Tag Archives: reading

Is it raining, is it snowing…is a hurricane a-blowing?

That song from Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is the creepiest damn thing in the world of children. I love it. I also love when he pulls that kid’s hair out in the chocolate room. Classic. Johnny Depp’s version was more openly hilariously hostile, but I think I prefer the backhanded commentary of Wilder.

That phrase though, induces a very wondering, panicky feeling, not unlike the dread that’s been swirling about the world of books for the last decade or so.  (See how far I’ll go to make a quote relate?) Are books dying? Are picture books dying? Is literary fiction on its way out? Is anyone reading the short story? These questions make my head hurt. I walked into a closing Borders bookstore yesterday. Made me want to throw up. (Well, that and the really bad cherry slushy I was drinking.) Look, I love books. I love reading. I’m a big advocate for libraries and reading in general, of reading to kids, particularly. Because if my parents hadn’t read my ears off and suffered through a hundred or so renditions of the same unicorn book, I might not have learned to read as well. And if you read well, you tend to write better. And if you write better, you tend to do better on research papers and that. So read to your kids. They’ll become CEOs and scientists.

The title of this blog, Read, Dammit! Read! doesn’t just mean read MY stuff. Come on. I’m not an asshole. But read something. Myself, I just read and loved Ty Roth’s SO SHELLY. It’s haunting, beautifully written, and will both drain and fill your soul. I’m making a switch next month to the short story with Holly Black’s The Poison Eaters collection. And in the fall, I’m buying the new Skippy Jon Jones for some kid-aged friends.

Next week, I’m departing for London, my old stomping grounds, where I will meet up with old friends and revisit favorite places before heading to the London Book Fair and being drowned in book talk. Ah, all the book talk. See, the panic and dread about the decline of books doesn’t bother me. I’m glad of it. When people feel panic and dread they take action. They spread the word. They become a force.

When Writers Read

No quote today. I think because I just watched Cast Away, and it is films like that (and Brokeback Mountain) that remind me how much can actually be said with no words at all.

So I told myself that as I get along doing guest blogs and what not, that this journal wouldn’t go untended. We’ll see. Honestly, between Facebook and Twitter, and let’s not forget, actual writing, there’s only so much to say. And I think we all agree that filler sucks. Except when Willow sings it in the Buffy musical.

This post isn’t filler. It has to do with stuff that’s been going around lately, about bloggers and bad reviews and all that zazz. Now, I’m not going to weigh in on that because enough people have, with strong points. I’ll only say this to the writers out there, pubbed or unpubbed: Bad reviews are on their way. Of course they are. People are going to poke our babies with sticks and watch them cry. Occasionally, our babies will be fed to dingoes. But our babies are like Kenny from South Park. They just show up at the bus stop the next day with their kicky red hoods up. Moving on.

The thing that all this bad review talk and being a writer writing reviews talk got me to thinking about wasn’t about reviewing at all. It made me think about reading. And how different that experience becomes, once you’re also writing. Particularly if you’re studying about writing. Any writing students know where I’m going with this?

When I started studying writing I had a freak out. I didn’t like learning all these techniques and methods. Because I’m a reader. It was like seeing up the magician’s sleeve. I didn’t want to see the strings. Thought it would take the magic and the pleasure out of it, and pretty much turn me into a bitter a-hole. I didn’t want to understand the purpose of dialogue or tense. I didn’t want to see the virtues of minimalism and the calculation of a motif. I. Don’t. Like. Brushstrokes. Except on paintings. Those are fine. I noticed that when I read something, I’d be instantly critical of it. I was starting to see through.

And not through in the way that you notice every time Stephen King writes himself into his books, the same way he manages to pop up in all of the movie adaptations (and did you hear, The Stand is hitting the big screen! Fucking right! Or oh so wrong…) or the way that you noticed that Anne Rice took certain liberties with characters in the last Vampire Chronicles installment. (and no offense to either of these writers. I’m huge fans of both and say it with endearment.) But seeing through. To the technique rather than the story.

The fact of the matter is, once you study writing, you don’t read the same way you used to. But so what? On the other side of it, I wouldn’t trade the studies. Besides, reading is still kickass. The writers I loved I still love, just with a new dimension of appreciation.