If you remember, chick lit authors and loud Twitter presences Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult were really pissed earlier this year with all the press Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom was getting when it came out. They claimed that the book was being pushed to a higher level of greatness than it deserved, all because he was a man and the NYT Book Review was a “Boys Club”. Google #FRANZENFREUDE or click the link above for more info– they may have had a point. So because of this, many women writers were shooting for Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad to be the book of the year instead. And now that Goon Squad has won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, all of the literary feminists of the world should be happy, but instead they’re pissed because in an interview with the Wall Street Journal hours after winning the Pulitzer, Egan inadvertently dissed CHICK LIT- NOOOOOOOOOO!
Just a small, encouraging thought I had this evening that could possibly, maybe help with your Sunday night writer’s block?
Human beings, inherently, are storytellers. Think about it– we dream. All of us do. Our dreams begin, and end. Things happen in them, and often they mean something. And even when its meaning is foggy, there’s something being recorded there. Details from your life are being arranged in some way and it’s your brain that’s doing it for you. On the low, without you telling it to. Putting ideas in order and leaving an impression for you to remember when you wake up.
The way our brain translates information is by literally turning it into a story. If our brains can do this subconsciously, while we’re sleeping, you sure as hell should be able to do it when your eyes are still open and your brain is in tune. CHU KNOW? Great! Keep writing. Cyaaaaa.
At a party about a month ago, I picked up a thin paperback that was sitting on my friend’s kitchen table called One Hundred Strokes of the Brush Before Bed. I hadn’t heard a thing about it but apparently everybody else had– the cover claimed it was an international bestseller (translated originally from Italian) with over 1,000,000 copies sold. One Hundred Strokes is an ostensibly autobiographical novella that recounts a Sicilian schoolgirl’s sexual exploits over about a year. It isn’t really a coming-of-age story– it’s more like borderline soft/hardcore erotica, a strange book about a young girl who discovers her body and “wants to explore its limits,” asking for help from a few older men she finds to seduce her on the way. I took it home with me and read it quickly, and it was quite a romp, as far as that kind of stuff goes. I say “romp” because it isn’t a story of a sexually-curious girl who gets hurt and learns a lesson at the end after something tragically rape-y happens to her. Melissa P, the novella’s protagonist, doesn’t really learn many lessons. She is in control the entire time. She learns about her body as she goes along– she is entirely conscious of what is being done to her and how her body reacts to it. So she’s a likable protagonist, because she isn’t stupid. Sure she’s naive, as most sixteen year old girls are, but she has limits for herself and eventually knows when to hold her hands up and say “no.” I wouldn’t go as far to say that this book was a good book, because it wasn’t. It’s a translated text, and the prose just kinda pedals through until it gets you to the end.
Helloooo from New Jersey. Yesterday I had the displeasure of getting the e-mail that a Borders in my area was closing– specifically, the Borders I grew up loving and going to all the time ever since I was a little bookwormin’ weirdo. There’s been a Borders at the Garden State Plaza mall in Paramus, NJ ever since I can remember. First there was the old one, with the red-lettered sign (#90sswag?)… small, cozy, two stories… the children’s room in the basement, I remember, had a stage for storytelling. This was before Barnes and Noble got all macho with their bookstores–this was before the franchising really started. I remember being about 8 sitting up on that stage waiting for my dad and reading an Amelia Bedelia book while these two pre-pubescent twerps next to me peeped a book about the human body. They were laughing at the penises and making sure it was tilted AWAY from me to protect my widdle eyes. They couldn’t have been more than two years older than me. When my dad returned with a cup of coffee (It was not Seattle’s Best– Borders didn’t start serving coffee in their stores until 2004), the kids had since gone, and right before heading to the checkout I placed my Amelia Bedelia book back on the shelf and instead picked up the Anatomy book the kids had left sitting on the stage, and offered it to the cashier for scanning and bagging.
By clicking here!
Happy Oscar Weekend.
Similarly to the way I spent all of my allowance money of the late 1990’s on “Official” books about Leonardo DiCaprio’s life (Lovin’ Leo, anybody?), I think about kids of this decade as being hypnotized with love for books about vampires who make out, werewolves who make out with vampires, and Justin Bieber biographies (this Amazon bestseller, which is subtitled “First Step 2 Forever”, is a hearty 240 pages and claims to be”100% official”). I’ve just assumed that the Twilight kids were the ones responsible for the YA industry’s big sales boom of the past few years. But when you take a look at the New York Times Bestsellers list for children’s books, it is a refreshing surprise: there is not one Twilight book in sight, and only one book’s tagline makes mention of a werewolf. In fact, the top three bestselling children’s book paperbacks of the moment deal with rather serious and consequential themes– censorship, the absence of love (ok, it’s close), and being different (and accepted for it), respectively. Meanwhile, the NYT Bestseller’s list for adults is rounded off by James Patterson and two Stieg Larsson books– granted, adults don’t have schools buying mass quantities of books to teach in English classes but still, whatever this contrast says is interesting to think about.
I’ve taken an interest in Young Adult fiction ever since I realized how many books I read as a child have stuck with me in ways that a lot of literature I’ve read in the past five or so years has not. And when I say “stuck with me” I don’t mean just books I remember– I mean these books have impacted, subconsciously or not, the things I write about now. When I googled the entire list of Newbery Award winners (1922-present), I realized that I distinctly remember reading and enjoying most of the books that won or were honored by the award’s academy between the years 1993-2000. Even now, looking back to Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars or Jerry Spinelli’s Maniac McGee, I am not simply fond of the nostalgia these titles generate, but of the stories these books told.
Welcome back erryone. I’m Christina, and I sincerely hope you all spent as much time in bed this break as I did. I’m new here, and so is the West 10th Twitter– how exciting! You should follow us immediately, before we blow up. What we’re hoping to do via “social media” (shudder) is create a little window that will at the very least introduce you guys to the nice literary community that exists over the internets. If you’re like me, a lot of your IRL friends do not classify themselves as “writers”…and a few of them might not even read. You might have a little circle of book club friends, but look at you, are you really in a book club? It’s true– people like us, they doooo exist! And they’ve got smart and helpful things for you to read and think about. It helps when you know other people are struggling the same way you are.
Since all I read this break was Columbine by Dave Cullen and one-half of In Cold Blood (sorry, on a kick here), I didn’t want to start off my first blog with a sad touchy violent review. So instead, in !!!celebration!!! of all the tweets and retweets in our near future, I’ve put together a list of websites I as a reader/writer/kollege student have found to be the most helpful, the most entertaining, and/or the most fun. RESPOND! BE INTERACTIVE! by posting your favorite lit-themed websites. And do browse these– I promise my taste is OK.