My Month in Books: October

This is how I know I’m returning to what used to be: Five books in a month. That’s 2019 numbers.

BookAuthorHow I Heard About ItRating
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird LaneLisa SeeTea Book Club1
Apples Never FallLiane MoriartyAuthor I’ve read before, 2
Out of LoveHazel HayesBarnes & Noble recommendation 3
The Last Painting of Sara de VosDominic SmithBuilding Book Club4
Salvage the BonesJesmyn WardCollege Book Club5
The listing is how well I liked a book personally, not a judge of how good a book is. The following one liners are numbered as the books appear above.
  1. Engaging look into a world I knew nothing about. Book has many facets and would be thought provoking book club choice.
  2. As you’re reading, you’re not quite sure about anything. If second guessing yourself is your game, then give this a try. I used to love Moriarty and then I thought her last three books were phoned in. This one makes it appear she’s getting back on her game, but not quite there yet.
  3. Unique way of looking at a love story- sort of backwards. Props to author for finding a different way to tell an old tale. Good if you want a realistic look at love.
  4. Told from a few different perspectives, some more intriguing than others. I found it hard to really get behind any of the characters. It’s historical fiction light. Good only if you have a real interest in art, yet don’t know much about art.
  5. I know that this won awards. I also know that I don’t care that it won awards. This is a book for someone who LOVES long, poetic descriptive passages that move the story along at a glacial pace. I felt its trying to compare itself to Greek tragedy to be tedious and not well placed. However, there were some in my book club that loved it. Not for readers who want a fast paced book.

Stereotypical Fiction

As long as we have fiction, we will continue to have stereotypes.

I know. That’s a pretty bold statement to start off a Monday. I’m basically saying that we will never stop judging and assuming one’s character based on certain traits and characteristics and mannerisms. Well, as long as we keep writing books anyway.

X drove a Mercedes. When you read that sentence, what does the word Mercedes bring to the story that car doesn’t? Wealth, privilege, debt, flash?

If I said X drove a Mercedes, wore a pinky ring and Italian leather loafers what do you see in your mind?

I I said X drove a Mercedes, wore a Swiss watch and donned bright white tennis sneakers, what do you picture in your mind?

If I said that X drove a 1972 Mercedes, wore birkenstocks and no jewelry, what would that tell you?

If you thought gangster, WASP and hippie are you stereotyping? Are you assuming the final tally based on the digits, even though I never used the words gangster, WASP or hippie?

Are you an old fashioned stereotyper? Or are you just deciphering clues?

Is the whole process of show not tell an exercise in how to stereotype?

I watched a medical drama last night. The character in the hospital bed said “Girl, you have to see the Doctor, He fly.” If you read that line of dialogue in a book, would you make any assumptions about the character? Would it be stereotyping if you made an assumption about the speaker of that dialogue?

When we read fiction do we make assumptions based on description? I wrote in one of my passages last week “couch with welcoming back support”. I was, as someone said, trying to denote that the speaker was at least in middle age. Young people never look at a piece of furniture and wonder about it’s comfort, or how easy it will be to get in or out of it…but some older people do. Not every person of a certain age thinks about the comfort of a chair…but some do… Is it wrong to guess the character I was describing was oldish?

So, do we rid our lives of fiction so that we can lead a life with no judging others based on characteristics?

Or do we just learn to deal with the fact that humans stereotype, always have stereotyped and always will?

Showing and Telling

I like to fancy myself a reader and a writer.

I read everyday.

I write every day.

But it took me 54+ years of reading and writing to realize that there are really two types of writers: There are story tellers and there are wordsmiths.

What’s the difference?

Well…

Everything.

and Nothing.

Presently I am reading a book called “The Go Between”. The plotline is very thin…there is one main thing going on, and it took about a third of the way in for the plotline to emerge. But the writing…poetic and lyrical. The sentence structure varies. The descriptions are unique. The only way the author keeps you guessing is by not knowing what literary device is being used next. We all know what’s going to happen to the main character and the sub characters…The author L.P. Hartley is a wordsmith.

I recently read a book “The Wife Upstairs”. This book is all plot. While the author tries to give us an updated Jane Eyre, there is really nothing outstanding about the writing. The words bring you from point A to point B. There is nothing lyrical about the language. There is nothing profound about the dialogue. There is little nuance- it’s an outline with a few trite descriptions thrown in…However, there is a more intricate plot. If you’ve never read Jane Eyre, you might be in for some surprises along the way. Even if you have read it, you still might be in for a ride. The author, Rachel Hawkins, is a storyteller.

Is it better to be a wordsmith or a storyteller?

It really all depends.

Both types of authors are valuable in the writing landscape.

But wordsmiths, well, their books tend to win awards. Their books get praise in The New York Times Book Review. These books are more likely to become classics, or have a long shelf life. These are the types of books that some people buy and never read, but tell people they read them.

Story tellers are more likely to end up on bestseller lists and actually read. These are books that keep you intrigued with what is happening, not the way that it’s presented. These are the books that become movies or TV shows. These are the books fancy people swear they never read.

Which books do you tend to read most?

Do you love a good story? The unpredictable plot? The boy meets girl saga? Or do you long for brilliant use of words? Do you live for first person accounts of looking at a tree and talking about the color of the leaves?

Think of the books that you read: Are they telling a story, or are they just using language to create word pictures?

Pros and Cons of both?

Can you think of a book that excels in both story telling and language use? And don’t tell me Pride and Prejudice because that’s too easy (and some will argue it’s just a romance book and I don’t feel like refereeing that debate)

Discuss:

Give it One More Try

I loved the book Anxious People by Fredrik Backman. I also loved Midnight Library by Matt Haig.

But…

I didn’t love either of them when I started reading them. I didn’t understand what was happening, I wasn’t into the characters, etc.

For me, both of these books were worth the journey. If I knew people reading them, and those people thought they were iffy, I would tell them to stick it out one more chapter- it was worth it…

So the question is, how do you know when it’s time to give up on a book?

I am not one to quit on a book. I figure if I was intrigued enough to get the book, I owe the author the courtesy to see it through. The last book I didn’t finish was “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” and I’d say I tried to read that at least ten years ago. I completely understand why someone starts and does not finish a book. Time is way too valuable to partake in something you just don’t enjoy.

But how do you know at what point to quit a book?

Some books have a slow build: this is intentional. The author is laying out a framework and they’re trying not to rush. This is often the sign of a good writer. Pace is important in a book. That is the case in both the books that I mentioned. There is method to the writer’s madness as to what is revealed, when it’s revealed and how it’s revealed. There is a careful outline in play. To move too quickly would disrupt the balance…it would take away from the craft of writing.

How do you determine if the book is a slow build, or if it’s just a boring book?

So here’s the questions for today:

  1. What’s the last book you didn’t finish?
  2. Why didn’t you finish it?
  3. What makes you stop reading a book?
  4. How far do you get into a book before you put it away for good?
  5. Has there been a book that you were iffy about but ended up glad that you read it till the end?

Lighten the Load

I love chick lit.

I make no apologies.

I do not plan on turning in my feminist card. If someone made me, I would gladly give up feminism in favor of chick lit.

I like a story of a plucky woman who has gone through some sort of adversity. I like how she screws up but all things come out at the end. I like a happy ending.

Now, this does not exclude me from reading other types of literature. I can do sad and depressing with the best of them. The books that fall under these categories are traditionally better for book clubs. What book club doesn’t like to bond over tears?

But back to chick lit…

There are two authors I’ve been reading for over 20 years. Let’s call them Jennifer Red and Jane Hotdog. In the beginning I loved these authors. I read everything they wrote as soon as it came out in paperback. Sometimes, I even sprung for the hardcover. I kept my copies of these books.

These authors spoke to me.

It was as if they were reading my mind.

And as the years went on, these authors changed up their books. They were no longer writing about plucky women making little errors, losing their way and then finding their way back. They began to write about deep subjects. Adultery. Depression. Drug abuse.

Fine.

Anyone can write about anything.

However…

In my opinion, maybe, just maybe, writing about these subjects wasn’t really great for these authors. Maybe these authors weren’t really cut out for heavier fiction. Maybe these heavier books weren’t quite as good as the other lighter fare. I no longer enjoy the works of these authors as much as I once did.

It takes a really good writer to write a good chick lit book. You have to make the characters real. You need to make the situations somewhat realistic. You need to have a good sense of humor. These are all skills…skills that should not be undervalued just because the book is not Booker Prize worthy…

Just like writing a weightier tome has its own individual skillset.

Writers of different genres are all talented: they are just talented in different ways.

We tend to undervalue light in favor of heavy.

I don’t know why. Can’t we have both, assuming they are done well?

I’d much rather have a well executed “light” book instead of a poorly executed “heavy” book…I want to read the best that any genre has to offer.

Food for thought:

  1. Do you think publishers/agents direct best selling authors to write things that are in vogue, even if it means changing genres?
  2. What genres do you prefer?
  3. Do you think chick lit is a waste of time?
  4. Have you ever had an author that you love disappoint you with their latest work?
  5. Anything else that I touched on in this post
  6. Do we undervalue light in favor of heavy

I made a comment yesterday that seemed to devalue reposting or reblogging an older post. Alas, this sentiment did not come out the way that I intended. I apologize to anyone that reposts or reblogs their work sometimes. Just because I don’t like doing it doesn’t mean that others shouldn’t. Keep on being you. Sorry for the inference!

LA