July 5th, 2008


Son of return of books I quit reading

1. Some people whose taste I really respect loved this one. I got halfway through and caught myself thinking of it as a chore, really along the lines of "if I put the towels in the washer now I can have the darks out before lunch." I bounced off the characters, but I also suspect that the people I really respect have a great deal more interest in and background in the setting than I do, and that they were able to bring a great deal more to the book than I was. Or than I am interested in being able to do later. Sigh.

2. Okay, so here's my theory: choose whatever person/tense/voice combination you want. Fine. Go with it. I hate the second person, but I have read at least two second person novels in the last year and have not had to quit. But when you choose a nonstandard mode, such as first person limited plural, you need to own that choice. If you're writing from a specific "we," you're not limited in the same way that you would be if you were writing from a specific "I" or a specific limited third. But the limitations are there. If you start going outside them at random so that it's a first person limited plural book except when it might be inconvenient, that's going to throw me further out of the book than the initial choice of first person limited plural in the first place. Fail.

3. If you are going to depict edgy, tough, rebellious teens, you need to realize that edgy, tough, rebellious teens do not in general remain constant in the details of their speech and dress over the decades. I know you were really impressed by the punks you saw in 1978, but that's the year I was born. Sure, there are still punks now, but they are not the same punks. I promise. Giving your 1978 Tough Girl Archetype a cell phone is necessary but not sufficient to make her the 2008 model.

4. I don't know to what end you were going to hector and harangue me, author, since two chapters of stern didactic tone to no particular point turned me so thoroughly off your book.

5 (twice, different authors). If a book has been translated from Norwegian, it should not read like it went through Japanese, Greek, and Navajo along the way. Norwegian direct to English. By someone who speaks both languages. This is not too much to ask.

6 (twice, different authors). Your characters all hate each other. I can see why. Bye-eeee.

7. When Mike Ford wrote the Harry of Five Points stuff, he was being funny. It was not that all English monarchs before the Restoration talked that way accidentally, mixed in with thees and thous more or less at random.

8. Everything stood for something. In case you weren't sure what it stood for, the author was willing to tell you in some detail. It made no sense as an actual detail, only as a symbol. Next.

9. Why must people continue to shun the humble quotation mark? Why? Why? You can't say you didn't know, because I brought this up last time with a completely different author. Possibly the time before that, too. Use it! Love it! It is your friend! It is not a newfangled corruption!

10. I don't know everything about military service, but if everybody in your army is completely corrupt and stupid, a) you will probably lose, and b) I don't care to read the chronicle of your losing, and also c) I will not consider it a trenchant criticism of actual military personnel, some of whom I actually know personally, so I can vouch that they are not all venal idiots. Fail.