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Your Favorite Books

On being well-read…that’s all subjective but I recently saw a list of 100 books–classics we should have read by now according to…someone. I read two or three books a week and have done so for years, but apparently not so much from the list designated as most worthwhile by Central Command.

I have read a lot of “classics” (whatever that’s supposed to mean to you) I suppose and there were a bunch from the Top 100 List I was really glad I had read. I loved The Great Gatsby and Crime and Punishment and Lolita, for instance. But I won’t be making a point of reading some of what someone else has decided is a must. I tried Middlemarch and it’s not my cup of pee. It’s just not happening. It was a ghastly foray among some bookstore shelves.

Besides, many of the Must Reads for me wouldn’t be old enough for The List. I love Fight Club and most of Kurt Vonnegut’s work and Bright Lights, Big City. You won’t find The Color of Light on anybody’s top 100 probably, but for my reading time, William Goldman is The Shit, man. (Princess Bride, too.) The Color of Light is about an aspiring writer so, you know, that makes sense, plus it hit me at just the right time.

So…top 100 is a bit impractical,but what’s on your top ten must-read, God-I-loved-that-book list? What’s on your desert island list? Please do share.

Filed under: book reviews, Books,

Conflicting Writing Advice

I’m reading Thanks But This Isn’t for Us, a development editor’s (AKA The Angel of Death*) take on why your manuscript sucks. Her suggestions on openings to avoid are very useful.

When I was evaluating the slush pile, there were an inordinate number of manuscripts–all rejected–that began with somebody getting up in the morning, describing themselves in the mirror and making coffee. Second most common thing? Boarding an airplane for The Big Trip. It could work but I never saw it play well in those submissions.

Wrinkle: Now the fiction market is so tight, publishers aren’t just rejecting bad manuscripts. Now they’re turning down a lot of good stuff. There’s only so much money to publish so many books in any one budget year.

Back to Thanks…she advocates “beautiful language.” I wonder if she’s focussing on so-called literary fiction there. I just read two translations from European authors that were definitely literary, but the language was very plain and cut down, even minimalist. I don’t think there were more than two adjectives in either book. Meanwhile, I’ve read about two MFA programs, one eschewing “beautiful language” and the other praising only fiction that employs poetic language. (Maya Angelou thinks it’s not good writing unless it’s hard to read. I disagree.)

This is why you must write for yourself and find someone who appreciates it after the deed is done.

*Angel of Death…you know…maybe we need to ease back on the throttle on hyperbolic language around writing. Sure, you want it to be good, but it’s also just writing. Too often people talk about it like it’s a secret language that only a few geniuses can learn. Successful authors are very very persistent and very very lucky. Nobody talks about the luck involved in getting through the razor wire and fine mesh of some underpaid, otherwise unemployable editorial assistant’s capricious sensibilities. I think I can say that because I was that otherwise unemployable douche who turned your masterpiece down.

Filed under: book reviews, writing tips, ,

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