Archive for September, 2012

The End Ruined It for Me

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Should I or shouldn’t I? I think I will.

If a good end can save a book or movie, can a bad one ruin an otherwise perfectly good read or watch?  Legions of fans bemoan the end of Blade Runner in the theatrical version, providing the director an excuse to “save” the movie with the director’s cut.  Personally, I think it was a marketing ploy.  Really, the movie was largely the same, except for, well, the end.  But I guess that’s the point.  For me a bad end can confirm a mediocre read as a bad choice but if I otherwise enjoyed the book, a disappointing end rarely does more than that – disappoint.  The Hunger Games is a case in point.  (WARNING – I do not divulge anything specific hereafter about the end of the three book series but I do elude to the spirit of the end.  If you are the type of reader for whom this is enough to ruin the read, read no further.  You’ve been warned!)  The world created by the author is one populated by untrustworthy megalomaniacs, corrupting and manipulating systems to their own ends.  The heroine is a rebel, recklessly slashing out.  And sure, great she finds some maturity but does it have to come with a white-picket fence?  Katniss was a hero I thought would continue to fight the good fight no matter how reluctantly because there is always another despot around the corner and there is never any rest for the wicked.  Instead, I got happily ever after.  Boo.

Ode to The Economist

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

Steve Jobs has nothing on me.

I was going to blog about how a bad ending can ruin an otherwise perfectly good read.  A nice juxtaposition with last week’s blog about an ending saving a read, I thought, but it’s not to be (at least this week).  I’ve been distracted by The Economist.  I love The Economist.  Sure it’s full of informative articles, touching upon a wide range of issues and geographic regions (really, who else writes about Dagestan?); it’s well written with close attention to proper English usage (a friend who teaches writing claims that it is one of two publications in which she is yet to find a grammatical error); has fascinating editorials; and is well-researched.  But that’s not why I love it (although, it is why I read it).  I love it because it’s so irreverent from regularly referring to children as ankle-bitters to the obese as fatties.  The editorial that distracted me today was on what Swedish crime novels have to teach us about globalization (one of the main lessons being that place matters more than ever in a global economy).  Of course, this article only begins to compare to one of my all-time favourites editorials: what CEOs can learn from a read of Keith Richards’ autobiography.

That’s MY Voice and You Can’t Have It

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

I feel the need to apologize to Colum McCann.  Last week I complained in this blog that I was taking forever to read his book, Let the Great World Spin, because he was being profligate with his characters.  Colum, if I may call you that, all is forgiven.  The penultimate chapter makes up for all.  It is a lovely piece, with lots of powerful insights on race and class, beautifully written from the perspective of a middle-aged black woman living in the Bronx in the early 1970s.  How the hell did McCann, an Irish born white guy, manage that?  It puts me in mind of all those who rail against voice appropriation, i.e., those who believe that writing from the perspective of someone whose culture you do not share is to inappropriately appropriate their voice (a quick web search brings up the following type of discourse: “Appropriation of voice, by definition is not a dialogue among equals, but an exercise of power by the appropriator over the minority object, who is thus made an object and not a subject.” (Joseph Pivato).)  I think the real problem with writing from the perspective of someone of a different culture is that it is very often badly done.  But then again, there is also a lot of bad writing from the perspective of someone whose culture is the same as that of the author.  From which I conclude that the real problem is bad writing.  Mr. McCann does not have this problem.

I Write It and Then Just Throw It Away

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

I have been reading Let the Great World Spin (by Colum McCann) for about forever.  Normally by now I would be done a book, no matter the font size and page count, or have given up on it.  Just when I am about to do the latter with Great World, I decide to give it one last shot and find myself engaged.  Just not engaged enough to want to immediately pick it up the next time a reading opportunity presents itself (there is always The Economist that needs to be read).  This left me wondering how the book manages to walk that balance beam of neutrality (not an enviable place to be, but better than falling off (I note that it won the National Book Award (US) and the Dublin Literary Award so obviously many don`t agree with my assessment)).  My first thought was “too many new characters popping up all the time“, but I don`t normally mind that.  I think it may be one of those things that the writing books recommend against but new people often pop into people`s lives in meaningful ways, so why not in books?  Then I realized that`s not that McCann regularly introduces whole new lives, it`s that he gets rid of the ones you were just getting to know and like when he does so.  All that effort on the writer`s part to get the reader interested in a character only to discard them.  It seems so wasteful.