Author: renemullen (page 8 of 9)

Book Review: "Snow" by Orhan Pamuk

Recently finished yet another novel from a Nobel Prize in Literature winner. This time it was “Snow” by Orhan Pamuk. As my readers know, I don’t give synopses. For that, head elsewhere. But here are some thoughts.

First, this massive 426 page novel essentially took place over 3 days. That’s it. Three days. That is, if you don’t count that the narrator wrote the book some four years after the main character’s death and that there is some commentary that ties loose ends up from the narrator after the fact. By the way, this isn’t that big of a spoiler because the narrator tells you this midway through the book.

Second, Pamuk does for social and political commentary what Jose Saramago did, but he does it in the style of Haruki Murakami. His prose are easily readable by most standards and hold a surrealist slant that dips in  and out of consciousness. Not that I don’t enjoy a tough read. Tough reads make me feel like I’ve actually learned something and grown as a reader, as a writer, and as a human being. But there’s something to be said for readable prose.

Now to the topics Pamuk brings to the reader in “Snow.” There’s discussions of Eurocentric understandings of the world. The story takes place in Kars, Turkey and there are constant reference to what Europeans think of Turks, why they think what they think, and why they are wrong, but not for the reasons the average European would think.

The whole story revolves around the “Suicide girls” and cultural questions revolving around revolution, wearing of the hijab, and religion. Unlike where the average Westerner might think Pamuk to go, he goes everywhere else. He manages to paint a picture that does not denigrate Turks or Islam while at the same time not promoting it outright. All this is done while also not playing the “everything is relative and nothing is moral without relativist understanding.”

For the record, I have not missed the irony that a Westerner is telling you how to think about a book written by a Turk about the Western interpretation of Turkish life.

"Thirteen Reasons Why" and Suicide

Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why, a YA novel that apparently is a huge hit around the world, is something to behold. Not just as a first novel, but as a prolific, captivating story.

***Fair warning: there may be spoilers below***

First, it touches on a subject few really want to discuss beyond the usual pep-rallies that hype up the “awareness” of suicide. In almost every culture around the world, depression (and all mental illness) is seen as a “get over it” disease. “If only you’d smile more, you wouldn’t be so depressed.” “If you stopped wearing black, maybe you’d have friends.” “Stop looking for attention and get over yourself.” “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

These are all comments I heard directed at me (and others).

Second, Hannah (one of the main characters…the one who commits suicide) makes it a point to acknowledge several things. For one, the councilor did nothing to stop her though he of all people should have known the signs. The reason for Mr. Porter’s misstep remains unclear, but given my professional background, I can say that many professionals in the field of mental illness and teens (or adults) hear different versions of “I’m gonna kill myself” so often, even they begin to go blind. It’s a field that one can rarely remain successful at for very long. It’s too draining.

If, on the other hand, Mr. Porter wasn’t really a professional, he still acted like every other school faculty member I’ve ever engaged. When I went to several different school faculty members about bullying I was told everything.

“Get over it.”
“Boys will be boys.”
“Everyone’s going to die. ‘You’re going to die’ isn’t a threat.”
“You can’t possibly believe they did that on purpose.”
“If you stopped dressing like you do, maybe you wouldn’t draw so much attention.”

These are all comments teachers and principals said to me when I approached them. And, yes, I received phone call death threats. I brought the answering machine tape in as proof. The administrator looked me square in the face and said, “Everyone’s going to die….this isn’t a threat.”

There remains an overarching culture of “teenagers are just melodramatic” and “teasing is a natural part of life”. That’s a main reason why so many, like Hannah, commit suicide. Which leads me to something else Hannah mentioned that I’ve never heard spoken by anyone except my own troubled thoughts when I was a teen.

These “isolated” incidents can get to a point where nothing in your life is sacred, nothing is safe, and psychologically, it hollows you out. You’re not safe at home or in your room. You’re not safe in school, at recess, at the bus stop, on the street, in the store, in the car, or anywhere. Crowds become something you avoid, as are places of isolation, places where you can be surprised, where there’s no bright lights. You stop using the bathroom since nobody can see you in there. You stop going into public because people can see you.

A friend of mine and I were chased on foot by three jocks in their car one night. Three blocks they followed us and screamed what they planned to do to us. We ran into a VFW where they were holding a fundraiser. We begged to let us use their phone. They said they didn’t want that kind of trouble there and kicked us out…where the three other students continued to follow us. Finally at home, we called the police. They took statements but nothing happened. Why? One of the other guy’s parents was a police officer.

Lastly, Hannah was seeking attention. But not in the way most mean when they utter those words. She sought help. You can’t just walk up to somebody and say “I want to kill myself.” And if you did, they’d simply say, “If that were true, then you’d have done it already…you’re just looking for attention.” The next morning, when questions were asked, they would say, “Yes, but I didn’t believe she’d actually do it.” Then pep-rallies would ensue and the cycle would continue…without that person.

You’re right! They are looking for attention. They came to you for help. They still don’t really want to kill themselves. There’s still a shred of humanity inside them they’re clinging to and they are looking to you for the reason to continue holding on. But since they have not yet found a safe haven, death seems the only relief.

Too many nights, as a teen, I spent trying to figure out how I’d do it. Friends, parents, teachers, peers, principals. I went to them all. The dark clothes and the anger didn’t come until after I had given up. As  someone I knew once said, “The only problem was, I was too depressed to lift the knife to my wrist.”

I can’t thank Jay Asher for bringing those horrible memories of my own past to light, but I can say Thank You for producing a book, and apparently a moment that will, I hope, change many. It would be my guess, however, that most schools will ban this book the next time a teen within their walls french kisses the barrel of a gun. Having read many of the negative comments about this book, I find it hard to believe Asher is winning this uphill battle.

Addendum: Jay Asher and I don’t know each other, have never spoken, and nobody and no organization or company paid me for this post.

Gathering Blue: A look at Lois Lowry’s 2nd book in the Giver series

I have to say I expected more from Lowry in this second book. I loved The Giver. And though Gathering Blue was not a bad book, and I’d recommend it to any young adult reader, I felt it lacked.

It started off strong and I thought Lowry was going to give the reader serious social commentary on the treatment of people with disabilities. There remained an undercurrent of this, but outside of the first few pages, it drifted into the background.

The ending was by far my least favorite. Don’t get me wrong. I’m the first to admit, I love sad endings, ambiguous endings, and any story where not every loose end is tied. I’m thinking here of The Chocolate War, The Giver, Nothing, and any number of young adult stories. But without giving away the ending, this one left me confused. Assuming names are based on 10 year increments, I expect Kira to be a relatively young woman, yet her grown-up decision involving her past seemed just too adult-like, even for her. She seemed relatively unmoved by the last thirty pages. As was I. It was as if Lowry had no idea how to end Gathering Blue and just went with the first idea that popped into her head.

But I’m still going to read her last two books in the series. Perhaps it’s my more recent book choices which include Morrison, Saramago, Atwood, and now Updike that has upped my threshold for great literature. This all said, Lowry is still one of my favorite young adult writers. And for such a short read, I would not pass up another read sometime in the future.

Addendum: Rereading this post I noticed how harsh I was on Lowry. Perhaps its the Monday blues. Gathering Blue reads well, reads easy, doesn’t talk down to the reader, and, frankly, expects more from her reader than the average author. I blame Lowry herself for raising the bar so high for my expectations ^_^.

Soon I hope to finish Updike’s The Coup. This is one of Updike’s least known novels, and certainly one of his most experimental. Apparently, I like experimental. Unlike most, I’m digging this novel so far.

"Beloved" by Toni Morrison: Lessons I Learned

Just finished Beloved by Toni Morrison. Having read it, I learned three important lessons.

First, as I mentioned in a previous post, I learned from Morrison that accents do not have to be written in a degrading format. Throughout history, when journalists or political leaders wished to make opposition sound stupid, illiterate, and/or unreliable, they wrote quotations verbatim. If it was a thick Boston accent, quotations would exclude end of word “r’s” and add them where they otherwise wouldn’t go. Urban speakers lose “g” at the end of every -ing word.

Morrison’s main character is the epitome of underprivileged and illiterate: a black “freed” slave woman in the 1860’s. But Morrison does not resort to this degradation. She allows the disrespect from whites in the U.S. speak for itself. But, Morrison also does not disregard the fact that her characters have strong Southern and Southern Black accents of the time period. Instead, she uses a technique of word choice and grammar of the characters’ dialog to bring forth one’s accent. While reading her dialog, the reader quickly begins to read the passages with the accents.

Morrison gives a double whammy. She does not insult the characters. But she also does not insult the reader.

Second thing I learned is that Nobel Prize for Literature winners are AWESOME.

I’ve now knowingly read two: José Saramago and Toni Morrison.

Not only do I gain insight to the craft of fiction writing not attainable from typical fiction authors, but I feel genuinely satisfied after reading their work. It’s as if I’ve just finished drinking a cool glass of lemonade on a hot summer afternoon. It physically feels this way. Satisfaction fills my innards.

Thirdly, Nobel Prize for Literature winners are TOUGH TO READ.

I say this from someone who loves reading literary works and classic texts. José Saramago is one of my favorite fiction writers of all time. But his style of writing can be a bit, how shall I say, uninviting. His sentences go on for paragraphs. His paragraphs go on for pages. He never uses quotation marks. So you never know who’s speaking (he does this on purpose so he can screw with you). And he uses periods so infrequently you’d think he had to pay for each one he typed.

Toni Morrison’s style in Beloved slowed me down. It took me two weeks to read it. The dialog was not second-nature to me, as it probably shouldn’t be. Above all this, I couldn’t tell if 124 was actually haunted, if it was all in Sethe’s mind, or if it was all in my mind. Again, I’m sure this was done on purpose. I struggled to even know which part of the timeline I was engaged in. Perhaps this too was done on purpose to show “once a slave always a slave” irrespective of “freedom” status. Or perhaps, I’m just not a versed enough reader to wrap my head around it.

Next on my agenda is Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry. I was going to read Tepper. But I need something a little less engaging. Also, I’m learning how to write grants, so I’m reading lots of dry non-fiction grant writing mumbo jumbo.

Review of "Black Sheep: Letting Go of the Past" by Kia Zi Shiru

Remember two weeks ago I featured a burgeoning author on my blog? Kia Zi Shiru? In that feature, we discussed her writing and also talked about the release of Book Two in the Black Sheep series: Black Sheep: Loving in the Present. Because I tend to read more than one thing at a time, and am quite a slow reader, I finally finished Part One of that series: Black Sheep: Letting Go of the Past. Here is a review.

Anyone who knows my reviews knows that I don’t give summaries. Summaries are dull. When I read a review, I don’t care about plot. If I wanted that, I’d find the Spark’s Notes on the piece or go to Wikipedia. I want to know if I should read it and what I should watch for. Therefore, that’s what you get here. Check out Shiru’s page for summaries of each book and reviews that dig a little deeper.

As mentioned in a previous post, Black Sheep is a Young Adult novella series with an LGBT slant. But don’t let the LGBT slant scare you off. Vic, Jack, Anne, and the lot of characters draw you into the confusing world of all our teenage years regardless of one’s own orientation.

To be fair, however, this YA read might not be for all young readers. The language can get a little coarse for a YA read (as these are teenagers living in the real world) and adult themes like sexuality, self-destruction, and LIFE  play out. Then again, books that don’t skirt the line between YA and inappropriate don’t belong in the genre in the beginning. Parts some parents will find offensive are true to the core. Only parents trying to protect their children from life will find offense.

The dark realities of teen life come out in buckets. Shiru lets us into the Vic’s life slowly. But with each new sliver of information comes a torrent of pain. In a good way, if one can call it such. I had zero problem falling hard for these characters. I even had to put it down briefly on the bus to keep from tearing up at one point. In the comfort of my own apartment, crying is OK. Public transit is another story.

I look forward to reading Book Two. I can only assume her writing voice has sharpened since finishing Letting Go of the Past. After reading her first novel, I’m comfortable saying with authority that Shiru will be a name to watch for in the coming years.

Disclosure: Kia Zi Shiru and I are acquaintances as fellow Google+’ers and writers. She neither paid me for this nor gave me anything except a thank you for this review. However, I did win a contest several weeks ago…of which many participated…and I won an ebook copy of this book. 

Black Sheep: Book Release and ebook discount!

Burgeoning author, Kia Zi Shiru, just released her second dark YA novel in a series that follows the young Vic on his trek to find love while finding himself. Along with this Book Release comes a 66% discount on Book One!!!

Having chatted with Shiru several times, I’m honored to feature her newest novel, “Black Sheep: Loving in the Present“. I had a chance to ask Shiru a few questions about her book, her previous books, and even upcoming books!

What possessed you to write YA LGBT stories? 

I like to read them, and I often find it easier to identify with them. Don’t ask how that works, it does. Black Sheep hasn’t been my first try at gay characters but it is the first one the world got to see. But the lack of LGBT books in the library or to be found online was what made me push through with writing Black Sheep until the end.

Is this your first attempt at novel length writing?

Shiru: No, I’ve got a scifi story that reaches over 40k that I worked on for most of my teenage years. But since it’s written in Dutch I abandoned it when I realised there was no big market for them. English is a bigger market so that is why Black Sheep has been totally written in English.

Tell me a bit about your short story collection that’s also on Amazon?

Shiru: Magical Roads, yes. It’s a collection of stories about teens in a magical world. They are both realistic and magical at the same time. The stories deal with things like growing up, traditions and making your own choices. I wrote these stories for my classes at university and thought it was a good idea to share them since a lot of people seem to love them.

I know you’re rather busy with school, but do you have any plans for other novels or short story collections in the near future?

Shiru: Honestly? I’ve got a full year coming up. Not only am I doing my last year of my bachelor I’m also doing my masters next year. But that doesn’t stop me. The third book in the Black Sheep trilogy comes out in April and then the collection in May. After that I’ve got 2 series I’ll be starting during the rest of the year. Though they are for a slightly higher age range than the Black Sheep Trilogy.

Given the natural gravitation toward sexuality in your book, how do you think your books fit into the YA category? 

Shiru: I don’t see sexuality being a problem to being included in the YA category. There are more and more books published for LGBT teens. The thing is that sexuality doesn’t have a lot to do with actual sex. Black Sheep Trilogy deals with some shocking subjects but in relation to sex it doesn’t go any further than a bit of groping over each other’s clothes and some kissing. It wasn’t on purpose that I chose to do this, it seemed wrong to actually let them go further than that with all the body issues the main character deals with. Of all the books I think the first one is the most steamy one.

I don’t think there is a problem of putting Black Sheep in the YA category, since that category is full of teen mum books anyway. In comparison to that, Black Sheep is very clean.

Of course, what you all REALLY want is the DISCOUNT!!!!
EBOOK DISCOUNT: As an added bonus, “Black Sheep: Letting go of the Past” (Part One in the series) is will be a mere $0.99 starting today and running through February 25!!!

So, what is “Black Sheep: Loving in the Present?” Here’s it is in Shiru’s words:

Vic has taken a turn for the worse and is back in the psychiatric hospital. Jack gets kicked out of his house when his parents find out that he is gay. The reason Adam is not getting better is revealed. And that is just the beginning.

Everybody is lost and trying to not let it spiral out of control. Jack moves in with Vic’s family, making it his temporary home until he can move in with his brother and sister. Vic’s health doesn’t improve until he hears about Adam, at which point he put his mind to getting better. Adam on the other hand is fighting his own feelings about Vic’s illness and questions their friendship.

When Vic and Jack visit Adam and Tom for Tom’s birthday, it seems like a great way to let loose, but Vic is hiding more secrets than anyone knew and when they are exposed the situation explodes. Vic storms off in anger and seeks solace in dangerous places and, unknowingly, putting not just himself, but Jack too at risk.

EXCERPT: Get hooked now with a short teaser here

And who is this mysterious author???

Kia Zi Shiru is a Dutch girl studying English and Creative Writing in the UK. Amongst her interests she finds writing, reading, doing research and learning different languages (including but not limited to: English, Dutch, French, German, HTML, Java, PHP and Assembly). Her writing and reading habits include books with Young Adults, gay themes, strong female or minority characters and fantasy elements (more often then not all at the same time).

Too lazy to hunt her books down? Here are all the links!
Purchase Black Sheep: Loving in the Present from the following:
In the U.S.:
In the U.K.:
Anywhere: Smashwords or Kobo

As one might suspect, you can purchase Part One or Part Two in eBook and/or paperback forms. Shiru also has a short story collection available from the same sites mentioned above. 

Best of luck to Shiru! From my reading of Book One, this is only the beginning of a long and great novel writing career. If you’ve read this far, I strongly encourage you to support this new Indie author. 

Disclosure: Kia Zi Shiru and I are acquaintances on Google+ and fellow writers (though she’s published, I’m not). I received no compensation for this post (unless you count the ‘thank you’).

A Handmaid’s Tale: A Look at Dystopian Novels

Because there are more than a pleasant share of reviews of this dystopian novel, I’m going to go in a different direction and provide some thoughts I had as I read Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale.

My main thought is about the dystopian novel itself, as a genre. Not only are dystopian novels common, they are prominent in literature, taught in schools, read in book clubs, revered by conspiracy nuts and theorists, and loved by most who consider themselves high minded.

Most of you realize that dystopian novels are a type of speculative fiction. They point to the absurdity of certain social norms. In many cases they point to the contradictions of social, ecological, economic, gender, and technological mores. Authors of dystopian stories yell at their reader, “Look what we’re doing! Look at where we’re headed! Change before it’s too late!”

But most of you probably don’t think of dystopia stories as short sighted. I do.

I give my reasoning in a story of my own, a true story.

When I was still in graduate school, I went to a talk.I don’t remember the focus, but I do remember the title and synopsis suggested it was about Marxism, the working man, and society in today’s world. What it actually turned into was an “academic” talk about how today’s world is full of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, and that we need to find a path back to the “Good ole days.”

Sans myself and two other graduate student I went with, there were no participants under the age of 50. The “take away” message was that we’ve fallen from decency. What we need to do is somehow find a way back to the 40s and 50s where people were pure, the economy was great, patriotism was important, and politicians were human.

What all the participants of this talk seemed to do (the three of us excluded) was to romanticize the world they grew up in. All the while, they forgot that young women were shipped off the an “aunts” house when they shamed their family by getting pregnant in high school. They forgot the beginnings of the Cold War where children practiced Nuclear War drills! They forgot that men knifed each other for looking at “their” girls. They forgot the ideal of the pregnant and barefoot wife in the kitchen.They forgot about racial segregation and women’s rights movements and race riots. To be fair, there were no non-whites in the room.

Dystopian novels follow this same arch. Though they point out particular inconsistencies and absurdities about society and civilization as a whole, they all pine and romanticize for a bygone era.

Margaret Atwood is one of the few I’ve come across that doesn’t do this. Atwood does not romanticize about the world she grew up in or lives in now. She doesn’t demonize the futuristic speculative, arguably (il)logical conclusion to the puritan U.S. social culture any more than she demonizes “the way things were” in her book.

Rather, Atwood suggests that in the world we live in, society men have created an manufactured dichotomy of options.

Option One: Men have the “freedom to.

Option Two: Women can have the “freedom from.

That is it. Essentially, recognizes that men have “given women the choice.” Women can choose to be subjugated to men’s sexual urges and turned into objects of sexual appeal and toys for their men’s own sexual pleasure. Or, women can choose to be hidden from men entirely in a puritan fashion. Of course, this means men still have to procreate, so they choose non-sexual women to have non-sexual intercourse.

Either way, women are subjugated.

My feminist hat off to you, Atwood. Not that you need me to tell you, but you understand the world better than most.

Disclosure: I neither know Atwood (though I wish I did, and I do follow her on Twitter) nor was I paid for this post. 

Book Review: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

In my final trot through the zombie novel pumpkin patch, I finished “Warm Bodies,” a relatively new novel by Isaac Marion. In six months, it will be released as a movie of the same name. Here is my book review:

First off, as both of my readers know, I don’t give synopses of books I read. If you want to know what HAPPENS in a book, read the damn book. My reviews only tell what was good, what was bad, and if you should read the novel in the first place.

Marion’s portrait of zombies is not new. They are dead, or undead. They feed off humans, eat brains, and are generally pretty stupid beings that hunt in packs. The first person angle is not entirely new to this genre any longer either. I refer you to Joan Frances Turner’s “Dust“. Since “Warm Bodies” came out but a year later, I hold no negative here for Marion. Frankly, the first person zombie thing is still avant garde enough  to be highly entertaining when done correctly, which it is here.

“Warm Bodies” is much closer to a typical zombie story. The main zombie character is a twenty (or thirty)-something lazy guy who just shuffles through life until he eats the brain (thereby gaining the memories of) a young man in love. Enter love interest Stage Right.

I have a terrible feeling that the movie that debuts February of 2013 will be very much like “Twilight” with teenage puppy love and an angry dad leading to a Romeo and Juliet meets Shawn of the Dead plot. If so, I’ll be disappointed, but the vast majority of readers of this book won’t be.

The end concept (which I won’t spoil) is interesting. Given the direction the rest of the book, however, it was both predicable yet disappointingly necessary. For those seeking a Happily Ever After zombie story, this is your book. For those wanting a dreary apocalyptic world, move on.

Marion clearly understands both the zombie genre itself and the present obsession with paranormal love and sex. Part of me wants to hate this book for that very reason. Yet, when in Rome. Once he is discovered by the masses, Marion will explode onto the scene much the same way Meyer did with Twilight. This will be especially true if he has sequels in mind.

All his characters are very well fleshed out. It was a fast-paced read that does provide much for many a reader. If you want true zombie death and gore, it’s here. Of course, I might read “Dust” if that was your soul purpose. If you want something new to the zombie genre, you get love, first person goodness, and a Day of the Dead concept well done here. If you just want a good read irrespective of genre, this is also a great start. If you want another book like Twilight without the disturbing tween sex scenes, this again is your book.

Overall, I would read another book by Isaac Marion. It is clear we should expect great things from him in the future.

Zombies! Done Right

In an effort to understand the genre I’m pretending to write in, I’ve read some zombie stories. The first was “Autumn” by David Moody which came from a recommendation list I found online. You can view that earlier review post here. Second on my reading trek was “Dust” by Joan Frances Turner. Here is my review of her zombie story, which happens to also be her first book.

Most complaints about Turner’s “Dust” that I’ve found online via or pertain to the tough stomach needed to read such gruesome descriptions. To be fair, this is a very descriptive book when it comes to the life and death of the living, unliving, undead, and all those we find in between. It is not for the squeamish. However, no description is over the top or unnecessary.

For a truly over the top plastering of descriptions that probably don’t need to be there, one only need to look to the author of “Fight Club,” Chuck Palahniuk. Now, I’ve never read “Fight Club” as it’s never at the library. But I’ve read two other lesser known of his novels (“Survivor” which I thought was brilliant all around and reminded me of “American Psycho” meets TMZ; and “Snuff” which as the title suggests was not for the faint of heart to say the least).

Turner doesn’t do this. Rather than give you a zombie story of gun toting heroes blowing the heads off valueless zombies, she provides a realistic look (as much as one can give with a fictional occurrence) at life in this fictional world. The descriptions are necessary. Similar to “Room” by Emma Donoghue where you get the story from a 5 year old. The description is so natural, but you know pretty quick that what the child is witnessing but not comprehending is the repeated rape of his mother. Turner’s description flows naturally from the character.

“Dust” is a first person zombie story from the point of view of a teenage girl who died before her time. The entire book gives a realistic taste of what such a life would be like. There is no good or bad, only truth. Truth is, they are undead beings. They rot.

Turner takes a classic horror genre and gives it new life. Rather than providing a straightforward zombie story like David Moody, Turner uses the zombie identity to look at life, death, and the human condition. Had Turner used old geriatric patients instead of zombies, people would complain she made old women look disgusting by talking about their incontinence, the way gravity works on the body, and how they literally fall apart at the seams rather than only look at how beautiful the end of life is.

Death is not pretty. Neither is life most of the time. Turner does for the horror novel what Matheson did decades ago.

This novel does have a bizarre second half where the feel of the story changes dramatically, and the end is predictable once you enter the realm of the second half of this story. That said, the ending was appropriate. Anything different would have negated the grotesque first half. This is not only a well-written first novel. This is a solid novel, period.

Zombies! From another perspective

I’ve now read two very different zombie stories written in the last two decades. First was David Moody’s “Autumn”, a highly acclaimed zombie author; and Joan Frances Turner’s “Dust”, a first novel for this burgeoning author. Here is my review for Moody, Turner deserves a separate post.

First David Moody.

Highly excited by the hype behind this six book series and the movies spawned by his novels, I confess myself disappointed.

The hype of Moody’s novels I can only assume come from his “pull yourself up from your bootstraps” appeal. Moody first released his books in free ebook form for all his pre-publication followers days. Looking at Moody this way there are two things to compliment. First, kudos for giving your readers what they want. Many of today’s authors will hold on to their material like it’s pure gold. Now, I’m not one to suggest all writers should put their books out there for free as we all go read our free book at the coffee shop where we buy our $4 latte. NO! I’m say, if you’re a struggling author, he knows how to sell himself.

Which leads to the second compliment: Moody knows the marketing. Few artists realize that art comes with two parts: the art and the marketing. You can say all you want that you’re an artist and that others need to do the marketing part. Them’s the words of the unpublished and jealous. Making money in any field, including fiction writing requires tons of selling your soul to the Devil incarnate.

Now, that’s pretty much where my compliments of Moody dies an untimely death.

Moody’s actual writing is subpar. I wish  couldn’t say this. But it’s true. And I’ll use two specific complaints to drill my point home. First, all his characters have the exact same voice. If you don’t know how bad this can tear apart a story and dislocate the reader from the text, read this book. You’ll constantly wonder, who the hell is talking? Autumn is not his first novel either, so this book shows the lack of editing on the part of a trained writer (And I realize the irony of my writing this in an unedited blog…which is where Moody also got his start).

Second, Moody’s story does nothing but tell a story. Wait! What? That’s right. It does nothing but tell a simple story. Why is this a complaint? Because, no great story is JUST A story. Even the most basic and most juvenile stories come with lessons learned or subjects contemplated.

An example I commonly give is Harry Potter. A great children’s story through and through. It is a story FIRST! But it comes with ethnic conflict, good versus evil (and the gray area in between), race relations, gender roles, and basic child angst.

Give me something more!

Every great story ever told comes with more than JUST A story. “Just a” stories are the sign of a truly amateur storyteller. Matheson’s horror stories had reasons for their existence BEYOND scaring the reader. Ellis wrote about a narcissistic A-hole in “American Psycho” because he saw that that was what the American elite culture was breeding. Some feminists misinterpreted this as male hatred of women. Many feminists saw Ellis for what he truly wrote, which is why a female director turned that book into a movie. Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter series is more than a creepy serial killer who kills serial killers. His character understands the human condition even better than the humans he claims he does not relate to.

Writing a “just a” story separates the writers from the authors. Sadly, I find myself among the former struggling to make it into the latter.

Older posts Newer posts