Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The First Resolution book & a big old RANT

Well, my first real Resolution book was a mistake. Not because it wasn't a good book-although we'll get to it in a minute--but because I didn't notice until I was paying for it that it was a Richard & Judy Book Club choice for last year. Which sucks.

Richard & Judy are TV presenters over here. Essentially, I bought a Today Bookclub choice, or an Oprah book. Which as you know, was NOT what I wanted. It sold big, it wasn't a first book...oh, what a mess.

Here's what really pisses me off about this R&J Book Club thing. I read an article, which I bookmarked and of course the bookmark didn't work and I can't find it again so you'll just have to take my word for it, where R&J talked about how pleased they were to have some "challenging" books on the list.

Fuck challenging. You're doing a book club and aiming it at couch potatoes who don't read. People who like to read don't need you to tell them what to read--they go to bookstores and lookthemselves. So you're trying to encourage people to read. To ENJOY reading. The way to do that isn't to pick "challenging" books about issues or ideas. It's to give them some good stories. Why not pick some genre fiction for your bookclubs, for once? Did Oprah ever do that? Did the Today show? Does anyone here know of a single romance, horror (not Stephen King), or fantasy novel EVER picked for a TV book club? Because I don't.

All these clubs are doing is enforcing the idea that reading is hard. That you need someone to help you understand a book and encouragement to actually finish a book. That you can't just pick a book because it sounds good, because the process is too confusing, so you need someone to tell you what's good. There's no pleasure in that. It doesn't encourage people to read--the book club choices are usually put in displays near the front of the store. The zombified R & J or Oprah viewer walks into the bookstore (or the shelves at their local grocery store) and grabs the book their Host said they should read. Nothing encourages them to browse the shelves, to wander around. They go from display to checkout without even having to see those other books.

It makes me sick. If you want to encourage people to read, encourage them to read. Try something new, dammit.

Anyway, on to the book, quickly because I'm on my way out the door. I bought The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice. It's out in paperback here but not yet in the states, though I've linked to Amazon US.

It's not a bad book. I enjoyed it, I did. The story is a little...shall we say...facile. It's a cliche romance plot, to be honest: guy wants girl back, so he bribes another girl to pretend to date him to make first girl jealous. He and second girl fall in love, of course.

But tht doesn't make it bad. The setting, England just after WWII, made it interesting. The heroine, Penelope, has an obsession with pre-Elvis heartthrob Johnnie Ray that she shares with her friend Charlotte, a delightful character. All of the characters are at least interesting, and the story moves along quickly. (Hey, I never said I was good at writing reviews.)

But here's what pissed me off. Did anyone even edit this book? The whole thing is littered with continuity goofs. And not just little ones. I mean things like the age of Penelope's mother changing from 35 to 37 to 35 everal times. Penelope herself is nineteen, then seventeen, then almost twenty-one, then eighteen.

At the end of one chapter she tells us it was the next morning at breakfast, when Hero came down with a sleepy smile on his face, that she realized she might actually like him. The next chapter opens with her attempting to sneak out of the house before breakfast, gettig caught by the hero, and running off into the dawn (it wasn't so dramatic as that) without eating anything. Uh...I thought they had breakfast? You said they did, three pages ago.

Another scene has Girl #1 showing up at Penelope's house after a long walk. Penelope tells us the girl's skirt is crumpled. The next page, in the same scene, the girl is wearing trousers.

Did nobody notice any of this stuff? Come ON, people! How could you not notice that? If a character's eye color of the color of their shirt changes once, it doesn't bother me. Accidents happen, though they shouldn't. But when your people's ages and circumstances change every other page, you've got a problem. wasn't bad. I really loved the period setting. But there are better books out there.


Anonymous said...

I hate goofs in books - I can forget the plot, but I'll never forget the bloopers. LOL!
I am reading a book I got for Christmas and it's really TERRIBLE. It's Micheal Chrichton's "NEXT" and believe me - the book sucks. But my son gave it to me, and I'm such a sentimental idiot that instead of tossing the book in the trash, I'm actually trying to finish it. Because my baby gave it to me.
Gawd, I hate Chrichton's books. He sold his soul to Hollywood and writes crap.
Off to finish the book so I can honestly tell my son I read it. (if I can stop gagging long enough.)


Bernita said...

Hmmm, with that many errors, strikes me the honours are evenly distributed between the writer and the editor.

Anonymous said...

First, as far as the resolution goes, I must confess not getting a book yet -but I will!

It's funny. When you mentioned Oprah, etc. book clubs the first thought that came to my mind was "zombies" and the next thing I know you called them zombies. They must be zombies. As far as that goes, can you say, "A Million Little Pieces"?

I usually do not catch continuity errors unless they are glaring, but I do notice mispellings (ironic, since I can't spell for shit), extra spaces, etc. as I read. -JTC

December Quinn said...

Heh, I've done that before, Sam, read books that didn't interest me because someone gave it to me. I'd be tempted to just check the Amazon reviews if somebody gave me a Chrichton, though, I have to admit. Maybe hide a different book in the cover?

But then, neither of my kids are old enough to pick books for me, so I'll probably end up doing the same thing as you when they are!

December Quinn said...

I agree, Bernita. It's like it was a first draft and the author took a lot of time out between spurts of work. It just feels shabby, like everyone thought the book was so good people wouldn't care about the mistakes, so why fix them?

Great minds, JTC. Great minds.
I don't think you have to be a good speller yourself to catch spelling errors, though. In medieval times reading and writing were often considered different skills. Perhaps when you write your mind is moving so quickly it doesn't focus on spelling--but when you read and use a different "skill", you see the mistakes.

What kills me are punctuation erros. I HATE those in books.

S. W. Vaughn said...

Okay. I hate the way genre novels are bashed all the time. But my rant about that will not fit in your comments.

You have inspired me for a future post, December! :-)

Plus, having that many errors in a published book is just plain stupid. Book clubs, shmook clubs. Ugh!

December Quinn said...

Can't wait to see the post, SW! And glad you commented--I was starting to think you were too good for me now, what with being all bussies with Barry Eisler and all. Lol!

BernardL said...

Great post, and I agree with you completely about genre fiction getting the short end of the stick. These 'reviewers' are more interested in ideology than in a good story. I know exactly what you mean with tripping over editing flaws in published novels; but I figure it's from doing so much editing on manuscripts, every single goof jumps out at me like it was printed in bold italics. :)

kis said...

That is so freaking funny, December. I remember having a beta reader proof a few pages of my first project. She said, "See, here the heroine's pushing her hair back with a gloved hand, and now the hero's noticing how white her knuckles are. X-ray vision, perhaps?" Now I feel silly for blushing over it.

Got to admit, I don't make too many goofs like that, cause continuity is a big deal for me. One of the most annoying things about the LOTR movies was the scene where Bormir dies in Aragorn's arms. They kept switching camera perspective from B to A, and in all the Bs, Boromir's hand was on Aragorn's shoulder, and in all the As it wasn't. AAARRRGGGGGHH! It still bugs the shit out of me. How many thousands of hours of filming and editing, how many freaking US dollars, and no one caught that one?

To be honest, I won't be reading this book. I'd get to the third fuck-up, and throw it across the room. It always freaks out the dog when I do that, and she's getting a tad fat to hide under the coffee table these days, so I'm gonna have to give it a pass.

littlebirdblue said...

[Camille, in two-tone cheerleader skirt and needlessly-tight sweater w/big "D" on front; *RAISES POM-POMS*]

December, 'Cember;
She's our Gal,
If she don't say it,
No one Will [rhymes w/'gal' in mid-Texasese, and both have two syllables]


For the record--my #1 please-please-please like-my-book editor at my super-secret #1 please-publish-me publishing house (a genre biggie and an oldie)--

MORTIFIES me with the number of errors in the books she edits. Embarrassing craploads. One of my favorites even had a string of nonsense characters in the middle of a paragraph. Really. #@$CK@N%K@HNK:

In another one, a problem I'm certain originated w/the author ran consistently unchecked the entire book!!! The use of 'then' instead of 'than'. By the fifth or sixth occurrence, I was so distracted from the story...all I was doing was looking for the next "It was bigger then anything I had ever seen before..."

And December, THANK YOU for buying and trying and reading new books. Keep posting on this please!

Robyn said...

kis, did you see the car drive by on the hill by Hobbiton in FOTR? Hysterical.

Makes one wonder, December, if the literary reviewers and book club hosts even noticed the editing problems. Or maybe they thought it was there on purpose even though they didn't understand it and so called it edgy and existentialist or some kind of crap.

December Quinn said...

Exactly, Bernardl. I don't hate book clubs, I really don't, and I appreciate what they're trying to do. I just think they're ignoring the best way to do that--which is to introduce people to fun stories, not "challenging" stuff that they'll force high school kids to read in twenty years (this is why so many people don't read already!) and get some genre stuff in there! Stop pooh-poohing genre fiction as somehow less than lit fic.

December Quinn said...

I'm almost afraid to watch FOTR again now, kis. That's one of my favorite scenes, I don't want it ruined. :-) I don't know if I actually noticed that before.

I know I make continuity errors in my first drafts. Sometimes I do it on purpose, because I change my mind about something. But I make a mental note and I make sure it's fixed before it goes out!

December Quinn said...

Oh, dear, littlebirdblue. I have no idea who you're talking about, because I don't think I've ever read a book with errors like that...but wow. I'm stunned.

I get you on being distracted by looking for another error. I enjoyed this book, but I admit I started looking for those mistakes about halfway through.

Oh, and I should mention, I've got the paperback edition of "...Keeping Secrets". So they didn't fix this stuff after hardcover, even.

Lol, Robyn! You know, I actually wondered that at one point? Like, maybe it was supposed to reflect a hazy unreality of time, or faults in the narrator's memory, or something? If it had just been the ages I might have bought it, but the breakfast thing and the change in clothing just got me.

I guess nobody noticed the errors because they didn't care.