Okay, here are the books available for the giveaway! (The three stacks of horizontal ones.) You should be able to click on the pic to enlarge, if you can’t read it here. If you still can’t read the author names and book titles, ping me and I’ll tell you. The winners from yesterday’s author photo contest – and thanks so much to everyone who helped make such a tough decision! – selected via random number generator are:
Yay! Each of you gets to pick a book and I’ll mail it to you! If any of these three pass, I’ll move on to the next random number. For the rest of you, there are 17 books there and I’ll be doing giveaways of them over the next several weeks until they’re all gone. First come, first served.
In fact, I’ll select one commenter on today’s blog to win the book of their choice!
So, we watched The Host last night. This is the movie made from Stephenie Meyer’s book of the same name, totally apart from her Twilight series. I haven’t read the book, though I heard many people liked it, some more than Twilight. It was a good story – about aliens that are sort of parasitic, that implant themselves into human bodies and take over their consciousness. In many cases the resident human spirit dies. In others, they’re shoved so far down that they can’t communicate. In one case, with a Louisiana bayou girl named Melanie, she can communicate with the alien, the Wanderer – or Wanda as they come to call her – and eventually influence her choices.
I don’t think the rest is spoilery, but stop reading if you don’t want to know what comes next.
Melanie/Wanda flees to the hiding place of Melanie’s small resistance group. Melanie’s lover is there. There’s interesting conflict because he believes Melanie’s spirit is dead and Wanda is just tricking them. Eventually he comes to see that Melanie really is still in there and Wanda herself falls in love with another guy.
The story pivots on this idea – that Wanda falls in love with Earth, with humans and with this particular man. The outcome of the story hinges on it.
But I’m not sure it’s convincing.
Knowing how well Meyer creates a completely believable love-affair between wildly different people/beings, without the useful assistance of sexual interaction, I suspect the book pulled this off. I’m tempted to read, just to see. If anyone here has read it, I’d be interested to know. The movie didn’t convince me, however.
I’m wondering if this isn’t why so many romantic movies don’t work. For all that writers are frequently chastised that a picture is worth a thousand words and that movies can convey so much more with one sweep of the lens, movies fall down on portraying the subtler emotions. Especially love.
Falling in love is such an internal change, complex and difficult to chart. The best romance novelists manage to do this without us realizing it. We fall in love right along with the characters, until it’s so obvious to us that they belong together that we can’t see it any other way.
I think A Room with a View managed to do this – where we knew they loved each other before the characters did. I’m not sure many other movies do.
Seemed right to me, to let everyone have their say and make their plugs. Not that I don’t care, but maybe because I care so much.
I’m a believer in reading. In asking questions. I believe there’s nothing you can read or encounter that will taint or stain anyone beyond repair. We are elastic beings. More, we deserve the opportunity to decide for ourselves what ideas to keep and which to reject.
That’s the foundation of Free Will.
I remember finding out that there were periods in human history when people were to read only the Bible and nothing else. To keep their thoughts pure. As if people aren’t capable of culling the garbage for themselves. One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure.
You don’t get to decide for me.
So, in honor of Banned Books Week, I’ll take on the red-headed stepchild on the list of the Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2009: Twilight.
Yeah, I know. Twilight?? The megaseller everyone seems to love to hate? But yes. The series is Number Five on the list for: Sexually Explicit, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group.
I first learned about Twilight when my friend RoseMarie London sent me a note from an editor-friend in New York City. The friend said she’d spent the weekend under the spell of this new book and how could she be so in love with a completely chaste hero? Knowing I was interested in such things, RM sent me the email and said maybe I should read it.
I did. And fell in love, too.
It’s easy to hurl stones at the massively successful. To find the cracks and pick fun at the giants. But I can vouch that, before it was THE THING, Twilight seduced me. Creating sexual tension where there is no actual sex is no mean feat. And if anyone thinks that being a teenager isn’t just like that, well then… no one can help you.
More, I know a teenage brother and sister. The older sister is a bookworm, the younger brother a budding jock and social butterfly. They both stayed in all weekend to read the newest installment on the Twilight series. Only the boy asked his mother to lie to his friends that called and say he was doing chores.
He didn’t want them to know what he was really doing.
Any book, or series of books, so compelling as to make a social teenager duck the peer pressure of his friends is a book that prevents more robots.
Fight the good fight. Buy a banned or challenged book.
Our children will thank you for what you gave them, not what you kept them from.
It’s always interesting to me which posts get people’s attention.
Or their responses, at least. Which I tend to assume is the same thing and that may not be necessarily so.
But my last post stimulated quite a few reactions. Several people commented. More sent me IM or email notes. The general consensus among my support network is that I was grumpy and had been on the road too long. Reading back over it, I suspect it was my tone that came across grumpy more than the content.
Be that as it may.
It was funny to me yesterday, as I took my three plane flights home, wending my way back west, that the messages and comments on my blog post (including one from my mom showing that Barbara Kingsolver took seven years to write her latest) were comingled with a discussion thread on one of my writers’ loops regarding this article which trashes Dan Brown’s new book. And someone else contributed the Wikipedia link to Literary Criticism of The Da Vinci Code that trashes Dan Brown in general. And an address by Stephen King where he implies that Dan Brown is the intellectual equivalent of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.
Stephen King has been cutting a bit of a wide swath lately, as I’ve mentioned before. It’s ironic to me that he feels comfortable making pronouncements on who writes well and who doesn’t, when I’ve often heard King’s success held up as the perverted triumph of genre over literature.
I know you’ll be shocked, but I don’t have much of an opinion there.
I’ve read a bit of King and didn’t love it, but then, I don’t really read much horror. I have never read Dan Brown, but I liked the movie fine. I liked Meyer’s Twilight books — I thought she did interesting things with the stories and she kept me hooked.
What I see happening is the “win by putting others down” trend. Also known as, for those of us who labored under grading curves, “it’s not so much that you succeed, but that others fail.” We’ve all known people like this. People who attempt to pump themselves up by putting others down. If King can sneer at Dan Brown and Stephenie Meyer, then he’s clearly not part of their club. I remember a while back when Anne Rice was big on letting people know that her books were being taught in schools, as a way of legitimizing them.
Keena commented on my last post that it’s the genre writers who become literary giants in later generations and she has a point there. Think Jane Austen, Tolkein and Arthur Conan Doyle.
And we’re witnessing a battle now: the literary writers facing precipitously declining sales, fighting to assert that THEY are the true writers, and the genre writers, fighting amongst themselves for the best seat at the mad tea party, all the while pretending they don’t care what the literary types think, yet secretly wishing to have that level of validation.
In the end, I don’t think it matters if you take one month or ten years to write a book. Your process is your process. What matters is what you’re trying to do. If you want to bring in the money, ten years is a stretch unless you’re living on decent royalties. If you’re going for art, maybe you don’t believe a few months is enough for that to occur.
But I’m pretty sure you won’t sell more books by trashing other writers. Just sayin’.
And then I’ll get off this rant for a while. RoseMarie took fraught further still with a couple of very interesting bits from the writing modern world and that of what sure seems like a better time. This nugget has Stephen King expounding on the relative success of J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer. What really caught our attention was King’s assertion that “the real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good.”
Wow. Who knew we’d see the day that Stephen King would slam another enormously popular genre writer as not being able to “write worth a darn.” Way to forget the slings and arrows tossed your way, Steve.
I’m speaking here as someone who’s read all three authors. I’m also reliably informed that I’m a picky reader. Between King, Rowling and Meyer, I’d have to say that Meyer is the only one I really enjoyed. The only one who lit me up. Yes, I read a few of the Harry Potters and I believe when people said they got better, darker, more complex. But I found them derivative and not particularly magical. I’ve read some of Steve’s stuff, too. He writes a decent story, but he’s never been an author I sought out or passed on. Frankly, I like the movies they make of his books better than the books themselves – which is almost never true of any other book, so that says something, I think.
So why does King disdain Meyer’s books? He says:
“…it’s very clear that she’s writing to a whole generation of girls and opening up kind of a safe joining of love and sex in those books. It’s exciting and it’s thrilling and it’s not particularly threatening because they’re not overtly sexual. A lot of the physical side of it is conveyed in things like the vampire will touch her forearm or run a hand over skin, and she just flushes all hot and cold. And for girls, that’s a shorthand for all the feelings that they’re not ready to deal with yet.”
Makes me wonder what Tabitha’s sex life is like. Speaking as a woman, not a girl, there’s a hell of a lot to say for flushing hot and cold at the touch of a hand on my skin. And believe me, I’m ready to deal with the overtly sexual feelings that go right along with that. Nothing wrong with extended foreplay. Take note, Stephen.
It all comes down to what we love to read, doesn’t it? That’s the primary parameter. The verdicts of sales and of the artists follow behind that. I probably like Meyer best because I’m a fan of sexual tension.
Speaking of artistry, here’s the nugget from the past, that RoseMarie found in the Davidson archives:
The Willa Cather Creative Writing Award was created by William C. Doub Kerr in 1937. Doub Kerr, a member of the class of 1915, helped found the Blue Pencil Club, which later became a chapter of Sigma Upsilon, a literary honor society. The prize for the award was a copy of one of Cather’s novels. The first recipient was Gibson Smith, Class of 1937 for his work “Satan Snake.” The award was suspended after two years and returned briefly from 1955-1958. In the spring of 1937, Doub Kerr wrote Willa Cather seeking her approval of the award. She replied with wit and caution:
“My Dear Mr. Kerr;
Thank you most for your friendly letter. But, honestly, I think the “new sails” have a better chance of making port when they are not taught “creative writing.” It can’t be taught, for one thing!*
Sincerely yours, Willa Cather.
*Perhaps it can be guided a little, modestly? I don’t like to be too sure.”
Somehow, I don’t see Willa lining up to lambast those ships that do make it to port, especially the ones that sell their cargo for a pretty penny. But then, maybe it was a kinder, less fraught world then.