Updike, Champion Literary Phallocrat

So the other day I mentioned in passing that I’d given a particular, unnamed John Updike book a try, that I read it for twenty pages and then quit as being about “fucking boring old people.” Well, a friend of mine correctly identified the title in question from that dismissive one-line summary, and linked me to a review that David Foster Wallace wrote for the NY Observer. It is here, and it is amazing, seriously if you haven’t read it yet, do that and then come back. Cuz I want to talk about it.

To rewind, though:

Soiled Doves: Prostitution in the Early West, by Anne Seagraves (11/107)

After finishing A Book of Tongues, I looked at Soiled Doves and went, "You know, I bet Gemma Files read that in her research."

NAILED IT.

That said, it's one of the worst pieces of nonfiction I've ever goddamn read. Not particularly nuanced or well-written to start with, it is staggeringly judgmental (perhaps the title should have tipped me off) and in desperate need of a proofreader. Rather than presenting the information and letting the facts speak for themselves, Seagraves feels the need to sprinkle her prose with language that would sound amateur even in fiction — despicable! sordid! degrading! — and enough references to "iniquity," "sin," and "the ugliness of raw, naked vice" to make it clear that she's not just offering sympathy for the prostitutes' bad working conditions, but also judging the hell out of them for it.

In conclusion: lousy writing, and so badly biased that it makes the content suspect.

Spring Cleaning I: “The Way of Shadows” & threats of sexual violence

Greetings, my fellow queer literates!

I haven’t actually fallen off the face of the earth, I’ve just started — of all things — a business selling fetish gear and am actually turning a profit. It’s kind of surreal. It’s also consuming all of my free time, which is why I haven’t had time to read anything except nonfiction books with titles like Online Marketing for Small Business Owners, and even less time to blog about it.

But! Books are my first love and I miss discussing them with y’all folks, so here’s the game: I found a bunch of half-finished writing-about-reading posts that I’d started and then shelved when I couldn’t hammer them into coherent essays. The plan had been to come back and polish them at some later point, but, well, once I’ve moved on to newer and shinier things that’s not likely to happen. So I’m going to be doing a round-up, wrapping up my not-entirely-streamlined essays and tossing them online for public discussion. Your two cents are always welcome! :D

Today’s post is about The Way of Shadows, by Brent Weeks, and how much it pissed me off. If rape is a sensitive issue for you, you may want to skip this one, because WoS fucking button-mashes it.

"THROW HIM TO THE SODOMITES!" and other gems

Bad Characters vs. Bad Writing

There’s a curious phenomenon I’ve noticed in recent years: characters do something awful, or hypocritical, or both — but instead of treating this behavior as an ugly glimpse into a side of the character we hadn’t seen before, it instead becomes clear that the writers don’t identify it as problematic at all.

Given a paradox like this, you have two options. You can take their actions at face value, and hate the character. Or you can say their actions are ridiculous and out of character, and blame the writer.

Garrow's Law, Torchwood, and Diana Gabaldon

Irate Gabriel is irate

Read Thomas M. Disch’s On Wings of Song. It started out very engaging and I was thinking to myself, “Huh, I should really look into more stuff by him.” By the end I was more than ready just to be done with it.

Shit I do not approve of:

– Homosexuality as an outward manifestation of the character’s/society’s internal decay. Fuck off. I am not your metaphor for psychological dissipation. This is a narrative I am tired of hearing.

– “Lady or the Tiger” endings. What, you think it’s somehow more improving to leave the readers to hazard their own guesses at the ending? That it’s somehow more virtuous than “spoon-feeding” it to them?

Bullshit. Do your job and finish your damn story. If I wanted to be in charge of the ending, I’d write the whole thing myself.

I suppose I can’t speak for everyone, but to me there is no sense of closure or satisfaction when I don’t know what happened. It feels like a gimmick masquerading as something thought-provoking, a cheap ploy for attention and condescending to the extreme, like an English teacher stopping me in the middle of the text and demanding that I interpret and analyze it, with the complacent assumption that their book is even worth such exegesis. This just in: if you have to resort to tricks like that, it’s probably not.

**

Grar. I’m going to go settle my temper with a box of wine and Bujold’s Sharing Knife series. For those books, at least, I have nothing but praise. Should probably write it down or something, so I don’t start coming off as relentlessly negative.

Batch o’ book reviews, now with 40% more irreverence

I probably should have posted sooner, just to say that no, my plane did not go down over the Pacific, and yes, I got out of Japan (three weeks) before the quake. But mostly I’ve been busy, what with all this READING, HOLY MOLY, there are BOOKS EVERYWHERE and they’re in ENGLISH and if I want to read a particular book I can go to a LIBRARY where they have books in ENGLISH and I can go CHECK IT OUT, RIGHT NOW, oh my GOD.

Oh yeah, and I got a job translating smartphone apps. That means I can work from home, and also I can wear eyeliner and never shave. Happy days!

Back to the books. So there’s a distressing trend I’ve noticed recently, namely that nothing thrills me anymore. When I was a teenager I had terrible and indiscriminate taste in books so I could read anything, all the time, and be perfectly content. These days, the bar is set so high that I find myself not bothering to finish half the crap I pick up, on account of it being crap, crap, mediocre, or offensive and also crap. Oh, to be young and stupid and not know the difference again. ;_;

But hey, everyone likes to hear shitty books get panned!