Saturday, March 27, 2010

Of Books And Such

I get a kick out of Michelle Kerns: she's got a lot of "get over it & get on with it" sass that makes for refreshing reading about reading. To wit: Book Reviewing As A Bloodsport; The Top 20 Most Annoying Book Review Cliches (Hm. Guilty of the first four, at least); and Book Review Bingo. If any of that tickles you, there's more of same at the sidebar.

Also: Carole Baron (Knopf) makes the case for editors at publishers. Personally, as much fun as self-publishing is, it's the editor I miss the most -- for editing, as much as any of the other fine roles Baron and company provide.

And finally, Michael Blowhard recently pointed me to Writer 2.0, a collection of pros trying to dowse out a financially feasible future for writer-types. It's still early in the (extremely erratic) game, but I like what I see.


Joel said...

I'm guilty of a few of those cliches myself. It's very easy to slip into them if you don't watch yourself. I guess I'll have to be more careful. Interesting links though.

Whisky Prajer said...

I think if I had money coming in, I'd work harder to resist the cliche. Not that official book reviewers get much money: the last time I did that gig (mid-90s) the going rate was $45, and you kept the pre-pub. Not exactly a princely sum, but the glamor made up for it.

Yahmdallah said...

Y'know, while I enjoyed the cliche article, for once I didn't agree that "this is problem".

I view it as the same thing as sport announcing: there's only so way you can describe a good catch.

Is there a good alternative to "gripping" (in the book review context)?

Whisky Prajer said...

I'm certainly not going to reach for the thesaurus just because Kerns is tired of "gripping" "poignant" "compelling" and "nuanced." On the other hand, I'd rather my readers didn't score a "Bingo!" within the first paragraph.

paul bowman said...

A prof in one of my rhetoric & writing courses at UM, once upon a time, spent some class hours in defense of cliché. Fiction & its betterment for readers' sake wasn't her cause, but if I had time I'd like to dig out some of her stuff and look at an article like this one through that lense. (Doubtful I benefitted very much from the discussion then, as a student.)

yahmdallah said...

Would love to see that if you unearth it, Paul.

paul bowman said...

Right, Y., I shouldn't start myself on these mental jags, but here we are. I do still have a binder of material that served as text for her class. Turns out not to contain much of great interest here. A few pages on classes of 'ready-made phrase', simplified & qualified with cautions for undergrad audience. Seems to me the topic got stronger treatment in a lecture or two, but I'm stretching memory.

Her name, by the way, is Jeanne Fahnestock. Google turns up expressions of admiration from fellow academics for her scholarship. And there's this bit, recently blogged (post unlinkable):

I had an anxiety/guilt dream this morning, in which I was walking across the commons of a college I did not attend, and all my old professors kept appearing, suggesting that I'd wasted my life and talents and so forth, that I should've gone straight to grad school or written a book or SOMEthing. There was my Shakespeare teacher, my favorite writing instructor, my hero rhetoric professor, Dr. Jeanne Fahnestock (sigh), and I was like, I don't even know where my transcript is! Fuck. I failed at life.

Which does makes me laugh. But, you know — Ouch. Guess I deserved to find that.

yahmdallah said...

Paul, thanks for digging around for it.

My Shakespeare teacher memory is a sad story. I took the comedies from her, and loved her take and teaching so much, I signed up for the tragedies when they came around. Alas, between the first class and the second she had encountered and fell ass-first into gender feminism, so this brilliant, effervescent teacher turned into a bitter screeching shrew who spent over half the class snarling about the sexism in Shakespeare, apparently completely forgetting the context and the times of the same. It was such a horrible thing to watch.

And my grade suffered. I had gotten an A- in the first class, but got a B- in the second because I refused to lace my papers with criticism on Shakespeare's sexism, and had the temerity to suggest that it was inappropriate to judge him by current standards in one paper, which got a D.

Oh well.