Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Fifty Shades of Who Gives a Shit

Do you know how hard it is to keep a good rant going? It’s not easy. Thank God there’s gin to fuel the fires of righteous indignation. TG has been getting mail of the -- “Well, TG, I didn’t think you were the type of guy who would love a book like The Fifty Shades of Grey” – variety. These people don’t seem to understand the thinking behind this ongoing rant, so TG will briefly explain it one more time. Try to stay with him…

TG did not love Shades. It was perfectly fine and hit all the buttons that a hundred million women wanted hit. (Which says a lot about the state of the average American male and his inability to give women what they are looking for. But that’s another rant.) What upsets TG, is handing literary book reviewers the job of reviewing the Fifty Shades book, and the movie, almost all of whom pronounced the results as “terrible.” Fortunately, this method of assigning reviews is not a normal practice. Magazines and periodicals and websites don’t usually assign literary critics to review popular fiction. But once a book becomes a phenomenon, in this case by selling a hundred million copies, everyone feels the need to weigh in. And when weighing in they usually assume a superior attitude and proceed to point out the many failings that we, the  unwashed are prey to because of our taste in popular fiction. This is what TG objects to: the unfair opinions that we are inferior and they, with their literary tastes, are superior.

Example. Here’s that pompous ass Harold Bloom on Stephen King. “That [the National Book Foundation] could believe that there is any literary value [in King’s body of work] or any aesthetic accomplishment or signs of an inventive human intelligence is simply a testimony to their own idiocy.”

TG had a long list of items like the above Bloom quote that he was going to put in this entry: definitions of different types of fiction, lists of popular novels that had earned a hundred million readers over the years, much shorter lists of successful literary novels, but, as always, he’s lost all of these various pieces of info and he’s too damned lazy to look it all up again. So he’s going to go straight to the genesis of the rant, which is…

The Honey Badger.

Because, my friends, the Honey Badger Just Don’t Give a Shit.

If you don’t know what TG is talking about, go here and watch the short Honey Badger video.

Here’s the point: popular entertainment, be it books, films, music, art or any other form of popular culture, is the Honey Badger. Fifty Shades of Grey, 100 million women strong, is the Honey Badger. Stephen King is the Honey Badger. So to the high minded, the superior, those that feel the need to tell the rest of us how we are small-minded and our tastes inferior, be aware of the following.

We are the Honey Badger.

And we really, truly, do not give a shit what you have to say.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Fifty Shades of Please Shut Up: Part Two

Thriller Guy continues his rant…

Read the last entry if you haven’t already read it. Here’s the recap for those of you who are too lazy to 
read it: TG is pissed off about movie reviewers trampling all over the Fifty Shades of Grey book instead of reviewing the movie. TG is also (still) pissed off about snooty book critics who can’t separate their feelings of elite sophistication from understanding just what general readers want in a novel. TG is also pissed off about how those same reviewers (almost all women) are saying, in effect, that two hundred million women are stupid, deluded dupes because they loved a book because of story and subject matter and characters that appealed to them instead of rejecting it because, as they say, it was terribly written.

Thriller Guy is a professional book reviewer. Most people think this means he sits on his reviewing throne and tells the world which books are bad, and which books are good. In fact, as regular readers of this blog have read before, he almost never does that.

TG reviews a book to let readers know if the book under review is the sort of book that that particular read will like. These days Thriller Guy reviews, mostly -- you guessed it -- thrillers. Which means he is telling thriller readers if the book under review is a good example of the genre and what particular characteristics make it interesting and move ahead, or fall behind other books. Some genre readers are able and like to wander out of their particular preference on occasion, but the truth is romance readers don’t usually pick up thrillers any more than thriller readers like to settle in with a good bodice ripper. The same can be said of mystery readers, cat book fanciers, science fiction and fantasy aficionados and any other genre that has its own sets of rules and regulations, no matter that the publishing industry is always trying to lure readers into crossing genre lines.

In the last blog, TG said that many bloggers wrestle with the question: What is bad writing and what is good writing? TG thinks it’s time to stop using Good and Bad as the terms that are branded on books by bloggers and reviewers, as if the book’s writer is personally evil or angelic. Here’s the deal:

Some writers are adept, and some are inept.

The lucky ones, those who are adept, often seem to be born with a facility for words. Others, the inept, have the desire but not the experience or the know-how. These folks can, in most cases, learn how to write fiction well enough to put out a book that falls into TG’s “perfectly fine” category. Here the writing gets the job done, the story told. Often all these people need is an honest editor willing to work with them and the writer’s acceptance of what the editor tells him or her. Lots of sites on the Internet offer these services, and while it’s possible to get scammed, and some editors are surely better than others, it’s really not that hard to pick one that is going to do what needs to be done to pull inept writing into the acceptable zone. There are also many book blogs that offer excellent advice. Put in “writing blogs” as your search term and you’ll have plenty of excellent material to read. TG’s writer pal Larry has a good one over at The Non-Fiction Novelist. His latest entry talks about how independent writers need to do a better job of producing quality writing. Good vs. Bad writing.  Or in TG’s terms, adept vs. inept writing.

TG has often pointed out how difficult it is to write a novel. It’s not that difficult to write, pretty much anyone can write sentences and paragraphs and make themselves understood. What’s truly difficult is to write 100,000 words and put them together in a way that makes sense, follows some simple rules of structure and follows as well simple rules of grammar and tells a compelling story at the same time, simply because that’s so many words. The sheer length is daunting. Writing a novel takes, on the average, a year of steady work. Most people can’t do it because they don’t have the strength and the determination to see the job through. Those that love the form but don’t have the strength, often become academics and/or book reviewers. Yes, that’s a cheap shot, but TG couldn’t resist, though he has noticed books by well-known book reviewers are usually duds. TG will refrain from specific examples to keep the fragile peace that exists in the reviewing community.

Perhaps that’s one reason book reviewers are so hard on novels that achieve great commercial and popular success. Because deep (or not so deep inside) is that little voice that whimpers, I could do that, that could be me, I’m a better writer than they are. And that rankles and burns and can never be admitted. So TG says, all you out there who declare the writing in Fifty Shades “terrible,” why don’t you give it a try? Maybe you’ll get yourself 100 million readers.

Nah, you won’t. You haven’t got the guts.

P.S. No, TG has not forgotten the Honey Badger. Stay tuned.