Saturday, September 22, 2007

I Did It! Up Yours America!

Can someone explain to me why people are actually buying the OJ book? Not a lot of people, but the little tiny publisher, Beaufort Books, went back to press for 50,000 more this week, claiming to have sold the original 125,000 or so in four days. I’ve heard the debate that the Goldmans are justified in trying to get revenge on OJ in this fashion – that it most likely kills him that the book is out and he cannot collect any royalties for it. The reason Judith Regan was fired (after trying to publish the book the first time through HarperCollins) was probably due more to her shady backdoor royalties deal with OJ than for anything else. But I still can’t get on board with the family actually wanting this horrible book about his hypothetical murder taking up shelf space somewhere. Denise Brown, sister of Nicole, issued the following statement when still in court over the book rights last spring: "What is most decent and appropriate is to abolish any rights to `the book' and allow my sister to rest in peace. This should not be about money, but about morality."

I know that the Goldmans view this book as his public confession, but since OJ is crazed enough not to see it that way, the revenge element doesn’t work here. He wanted this book published – why would he have written this as an honest, heartfelt confession, 12 years into his post-trial freedom? A psychopath has no reason to confess anything after they’ve gotten away with something, unless it’s for purely psychopathic gains. He’s making every American eat shit for following the whole debacle and allowing him to go free. He’s rubbing in our faces the fact that he got away with it, and every single one of us allowed it to happen. Publishing this book, royalties be damned, is exactly what he wants. “Look what I did! No matter how angry it gets you, you had your chance at me and now there’s not a goddamn thing you can do about it.”

Remember how racially divided the county was when the verdict was handed down? Is this still the case? No one seems to mention this element anymore - why is that? Is it because we all – every single American – know, in the depths of our souls, that OJ did it? Or do we just realize that this case shouldn’t be polarizing for us as a people – he’s just a crazy murderer now, not an innocent black man who was accused of killing his white wife & her white friend. And look at how smug he looks in this picture - taken as the verdict was read. So evil.

My real point here is not racially/politically motivated – it’s just that OJ’s disgusting fake-confession-novel-thing deserves no place in the American consciousness, let alone a spot cluttering our bookshelves. He is a deplorable, pathetic man who we all know should be in prison right now for murdering two people, but has managed to ride his star power through a decade of mocking the American system of justice to remain in full view of our television sets. I guess I just don’t think we should be giving this story any more credence by talking about it anymore – he got away with it, he fooled us all. Don’t buy this book, he’s just tricking you again. Lets just hope that in his current legal troubles, the courts (of public opinion, as well) get it right this time.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

It's All About Me

Have I done something to offend the cruel & unforgiving sports gods out there? Seriously, what are the chances that one man has a baseball team that gives up 30 runs in a game (and gets no-hit by a 23-year old two weeks later) and a college football team that is as inept as Notre Dame? Today was the height of football embarrassment for me. 79 total yards - and -6 yards rushing, yes, that's negative six - against a Michigan team that had been giving up an average of over 500 yards per game. 6 fumbles and 2 interceptions thrown today, not a single offensive touchdown in their first 3 games, and the guy who started at quarterback in the first game, supposedly just transfered to Northern Illinois - presumably because the pastures are much, much greener there.

I went to a small school in upstate NY with Division III football and a shitload of snow & ice. And I wouldn't have it any other way - except that even they managed to lose to a crappier team today too.

This is why I should just stick to reading books and shut the damn TV off.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Putdownable

This is a subject that I assumed I would tackle on this site right from the get-go, but it is so close to my heart - it is so defining for me as a reader, a bookseller, a man, dammit! - that I have not been able to voice my thoughts eloquently enough. That time has passed my friends - I will not hold my tongue any longer. James Patterson must be stopped. Moreso, Stephen King needs to be taken down a peg. People should no longer be subjected to their evil, hypnotic ways!

Mr. Patterson. Jimmy. Man, what is your deal? By the time the curtain falls on 2007, you will have published five hardcover adult novels during the calendar year. Five. Most of these were written with other authors in tow, presumably to facilitate the speedy indoctrination of the masses with your horrible prose. You have nearly single-handedly managed to shorten the attention span of American readers. (I think Dan "2-page per chapter" Brown had a hand in this also, but he has fallen off the Book Catapult's map. Peace out.) Your newest book - and never has there been a more aptly titled book - "You've Been Warned", hits the shelves on September 11 (nor has there never been a better release date) and consists of 364 pages of drivel with 1 1/2 inch margins all around and 111 chapters. No, this is not a typing error. One hundred and eleven. That amounts to 3.369 pages per chapter. "Hey Chet, I read 10 chapters this week! High five!" The argument has always been, "Well, at least they're reading." Bullshit. Watch TV if you want such garbage. Save the trees. Please note that in the photo of Patterson here, he is wearing a hat that reads "Relax". Does that not make you want to punch his face?

And little Stevie King. I liked you when I was 11, and I had no problem with you until the last couple of years. But when you started writing more blurbs for the back of books than you write your own novels, well, I started to hate your guts. I believe that you were the first that I saw to actually use the so-called word, "unputdownable" in a sentence in an attempt to sell a book. I don't care what modern dictionaries say, "unputdownable" is not a word! Its a cop-out - its a failure of words. Its what you say when you are too inarticulate to describe your thoughts and feelings regarding a book. It is indicative of someone writing a book review who doesn't give a shit and knows that the publisher will put the blurb on the dust jacket simply because their name is "Stephen King". And why does the blogger spell-check highlight this non-word every time?
King now writes a column for Entertainment Weekly, so I understand that a lot of his jacket blurbs are culled from his short paragraphs on books. That said, I am a firm believer that you can be articulate and intelligent inside the space of a paragraph book review (please visit warwicks.com for some examples...). And I can understand that there are some people out there who may purchase a book that they might not normally have picked up, just because there's a blurb from King on the back. But I still get rankled when I see his name & an inane blurb on the back of a book I liked. Even though most booksellers in America loved "The Shadow of the Wind" by Carlos Ruiz Zafon and had no problem handselling it into a national bestseller a few years ago, apparently all the paperback really needed was a mindless shoutout from Stephen on the back.

"This Book Will Save Your Life" by A.M. Homes: "...hey, maybe it will save somebody's life." -Stephen King

"Case Histories" by Kate Atkinson (a Warwick's staff favorite): "This is the kind of book you shove in people's faces, saying 'You gotta read this!'" -Stephen King

"No Country For Old Men" and "The Road" by Cormac - just stay away from him, King. Go write "The Shining, part II".

Here's the one that lit the fire under me though: "Do yourself a favor and read Ron Carlson." -Stephen King
Wow, Mr. King, what an enlightening thing to suggest! On the strength of that quote alone I will go out and buy all the Ron Carlson I can wrap my grubby little fingers around. Bless your soul, sir! This quote, at least when I discovered it, was on the back of Carlson's published essay on writing, "Ron Carlson Writes a Story". Does anyone who might pick this book up need encouragement to do so from Stephen King? If anything I would think it acts more as a deterrent - "Oh, Stephen King things Carlson's a good writer? I think I'll pass." Or are they looking for this guy: , "Gee, I thought Stephen King was the best when I was 9 - Carlson must be really great! I bet he's scary."

My point in all of this - and there is one - is that I resent authors like Patterson who just crank out as many books annually as possible, just for the cash. He is all about the business of selling books, making them into films, and collecting cash rewards. It's obnoxious. He has pictures on his website of his enormous home that he bought with the massive proceeds from his crappy books. What are you trying to tell your readers? "Thanks for buying me this huge house"? And when did writing become something you just did purely as a commodity? Isn't it, at its core, an art form? Yeah, I understand that artists often make money on their craft - I'm not an idiot. Its just that guys like Patterson have lost sight of the craft itself - even the people who still buy his books in record numbers admit that his books aren't as good as his early ones. Yet they are somehow still compelled to buy the next one. And the next one. And a week later, the next one. And King, well I just don't like him being the guy who thinks he's on top of the heap of book reviewers. I think that what bothers me is that a publisher thinks that you need his name on the jacket to sell a book about the craft of writing (the Carlson book). This just make no sense to me, at all.

I though that this rant would be more aimed at James Patterson, but apparently I have had a tidal wave of hatred brewing in my skull for Stephen King. Huh. On Friday I saw that he has edited the 2007 Best American Short Stories collection that Houghton Mifflin publishes every year. Previous editors have included Anne Patchett, Michael Chabon, Lorrie Moore, Walter Mosley, Sue Miller, and Barbara Kingsolver. I think that definitely fueled the fire.