This Student Gives Me Hope

I don’t know who she is, only what she has done. And what she has done is this: become a banned book library. When her school decided upon a list of things the kids absolutely must not read, due to parental outrage and a belief kids can be kept from great literature and harsh truths, she tested their limits by bringing in a copy of The Catcher in the Rye. When it caught the eye of a fellow student, she lent it out. And then things snowballed, and she now runs a clandestine locker-library full of banned books, which kids who had no interest in good books until they were forbidden to read them are now thoroughly enjoying.

Firstly, we have a young woman who’s passionate about books. I already love her.

Secondly, we have a young woman who’s not prepared to be told what she can and cannot read. Love kicks up a notch.

Thirdly, we have a young woman who’s getting other young men and women reading intensely. Love shoots through the roof and becomes adoration.

I have news for parents and school authorities who believe they can shelter children from things they think are too awful for young minds: you’ll fail. You have failed. You’ve always failed. Unless this was a very clever reverse-psychology ploy to get kids interested in books, in which case you’ve succeeded brilliantly. Bravo. A cunning plan – quite evocative of the way the potato was introduced to Greece.

Too bad I doubt the administration was that smart.

We jaded adults may believe kids these days are incapable of deep thought and literacy and scholarship, and we are so very, very wrong if we believe that. Look at this student. Look at what she and her fellow students are doing. Look at how much books matter to them. Enough to take not-inconsequential risks for. And they are smart enough and confident enough to decide what they can and cannot read, all for themselves, to hell with the naysayers.

I love this to pieces. It tells me that, despite rumors to the contrary, we’re not raising a nation of apathetic know-nothings, although we’ve been trying very hard to do so. No, we’ve got a crop of brilliant, bold, and brave kids coming up, and the world will be better for them.

I just hope that once my books get published, they’re summarily banned. I’d like to have this kind of readership. I want kids like this at my signings. Unleashing that wise, unruly literary mob upon the unsuspecting citizens of this increasingly stifled country would make me twelve kinds of happy, and prouder than I’ll ever have words to express.

Rant on Readers

George at Decrepit Old Fool, who is one of the most wonderful human beings I know, was kind enough to review a book for an old friend of his. Even though that friend is a devout Christian. Even though the title of the book is The Pilate Plot. Even though the blurb said this:

David Urbane has a grudge against Jesus Christ but never thought he would have to opportunity to do more about it than teach his own slanted version of history at the college level. President Robert Cooper harbors the good, old-fashioned aspiration to rule the world but needs the legacy of Christ out of his way. Nathaniel Stone unintentionally provides the means that involves them all in a plot spanning space and time that may change the world forever. Ruthless ambition, total dedication, and the advantages of modern knowledge and technology are all stacked up against the very foundation of Christianity. Who will prevail?

George’s review is an education in honest self-restraint. Well, mostly self-restraint.

And I’m not going to rip the book. Haven’t read it, for one thing. Don’t intend to, for another. My adventures in Christian reading began and ended with Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness (which is one of the better examples of Christian supernatural thriller. Compare to the rest of the genre and form your own conclusions). Well, that’s not quite fair – I got to sample a page or two from many titles at the bookstore I worked at, and put it like this: I have no intention of ever reading self-proclaimed Christian fiction ever again. If a book is segregated in the Christian Literature section, it’s a near-certainty it ended up there because it would’ve been mauled by the better books in General Fiction.

But I digress.

This isn’t about Christian time-travel books, or the general horrors of religious fiction in general (where the message bludgeons the story to death with incense burners, pastoral staffs, and hardwood crosses ripped directly from the pulpit). No, this is about writers asking non-writer friends to read and critique for them.

I have just one piece of advice for such writers: you’d better be damned certain your friend likes the kind of books you wrote.


While George is an intelligent, intellectually-gifted, even-handed man who can set aside personal preference to try to give a book a fair go, most people aren’t. So what you’re getting is the opinion of someone who wouldn’t have read your book even if it was the only thing in the bathroom after an incident with a betting pool and a 20 lb bag of bran mixed with wasabi (hint: they lost the bet). I have just one question:

What the fuck makes you think such a reader can give you a useful opinion?

You need opinions from people who read the genre. They’re the only ones qualified to judge the quality.

People who haven’t read in your genre don’t know the conventions. They’re bored out of their minds by the things that fascinate fans. They frequently don’t know what the hell’s going on, and will be confused by writing that’s crystal-clear to veterans. They won’t like the story because they don’t like that kind of story. They won’t like the characters because they don’t like that kind of story. They won’t be moved by your plot or theme. You might have just written the most brilliant novel ever to hit your genre, and the best opinion you’re likely to get from a non-fan is, “It was okay. I liked your pun on page 147. Um…”

That kind of thing can take the wind out of your sails in a hurry, and cause you to rip a perfectly good book apart looking for flaws that aren’t there.

Conversely, they won’t catch the flaws that are there. I’ve seen plenty of stories that tested well to a non-genre audience, but got shot down by editors because the subject matter has been delved down to the last quark by other writers. There you are, pumped because your genre-naive friend actually loved your story, which caused you to believe it was fresh, original, and the greatest thing ever written in the whole history of that genre, and it turns out the only reason your friend liked it was because he hadn’t seen the exact same plot 4,862,987 times before. And you’ve just missed an opportunity to give an old plot a new twist, one which could’ve been suggested by a veteran.

If you’re going to foist your magnum opus upon unsuspecting friends, and you’re new to this, make damned sure you’re placing it in hands that might well have picked it up on their own at their local book store. Even if you’re an old hand, it’s best to draw the majority of your test readers from the fan base. Outside opinions are nice, but not when you don’t know how to sort the valid criticism from the biased, and definitely not when the biased is all you’ve got.

And remember to keep the salt handy when foisting your baby upon experienced writers who don’t read in your genre. Even they are peering at your beauty through spectacles of the wrong hue, although they’re trying hard to only look over the rims. They’ll do you right in critiquing the nuts-and-bolts. The more genre-specific stuff, not so much.

Finally, keep one thing in mind when reeling from an overly-harsh critique from a non-fan: There are people in this world who do not worship Neil Gaiman. Shocking, I know. Now imagine Neil taking all of his advice on the quality of his books from people who can’t even appreciate a master of the genre.


Give your stories a fighting chance. Get them in the hands of people who can assess them accurately.

Look, You Snide Son of a Bitch…

…I’m sorry if the only comics your mommy let you read were Richie Rich and Archie, but before you go hating on comic book fans, you might want to get to know a few. You know, like your fucking president.

What a dumbfuck:

The New Yorker‘s Anthony Lane, in his review of “Watchmen,” casually dismisses comic-book fans as “leering nineteen-year-olds” who fear “meeting a woman who requests intelligent conversation.” Adam Serwer offers a welcome response.


I’m not going to argue with Lane over the quality of a film I haven’t seen, but I really find it hard to understand why comic book fans are the subject of such persistent abuse. You’d think we clubbed baby seals for a living or perhaps sold sub-prime mortgages. The unbridled contempt for people who like comic books reaches something close to the feelings people have for parking cops and tax collectors.

Comic book nerds can count Barack Obama, Rachel Maddow and Patrick Leahy among us…. Whatever Lane’s opinions of Watchmen’s source material, comic books are the closest thing Americans have to folktales, and their content is about as close as a reflection of American cultural identity, for good or for ill, as we have. You’d think that for that reason alone, the material and its consumers would be worth at least a minimum of respect.


As it happens, right around the time Adam was posting his defense of comic-book readers everywhere, Matt Yglesias (comic-book reader) referenced a remark by Ana Marie Cox (another comic-book reader) about Watchmen and contemporary politics, which Matt then expanded on to make a point about Cold War policy towards Russia.

It’s almost as if comic books have something compelling to offer to those who aren’t socially-awkward teenagers.

Which you would’ve known if you’d ever bothered to read one, you lackwit.

Observe what Watchmen has to teach us. In a post entitled “What Obama Could Learn from Watchmen,” Yglesias relays the following:

Ana Marie Cox does a webchat for The Washington Post:

Singapore: Obama likes comics; can he learn anything from Watchmen?

Ana Marie Cox: We can all learn something from the Watchmen. Personally, I hope he repeals the law against costumed vigilantes soon.

More seriously (tho not totally so), I think Cheney and Bush modeled their presidency on Ozymandias.

Watchmen was written during the Thatcher and Reagan years, when it seemed the whole world was going batshit insane (subsequent myths notwithstanding). Nonfiction books on politics don’t achieve the level of discourse this comic does. It’s one of those things that shows us how our world really works by holding a mirror up to it and watching while we recoil in horror, and then edge closer in fascination. We’re in 1984 territory here. And yes, if you’ve never read it and you’re wondering, Ozymandias is an excellent analogue for Bush. Both of them did horrific things with a relentless sense that they were right and good. Both of them seemed incapable of introspection. And both of them suckered people in by appearing heroic at the outset – although in Bush’s case, it took a nation too shell-shocked by 9/11 to think so.

Social commentary? Relevance? Meta-themes? Oh, it’s got it, in spades.

So look, you pissant little wretch of a reviewer, before you uncap your pen again and make an absolute ass of yourself by hating on those who have better reading comprehension skills than you, try actually reading some comics. Hang out in the comic store on New Comic Wednesday. Chat up the people who’re coming in for their fix… shit, no, on second thought, don’t. It’s always sad when someone who thinks they’re all that and a box of pet rocks gets taken off at the knees by those with superior intellect. Wise yourself up first. Read Watchmen, read these, and then maybe you’ll understand that the Comics Code Authority stopped castrating comics a long fucking time ago.

But I’m not holding out much hope for you. Someone who apparently didn’t both to watch Watchmen before reviewing it is probably far beyond rescue.

J.K. Rowling Saves the World

I think J.K. Rowling must be a literary superhero. Check out these moves.

THE HARRY POTTER EFFECT….Via Dan Drezner, the NEA has released its latest survey of reading habits, and the news is good. Fiction reading among young adults is way up, and overall reading is up too. More than 50% of adults read a piece of literature last year. Huzzah!

Check out the angle on that slope! She almost got us back up to the reading level we enjoyed before cable, video games, and the intertoobz all became awesome wicked cool.

But that’s not all she’s done. She’s badass at fighting terrorism, too:

In fact, the interrogator who successfully brought down Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — and who has written and spoken publicly about how torture doesn’t work — told Laura Ingraham last month he broke one insurgent after he gave him a copy of Harry Potter.

That’s right, bitches. She’s all that.

Alas, Further Reading Only Reinforces My Initial Cynicism

Despite severe misgivings, I took a few hours away from the political and religious fuckery and returned to The Dreaded Year’s Best Collection. This time, I attempted random sampling.

The situation has not improved.

Now, you may recall from my missive on SF over at The Coffee-Stained Writer that SF is a broad, generous genre that allows for just about anything as long as there’s a speculative element hiding in there somewhere. However, that’s an overarching category, and when you break it down into sub-genres, certain things are expected of a story. Fantasy should have fantasy, science fiction science, and so forth. There are conventions. There are expectations. There are, very nearly, rules – and if you break the rules, you’d better be brilliant.

That said, I must herewith state my firm belief that the editors of the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 2006 were on the hard drugs when they made their selections.

I read four stories. Two of them, I think, were supposed to be horror. I’ve not revisited the current conventions of the horror genre, but I don’t think it’s been redefined quite this drastically, i.e., that no horror is required aside from people being assholes.

Look, when I read horror, I expect to feel horror. And fear, and sweat, and a creeping feeling of doom. Panic, sometimes, as well. Not, “yep, people sure can be bastards.” Not, “Was that supposed to be creepy?” And definitely not, “What the fuck is that doing in this collection? It’s just regular fiction!”

The only fear I felt was in turning the page to discover that, yet again, the editors had chosen a story that had nothing to do with either fantasy or horror, and probably couldn’t even sneak its way in past a sharp SF editor’s eye.

The other two fared rather better, and so I shall embarrass them with names. “Going the Jerusalem Mile” managed to announce itself as dark fantasy in the first few paragraphs, which is a hell of a lot more than the other two did in their entirety. The middle turned into something you could find in any literary magazine, the kind that loves navel-gazing tales of domestic angst, but it didn’t bog too badly. The end – eh. Lacked a certain je ne sais quois, but at least managed to remain a decent, dark fantasy verging on horror.

“A Case Study of Emergency Room Procedure and Risk Management by Hospital Staff Members in the Urban Facility” isn’t quite as long as its title. It’s one of the most fucked-up things I’ve ever read, and I mean that in the best possible way. It’s more pure SF than urban fantasy – you’re never quite sure if it ’twas drugs or really real fairytale – but it deserved some love. The snark, the clever turns-of-phrase, the sheer bizarreness of it made me feel like my brain had been chucked in the clothes dryer and set to tumble. I didn’t spend a single instant of that story wondering how the fuck it had ended up in the collection, except to wonder how the fuck it ended up in the collection when it was actually good.

So, out of six, we have one (1, uno) story that actually belongs, one nearly-there, and four you’ve-got-to-be-fucking-kidding-me’s. A quick skim through the remainder informs me that the rest of the collection is not likely to improve upon that ratio.

Please forgive me if, in the near future, my self-control breaks down, and I end up subjecting many of the current practitioners of my beloved genre to the Smack-o-Matic. Oh, yes. What you’ve seen thus far is merely love-taps. If The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 2007 ends up being this stupifyingly insipid, I’m going to get upset. And then I’m going to get sarcastic. And then I’m going to – well, anticipation’s half the fun, and I’ll let you enjoy it.

I’m sure you’ll enjoy the anticipation far more than I’ve enjoyed this bloody collection thus far.

The Current Impossibility of Satire

I adore skilled satirists. Voltaire and Mark Twain enjoy a special place in my personal pantheon of literary and philosophical heroes for their immense talent in the art. Every time I read them, I wish I could be even a fraction as good. Sarcasm I can do. Mockery comes easy. Snark seems an inborn trait. But satire? That’s hard work, and takes far more brains than I possess. I’d have to work at it.

Sadly, had I pursued that goal and honed my satirical skills, the effort would have been wasted. This was brought home to me a few nights ago, as I was reading the chapter on Voltaire in The Western Intellectual Tradition:

Further, satire is intimately connected with urbanity and cosmopolitanism, and assumes a civilized opponent who is sufficiently sensitive to feel the barbs of wit leveled against him. To hold something up to ridicule presupposes a certain respect for reason, on both sides, to which one can appeal. An Age of Reason, in which everyone accepts the notion that conduct must be reasonable, is therefore a general prerequisite for satire.



Well, I should have known, shouldn’t I? In an age where Poe’s Law reigns, satire is dead. How can you satirize your opponents when their outrageous stupidity taxes even the most active imagination? I’ve seen it happen often enough – the neo-theo-cons fall hook, line and sinker for a perfect parody. Satirize them, and they think they’ve been complimented. I could come up with a scathing diatribe worthy of Voltaire, which everyone but the clinically dead should recognize as completely ridiculing their world view, and they’d believe I’ve come over to their side. And I can’t even write satire for folks like you lot – how many times have you had to thoroughly research a piece, including tracing the history of its creator throughout their career, just to be absolutely sure it’s not some utter fuckwit spouting some extraordinary new bullshit that they really truly believe?

You can’t satirize a group of pig-ignorant, batshit insane, self-righteous fucktards who constantly satirize themselves. Voltaire himself would be defeated by these people.

Sarcasm, mockery, and snark it is, then.

The Best of the Best, Eh? Riiight.

I’ve been reading mostly novels and non-fiction lately. One o’ these days, I’ll even get around to some reviews. But right now, I just want to bitch.

The other night, after finishing Crooked Little Vein and getting my mind thoroughly fucked, I surveyed my shelf of unread books and decided that I’d better start in on the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror collections that have been gathering dust. I haven’t read short-form fiction in many moons. Gotta catch up on the state-of-the-art, figure out how the short story is done these days, seeing as how my current fiction projects are short stories.

My darlings, if these collections are any indication, I should either stop worrying about how my stories measure up, or I should just shoot myself.

I’m two stories in. I’m wondering simultaneously a) how this shit got published and b) if it’s the best, how much worse could the mediocre be?

The stories were okay. They had a few unique turns-of-phrase, some good imagery, and a spirited attempt at beginnings, middles, and ends (sometimes even within the same story). But for fuck’s sake, could we just please maybe be a little less fucking predictable?

Story One: a house mysteriously appears overnight. Could it be – gasp – magic? Oh, wow, imagine that – witches.

Story Two: an evil dutchess controls her daughter-in-law with mushrooms. Gee, I wonder if the daughter-in-law is going to figure out and turn the tables. Quelle surprise.

Throw me a bone here, people. Either make the prose or the characters so compelling that I don’t give a rat’s arse that I can tell exactly where this is going, or shock me. Knock the conventions of the genre completely askew.

I know I haven’t lost my patience for fantasy due to my immersion in science and reason. I know this because I’ve read several books lately that left me gasping for air. The mythology is so rich, the characters so compelling, and the elements of the plot so twisty that it doesn’t matter it’s total woo. The fantastic works in these books because the author is masterful at making it work. It seems utterly real, and it reveals the humanity of the characters in a way that reality-based fiction never could.

Not so Story One, in which the appearance of a house overnight leads the suburban neighbors to shrug and pretend it’s not happening, because hey, these things just don’t. The author was trying to make a point that we ignore things that are too out of the ordinary for us to cope with. Not when they suddenly appear in plain sight right in front of our fucking faces, we don’t. I couldn’t suspend my disbelief – I was too busy disbelieving that anything would happen the way the author said it would. And then, to throw in a character who’s working on artificial intelligence and then explain away the sudden appearance of the house by saying it’s witchcraft – that was just so fucking lame. Leave the AI out of it if you’re going to reach for something so pedestrian as witchcraft, people, please.

I’m so fucking afraid to peruse the rest of the stories in that book. I’m terrified I’m going to end up stabbing my eyes out with one of my beloved Uni-Ball Signos, and the only question is whether I would do this before or after lobotomizing myself with a mechanical pencil.

I should be happy. The bar seems awfully low: I could probably hop it with my toes tied together. But I don’t want it to be that way. I want to struggle to measure up. I want the water-mark to be so high I don’t have much hope of reaching it. That way, if I fail, I can be proud of failure – look who I was up against! The literary equivalent of Newton, Einstein and Hawking – even coming within shouting distance of them is a triumph! Whereas right now, failure would give me a sensation akin to that you experience after having been beaten out for a promotion by a stinking, festering, half-brained, syphillitic schizo with a family history of inbreeding that stretches back to the Roman empire.

All right, so the stories aren’t quite that bad, but still. I demand more, damn it.

Guess I’d best get to delivering it, then.

Vintatge Buffalo Bill’s

I was hanging about on The Coffee-Stained Writer this evening, soaking up another wonderful treatise on the writing of poetry. She used an e e cummings poem as an example, which immediately reminded me of my all-time favorite poem of his – Buffalo Bill’s. That prompted me to do a search, which led to this:

How do you know when you’re a literature geek? When you come across a .jpeg image of the original published piece from the Dial, ca. 1920, in Wikipedia, and go “Squee! OMG, I don’t believe it!!11!!1!”

That’s how.

Ogods. Here comes a treatise on my favorite poets. And I have too much to do… so much stupid to smack down… argh. Must. Wait. Until. Later.

In the meantime, treat yourselves to some Robert Burns, W.H. Auden, Emily Dickinson, and Abu Nuwas. We’ll discuss this later, after the burning stupid.

Book Mania Redux

I’ll return to spanking the deserving in just a bit. Right now, I’m wearing my new “I’m Kissin’ the Muse” t-shirt, I’m listening to Turbo Ocho, and I’m just wanting to think about books and writing and everything.

Oh, and a word about Turbo Ocho: it’s not April 29th and I already own it! Ah ha ha! I’m listening to it right now! Woo-hoo! And it’s gorgeous, and if you’re not a Peacemakers fan, you really need to become one. Like, now. Amazon will let you pre-order.

Look. If a black metal chick can listen to southwestern rock, so can you.

I’m listening to my favorite band ever, so I might as well talk about my favorite author ever: Neil Gaiman, my darlings, hands-down. It’s a tough choice – he’s competing with Terry Pratchett, Connie Willis, Guy Gavriel Kay, Lynn Flewelling, Patrica A. McKillip, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Friedman, Susanna Clarke, Robert Holdstock, R.A. Salvatore, Warren Ellis, and my dear, departed Robert Jordan, among many others. But Gaiman wins.

He wrote Sandman.

If you’ve never read Sandman, you have two orders on Amazon to make. Get to it. Preludes and Nocturnes will start you off nicely.

And don’t give me any of that, “But Dana, it’s a comic book” shit, either. I tried that whine. Because I was a pretentious bitch who wouldn’t lower her nose far enough to see the pages of a comic, I missed out on many years of Sandman in my life. If it wasn’t for my friend Justin, who browbeat, cajoled, pleaded, and finally just shoved the thing in my hands and forced me to read a few pages, I’d still be Sandman-deprived, and that’s a horrible fate.

Sandman changed my life.

It took away my fear of death. You can’t fear death when Death is a cute, perky Gothic chick with a mile-wide smile.

It taught me the power of dreams.

It showed me the power of myth.

It made me aware of a lot of different kinds of people I’d never really noticed before, such as lesbians trying to have babies, and the plight of the transsexual when it comes to rituals that are for women only.

It gave me the greatest comeback ever to Descartes’s ridiculous “Cogito, ergo sum.” Yes, even better than the Descartes-walks-into-a-bar joke. And no, I won’t tell you what it is. Go read the series.

The language is phenominal. The art is astonishing. The scope of the stories is incredible. It won a fucking World Fantasy Award, all right? No comic book has ever won the World Fantasy Award, but Sandman’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream issue did. And it will be the last ever, because the fuckers went and changed the rules afterward. Even the fantasy world can’t escape pretentious bullshit, but for one sweet moment, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman shattered their pretentions and forced the snooty world to see that comic books could be every bit as “serious and important” as regular old prose.

It’s that incredible.

On the wall behind my bed, I have two prints of Dream from Sandman: The Dream Hunters, illustrated by Yoshitaka Amano. One of them is signed by Gaiman. And one night, on the way to the bathroom after a bout of writer’s block, I stopped in front of that print and said jokingly, “Allow me to serve you in whatever capacity you wish, my lord.” I even gave a little bow. And that night, I learned you do not joke with the Dream King, because I hadn’t even finished peeing when a story idea slammed straight into my brain, and I hadn’t finished washing my hands before the thing was whole and complete in my mind. I wrote it in three hours. It’s one of the best stories I’ve ever written.

And no, it wasn’t fan fiction. Do shut up.

So that’s where my love affair with Neil Gaiman began. And it has never stopped. His short stories are wonderful. There’s one, Nicholas Was… that is only 102 words long, that remains my favorite Christmas story ever.

He wrote my favorite poem, “Locks.” I read it to my mother one night. It was the only way I could pay her back for all of the bedtime stories that led me to become a writer, and it was lovely.

He wrote my favorite essay, “Being An Experiment Upon Strictly Scientific Lines.” Funniest treatise on drinking and writing I’ve ever read. And I’ve got a DVD of him reading it in that – oh, to die for! – British accent. I nearly pee myself laughing every time I watch it. “Elephant spunk again?” ROTFLMAO!

I know, I know. If you haven’t read it, that’s not funny. So go read it.

I’ve read American Gods. Hallucinated it, too. I got so involved in the book that I forgot to eat for nearly thirty hours, and by the time the battle of the gods rolled around, my blood sugar had dropped so low that I experienced the battle in vivid sensory detail. Very strange and very fun.

I’m not about to try reading it drunk.

Neil Gaiman has not only been my favorite author, he’s been one of my compasses. I went to see him in Chicago in 2001, and I’ll never forget one of the things he said about writing: “Being contentious is what you should be doing. You should be shaking people up.” I try to remember that when the urge to tame down an element in a story in order not to offend anyone tries to overtake me. Writing safe, comfortable fiction is fine for them as likes it, but it doesn’t have impact, it doesn’t have passion, and it’s sure as shit not what I’m wanting to do as an author. Neil Gaiman gave me the two sentences I needed to free myself from fear. If I become a pioneer, it’s down to him. If I get burned at the stake, well, oops.

And he’s one of the nicest people in the universe. I’m not that nice. I wish I was. I hope I can treat my readers with half of the respect and caring that he treats his with, because if I can, I’ll have my fans feeling as warm and special and loved as they deserve.

When I met him, I said, “Neil, I just wanted to say thank you. You’ve never disappointed me.” I was having a rabid fangirl crisis, and it was the best I’d managed to come up with, slightly more original than the omigod you’re so awesome can i have your babies!!!11!1! schtick. But it was still silly.

Yet he leaned back in his chair and looked at me as if amazed by my profundity, and he said, “That’s the sweetest thing of you to say.” And damn it, he meant it. It was as if no one had ever told him how incredible he was before.

When you’ve won as many awards, achieved the fame and status he has, and can still treat every fan as if they’re the most special thing in the universe to you, well, you know you’ve got humility. He’s not into abasing himself, mind, he knows he’s good, it’s just that it’s never gone to his head. He still seems bemused by the fact people like his scribbles so much.

He’s an amazing writer, and an even more amazing human being. That’s why I love him so.

Now go read Sandman. And when you’re totally hooked on comics, as you will be, come back to me for some more. I’ve got a list will blow your mind.

Book Meme Mania

Book memes! I got these from John Lynch at Stranger Fruit, by way of PZ. And I’m gonna do them both. Just because I’m the kind of person who lurves literature. Actually, no. I love really good books and I hate pretentious fuckers who claim to love books but love prestige more.

Allow me to clarify: If you loved a classic because the story grabbed you, fantastic, you’re a person who lurves literature. If you’ve read every book on the classics list because that gives you snob value, you’re a pretentious fucker and you can bugger off.

So. Ones I’ve read in bold, ones I own but haven’t finished reading in italic, ones I’ve wanted to put through a chipper-shredder struck out.

These are the top 106 books most often marked as “unread” by LibraryThing’s users.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment

One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
A Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury tales
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New world
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
Angels & Demons
The Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers

Hmm. 30. I must be an unlettered bumpkin, eh? Don’t tell that to the hundreds and hundreds of books now threatening to combine my apartment with the one immeditately below.

Let’s see how we do with cult books, then.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (1969)
The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell (1957-60)
A Rebours by JK Huysmans (1884)
Baby and Child Care by Dr Benjamin Spock (1946)
The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf (1991)
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (1963)
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)
The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger (1951
The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield (1993)
The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart (1971)
Chariots of the Gods: Was God An Astronaut? by Erich Von Däniken (1968 )
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (1980)
Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1782)
The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg (1824)
Dianetics: the Modern Science of Mental Health by L Ron Hubbard (1950
The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley (1954)
Dune by Frank Herbert (1965)
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (1979)
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe (1968 )
Fear of Flying by Erica Jong (1973)
The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer (1970)
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand (1943)
Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R Hofstadter (1979
Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon (1973)
The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln (1982)
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (1948 )
If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino (1979)
Iron John: a Book About Men by Robert Bly (1990)
Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach and Russell Munson (1970)
The Magus by John Fowles (1966)
Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges (1962)
The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa (1958 )
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (1967)
No Logo by Naomi Klein (2000)
On The Road by Jack Kerouac (1957)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson (1971)
The Outsider by Colin Wilson (1956)
The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran (1923)
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell (1914)
The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám tr by Edward FitzGerald (1859)
The Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron (1937)
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (1922)
The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1774)
Story of O by Pauline Réage (1954)
The Stranger by Albert Camus (1942)
The Teachings of Don Juan: a Yaqui Way of Knowledge by Carlos Castaneda (1968 )
Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain (1933)
Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1883-85)
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: an Inquiry into Values by Robert M Pirsig(1974)

Not much of a cultist, either, apparently. And what the fuck is To Kill a Mockingbird doing up there in the cult books? That wasn’t cult, that was social fucking justice, that was. It was the only assigned book all throughout high school that didn’t make me want to vomit. Well, I take that back. I loved A Tale of Two Cities, actually. Yes, I’m one of those awful people who doesn’t think Dickens is too verbose. But the rest of them – I mean, for fuck’s sake, couldn’t we have read something in freshman lit that blew fewer goats than The Oxbow Incident? Like, oh, say, Moby Dick? And if you knew, if you even suspected, how much I passionately loathe Moby Dick, you’ll know just how bad The Oxbow Incident is.

Other than the part where some dude gets shot and there’s a gory description of one of his buddies heating up a gun barrel and cauterizing the wound. That was entertaining.

A quick note: The Annotated Dracula was awesome. I got my recipe for paprika hendel from it.

One last book note here: you’ll remember me mentioning Mr. Vail last night. He’s the reason I read Siddhartha. We used to have a lot of chats after school when he was supervising study hall, and one day, he looked at me and said, “You should read Steppenwolf. You’re just like the main character.” And I suppose he was right. I was ill-suited for the town I was in. But that didn’t matter half so much as the fact that Herman Hesse is an incredible author and I enjoyed the whole book immensely, even while being baffled by it. That’s why I snapped up Siddhartha, and loved it even more.

See? I read a few things outside of SF and non-fiction. I even like some of it.