To Kill a Mockingbird (No, not the book…

…well, yes, the book, but this is my opinion on the “sequel”) In which I give you my take on Go Set A Watchman.

You may read whatever you like. Let me just put that out there. If you are waiting to read Go Set A Watchman, go right ahead. I will not be joining you. First, from everything I’ve read, it’s not clear that Harper Lee actually wants this book published. She’s in a nursing home. Her older sister/lawyer/caretaker/protector died, and SUDDENLY (bad writing form) they’ve found the long lost novel. I don’t trust that version of the story. Second, from what I’ve read, this “second book” is actually the first rejected version or rough draft where you are still figuring out who your characters are, where the story is going and what your theme is. I don’t want to read my own first drafts. They’re that bad. Third, To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my all time favorites. I don’t want to ruin it.

It might be too late.

Whether I read GSAW or not, I know it’s out there and spoils the image of Atticus. I can’t pretend it doesn’t exist when it does. I know, not through first hand knowledge but from critiques and reviews that hero Atticus is no longer a hero. I can’t get that fact out of my head.It’s sort of like the reason I didn’t like the first three (as in episodes, I, II and III) of Star Wars. I already knew that Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader.* Totally spoiled the whole premise for me. It made me not respect Obi Wan as much, and I couldn’t root for Anakin because I knew he was evil (yes, yes, he gets redeemed at the end**, but it took the joy of discovery out of the whole story. I’m not even talking about the whole “too much backstory” aspect. If the book was put out there as an academic study of the evolution of TKAM (which I’m told many people are taking it as), I might have accepted it better, but it’s being marketed as a sequel, so that’s  that.

 

Mockingbird
My dog chewed up this copy of TKAM.

I understand where the publishers are coming from. They’re all about the bottom line. GSAW will earn them a boatload of money. I’ve faced that unforgiving bottom line in my own career (maybe “butted heads against” is a better term than “faced”) and while I don’t agree with the decisions that follow looking only at the unforgiving bottom line, I do understand it. Maybe corporations should put a line in their charters about serving the public good instead of profits, but I get it.

So I’m not reading it. And I’m not sure I can go back to TKAM without prejudice either. I taught that book and it was so lovely. Now it has a bad stench associated with. At least for me. But then again, this is my blog and my opinion. I hope the rest of you aren’t as neurotic as I.

–Gabi

*First, if this was a spoiler, too bad. It’s been common knowledge for decades. Catch up. And second, I misspelled Anakin and didn’t capitalize Darth on the first attempt at typing. They were flagged as incorrect words by spell check. Once I corrected them, they weren’t flagged at all. What does that say about the integration of Star Wars into out culture? Pretty cool, I’d say.

**Really? Watch the damn movies.

Books I’m reading now:

The Lost Key by Catherine Coulter And JT Ellison

Romance Gets a Bad Rep

… In which I ponder why Romance has a bad rep and rant just a little.

In today’s paper I read a book review for a book I will never read. It’s by a male, and I imagine the book is doing/will do fairly well since it’s being reviewed in major papers. It’s described as a “sweeping, romantic novel.” In the brief description of the book describes the main characters, “once married and now divorced, who encounter one another after decades of mutual avoidance. The fight that ensues–and the subsequent fall to their deaths from a rocky ledge–occurs in the novel’s opening pages.” (ABQ Journal, Sunday, June 7, 2015, Book page)

IMG_0614
There’s a storm brewing…

How is that at all romantic? Apparently the story then proceeds in flashback to how this couple became a couple and what happened. The author of the article even calls it an “ill-fated romance.” Yeah, I’d say.

Look, if you like to read stuff like this, more power to you. You’re allowed to read anything you please. And the author is allowed to write anything he pleases. But seriously, don’t call this a romance or romantic. That would be like calling Psycho a romance because Norman has feelings for Marion. I could name the book in question a family saga or relationship drama, but not romance.

I admit I like my endings happy, or at least satisfying (I love a worthwhile tearjerker and am not above killing a few characters myself. I’ve sobbed more than once while writing some of my books.). Give me the endings I can cheer for–in movies: The Avengers, Notting Hill, Shawshank Redemption, Jurassic Park (which I just watched again on Friday–great film, great characters), The Princess Bride; in books: Harry Potter, To Kill A Mockingbird, Bewitching, Ready Player One. Call my tastes plebeian; I don’t care. I’ve read my share of literature and seen most of the highbrow films too. I don’t enjoy them. There is enough horrific stuff in the real world that I don’t have to have it in my entertainment. So help me, if Game of Thrones doesn’t give me that satisfying ending at the conclusion of the series (the books first, and then the TV show), I will be more than angry. Right now I don’t care how many characters have been killed because I trust the author will give me that ending that makes all the suffering worthwhile (Hear that, George?)

It’s called reader expectation. I know what I expect from my fiction. That’s why I avoid books like the one I opened this blog with, or what used to be called Oprah books, or those about which everyone mentions a surprise ending (Those books/movies are the ones I always go to spoiler website to “cheat” because I won’t waste my time on an ending that will piss me off. [Are you listening, George?] And no, it doesn’t spoil the experience for me. I always read the end of a book before I finish it anyway. And there’s a study that says spoilers actually enhance the experience.)

Enough. I know I’ve written about this before, but that book review just set me off. Again. Back to my deep breathing exercises.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

The Talon of the Hawk by Jeffe Kennedy

 

 

Spoilers!

I’m just going to put it out there. I love spoilers. I like to know what’s going to happen before it happens. I can enjoy a book or movie if I already know the ending. It doesn’t bother me in the least. Sometimes the spoiler is the deciding factor if I’m going to watch a movie or read a book at all. If it doesn’t have that satisfying ending, forget it. I will especially forgo any book/film that has a “clever twist” ending (in quotes for a reason because I like twists). Those irritate the crap out of me, i.e. girl’s dad is dying, she promises to take care of him, she meets someone, dad gets mad and sicker, but it’s the boyfriend who dies tragically and suddenly, dad realizes how selfish he’s been, she needs to live her life, etc.- blech. (Hey, I’m allowed an opinion too. If you like those stories, fine. I applaud you for sticking up for yourself, but I don’t have to like them.). By the way, satisfying doesn’t mean happily ever after. Second Hand Lions starts with the death of the two uncles, but I love it. And Dandelion Wine (Ray Bradbury) has a higher body count than a lot of novels, but it’s wonderful and life affirming.

 

A study at UCSD showed that knowing the spoiler/ending increases enjoyment of the work (the link is to an article about the study, not the study itself). I agree. Look, we all know romance novels make up the biggest segment of the fiction market. Every romance ends with the couple forming a relationship. Every single one (If it doesn’t, then it isn’t a romance). Guess what? That’s not what the readers read for. Romance readers love what they read. Could part of the reason be they know the ending? Yes, I read my books backwards. I always (ALWAYS) read the last few pages at the beginning.

 

I think this enjoyment explains re-reading as well. I often told my students they need to read assignments twice- the first time just for the plot, the second for understanding. If you follow my blog you know I am currently re-reading George RR Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series. It’s better the second time through. I know what happens; now I can concentrate on details and characterization. It’s so much richer this time. And I probably don’t have to tell you how many times I’ve read Harry Potter. In fact the saga of the German copy of Chamber of Secrets will be an upcoming blog. But each time there’s something new to enjoy and grasp. Italo Calvino said, “a classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.” That sentence presumes reading things more than once. There are many books I won’t ever re-read or couldn’t get through the first time (and that’s okay too; I’ve blogged here on taste before). But the ones, books and movies, that I revisit several times are my classics. I find new meanings, nuances, and truths I didn’t on the previous viewings.

 

And it’s easier to get to deeper understanding if you know the ending.

 

Don’t worry. I try not to spoil endings for others. People can be touchy about the subject. But if I ask you for a spoiler, I really want it. I want to see the journey more than the end. Maybe you should try it a couple of times and see if you notice any difference in your reading.

 

So how do you feel about spoilers?

 

–Gabi

 

Books I’m reading now:

A Dance with Dragons by George RR Martin

The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare