The Reading Corner is a place where books of all genres are examined and reviewed. Comments, questions and disagreement are welcomed. Grab some coffee and a comfy chair and make yourself at home.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Scorn (and a picture of Doctor Who)

There's something truly satisfying about writing a snarky review. Really satisfying. It's almost carnal -as though I'm stalking this unsuspecting book; noticing its weaknesses when comparing it to others of its kind; watching as it stumbles along and makes more errors; slowly luring it into the seclusion of my computer screen where I pounce upon it, tearing it apart chapter by chapter, mistake by fatal mistake, ink running like blood down my chin as I break its spine and it falls to the floor, twitching weakly and finally becoming still.



But seriously (as my little brother would say emphatically) it does feel a little like that. It makes me angry to come across a piece of writing that had a chance to be good but due to failure on the part of writers and editors instead limps along like a wounded, malformed animal. Something like this book, Dedication, or Twilight (no rant on that today, I promise), just asks for someone like me to come along and annihilate it.

I have issues with writers who send out sub-par work. A blog like this is one thing. I'm sure I've made errors, and I know I don't spend nearly as much time crafting my entries as I could (or probably should). Even my reviews probably have some screw-ups in them, although I spend a lot more time on those. But a book? A manuscript that you send out to a multitude of publishers and pray (even if you don't believe in a god) that you get an acceptance letter and not just another stack of tactfully worded rejections? There's no excuse for a bad manuscript.

I don't understand why a writer would end out anything less than their absolute best effort -particularly a writer who has been published before. I'm not saying everything should be 100% error-free; most books have mistakes in them, and I'm by no means Little Miss Perfect. But when I sent my first piece out into the void, I worked on it for weeks. Weeks. Hours every day, talking to my professor, re-wording, re-formatting, fixing the timeline, clarifying details, polishing, cutting, revising and fretting over the placement of every comma and semi-colon (the piece did get published, by the way, in the spring edition of the North Central Review). It's 15 pages, double spaced, in Word.

So when I come across a published, full-length 100+ page novel that feels like someone wrote it and got bored halfway through, or didn't bother to make sure they were writing properly grammatical sentences, or wrote something that ends up falling flat on its face, it pisses me off. A lot. I take issue with boring, lazy, slipshod writing.

Not every book needs to be a great work of literature. Reading slightly silly books is a great way to relax. But I want to be able to feel that even the slightly silly books I read were worked on as hard as I work on my own writing, if not harder. I want to feel that the published book I hold in my hands was worth the time and effort people put into writing, editing, printing, marketing, distributing and selling the book. I want to feel that they money I spent and the time I used reading the book were not squandered.

Because if a book doesn't earn my interest and my respect, I'm going to hunt it down and kill it. Only with a review like this one for Dedication, or this one for the Heroines, or this one for Twilight can I feel like I've used that wasted time well -or at least gotten a little revenge for the time I wasted.

On to another topic -Literature. Capital L. I have a note on Facebook asking for thoughts, and that's gotten a fantastic response. However, I still want to post the questions to the Internet at large.
  • What is Literature?
  • What books do you consider to be Literature?
  • What makes something Literature?
  • What cultural influence does Literature have?
  • Why do we/you read Literature?
  • What is the significance of Literature?
Come on people, help me out. You know you want to. I want all the input I can get. Links, thesis papers, books, middle fingers thrown up in the general direction of my book snobbery -whatever. Send it my way. I'll love you forever!

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