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)

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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

 

 

Part Two: Books that Changed My Life

I told you this would take more than one post. Here is part two.

So continuing with my list of books that changed my life, again in no particular order or preference:

  1. The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett—I know The Secret Garden is on everyone else’s list, but mine was Princess. It was so wonderfully tragic and melodramatic. I read and re-read this book a hundred times when I was a kid. It sparked my Anglophilia despite my Hungarian background.
  1. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell—This book had so many fascinating facts and ideas that spoke to me as truths. The 10,000 hours idea, the way gifted children are tested, the way they play hockey in Canada and Czechoslovakia. I quickly went out an bought his others books, Tipping Point and Blink. Funny thing is that the book belongs to my daughter and when she moved out so did the book. Come to think of it, I need to go to the bookstore. Be right back.Mockingbird
  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee—I didn’t read this book until I was an adult, and the first time I “read” it I was listening to it as an audiobook when I had to drive to Denver by myself. I only picked it up because it was one of those classics I had missed in my education. OH MY GOD. I was kicking myself by the time I arrived home. I loved the book. I went out the next day and bought myself a copy and read it (I didn’t feel right writing “re-read it”). I have since taught the book and grown to love it even more, so much so that when my dog chewed up a brand new copy that I was teaching from, I kept it alongside my old falling-part copy.
  1. The Lost Duke of Wyndham by Julia Quinn—This book along with Bewitching (see previous post) is the reason I believe Romance can be sublime. Again, it was the first book in a long time that made me laugh out loud and cry. A wonderful experience all around. I hope someday to put my readers through something like that in the books I write.
  1. The Wizard of Oz and the Oz series by L. Frank Baum—The movie just doesn’t do it justice. It doesn’t. And the next books were better. I lived in Oz in elementary school. I remember reading Glenda of Oz on a camping trip with my best friend. We read by flashlight in our tent. It was an adventure to read an adventure. And it helped wake my love of fantasy.
  1. And Then There Were None and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie—I have always read mysteries starting with Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew (Hmmm, they should make the list somewhere), but Dame Agatha is simply the queen. I have read many mysteries since reading her entire collection, but none have ever come close to the brilliance of Poirot, the hidden depths of Miss Marple, the spunk of Tommy and Tuppence, the other-worldiness of Harley Quin, and the ones that star no one in particular. A translation of one of her books was the first complete novel I read in Hungarian, and I have several German translations too. They got me through my year abroad and helped teach me the language at the same time. The Secret Adversary was the first book I downloaded on my Kindle too. Nobody does it better (whoops, wrong franchise).
  1. Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling—Really? Do I need to say anything else? I’m working on reading it in my second language right now. I had as much fun with these as my twins who waited for their Hogwarts letters when they turned eleven.

Hmm, still not done with my list. How about some honorable mentions before one last big winner: Game of Thrones by George RR Martin (I should just write the Song of Fire and Ice series, but more people will recognize GoT); Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore; Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, the first book in a long time that had me completely engrossed; Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare—while technically a play, it meant so much to me as a teenager; I’m over it now, really, and my favorite Shakespeare is Taming of the Shrew, but R&J were the teenage thing; The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows; No, David by David Shannon, the first book that my youngest could really enjoy.

I suppose I should stop. There may be a part three in the future, or at leas a list of honorable mentions, but time to move on. But one last book first . . .MatterOfConvenienceLatestSmall

13 (And yes, I like the number thirteen). A Matter of Convenience by Gabriella Anderson—The first book I sold. It started me on this crazy, rollercoaster of a heartbreaking career that I don’t know why I still pursue. That’s a lie. It’s the stories. It’s always about the stories.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Harry Potter und der Gefangene von Aszkaban by J K Rowling