHIL

    IT CERTAINLY AIN'T GETTING YOU FAR WITH ME

    BUT GOOD LUCK

    PLEASE SHUT UP NOW


Seriously, Slate. Why do you make no sense?
slammerkinbabe: (book whore)
Oh goodness, Madeleine L'Engle has died. How sad. I went out to dinner with λ's sister and her husband tonight, and the sister's husband said he had almost had the chance to take a class with L'Engle last summer but that her failing health had caused her to bow out. I believe my intelligent response to that was "She's old." She was old, in fact, 88, and she was probably dead when I was having that conversation. What a shame. She was a lovely writer. The Wrinkle in Time series was obviously landmark, but then I've read just one of her adult novels - A Live Coal in the Sea - read it when I was in high school, and I'm really glad that I did, because I loved it and I think her gentle perspective on grace and mercy was an important thing for me to absorb in a period when I was primarily marinating in C.S. Lewis's more cut-and-dried philosophy.

That will leave a hole in the literary landscape, for me anyway. Rest in peace, Madeleine.
slammerkinbabe: (choke a bitch)
Quit playing games with my heart, Joyce Carol Oates, and stop jerking me around. Every time I think I'm through with you, you find some way to reel me back in.

In the beginning there was Black Water, and the Black Water was good. I was eager to be a fan of yours, Joyce Carol Oates, and read more books like that. So I tried We Were the Mulvaneys, and it bored me to tears, I don't care what Oprah said. But I wasn't willing to give up hope. I tried First Love. That didn't work either. Still I persisted. I kept plowing through, picking up books at used book stores for a dollar apiece. them. The Rise of Life on Earth. Unholy Loves. Nope. Not feeling it. In desperation, I turned to Foxfire. That too was boring. How the fuck do you manage to make a book about a subtextually lesbian girl gang - a book about a subtextually lesbian girl gang that got made into a movie starring Angelina Jolie - how do you make that boring? But you did it, Joyce Carol Oates. Damned if you didn't.

So I gave up. If I was in the mood for post-Victorian Gothic I turned to Flannery O'Connor; if I was in the mood for novels with dense, self-congratulatory titles I turned to JT Leroy.* I was living without you, Joyce. I was happy without you.

Then one day I happened upon Freaky Green Eyes. And the Freaky Green Eyes was good. Damned good, really. Not flawless, still possessed of some of your more notable and characteristic bizarre linguistic tics; but damn good. And I came back, cautiously. I thought, well, maybe it's just adult fiction that Joyce Carol Oates can't do. Maybe this YA thing is going to work out for her. And so I tried Big Mouth and Ugly Girl, and that was a little heavier on the linguistic tics and a little lighter on the awesome, but it was good. So I smiled a little, and I tried Sexy, and that was still heavier on the linguistic tics and still lighter on the awesome. It was okay. My smile was hardening into a grimace. But I stayed with it.

And then you published your grand YA disaster, that After the Wreck I Picked Up My Gigantic Royalty Check and Flew Off to the Bank or whatever the hell your coked-up brain decided to call it. And I threw up my hands. I said, Joyce, that's it. We're divorced. You've hurt me enough. I'm not coming back this time.

But. You tricked me, Joyce. You published a book. You published it under a pen name. I mean, you do that. You have more pen names than any other writer I've ever heard of. But this one, you published as Lauren Kelly. And I read the summary, and it looked good. And I read the first few pages, and it looked better. There were linguistic tics that were ringing a bell somewhere deep in the back of my mind, but I ignored it. Even the curiously pretentious syntax of the title - Take Me, Take Me Away with You - wasn't enough to clue me in. You hooked me, Joyce, you bitch. You seduced me with your captivating green cover and your pretty new pen name and your intelligent-thriller chops and your innocent cover blurbs from Elmore Leonard and other mystery writer people. And I bought your book. And I'm enjoying it.

And so the dance begins all over again.

This book better work out for us, Joyce. You better bring this one home. If you do, maybe we can be friends again. If you promise to quit publishing a book every six weeks, to start reading your drafts before you send them off to the publisher - edit them, make revisions, check for typos**, and oh yeah, figure out if the damn thing is worth publishing. Publish a book a year, Joyce, and make it a good one. If you do that, I might forgive you for all the hours of wasted time I have invested in your remainder-binned out-of-print career.

Maybe.

It's up to you, Joyce Carol Oates. This is in your hands.

Don't let me down.

*Which do you think is a more ridiculous title, the heart is deceitful above all things or Because It Is Bitter and Because It Is My Heart?
**Note to Joyce Carol Oates' copy editor: "Anomaly" is not spelled "anomoly". kthx.
slammerkinbabe: (Default)
People piss me off. A lot.

Instead of dealing directly with the specific person who is pissing me off in the moment, why don't I restore my mood to an even keel by going to Amazon.com and looking up asinine reviews of classic picture books, and posting them to LiveJournal for all to mock?

Say! That's a great idea!

* * *

THE MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK

Furry blue sub for hire

"This book is not suitable for children. In a "No Means No" society, should we be planting such ideas into the fragile, impressionable minds of the future. It concerns me that the first sentences some children read are strangely sadomasochistic. Really, throw a leather hood over Grover's head and put a zipper over his mouth and you're his instant dominatrix. So, keep this book hidden in your dresser drawer, or you might run the risk of making a fifty mile commute every Saturday morning to visit your little boy in the state prison."

* * *

GOODNIGHT, MOON

This just in: Children need no sleep

"The back flap says it has lulled children to sleep for generations. Can't see why you would want a book to do that."

* * *

THE RUNAWAY BUNNY

That bunny needs a beating

"I could not believe how uppity this bunny was. To be honest with you, this insolent little lagomorph shows no remorse whatsoever for the trials and tribulations he is obviously eager to put his (possibly unhealthily) devoted mother through. He ends up staying only because he realizes he just can't get away from his mom. I can't imagine letting my impressionable young daughter get away with this attitude!"

THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Eric Carle is responsible for my son's eating habits (not my parenting or anything)

"Rubbish. This book has seriously hindered my son's development. After reading the book to him religiously before bedtime, he now believes himself to be just like the caterpillar. He claims to be very hungry all the time. He is constantly eating, and is becoming noticeably heavier. Unfortunately in his case I don't believe that he will turn into a beautiful butterfly at the end!"

* * *

THE CAT IN THE HAT

The cat will kill you in your sleep

"Psychological Damage. Dr Seuss was an evil genius, bent on traumatising children. As a child, his books used to terrify me. Particularly The Cat in the Hat, as well as the sinister Thing duo. Unless you're children are aficionados of Stephen King, I urge you to avoid this title."

* * *

THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL

Fairy tales are always happy all the time, and so would this one be if the little match girl would have just realized how pleasant the world is and gone home to get beaten and starved some more

"I couldn't believe it was in my nephew's book of fairy tales. Fairy tales are supposed to be happy. There was one specific sentence that shocked me..."The girl was found dead, frozen to death on New Years Eve". What kind of fairy tale is that. Sure she saw her grandmother and she's with her grandmother now, but that isn't the message that is conveyed in the story. I would have rather the girl wised up about going home with no money, realizing the world was a pleasant place to be after seeing the "light", as she struck all the matches she had."

* * *

ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY

Normal children are all sweetness and light all the time

"This book plays it off as if it's normal for children to be this negative. An extremely negative character and ugly grammar does not make a good children's book. I would give it no stars if Amazon allowed it. This is the worst children's book I have ever purchased."

* * *

GREEN EGGS AND HAM

Books shouldn't tell kids dirty things like where milk comes from. By the way, which book am I reviewing?

"A farmer is trying to teach children the basics of milking a cow and trying to show the kids were all of the animals body parts are. I think the book is ok because if the parents wanted to teach their kids about the milk producers than they can teach them by themselves rather than reading a book. What if you did not want your kids to no about that stuff yet, than they went to school and read the book than you really have a problem."

People are funny.
slammerkinbabe: (Default)
This is just really freaking funny. Random House is offering refunds on all copies of James Frey's A Million Little Pieces, because Frey made it up.

I have a couple of questions here.

a.) How accurate do people really expect memoirs to be? I mean, true-to-the-exact-happenings-of-a-person's-life accurate?

b.) How much do people *care* whether memoirs are accurate? Is the average Joe Schmoe who picked A Million Little Pieces up off a Barnes and Noble Paperback Favorites table really flipping out about this, or does it all begin and end with a bunch of bored journalists who've been twiddling their thumbs and playing canasta since Jayson Blair got kicked out of New York?

Maybe it's because I'm a fiction whore first and foremost, but when I'm reading a memoir I'm not that worried about whether these exact events happened exactly as they were described in the memoir. Memory is extremely subjective, and I resigned myself a long time ago to the idea that "facts", as such, are rarely the point. It's what the facts reveal about the person telling them and about the life they were lived in. I don't have terribly dissimilar standards for memoirs and for fiction, and that's why: they're both storytelling, and to tell a story well you have to tell it so that it is more than the sum of its parts.

The thing about the Frey memoir that sounds so problematic is this. I haven't read the book, but I've read summaries and excerpts and I can tell you this*: that book doesn't portray anyone's reality. It's a fiction that doesn't get to the heart of anything except the author's egomania and self-aggrandizing ambition. As such, it isn't just a bad memoir, it's a bad book, and it would be just as bad if it were published as straight fiction.

Frey tried to publish that book as fiction, and it was rejected dozens of times. Now, plenty of books get rejected dozens of times (A Wrinkle in Time, Gone with the Wind, go ahead, name your favorite), but in this case I would guess that that series of rejections stemmed from the reality that this just *wasn't* a good book. I would guess it got rejected because it didn't feel real. So he submitted it as a memoir, and then they went for it, because it's the sort of portrayal that people want to believe in. They wouldn't buy it as fiction, because, well, because it's crap. But people like the gutsy trailblazing individualist who gave every Twelve Step group on earth a swift kick in the ass and won rounds of applause for it. Many people don't like to believe that when you screw up your own life, un-screwing it up requires eating a whole lot of humble pie, and so they'd embrace the idea that someone really, really managed to do it without all that! Look! It says so! In a memoir! Which is factual! And then many other people just like reading lurid stories about bloody dentist visits sans anesthesia and people screwing in a rehab center. Regardless, the reason the book got greenlighted was that some editor figured that the story, which does not resonate as truth when acknowledged as a piece of fiction, could bypass that requirement if the publisher said at the start that it was comprised of Facts. But really, whether you're writing facts or whether you're writing fiction, you can't bypass that requirement. Try, and you wind up with a lousy book.

Basically? This whole hullabaloo, to my mind, misses the whole point. The point of a memoir is not whether every event recorded therein can be verified by a team of dedicated nonpartisan investigators. It's about whether it gives you a new bit of insight into yourself, or into the people around you, or into, well, into life itself. A memoir without that element of universality is not a good memoir, for my money. That's the kind of truth I care about. If Frey's memoir never had that, and from all accounts it did not, then this scandal could just as easily have erupted the day it was published for all the difference it makes in my mind.

*Acknowledging my own egomania here, and feel free to smack me if you disagree. You'll certainly have the upper hand in the argument if you do. But I don't think you will, as I don't know a single person who liked the book even before it was revealed that he made it all up.
slammerkinbabe: (book whore)
Wow. So, for those of you who don't read [livejournal.com profile] bookslut, the Times Online is claiming to be publishing an excised original chapter from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Either this is a *very* good fanfic - and frankly it doesn't read like a parody, and the only reason I am mentioning the possibility is that I would feel like an idiot if it were a joke and I presented it as fact - or Dahl had originally conceived that book to be even darker than it was. Ouch.
slammerkinbabe: (book whore)
But oo oo oo, I have a more interesting poll! That is to say, it's more interesting to me. That is to say... oh, hell with it.

It's the battle of the children's books! And Lord of the Rings. Um, so most of these are fantasy novels, but some are not; most are series, but some are not; most are at least somewhat specific (i.e., a specific novel or series) but sometimes it's a question about an author's general body of work. I don't know, do the best you can. It's not a perfect survey, as if one were to get nitpicky one could argue that it's hard to evaluate an author's body of work as if it were all of a piece, as it is often not. But none of you are going to get nitpicky, right? Because you love me. And because this is a stupid poll.

I never claimed to be... anything, really. In the last five minutes, anyway, and that's about the expiration date on any of my sentences, as I am flighty and whimsical and - damn! I just claimed to be flighty and whimsical.

Um, never mind? Vote in the poll? I'ma go hide now.

ETA: OMG how did I forget Madeleine L'Engle? I must go die of shame now. You can tell me which you prefer in the comments if you want.

[Poll #533240]

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