If, however, I …

Quote

If, however, I did fear, deep inside, that my inability to appreciate any celebrated book betrayed my complete intellectual and aesthetic inadequacy, I would probably be pretty angry. (1)

So this is a quote from a Salon article that I really intended to dissect (and who knows, perhaps somewhere I will).

Basically, the author comes to the conclusion that the only reason people write passionately negative reviews of books only do so because they couldn’t understand the words or just don’t trust their literary judgement. In fact, the subtitle reads “What readers who take offense at unfamiliar words and challenging books are telling us about our culture.” In other words, we are a culture of mainstream, listen-to-the-lowest-common-denominator and can we please stop listening to stupid people who don’t agree with us now?

First, I agree that the lowest common denominator is not likely to have the best quality work—because that’s really what it’s for, is marketing. 

Second, as a passionate reader who quite frequently loathes books even when the literary world loves them, I disagree most vehemently. 

Corollary: I absolutely do not distrust my literary tastes, and quite frequently literary people write stupid books. Terribly books.

But I am a passionate reader, and because I am, I like to share my opinions. Frequently I do so on the internet. Even more frequently, as anyone I know will tell you, I’ll share it in person. When a book offends me, from style, character or theme, I will tell people. Even in writing, where the poor dear author might see it and get his or her feelings hurt. Quite honestly, I don’t care.

Well, I would, should some author ever actually read one of my reviews and find them hurtful, I would empathize with that pain. I wouldn’t remove the review. I wouldn’t edit the review. It doesn’t feel like truth to me to do so. I do my best to make sure I am comfortable with absolutely everything I put online, ever. Some of it is horribly embarrassing and makes me blush to think of it. It’s still there (no links, though). It’s nothing to ruin my life. It’s truthful to who I was and what I wanted to say at the time. 

Now that I’ve completed NaNoWriMo some three times, I can tell you, all of those are awful. Shame on me for actually letting my friends read the first one, but that’s mostly because a rough draft written in such short time with no experience whatsoever might just be actively harmful to the world.(2)

So I would feel badly for an author who was too invested in their book to understand that people have different opinions and this is a fact and not even a right, but that’s just because I am also a human being with a functional empathy brain lobe. Once upon a time, criticism was understood to be a thing that happened. You could rail against it or fight back or ignore it, but you realized it would happen. Now, for all the hand-wringing over the youngest generations being too fragile to face the world after decades of gold stars and self-esteem babble, it seems like the notion has been swallowed wholeheartedly by the the literary community. And the genre community.

You know what happens when other professionals throw fits over mean reviews online? People laugh at them on the internet too. And television. And around the water cooler. 

Dear author, you sold your book. You made money. You are now a professional. Please try to grow a backbone.

Sincerely, 

Plot

(1) Is the literary world elitist?

(2) My friends are also strong-minded people, and do not appear to be damaged.

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The thing is, I have nothing to say

The last day of last month I lamented that I’d only finished one book, which, considering my year goal is 100, is a bit behind.

So where did that time even go?

Obviously the internet. And looking back, I was reading, just online, and there were at several hundred thousand words altogether. They just weren’t book words.

Also, Pinterest turned out to work marvelously well with my hoarding tendencies, so I’ve added quite a lot there, which somewhat justifies my time as not wasted, given that I was sharing knowledge with people. That’s my story and I’m sticking too it.

Other than that though, I have no excuse for not writing, and that’s done no favors for my mental health. I know why I haven’t, it’s because I can’t give my writing any ‘voice’ anymore, not when it’s mine. Writing fiction (when it’s not NaNo) is paralyzing, because I just can’t get over my inner-critic, who knows only all too well all the ways I can’t write.

Since then I’ve read two more books, and written, well, not much more than I had before. But I’ve got a story and I’m sticking to it, no matter little it works. At least until I finish. Then I can set it on fire.

(What happened to those days when I couldn’t write a blog post *shorter* than 500 words?)

A Little Bit Critical

So, as anyone who has watched a movie with me knows, I cannot turn off my brain for the two hours required, even, or maybe especially, in a darkened theater. Over the past few years, I can only say I loved…Toy Story III, The King’s Speech, and The Heat.

But my shriveled cynical heart could simply not resist Saving Mr. Banks. 

It as as close to perfect a movie as I believe Hollywood is capable. Hyperbolic, I know. But looking at three quarters of my few favorite movies…they’re kind of about old people. Maybe Hollywood writers are only able to write coherent stories for old people. Or maybe they’re not as likely to get distracted by sex when old people are involved. Wait…Last Vegas was a thing. Let me mourn for a moment.

Never mind. I think my favorite part of Saving Mr. Banks is not, actually the characters, which in fact sound like actual people, but that the characters’ story matches the theme…it’s a movie about creative ownership and even the conflict between the collaborative nature movie-making and the individual ownership of writing. 

The scriptwriters managed to tell quite a few stories in, well, a rather long movie. It was a good choice though, because for one thing, I didn’t even feel like I’d been in the theater that long, and afterward wasn’t as exhausted as I would have expected, as I did during The Book Thief. And I loved that it felt like the side characters were given characters and not just props.

Emma Thomson and Tom Hanks both portrayed their characters excellently, but everyone in the movie acted. Most of the time, watching movies, I am watching Acclaimed Actor X standing in for Character Y. There isn’t necessarily a great deal of acting. So that alone made me well-disposed towards the movie.

Finally, I should clarify: this is fiction people. I’m fairly certain it’s not meant to be a history. Maybe a homage, a memorial for the real people. (I did love the credits, tapes from the real sessions with Mrs. Travers.) But yeah, not a history, just a story, based loosely on real life, and told most excellently.