And the literary field puts me back in perspective

1 07 2009

I was so excited I finally got Richard North Patterson‘s* The Race in paperback the other day.  So. Excited.

I started and finished it today in the bathtub, thinking “what a damn good book.  How does Mr. North Patterson always tend to be so oddly prophetic and honest with his novels?”  I thanked God again for the blessing of finally finding the book and being able to read it as I tied on my robe and left the bathroom.

I dried my hair, pet Spooks, and turned around to face a brand new hardback version of The Race neatly shelved on the bottom row of bookshelves.

There are too many self-flagellating analogies right now for me to even think about including:

  • I have so much wealth in just literature that I can misplace an entire novel for a long enough period to get excited about it again the next time it’s published.
  • I should really stop expecting the next best and re-examine the contents of my bookshelves (and household) and find new ways to love them all over again.
  • I better not invite anyone involved with the local fire code over any time soon because the next additions to my collection are going to force triple-shelving situations.**

*Dear Mr. North Patterson, if you or anyone affiliated with you were to read this humble entry, please take this one statement to heart:  Please get a real website. Someone as prolific as you should have enough clout to get have a site that is not built on your publisher’s template and hosted on their server.  If you need two or three candidates who are professional advertising web designers who recently got laid off and have time to give you some energy, just send me an email.  I can also recommend a good hosting client.

** I have a surreal love for words that end in -ion today.  I guess they just feel nice rolling around in my brain although it does bring to mind this rather unfortunate incident of internet culture.

Welcome, Insanity. Have a seat.

22 05 2009

Today is the last day of school and the beginning of my first summer ever with three kids.  It’s also getting dangerously close to our finalization date and not only will I be psychocrazywoman with the highest pulse in this sector of the universe – my brain will be randomly inserting replays of my life into the forefronts of my memory.

Having OCD can really suck.  (OT: I started taking Rx Essentials for antidepressants and it’s made things 100x better.  It’s a blend of B vitamins, folic acid and vitamin D.  There’s a link between people who take regular meds and the vitamins they have abnormally low levels of.  Check it out next time you’re at the grocery store.) I can feel that antsiness I get before I start checking things.  The lists will find a breeding ground on my desk and I’ll spend hours condensing them or seperating them into categories.

For me, this isn’t really a big deal because my dad has OCD too and I was just raised with it being normal.  “Extra careful” is what we’d say.  Or “we have an extra tool to avert disaster.”  It helps when everyone in the household is the same flavor of nuts.

I’m realizing though that my husband and kids are not crazy but are affected by my brand of loony.  They don’t understand why setting one stack of paper on top of that other stack of paper means meltdown.  They don’t see the dirt like I do.  They don’t feel the draw to Magic Erasers or my little Dirt Devil.

Shaun has been with me long enough to tell me to take a pill and go to bed when I’m up in the middle of the night scrubbing.  It’s been 13 years together and almost 10 years of marriage.  The kids just don’t have that kind of experience and I feel really bad for them.  I’m considering keeping a diary for each one of them for when they get older so they can maybe understand me and forgive me for being inexplicably nuts at random intervals.

I’ll just put that on my list of things to do.

1. Finish the entry of 5 things to do before you become a foster parent.

2. Write 5 helpful hints for kids with PTSD.

3. Start a diary/log book for each kid of memories and thoughts

4. Start coming up with things to do with the kids over the summer.

5. Finish organizing the coloring book pages (don’t ask – really.  It’s nuts.)

I’m going to have to get an extra chair to put my crazy in.  I wonder if I could tie it to a chair and leave it.

Intellectual Infidelity

17 01 2007

I’m going to put off my promised entry about the cult of bibliophiles, and talk about something that occured to me this morning.  I’d like this to be an interactive entry because I am not of one mind on this.   My question is: can modern must-read Literature be defined by a group of elite reviewers?  (Essentially, do I really need to be a Literary snob with a Literary bookography to pretend that I know what I’m talking about?)

I have noticed lately that I fall into the stereotype of ‘readers of trash’ when classified by self-proclaimed intellectuals.  Also, reading this morning in Harper’s, New York Times, and other magazines with articles on the web that based on my library and on my Bookography over the years, that I am one of those who spends money on what is apparently the downfall of literate culture.  (I have taken this to mean ‘genre fiction’ such as modern mystery, romance, sci-fi, and fantasy novels.  If an author is dead, though, that automatically seems to classify them as worth reading.)

In school, I read all the required books and actually thought about them – but I still cannot say any of them changed my life.  In fact, Jurassic Park made me swear off Michael Chrichton in the 6th grade.  I feel like I’ve done my time of penance in the classics and the modern literature that will be a classic twenty years from now.  If I enjoyed it and was affected by it, wouldn’t I still be reading it?

On a side note, how has the word literature come to mean intellectual snobbery?  Literature is anything written, right?  You can find literature on the train schedule.  You can publish literature on company policies.  I have a sneaking suspicion that the capital “L” denotes a secret society of wannabe snobs that can only recognize each other by their Reader’s Digest vocabulary super-words and the fact that they can BS their way through a book conversation without ever letting on that they skimmed the book and read the book reviews online. 

Back on topic, I have long held the belief that a writer’s job was to connect with the reader.  The painter’s job was to connect with the viewer.  That communication, whether verbal, written, or visual, is not complete until feedback is given and an emotion is inspired.  Maybe this is a pop-psychology corporate training course’s idea – but somehow, I’ve made it through life believing this.

When I read a book I want to get into it.  I want to be immersed in a world that is not my own and I want the imagery to grab a hold of me and not let me put down the book until the back cover closes.  I don’t want just entertainment like the book snobs I read this morning suggested.  Reading is more than a ‘movie’ experience for me.  I come away with thoughts about the character’s growth and personality and personal beliefs.  I think about the way experiences shape how the characters view the world around them.  I want to know a little about their personal philosophy and how that dictates their reactions to events.

I want, for the few hours I’m involved with the author, for them to submerge me in a world that I can believe in. 

It seems to me that many authors realize that they are going to have to write into a space where every reader will bring their own experiences and beliefs into the lines between their words.  What I write here will not be interpreted by each reader identically.  If I want to be precise, my language had better be precise and well thought out.  If I want innuendo to exist and room for interpretation, I should think about what meanings I want to be attached and the best way to shape my words into what I want you to translate.  Your translation essentially makes my writing good, bad, or simply blah.  I want you to connect with me through an object as transient as a webpage and understand my heart, the world I have imagined, my experiences, and the world you let me pull you into for just a little while. 

In my fiction, I write the way I like to read.  I connect with my readers the same way I connect with authors I respond the best to.   In my non-fiction, I try and make my articles entertaining and informative – no one is going to learn anything if they are so bored that all they can think about is the most recent episode of 24.  In my blog entries, I want you to nod your head along even if you don’t agree with me (if only because you understand where I may be coming from) and feel welcome to comment. 

In all of those, I want a discussion either directly or inside the bounds of your mind.  I want my reader to say “why does she believe this?” or “why such an inflammatory statement?” and then keep reading to find out.  I want my readers to come away satisfied that they found what they were looking for.

I believe that these ideas of connection between the author and reader are where classic fiction and the elitist fiction does not catch me the right way.  (Visualize a fish caught by a hook through the eyeball.  That’s not the right way.)  I am fairly down to earth and I don’t appreciate people speaking over my head.  I actually understand what they’re saying, but why make it so complex?  Is it to make themselves look smarter or do these authors actually believe that using bigger words will make them more precise in their language? 

Literary Lingo, though, is not precise except to those elitists who thrive on tweed jackets, expensive cigars, and looking down their nose at the commoner.  I remember my mother refusing to let me say ‘discombobulate’ as a child because she did not believe I knew what it meant.  I did.  As a grown-up, I don’t believe she knew exactly what it meant but I do believe that she was saving me from playground ass-kickings.  I don’t think we as a culture ever grow out of hating show-offs.  

I do connect with popular genre fiction when it is well written.  I am in my own right a snob, but that’s because I hold an author to the standard that I expect.  I will not put a lot of energy in pushing myself under the water to find an author’s written world.  I figure that if I can read at a post-graduate school level that authors worth my time and money should have the ability to write and communicate cohesively without obvious grammatical and spelling issues.  (I do understand that with that statement I just kicked 3/4 of the blog world out of my reading list.)

I also crave a cultural connection with the author, through language, experience, and philosophy.  What do I mean by that?  Let’s choose Christian inspirational authors.  Think of the difference between C. S. Lewis, Rob Bell, Max Lucado, and Rick Warren.  All have been on the Christian best-seller’s list and all of them should be immediately recognizable names.

Who do you think I read?  It’s not Max Lucado and Rick Warren.  I do own their books but I’ve never actually finished one.  I can’t actually tell if it’s the philosophy or language that I can’t follow, but something in me and something in them does not bond.

C. S. Lewis and Rob Bell are two of my favorite Christian authors.  Actually, they are only bypassed by Don Miller of Blue Like Jazz (and others) and James Langteaux of and  Now, Rob Bell was probably not born by the time C. S. Lewis died so I’m reading two very different generational messages here – I’m sure that the western church Lewis saw was very different from the global church that Bell sees.  However, both connect with me on that deep level that I need.  I understand their analogies.  I am drawn in by their language.  I am swayed by their arguments and I am reaffirmed and strengthened in my beliefs.  I am not reading words on a page – I am having a conversation with the author.

So what are your thoughts? Can modern must-read Literature be defined by a group of elite reviewers?  Does money talk when defining the best of the good?  Am I making any sense?