Thursday, September 20, 2012

On books

I've been reading a bunch lately, thanks to my use of mass transit. Not just mass transit, but the slower, cheaper (for me) version. I put my makeup on and catch up on everything that happened on Twitter and Facebook after I went to bed, but then I read the rest of the way there, plus the whole way home. One day last week I was so involved in my book I wasn't paying attention to the stop announcements and ended up going too far. That was a great day. :-/

It's nice to have so much dedicated reading time during the week. I love it. I love it both as a consumer of books and a student of literature. It's fun to read something fluffy and light and be done, but it's also fun--dare I say more fun?--to really engage with it and look behind the curtain, as it were. The whole mechanics of how and why authors do what they do is fascinating, and of course helps me/us write better.

The downside, of course, is that it also shines light on all the flaws. To use one example, I recently(ish) read The Hangman's Daughter, which I was given to understand was a fairly successful book. Had to be, to get translated to English. But maybe it was mostly because it was cheap on Amazon Kindle? It has four stars out of nearly 600 ratings,, I guess people have low standards. I did not like it and considered giving up enough times that if I weren't such a fast reader I probably would have. (See also the #4 Amazon Prime lending library book [behind the three Hunger Games books], War Brides, which I recently started and just  could not get past the bland prose in the prologue. I get that you need exposition, but man it just wasn't very gracefully done. As far as I could tell; I literally did not finish the prologue, I was so fed up.)

For one, the book isn't about the hangman's daughter at all. I mean, I spent a good half the book waiting for her to show up at all. And then she was at most a secondary character! She really didn't impact the plot much at all. She, to quote Friends, lifts right out. And, this is my pet peeve of all books and why I'll never read another Dan Brown novel, it's written like a screenplay. If the character pries back the tile above the fireplace and is shocked by what he sees, or finally recognizes the voice of the villain, you don't get to cut to another character somewhere else. That is cheating. That is how you add drama in a movie or TV show, not a book. You don't get to be as omniscient as you want until it ruins your cliffhanger.

Anyway, yeah. I don't regret being an English major. Except that my get rich "quick" scheme is to write a popular, though not particularly literary, novel and become comfortably wealthy and relatively anonymous. All I'm saying is if Stephenie Meyer can become a bajillionaire on a so-so idea, why can't I?

And in that vein, I am now open to your suggestions for story ideas.


  1. Neither of us were English majors, but we both have some strong style preferences that sometimes get in the way of enjoying books that other people love. For example, I really liked The Book of Mormon Girl. Eric's stopped several times because her writing style annoys him.

    1. Oh, indeed, one needn't be an English major/graduate to have strong feelings about writing in general. And I'm not sure which came first, the strong feelings or the major. Yeeeah, no, it was the feelings. There are several blogs I otherwise enjoy that I frequently consider giving up because of the writing styles or propensity for errors or (ugh) overpunctuation!!!

  2. I read to and from work too...only I drive myself. In my car. It's amazing how much one can get read in an hour commute with A LOT of stoplights.
    I would totally take public transit - just for the reading thing - except it stops at the bottom of a hill about 5 miles from where I work.

    1. You could then bike the rest of the way? I know, public transport is terribly inefficient for most people.


Be nice.