Thoughts on literature…

Since I’ll be working in publishing, I thought it would be a good idea to use this section to impart some of my gained wisdom.

REVIEWS

As I’m predominately reviewing chick lit, here’s a really great website for all you chick lit fans.

The Independent: The Great Chick Lit Conspiracy
The Guardian: Rebuttal to the Great Chick Lit Debate

Bobbie Faye’s Very (very, very, very) Bad Day by Toni McGee Causey (Reviewed 29/11/2010)

The book is very colloquial and seems so very rooted in South Louisiana, which may put off a lot of foreign readers. But, even with its strong setting, I felt immersed in the story from the beginning. That wild and wacky atmosphere only added to the plot. Plus, Bobbie Faye is a loud, arrogant, know-it-all of a woman, who is loved by her friends, needed by her family, and feared by her enemies. We all know this type of person, no matter what country you live in.

The book is very fast paced, and jumps from one situation to the next without giving the reader much time to draw a breath. Yet, Toni McGee Causey (I don’t know if she’s Ms Causey, or Ms. McGee-Causey, or Mrs. McGee-Causey, or Mrs. Causey, so from now on I’ll just call her Toni) gives the reader all the necessary background information. She throws in little tid-bits about community and family as if it were second nature, so that by the end of the first chapter we feel like we’ve been living in this little town all our lives.

When I first put the book down, I thought about writing a review stating that it was a little too ‘plot based’, because crazy situations beyond the protagonist’s control are a continuing theme. While this is true, upon reviewing the book, I realised that this ‘plot based’ theme was only an illusion. Much of what happens to Bobbie Faye is because she of her personality. Bobbie Faye lives in a world of crazy, because she allows a world of crazy to be around her.

This is a very clever tactic on Toni’s behalf. How many of us have said, ‘Oh, it’s not my fault. Shit just happens to me.’ But really, we’re all just a little like Bobbie Faye, running through life, trying to do our best, not always making the best decisions, and fighting the consequences. So despite the very ‘out there’ character of Bobbie Faye, she’s actually a little like all of us.

Bobbie Faye’s Very (very, very, very) Bad Day is the first in a series. Her books have been renamed, so if you’re interested in purchasing a copy you should be able to find them under different titles. Please see below a comment from Toni regarding the titles of her books:

The publisher had re-named the first two books out before then adding the third. ‘Bobbie Faye’s Very (very very very) Bad Day’ became ‘Charmed and Dangerous’ in the mass market version. Book two, which was ‘Bobbie Faye’s (kinda sorta not exactly) Family Jewels’ became ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Guns’ in its mass market version. […] . The third book is ‘When A Man Loves A Weapon’ (only available in mm).

Rumour Has It by Jill Mansell (Reviewed 24/10/2010)

I can’t say I was disappointed with the book, because when I shut that back page I wished it hadn’t finished. I wanted to carry on learning about the characters of this fun quick read. However, I am a huge Mansell fan because I love her main characters; they’re quirky, fun, a little off, and extremely relatable. But Rumour Has It’s protagonist, Tilly, was the least interesting character of the bunch, and her love affair with Jack seemed tortured for no other reason than a need for conflict. She was supposed to be 28 years old, but I thought she acted like a teenager.

The story is about a city girl, Tilly, coming to live in a small village as a modern governess. She works for a middle-aged gay man and his teenage daughter. Her best friend lives in the village, and there are a myriad of wonderful characters – including the teenage girl’s Hollywood actress mother.

It was her friend Erin and her relationship with her boyfriend’s ex that made the story so tender. It was the teenage girl’s problem with bulling that made the novel so topical. It was the mother’s Hollywood life that made the book so fun. So, as you can see, despite not caring about our main girl, I still very much enjoyed the book.

Oh, and there was one other very small thing that annoyed me about the book. However, I think this is an affect of acquiring an English degree. All of the book was in omniscient third, but on occasion she would switch to Tilly’s thoughts. These short lines seemed a bit stumbling and awkward.

Yet, believe me, this is not a complaint about the book. This is a BU vs AU problem. ‘Before Uni’ when I could read a book and become engrossed no matter what, versus ‘After Uni’ where I’ve been trained to be too critical.

Missing You Already by Pauline McLynn (Reviewed 24/10/2010)

Missing You Already is not your traditional chick lit. This is the story of Kitty who works in the local train station and has an odd hobby of matching lost and found items with their owners. But the heartbreak of the story is Kitty’s mother who is slowly fading away from Alzheimer’s disease.  Kitty’s life is also not made any more pleasant by the fact that a friendship with a childhood mate is disintegrating.

Despite the obvious sad themes in the book, this novel is not as depressing as it may seem. The mother is trying to hide her dementia from her daughter in an attempt to shield her daughter from the emotional pain loved ones suffer when someone close has Alzheimer’s. The way in which McLynn writes the scenes with the mother are tender but real; you can’t help but see the family love despite the pain.

On top of the very sensitive subject of Alzheimer’s, Kitty begins a romance with the town librarian Simon Hill. Throughout the novel, the beginning of a new life is mirrored against the loss of an old one. And as Kitty attempts to match her lost and found items with their owners, you can’t help but feel that she’ll make it through in the end.

My Booky Wook by Russell Brand (Reviewed 24/10/2010)

 I have slowly become a fan of this particular celebrity, because every time I’ve heard him speak, either on his own show, in stand-up or on one of those talking-head quiz shows, he’s extremely eloquent, wry, and often works literary allusion into his diatribes. And I was hoping to find this same level of literary banter in My Booky Wook.

Happily, the book reflects his intellect and is not only an enjoyable read, but it is also insightful, not simply into his own psyche but into British society. The only qualm I have with the book is the fact that he must have had an asshole for an editor.

I am making the assumption that his editor simply thought, ‘Oh, another celebrity book by someone who tripped their way to the top. Probably can barely read or write. Our demographics can barely read or write, but it’ll bring in X-pounds. Why oh why am I stuck in this division of Hodder? I want to be publishing Booker prize authors. Sod this, I’m not even going to read My Booky Wook’.

The reason I make this assumption is two fold. The number of basic typo-type mistakes is appalling. Nothing major, just small things like the use of ‘that’ when he obviously meant ‘than’, and so forth. Now, I am absolutely abysmal at finding these sort of errors, therefore if I pick-up on them there must be many more that I haven’t seen. The second reason I feel for Russell Brand’s lack of editorial help, is that with a decent editor his book could have been even better. He writes as he speaks, which has a lovely rhythm to it and his vocabulary is not only large but imaginative. But, but writing a book as if it were spoken can cause confusion and make some aspects of the story hard to understand. This could have been fixed by a good editor. Someone to have worked with the author, helping him rewrite the occasional sentence or paragraph in a manner that would be more clear, convey a more accurate meaning, and possibly unlock some of the humour that is often missing from Russell Brand’s written style.

Unfortunately, Brand must not have had this sort of editor, because the booky wooky didn’t seem edited at all. Now, I am not suggesting that due to Russell’s lack of higher education, he is in need of an editor, or that due to his status as a working class-type comedian he in unable to convey meaning on the page without supervision. What I am suggesting is that story tellers are often very good writers and they just need to learn to transcribe these stories to another medium, and that is why editors exist. Also, I dare you to find any author, of any calibre, that wouldn’t agree that a strong relationship with their editor (or someone to work with objectively) isn’t beneficial to the overall product. This great little book titled The Fiction Editor, the Novel and the Novelist: A Book for Writers, Teachers, Publishers, Editors and Anyone Else Devoted to Fiction, discusses the relationship editors and publishers have and the importance of the editor to extract from the author exactly what is meant to be said in the most appropriate way. I think the most famous example of this is Pound and Eliot. So, please do not think that I am saying Russell Brand is incapable of writing his own narrative. What I am saying is that a decent editor would have made the book all that more enjoyable.

With all this said, I’d like to make a final suggestion. (As if Russell Brand is perusing Wordpress for career advice.) I think he should consider writing fiction. He’s got an insatiable imagination, a magnificent understanding of people (character) and a lovely ability to describe the mundane in ways that are less than normal. Just as Steve Martin is a fabulous author and an amazing playwright, I think Russell Brand would find success down a similar path.

Amsterdam by Ian McEwan (Reviewed 19/9/2010)

I love the characters, and I became immersed in their lives as if I was a ghost voyeur, watching over their shoulder without them knowing I was there. The idea of the reader as a ghostly presence is not likely a coincidence as the theme of euthanasia is prevalent. (Boy, didn’t know the book was about that!) But it’s not heavy handed, and even though death runs throughout, it’s a story about life and life-choices.

I highly recommend!

The Postcard Killers by James Patterson and Liza Marklund (Reviewed 19/9/2010)

This book was an incredibly fast read. A combination of a quick paced plot and fast paced (short sentences and short paragraphs) writing, I flew through this book and it was a good thing I did. If I had had time to stop and really think about the book, I wouldn’t have finished it. Each clue and twist in the plot is quite gruesome (although the books isn’t necessarily graphic), and reading the book as a young girl, home alone, in a new city, would not have set well with me – someone who can find Midsomer Murders a bit creepy. It is also good that I didn’t stop to really think about the book as I read it because, in hindsight, some of the clues and scenarios are a bit unrealistic, and I thought some of the characters were somewhat stereotypical. The story is about a serial killing couple that takes pictures of their murders and sends it to the police — bit like a modern Natural Born Killers, but without the creepy Bonnie and Clyde aspect. 

Overall, I’d say give it a read if you’re looking for a time killer: on a long plane or train journey, a boring weekend, or just looking for a quick paced book. Also, it takes place all over Europe, so it would be a good book to take to read while inter-railing – if you don’t get too creeped out. Otherwise, I’m sure you can find better books to pass your time.

2 responses to “Thoughts on literature…

  1. (5 September 2010) Most recent post on ‘Thoughts on literature’:The Booker Prize and Best Sellers.

  2. Pingback: Book reviews and life plans | Notes from the Intern

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