Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The James Frey Question

These days, everyone's been all up in arms about the controversy, if you can call it that, of finding out that James Frey fabricated or exaggerated parts of his best-selling memoir, A Million Little Pieces. People like Oprah and the people involved in the ridiculous lawsuits against him have accused him of betraying his readers.

This really gets me - on Oprah, while she was apologizing for defending James Frey and making his book a part of her Book Club, she says she let the fact that so many people called and wrote in to say how much that book inspired them cloud her judgement. This was, of course, before she said James betrayed his readers. How, exactly, did he do that?

I mean, people enjoyed this book. Entertainment Weekly gave it a B+ grade and named it one of the best nonfiction books of the year. Millions of readers bought this book and let it change their lives. Does learning that he exaggerated parts of that negate those changes? People can be just as inspired and uplifted by fiction books (which are entirely fabricated, just so you don't get the wrong idea ^_^) than by nonfiction. True or false, this book was well-written enough to give millions of people a unique reading pleasure.

What bums me out are the lawsuits against him. One of the class-action lawsuits is sueing for damages for the money spent on the book and the time it took to read it. Excuse me? Why don't you just return the book to Chapters and get your $30 back? It's thirty dollars. And now they want compensation for the time they spent reading the book? What the hell? Why didn't they just put the book down in the middle of reading it? Could it be, because they enjoyed it? I don't see how learning a book is fabricated can turn that pleasurable reading experience into something bad. These are just people eager for a quick buck.

The second (of many) lawsuits against Frey says that if they'd known the book was fictional, they never would have bought it and read it in the first place. I don't see why this has to be fought about it court - just take the stupid book back, or give it away second-hand, or something. Greedy greedy greedy.

I dunno, as I writer (of fiction), I'm repulsed by the actions of these people who are sueing Frey.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Bright Yellow Postcard

A writer should never give up hope. After all, that's what's supposed to keep a writer going during the interminable waits between handing our precious babies wrapped in manila envelopes to indifferent postal workers and receiving a slim envelope (usually a rejection) in return.

I'm forced to admit, however, that I was just about to give up on that copy of "My Brother's Own Words" that I'd sent out to CICADA magazine. I'd sent it out, when? In September? Yes, in September! After more than four months of silence, I assumed it must have gotten lost in the mail, and was lining some lucky canary's birdcage, or giving a drunken hobo some semblance of a blanket for the cold winter night.

But no! It arrived safely, and was squished beneath a giant pile of other (hopefully lesser, or at least lesser than mine - they pay up to 25 cents a word!) stories sent by other hopeful writers. Today I received a yellow postcard in the mail from CICADA, and while my first thought was, They rejected me with a postcard (!), it was actually a notice saying they've received it (meaning, they know it exists now after clearing away the rubbish, er, other stories, lying on top of it. So they're going to be reading it soon, and that means they'll be giving me a response.

Please please please plllllllllleeeeeeease be an acceptance!
By the way, once I get off my lazy butt, I'm going to send "Desert Muse" to Realms of Fantasy. I finally received a free copy from them, and I think the magazine is right for "Muse".

Monday, January 23, 2006

Interesting Readings

I'm ahead on all of my school readings, although sometimes that can become a disadvantage, especially when classes give reading quizzes, because by that time the book is long past read and you can't remember all the details.
For my Shakespeare class, I'm still in the middle of Henry V. It doesn't really inspire much interest in me, and his depictions of Welsh, Irish, and Scottish accents is irritating. However, strangely enough, in a scene where people are speaking actual French (like when Katherine wishes to learn certain English words), the French is quite straightforward and simple. I was expecting it to be more difficult, considering it's old French, like Moliere, but it was actually easier to understand than some of the English.
I came off of reading Richard III, and while my professor thinks he's a compelling villain and it's one of her favourite plays, I really can't see the appeal. First of all, I haven't read all of the Henry plays that have come (historically speaking) before this one, and so with all of the different Henrys and Edwards and Richards, things can become quite confusing. Secondly, I didn't see Richard as a compelling villain at all - he was completely evil from head to toe. I understand why he had to be so, Shakespeare would not have earned the Tudor Queen's approval by portraying the King who was overthrown by her ancestor Richmond as sympathetic, but that doesn't make him any more compelling.
Black-hearted villains are boring, it's the grey ones who are more fun, at least in my mind. Give him a heart, give him hopes, dreams, wishes, give him love, give him a motive, for God's Sake, something other than "I'm going to be evil, just for the hell of it, because I hate everybody! Ha ha!" Dull, dull, dull. Shakespeare could have made him a tormented anti-hero, a man seeking to prove himself strong and capable after years of being teased for his physical deformaties. I heard someone say once, "Evil is just using evil means to achieve good ends." No one sets out to be evil - they all have a good goal in mind. Terrorists believe they're liberating their people, their beliefs. Thieves believe they're putting clothes on their backs, food in their mouths, roofs over their heads. Richmond believes he would be better for England than Richard - that's certainly a good intention, isn't it?
Moving on - I'm just at the tail end of Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace. I've enjoyed it. At first it's a little disconcerting how she often writes without quotation marks, in rambling run-on sentences, but it sets a certain rhythm that's not hard to follow, once one gets used to it. I found it much better than Sheila Watson's The Double Hook, which also used no quotation marks, but was so pared down that it was hard to tell who was who's sister, wife, mother, victim, etc. I had to read both for Canadian Literature.
Next up - Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? I've heard people saying that while Dick came up with fabulous ideas, his writing was sadly subpar. I guess I'll just have to find out for myself. I know that this book laid out the plot for the film Blade Runner, but what I recently found out was that they actually purchased the film rights to a different story called Blade Runner, just so that they could use the title. I find myself feeling rather sorry for the author of Blade Runner, because now everyone will get the wrong idea of his or her book whenever they pick it up, and the film adaptation of the same name has nothing to do with the story he or she wrote
Currently reading: The Author's Afterward to Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace. Next Up: Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


I have been getting behind on my blogging, I know, and I'm sorry.
I've been actually very happily busy, although I am just as happy writing in my blog. The thing is, the battery on my laptop was shot - it can hold, at maximum, about 45 minutes worth of juice. Thankfully, the classes I'm in do not require my laptop, and it's probably better that I don't bring it. Bringing my laptop to class is very productive for my novel, but not for paying attention in the actual classes. That being said, without me brining my laptop to class, there has been less occasion for me to use my laptop, for instance, to go onto the internet. And so I find less occasion for me to write in my blog.
I know, I shouldn't need motivation, but I do. When I'm bored at school, I used to power up my laptop and use the wireless internet, and then I'm inspired to go onto blogger. Not so much now, now that I don't use my laptop all the time. Also, I have been writing my novel, but in a wire scribbler notebook, and I can type way faster than I can handwrite, so progress is slow.
I'm enjoying most of my classes. The projects (essays where you DON'T need outside sources, just to go on and on about how you feel) are cake, the homework (reading novels) is fun, and I have lots of free time thanks to the fact that my Tuesdays and Thursday classes start at 12:30 and end at 2:00.
Creative Writing is interesting, to say the least. I signed up to be in the first group to present their stories, and we were supposed to write a short-short (400 words). I finished mine rather quickly, and got positive reviews from both Mum and Sister #1, so I can't wait to show it off and receive lots of compliments. I'm sure there'll be some criticism, but I'm also sure there will be lots of compliments as well.
Also, I celebrated a birthday a few days ago. I got an Indigo Gift Card from Granny (which I used to buy Prep, by Curtis Sittenfeld) along with some fancy earrings, a cat sculpture from Nana; Veronica Mars, The Essential Billy Joel, Brian Setzer Orchestra's Greatest Hits from Mum and Dad, and an angel pin and cash from my godmother. Good stuff.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

"Thanks For the Review - All Best Wishes"

I met him, dear readers.
I went to the bookstore where George R. R. Martin was holding a booksigning on his Canadian Book Tour. I arrived 45 minutes earlier, and there was already a substantial lineup. No matter. The line-up got a lot longer as time went by, and one of my friends from The Gateway managed to wrangle me a spot further up the line. Anyway, finally George R. R. Martin appeared, and I found myself reduced to childhood, as I had to stand on tip-toe and jump up and down and shift every which way so that I could see him better. His Darwinian beard was longer, and whiter, than it appeared in the photo on the dust jacket of A Feast For Crows, but he was wearing the exact same hat. Maybe it's his lucky writing hat, I don't know.

He had a very amusing talk at the beginning about how his first book signings for Game of Thrones were very unsuccessful, and how pleased he was that so many people showed up to see him here. "Lots of writers complain about book signings where nobody showed up," he said, "But I had a booksigning where -4 people showed up." Meaning, four people, upon hearing the announcement that science fiction/fantasy writer George R. R. Martin was ready to sign books and talk about his work, got up and left.

He also had a book signing that was upstaged by Clifford the Big Red Dog. 100 people showed up to have a junior employee of the bookstore in a ratty red dog costume smear inky pawprints onto their children's books, while 2 people showed up for him.
After his talk, he answered a few questions. His favourite character? Tyrion - this statement was met with whistles and cheers. His least favourite character? Bran - because he was the youngest of everyone else and still had to view things through a child's eyes. I got to ask a question - so I asked about why the chapter headings in A Feast For Crows were titled "The Drowned Man", "The Prophet", "The Soiled Knight", instead of just plain names. He went on to explain that he'd written certain scenes as a type of prologue - but the events became so long and intricate he couldn't put them all into a lump couple of chapters - it came up to 250 pages. So he spread it out throughout the whole book, but with the changing chapter titles to show the progress.

Then came the book signing. I told him how I'd reviewed his books for The Green Man Review. It was a brave move of me - my review for A Feast For Crows isn't entirely positive (feel free to go to greenmanreview.com to read it), but George R. R. Martin gave no indication that he recognized the my name, the review, or Green Man at all. I did get to tell him that I found out he'd written "The Pear-Shaped Man", the only horror story I've ever read that truly creeped him out. He laughed (he had a very good, earnest laugh - he sounded like he was really enjoying the whole booksigning experience to the utmost), and said he'd based it on a real pear-shaped man who had creeped out one of his acquaintances. He did hope that the real Pear-Shaped Man hadn't read the story and recognized himself. I made the tentative joke that maybe he (the Pear-shaped Man) identified himself more as a Banana-Shaped Man. George R. R. Martin laughed at that, and then I was off and the person behind me got his lucky chance.

Inside my copy of A Feast For Crows was written: "Thanks For the Review - All Best Wishes", followed by a long, unidentifiable squiggle, two loopy deformed Rs, and another squiggle. Hurrah!

Sunday, January 08, 2006


I went to buy my January Buspass at the University the other day, and I thought I would check the bookstore to see what kinds of books I'd have to pick up later for my winter semester courses. I checked for Comparative Literature Science Fiction, and I had so many books in that class, I picked them all up at once and lugged them home. It's easier that way - I broke one of the zippers on my knapsack last semester trying to carry all my books at once.

I have so many good science fiction books to read now! I read primarily fantasy, but I wanted to start into Science Fiction, and what better way to do that then to sign up in Comp Lit Sci-Fi, where they'll doubtless have me read the best? For the first time, I've read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and the sequel The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. I enjoyed them both very much - they were quick reads but entertaining. I like Douglas Adams' writing style.

Right now, I'm reading Flash Forward by Robert J. Sawyer (Canadian sci-fi writer!). So far, the concept is freakin' brilliant. An experiment gone awry makes every person on the planet (or most of them, anyway) black out for two minutes, only to experience a vision of their future 21 years from now. One guy sees himself as an old man happily married to a woman who is decidedly not his current fiancee, and another doesn't have a vision, and then gets a phonecall from a stranger whose vision included reading about his murder in a future newspaper. Cool!

I've got so many other books to read though - Snowcrash by Neal Stephenson (I just bought the first book in his Baroque Cycle with my Christmas money), The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin, Canticle for Liebowitz, Pattern Recognition, Solaris (with a big picture of George Clooney kissing a pretty lady on the cover), and so many others! This semester, I have no boring, needless history, math, or logic courses - only English, Japanese, Comparative Literature, and Creative Writing. So pretty much, my entire homework this semester is going to consist of reading and writing, which is like being assigned to eat cookies for marks. Good stuff.

And on the last weekend of the holidays, I watched Coupe de Ville, which I got at the library. As you can probably guess, it has Patrick Dempsey in it. I would rather have watched or Some Girls or Happy Together, but I couldn't score a ride to the Good Old Movie Rental Place That's Inconveniently Far Away, and the Bad Old Movie Rental Place That's Close By lost its copies of Mobsters and With Honors, or sold them, or something. The mouthbreathing clerk wasn't too clear on that point.

In Coupe de Ville, Patrick Dempsey is the baby bad-boy brother Bobby (say that three times fast!) to nerdy Buddy and Air-Force man Marvin. They're all called together to deliver a power-blue, mint condition car (the one of the title) from Detroit to Florida for their dying father. Supposedly, bonding ensues. Dempsey's quite good in it - for a reform school student who sneezes "suck me off!" to his professor (did he invent the "insult sneeze"?) but cries when someone messes with his coin collection. Enjoyable, but he didn't get enough screentime.

Oh, and for some bad news - I got another rejection letter from Challenging Destiny. No note this time, he didn't read the entire story ("Most of the story" was checked off), and the reason for the rejection was still "didn't quite 'do it' for me". Good news - this usually means I'm not a terrible writer. Bad news - this usually means there's not a lot I can do to improve.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year!

I have two resolutions:
1. Do more writing.
2. Do more reading.

That's about it. I got a LOT of books for Christmas - a LOT - especially after I spent all my Christmas money and gift certificates and such. I've finished three books so far, so that's good, but once semester starts I'm not gonna have a lot of time - I have two English classes and a comparative literature course. Lots of school reading. At least I have no crappy science or math or symbolic logic or some shit.
I haven't been writing at ALL the past few days, either. I've been really lazy, which is the result of a Christmas Diet. The Christmas Diet is an annual period of one to two weeks where I only eat things that begin with the letter "c", like Christmas. So cookies, crackers, chocolate, candy, cola, chicken, chips - it's gotten to the point where I'm always feeling slightly over-full.
And I'm in a bit of a depressed slump these last few days. I dunno - maybe it comes out of watching Firefly on DVD - it's a great show, but I can't help but watch it and know that there's only 14 episodes, and there will only ever be 14 episodes, and no more. Damn it! Maybe it comes out of the fact that there is no Grey's Anatomy on this week. I did watch 2 Dempsey movies, though, Loverboy and Run. Loverboy was funny, and I forgot how much of a physical actor Patrick Dempsey was in his youth. As Doctor McDreamy, there is less occation for dramatic double-takes, jumping over tables, and strutting. Loverboy had an icky scene where Dempsey (playing a young man who becomes a gigolo to pay for college tuition, so that he can make up with his girlfriend!!) plays out a bored Japanese housewife's fantasy (lots of suggestive rolling around behind a gauzy curtain), but he more than makes up for that because he dances! He dances in the movie! He's very good at it.
Run was pure silliness. Pure unadulterated silliness. He plays a law student who's delivering a car from Boston to Georgia who gets in a fight with a mobster's son (who looks like Christopher Walken, only 100 pounds heavier). When the son dies (by accident), Dempsey is forced to flee (or more accurately, run in circles with his arms waving in the air). Again, he's very physical in this film, but it really doesn't go over well because a thriller about a man on the run from the mob and crooked cops on the take does not need to be funny. There are several scenes where Dempsey's character makes inappropriately funny remarks after significant deaths. After he watches a police car topple off of a parking garage, killing the two crooked cops in it, he says "Just one of those days!" Or when he's blamed for the shooting death of a cop, he says "My reputation [as a lawyer] is ruined! I'll have to teach!" What the hell? Plus, Kelly Preston should have a word with her hairdresser in this movie - those bangs are truly unfortunate.
Still, both were enjoyable.
Anyhoo, I'm going to have to back to writing, and reading, and whining about how Firefly has no more than 14 episodes.