Tag Archives: books

Books Are Not Broccoli

When I headed a book club at my kids’ school the other week, one of the children said to me defiantly, “I don’t like this book.”

I said, “That’s OK, there are a lot of books I don’t like.”

He blinked at me, surprised. You mean it’s allowed to not like a book?

Not every book is a text book. Not every one a should.

My sister once said that once she turned 40 she felt she didn’t need to finish a book she didn’t like anymore.

I say we should start earlier.

I remember several years ago hearing the Children’s Laureate saying there should be a bill of rights saying no child should be forced to read a book he or she finds boring. No wiser words to my mind have ever been said.

There are zillions of books.  (Believe me, ever since I got into this business I’ve become painfully aware of how many books there are). Why waste your time or energy on something that does not click.

In my case, Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, has been recommend to me several times. Even given to me as a present by one fervent admirer (of Marilynne not of me). And I know, I know, it’s beautiful, mesmerizing, poetic. Well, I can’t get through it. In fact, it’s so poetic and mesmerizing and beautifully-written, it makes me urp.

I’m now supposed to read it for my book group. So I’ll give it another shot.

But if I still can’t get into it after 50 pages, that’s it. I give up. As I told the little boy, it’s OK not to like some books. Even if everyone else seems to.

Books are not broccoli. They are chocolates. You don’t like the cherry filled one? You spit it out and chose another one.

photo by samie.shake (flickr)

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Julie, how could you?

julieYes, the furor over Julie Myerson’s decision to write about her drug-addicted abusive son.

I’m for it.

Mainly because it gets me thinking. Will my son’s Nintendo addiction mutate into skunk addiction?

I’m completely serious, but the way.

I blog about my children but I avoid the less salutary. Like the little accidents someone in my house makes that has me tossing whole packs of underpants into the garbage. Oops, was that too private?

Of course, I don’t have real dirt yet. My kids haven’t hit puberty and its gateway into parent/teenager hell. And I don’t think I would divulge any real horror. That’s why I’m a fiction writer.

But I’m thankful somebody wrote about the dangers of dope. I, for one, will be keeping a very close eye on it all and will not be lenient about its use. So thanks for warning me, Julie.

So is there a greater good being performed by her airing all her family’s laundry? I think yes.

Is it at the kid’s expense? Definitely.

But writers are not nice. We might smile, we might even offer to clean up occasionally. But deep down we are predators. The reason we are so interested in you is that it fuels our need for stories. We are vampires. Every sorry pathological thought of yours, we take note.

Feeling depressed? Tell us all about it.

Not sure what to do about your husband? We’re all ears.

Just lost your sibling in a horrific accident? How awful, we’ll murmur, reaching for the notebook in our bag. Tell us, how exactly did it happen?

Of course, novelists have it easier. We change the names and genders and hair color. And keep on smiling.

photo by Mahyar (flickr)

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The Page 69 Test

Marshal Zeringue who edits the Campaign for the American Reader blog and who, in my opinion earns big white fluffy wings for helping to drum up interest in new books, kindly asked me to partake in his The Page 69 Test with Believe Me.

The “test” is a question: Is page 69 representative of the rest of the book? Would a reader skimming that page be inclined to read on? My answer.

It got me thinking. What page did I think expressed my book the best? And I don’t think I decided on a full page but I did find the passage below which appears on page 5. In fact I thought it was so important, I ended up using it twice!

In the book, Lucy, an astrophysicist and atheist, has always encouraged her son, Nic, to ask questions. But lately she doesn’t like the answers he’s getting.

This is 13-year-old Nic talking about his mother:

Mom likes to tell me she believes in the universe. She believes in its wonder. In its ability to confound us. Which is why she says she wants me to know everything. Why the leaves on the trees change colors. Why the sky is blue. How the wings of a bird make it fly.
So I asked her once: “Why do I have to know it all?”
“Because it will save you,” she said.

69-test

Photo by Lcstravelbuggin (flickr)

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