Archive for the ‘Bad Books’ Category

Mini-Reviews #21…

Friday, May 6th, 2016

[I was cleaning off my book shelves and found a hardbound I’m definitely offering up to some school book fair.  They might get a buck for it?]

By the Book.  Pamela Paul, ed.  (New York Times, Henry Holt, 2014).  The long subtitle is “Writers on Literature and the Literary Life, from the NY Times Book Review.”  First objection: most of these people aren’t writers by my definition.  Lena Dunham?  Not exactly a prolific writer.  Neither are Colin Powell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emma Thompson, Sting, Carolyn Kennedy—you get the idea.  For the most part, you have personalities where the Times has sent faux-interview-like questions about literature and the literary life like “What book would you recommend that the president read?”  This is the Times doing its pseudo-intellectual masturbation in grand style.  At $28, it’s a rip-off, unless you’re a one-percenter who thinks it will create some conversation sitting on your coffee table.

Among the 65 people responding, I’ve read books by only 9 of them.  That sounds like I’m an illiterate clod, but remember, most of these people aren’t writers.  Celebrities like Powell, Sting, and Schwarzenegger probably used ghost writers; Bryan Cranston doesn’t even have a book.  The real writers in the group should feel insulted.  Many are academic, or pseudo-academic types like Malcolm Caldwell, who write for other academics; many write non-fiction; and others write “literary fiction” (whatever that is, I don’t read it).

Most real authors here aren’t prolific.  Joyce Carol Oates is a prolific writer, but she recommends that the president read Moby Dick.  What does she want to do?  Bore him to death?  He’ll already be there when he leaves office and doesn’t have McConnell and Ryan to enliven his existence.  Lee Child, who’s become formulaic with his Reacher novels, lauds Cruise’s portrayal of the famous stud.  Huh?

I guess a third of that subtitle is real: these people are talking about reading, so maybe they all have a “literary life.”  The rest is false advertising on the part of the Times.  I got this book for Christmas two years ago—well-intentioned, I suppose, because I am a full-time writer.  I would never have bought it otherwise, though.  You shouldn’t either.  And you can get 7-8 ebooks for the price of this monstrosity.

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May Day Sale.  It might still be going on.  It’s not clear what the Amazon cut-off time is for a Kindle Countdown Sale.  Mary Jo Melendez has been inviting you to that sale all week.  Her stories, Muddlin’ Through and Silicon Slummin’…and Just Gettin’ By, were on sale through today, May 6, for $0.99 each; they might still be.  But don’t worry: they’ll just revert to the original $2.99 price, which is still a bargain.  Want more summer reading?  Check out my entire catalog: here’s my Amazon page.  Three more series, twenty more recent books, all save one for $3.99 or less, including my new sci-fi/fantasy novel, Rogue Planet, for $2.99.  What are you waiting for?

In libris libertas (just not the Times’s)…      

News and Notices from the Writing Trenches # 108…

Friday, November 13th, 2015

[Note from Steve: I’m not superstitious, but, for those who are, have a safe day today.  Did you hear about the guy who went looking for the 13th floor in a hotel and fell into an open elevator shaft, all on Friday the 13th?  There: who said I can’t write a horror story!]

Item. Celebrity books.  Or, should I say, public confessions of the rich and (in)famous?  Do you read them?  The bookstores are full of them, if that’s any gauge of popularity.  There’s Trump’s new propaganda piece containing no more meat than his campaign speeches, just another spiel saying, “I’m great, I’m handsome, I’m rich, I’m smart, and I can save America!”  Some are informative: George H. W. Bush’s (the father of Dubya and Jeb), says a few things about Trump, but mostly looks back, verifying what I always knew: Cheney and Rumsfeld had their own hawkish and nefarious agendas and tried to impose their will and further their on agenda in Dubya’s administration.  And others are just ploys to make some money: Leah Remini’s exposé of Scientological shenanigans has become a book tour through talk shows—she needs the money, I guess, but I wonder why people care about her making more money.  Or, worry about a cult.

When people ask me if I’ve read celebrity so-and-so’s book, I usually look at them like they were idiots.  I’m very selective in my reading, and I generally find the practice of a celebrity cashing in on their ready-made brand name a despicable practice.  One of Obama’s books was the last celebrity book I finished (one written even before he became president).  I started one of O’Reilly’s Killing X books (I guess he’s not very inventive about titles), didn’t like it, and stopped (I guess that’s a mini-mini-review—I started because I read some history now and then).  But O’Reilly is just another celebrity author cashing in on his brand name.

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Is it fun to be James Patterson?

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

[Like Mr. Patterson, I usually don’t write humor.  Sometimes you stretch your wings though….]

I really admire you, Mr. Patterson!  You’re my idol because you’ve shown that one can become a one-percenter through writing.  Moreover, you’ve assumed the mantle of oracle for the Big Five by speaking out against all the riff-raff who dare threaten legacy publishing.  You only recognize excellence, so you attack any author who isn’t a best-selling writer—all those authors with small publishing houses, midlist authors everywhere, and especially all those indie creeps (everyone knows an indie book is just a vanity press book).  I take my hat off to you, Mr. Patterson!

Your $1 million gift to indie bookstores shows your immense generosity and that you put your indie money where your mouth is.  Why support indie authors?  Why support any writer but yourself?  Everyone knows that the Big Five publishers and the bookstores who are fed by them make the books, not the authors.  We don’t need authors, besides you and a few others, the truly anointed by the Big Five.  Why should readers discover new authors when they have you and all the other best-selling authors?  Readers have earned their money by working hard, so they shouldn’t waste it, right?

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Art for the masses?

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

[TANSTAAFL: Do you read this blog?  I’m not asking if you like the posts, just whether you read them!  If so, don’t be passive.  React.  Write a comment—chew me out if you like (no foul language, please).  You can even receive a free ebook—see the bottom of the “Free Stuff and Contests” webpage; or write an honest review of one of my ebooks in exchange for the ebook.  In general, buy, read, and review some of my books.  Your participation motivates me and helps defray the costs of this website and my ebook releases.  Be active.  Help indie authors provide you with inexpensive entertainment.  It’s a two-way street, folks!]

I hate that phrase.  Here’s why: it suggests that there’s an elite—let’s say that infamous 1%—who has determined that some work of art is especially worthy.  So far, so good, because not everyone is into oil paintings, say, not even among the 1% (except for showing off their wealth, of course).  But the idea that the full product, that superb piece of art, has to be watered down for the poor and middle classes is pure snobbery and very insulting.  You don’t have to be a member of the 1% to enjoy those Van Gogh swirls or cry at the ending of La Boheme.

Let me consider an example.  In Mozart’s heyday, operas were entertainment.  While a quartet, divertimento, or symphony (Mozart wrote lots of them) was usually heard only in the palaces and castles of royalty, the general population loved those operas.  They would roar their approval when Don Giovanni (aka Don Juan) descended into hell.  One of my Mozart favorites is The Magic Flute.  With its mixture of back-to-nature themes and Masonic mysticism, it’s a heady fantasy about the fight between good and evil, an allegory of sorts.  So, what did they do recently in NYC?  They scaled it down and changed the lyrics to English—art for the masses!  If we knew exactly where Mozart was buried (he was thrown into a pauper’s grave), we’d probably see him spinning there, aghast at what they did to his full opera, already written for and enjoyed by the masses.

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The Eightfold Way

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

The media has become fixated on spontaneous symmetry breaking and the Higgs boson (the so-called “God particle,” a name that would surely make Mr. Higgs cringe).  The Higgs mechanism (i.e. the spontaneous symmetry breaking) is necessary to give mass to some of the vector bosons in the electroweak or weak and electromagnetic interaction theory.  Forgotten in all this media hoopla is the theory that led to the idea of quarks and gluons, the Eightfold Way of symmetries popularized by Mr. Gell-Mann.  (Note that I refrain from using the term “discovered.”  In theoretical physics, the math is “out there.”  You just have to figure out what math matches up to the experimental data.  Experimental physics is where “discoveries” are made.)

Now that I’ve had some fun imagining your eyes glazing over as if you’d just had tequila mixed with sleeping pills, let me say that this post is not about physics.  (My eyes are glazed too, because the above is hardcore physics, and I’ve been sipping my Jameson’s while writing like a madman.)  The Eightfold Way I consider here is the shining path that leads you to a finished novel that someone might want to read. It’s my distillation of rules for writing a novel—a distillation that is not the quality of a fine Irish whiskey, but I’ve put some thought to it and would like to share (I’d like to share the Jameson’s too, but the internet hasn’t discovered e-drinking yet).

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Cheney vs. Powell and Rice – do we care?

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

The infamous Dick Cheney, ex-VP and ex-Halliburton exec, in a blatant attempt to create controversy in order to sell more books, has it in for ex-Secretarys of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice.  They are fighting back.  All this infighting in ex-President Dubya’s cabinet can be extrapolated forward to the future to give Americans an idea of what a Rick Perry administration might look like.  Anyone that yearns for Texas politics again at the national level should think twice.

Of course, Mr. Cheney hails from Wyoming, not Texas.  With all his health problems, you’d think this zombie cowboy would just ride off into that western sunset to enjoy his Halliburton and government pensions like a good old oil baron.  No, he has to write a nasty book.  Dubya has mostly kept on a lid on it in comparison, too embarrassed by his ignominious place in history as the country’s worst President.  The sore Dick, however, is not happy being the worst VP in the country’s history (Spiro Agnew is a competitor, but second-string since he was caught—Cheney was not).  Cheney has to make sure his place in history is firm by going not only after the Obama administration, which can do nothing right in his eyes (excuse me, bloviating ex-VP sir, did you get Osama?); he’s also going after all his old colleagues.

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Royal weddings in America…

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Ever since the Nixon-Eisenhower White House wedding in 1968 I have wondered about America’s need for royalty and royal weddings.  While old George showed his sanity and humility by not allowing the rest of the colonials to make him king (I’m speaking of our first President, not the inept British king the colonials defeated), it seems that many of my compatriots feel short-changed.  Many of them go after the gossip, intrigues, and photos by the paparazzi like ants at a pastry makers’ picnic, all in their haste to find a truly American substitute.  And when the Lohans and the Pitts just don’t do it, there’s always a White House wedding.

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Review of Dean Koontz’ Breathless

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

(Dean Koontz, Breathless, Bantam Books, 2009, ISBN 978-0-553-80715-8)

Dean, Dean, tell me it isn’t so.  I’ve been a fan of yours for years, delighting in your stories of good versus evil, relishing your use of words and turns of phrase, and feeling my skin crawl with your pseudo-scientific-supernatural creations.  Stephen King’s writing was always second rate to your masterful way with the written word.

But now you seem to have been reading too much creationist and intelligent design literature.  The creatures in Breathless are new humans, not evolved but spontaneously generated.  As one of the characters says, “…their sudden appearance suggests some mechanism entirely different from evolution through natural selection.  In the Cambrian period…a hundred new phyla appeared, thousands of species.”  This character is a physicist and a mathematician, a dabbler in chaos theory.

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Worst books in the English language?

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Since I’m already accused of being dark, negative, and pessimistic by some, I thought it might be interesting to collect readers’ opinions on the worst books in the English language, said list to be added as a complement to the “classics” categories.  “Worst” has a special meaning here.  By this I mean a terrible book that you have been forced to read by those erudite practitioners of mind-numbing torture in high school or college English classes.  Or a book that everyone has told you that you must read and it gives you a frontal lobotomy without surgery.  To make it more specific, let me start the ball rolling by mentioning a sample from my own list.

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