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.
Okay, I whined.
But only a little. Several of my faithful support network (thanks RML, mom and KAK!) made helpful suggestions. Never mind that I felt rebellious about it.
I even decided later that maybe what I had written was probably okay and didn’t suck that much. So I sent it to my good writing friend, Allison, so she could reassure me.
She said it sucked.
Not in so many words, of course, because she’s a lovely person. She was honest. Not feeling it. Which was no shock cuz neither was I.
So, yesterday, I followed RoseMarie’s advice and pulled the shade. (This house has no non-spectacular view windows.) I put on my writing music (soundtrack to The Mission — no, I don’t know why it works. I absolutely can’t do music with words. Eerie instrumental soundtracks are best. I also like Master & Commander and Billy Joel’s Fantasies & Delusions). I followed Kristine’s advice and didn’t edit. I just started composing the scene.
And out it flowed.
Allison pronounced it “Way Way Better.” High praise indeed.
When we last visited our heroine, Sweet Sue was tied to the railroad tracks. The train was bearing down. I stood over her, black hat cocked in a jaunty manner, saying “if you don’t give me the deed to your house…”
Well, she didn’t.
The people at Puerto Court dug in and refused our offer as too low. So we turned around and offered only $5K more for the Glorieta Road house, which is perfect and gorgeous in every way. It must be noted that Kristine Krantz, aka KAK (couldn’t resist!), picked this as the front runner. She wins a free visit to our guest room!! (Okay, okay — so does everyone. But still…)
I keep thinking about those other sellers, of the Puerto house. I feel like they made such a mistake, refusing our offer. I wish I could call them and tell them to ditch their current agent, who is letting their house deteriorate and advises them to hold out for a price *I* don’t think they’re going to get.
But what do I know?
And it’s not my deal. I’ll add that to my mantra list: It’s not my life. It’s not my relationship. It’s not my deal. Rounds it out nicely.
Special Happy Birthday to RoseMarie today. I have a little something for you, but it’s not in the mail yet…
Surprised? No, of course not. You knew when you read my post the other day that this is the kind of answer I’d get. Don’t deny it — I heard you all snickering that I asked McKlein why their lifetime warranty doesn’t cover a faulty zipper. Several of you emailed me with suggestions for luggage repair places, gently preparing me for this moment.
This is the (now typical) garbled email answer I received:
You would be in charge of the shipping cost to us and back you and also the cost
of the repair. This no longer covered under McKlein warranty is limited lifetime
warranty which only covers one year only that’s the reason of the charge.
Thanx & Best Regards,
P: 773. 378. 5400 x 30
F: 773. 378. 5800
Alas. Should I even be annoyed that they play these games? That they believe they can add the word “limited” before “lifetime” to mitigate the meaning of lifetime to “one year?” Obviously they can, because I have no power to affect this. And it’s old news to all of us isn’t it? You pay the money for something of high quality, but it means nothing. I do believe if you buy the cheapy thing and it falls apart in a few months, you get what you deserve. That’s the whole basis of the disposable society, isn’t it? Cheaper to buy a new one than to repair the old one. Since I get to be “in charge” of the shipping costs (this reminds me of being in charge of cleaning the erasers in the classroom, a very dubious honor), I’m guessing I’d be out around $150 by the time we’re done. Now, however, even the high-quality, high-dollar, lifetime guaranteed stuff falls apart in a couple of years and the manufacturers are deliberately obtuse and obstinate about repairs. Clearly they don’t care about selling me the next bag.
It’s the first 30 pages syndrome, all over again. All marketing today seems to be based on this sale, this quarter. The sale next year, down the road a few years doesn’t matter.
And it really should.
My friend, the writer and photographer RoseMarie London, reminded me that it’s up to the writer to make sure the book is good after the first 30 pages, if she wants readers to come back, since no one else apparently cares. She has a good point. So who’s out there making sure I buy another McKlein bag (which I obviously won’t)? Where are the craftsmen? With all the focus on the stimulus package and rescuing our cancer-ridden economy, I wonder if anyone is thinking beyond next year. President Obama, with great honesty and integrity, I thought, said we won’t see major changes in the economy for a year. But we can all see that changes are happening: my friend who works at Hewlett-Packard reports that all employees are taking a 5% pay cut starting next month. The CEO is taking a 20% cut (on a $24 million salary, so there’s some cynicism there, but nevertheless). We’re wondering if the unions will fall before the needed revisions in the way we do business; I’m surprised by how many very liberal folks I know hope they do.
I heard on All Things Considered that the mobile phone industry promised to standardize phone chargers by 2012. So, that we don’t have to get new ones every two years with our new phones. Along with new car chargers. So that we don’t have to pitch the now-useless old ones. It’s a great move. Oh, except Apple isn’t participating.
Times they are a-changin’. Is it too much to hope that we could go back to having craftsmen repair our perfectly good stuff, rather than bowing to the forces that just want to sell us more inferior shit that we’ll toss into the landfill in a year? Maybe Apple will feel the social pressure and join in on this eminently rational plan.
Still surprises me that I’m idealist at heart.
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.
Title credit today goes to my friend, writer/photographer/renaissance woman RoseMarie London. (Fair warning, she has an unnatural thing for cowboys and NASCAR.) She used this title as a subject line in an email to me, where she said some really interesting things about how fraught it is being a writer. She’s been on both sides of the game, both with Little, Brown and as an author. RM sent me this:
I just read this quote from Molly Jong-Fast (Erica Jong’s daughter) about her not wanting to be a writer anymore: “And I just don’t have the emotional constitution,” she added, recalling how her grandfather, Howard Fast, had laid in his deathbed worrying aloud about why the NY Times Book Review didn’t like him.
If you read the article, you’ll find that Molly quit writing to become an agent. Which isn’t a new story. In some ways to me, it’s like quitting being the cotton-picker to become the plantation owner. Is that too dramatic? Maybe the agent is the foreman and the publishers are the plantation owners. The point is, I’m back to the power here. (Refer to blog title.) Being a writer is fraught because, though you are the one creating, you’re not the one with the power. Not the one selling, to hearken to my refrain of late. Yet, I think most writers would agree — the ones still in the fields under the hot sun of disregard — that going over to the other side is an abdication.
What’s fascinating to me is, how many agents now are ALSO writers. Check out the website for the Deirdre Knight Agency, if you don’t believe me.
The other thing RM sent me was this link to an article about the Amazon Breakthrough contest. Take the time to read it, really. Or just look at the photo of the fairytale ending. The contest just recommenced this week, taking 10,000 initial entries now. I know quite a few people who plan to do it. (Alert readers may notice a connection to yesterday’s post.) Even if you only skim the first few paragraphs, you will notice a recurring theme. That’s right: power. Who wants it, who has it, who is willing to put themselves through emotional hell to get a piece of it.
What’s love got to do with it?