Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


I've been doing a lot of reading lately, after a serious-reading hiatus of...oh, how old is Em going to be in two weeks?...about eight years. The stuff I'm reading is all over the map, and about half of it is actually stuff I've listened to (I heart audible.com) rather than read, because while the flesh and spirit are willing, the time-space continuum is weak. Not to mention that having a good book going on my iPod is a great substitute for actual, you know, motivation to get out of the house four times a week or more and walk a few miles in my vain and unsuccessful attempt to shed some pounds.

And while I'm enjoying myself, most of the time immensely, I've also found myself wondering if the state of literature in the world has really deteriorated as much as I think it has, or if I'm just forgetting how much dreck I've always had to read to find the occasional and depressingly thin filament of gold.

I do have to admit: I've always been a book snob, though I prefer to call it being an I-like-what-I-like snob. And maybe it's because I'm a writer myself that I've become increasingly curmudgeonly when it comes to books, finding fault with even those that receive wide critical and popular acclaim, and feeling vaguely dissatisfied with the efforts of about three-quarters of the authors whose novels or memoirs or story collections I pick up. (In fact, I spend an inordinate amount of reading time scolding authors in my head for what I would consider to be amateurish plot mechanisms or jarringly discordant notes in what are otherwise well-crafted pieces.) But no amount of blaming myself can explain how some of the embarrassingly awful work that I've picked up of late is making it to bookstores. There has to be something else going on.

Personally, I think it has to do with celebrity, and editors who don't have the balls to tell big-name writers when they're putting out crap. That's the only explanation I can think of for books like Carrie Fisher's The Best Awful, which is just plain awful, no best about it. It's not just that it's not funny, or that there are plot holes big enough to drive my butt through, but that it is just this side of incomprehensible. And then, on the other side of incomprehensible, we have Jane Pauley's Skywriting. What the...? These weren't books I would have normally read if they didn't have a bipolar connection and I didn't feel compelled to keep up with that genre. And so I didn't have high hopes to start out with, but I was at least expecting, I don't know, a story of any sort. Maybe a thought or two that would actually be completed by the end of the book. No such luck.

Meanwhile, out here in the real world of the no-name writer, there are people literally killing themselves to get manuscripts read by agents, much less by editors or, hard to even consider, the reading public. And these are people who not only have something to say, but even have the ability to say it. In a way that will actually allow other people to understand them, even. But haha! No soup for you! Because Carrie Fisher needs to regurgitate a manic episode onto the pages of a manuscript, without even trying to make it accessible to the non-manic mind. And Jane Pauley needs to demonstrate that coming back after a bipolar diagnosis means you can publish a disjointed record of half-thoughts and meandering emotions that make absolutely no sense to anyone, so long as you were American's Sweetheart to start out with.

Bitter? You betcha. And I'm not even one of those people trying to hawk a book to the publishing houses right now. (Though, of course, there will be one or more attempts in the not-too-distant future, I'm sure.) Mostly, I'm pissed because I trusted that someone along the way would have made sure that these stories were safe for consumer consumption. I'm pissed because I was wrong, and now my stomach and my eyes and my head and my heart hurt. Not to mention that, because of this misuse of my trust, there goes yet another wasted chunk of that precious time-space continuum that I can never get back.


free hit counter