Archive for the ‘Discussion of the Day’ Category

Discussion of the Day: The View Through A Crack

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010 isn’t exactly known for its reverence, but sometimes cheek gets to the heart of the matter faster than a scalpel.  On tap today, ’6 Books Everyone (Including Your English Teacher) Got Wrong’.

Have a look at how a little research (and a few strategically placed f-bombs) changes the way you might think about a half dozen culturally important books.

And don’t skip the comments.  Good stuff and lots of dissent there and that’s just what we all need mid-week.

Discussion of the Day: Dirty Literary Laundry

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

The folks over at the Absolute Write Water Cooler are having a bit of sport at the expense of author Jenny Edwards, who has been sharing her rejection letters on her blog (along with some career-suicide level commentary).

Check out the Tales of a Rejection Queen blog here and jump into the discussion here.

Discussion of the Day: Al Gore, Poet

Monday, December 7th, 2009

Vanity Fair’s Mark Hertsgaard gushes over a “surprisingly accomplished, nuanced piece of writing” in the form of a poem in Al Gore’s new climate change treatise, Our Choice.  A taste:

Now, with the publication of his new book, Our Choice, Gore has unveiled a fresh and most unexpected talent: the book’s opening chapter of concludes with a poem he wrote—21 lines of verse that are equal parts beautiful, evocative, and disturbing.

Here is how the poem begins:

One thin September soon
A floating continent disappears
In midnight sun

Vapors rise as
Fever settles on an acid sea

Check out the complete article for more snippets of the poem and lots more fawning. As is so often the case, the comments thread is where the fun is (9 pages and counting…)

Discussion of the Day: Sexism in Crime Fiction

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Jessica Mann rattled a lot of cages with her announcement that she intends to quit reviewing crime fiction because of its pervasive “sexist misogyny”.

But Examiner’s Michelle Kerns says Ms. Mann has it backwards:

Ms. Mann is right about one thing — modern crime fiction is bathed in sexism. She’s just off on the gender. It’s not women these books are sexist against — it’s men.

She goes on to point to three basic stereotypes foisted upon male crime fiction characters:

1. The Useless, Shiftless, Gutless Male. This will be a secondary character who is either too weak to stand up for himself or excessively blustery and abusive because he is all too aware of his inferiority.

2. The Sensitive Inspector. This is reserved for detectives, detective inspectors, policemen, etc. I’ve ranted about this at length before. These lawmen are moody, broody, terribly sensitive, unlucky in love, deferential to women, and spend time reading the classics, listening to obscure music, and quoting Shakespeare over the autopsy table.

3. The Nasty Killer. He may occasionally indulge in a bit of murder that involves children, elderly people, or men, but his favorite target is women. Especially young women, whom he likes to mentally and physically torture in any number of weird and inexcusable ways.

Check out the entire piece here and join in the discussion in the comments section.

Discussion of the Day: King and The Future of Stuff

Monday, October 19th, 2009

Seems that Stephen King’s predictions for the future of media has stirred up a bit of a hornet’s nest over at the Absolute Write Water Cooler Roundtable. Here’s a taste of what all the hub-bub is about.

What’s going to happen to books?
E-book downloads now account for only 1.5% of the total market…but that was once true of compact discs, and if you’ve bought an actual vinyl record lately, you’re in very select company. At this writing, best-selling hardcovers have settled at an e-book price point of about $10, but if you think e-book vendors such as Amazon and Sony are making a profit, you would be wrong. That’s because the product is sold cheap for the same reason that dope pushers sell the product cheap, at least to begin with: to get you hooked. And if that seems a harsh comparison to you, then you don’t understand what every
Harry Potter and Twilight reader knows: Good stories are dope. I love my Kindle, but what appears there has (so far) been backstopped by great publishers and layers of editing. If the e-book drives those guys out of business (or even into semiretirement), what happens to the quality? For that matter, who pays the advances? No one I talk to can answer these questions.

Join the conversation here.

Discussion of the Day: The “Am-I-Crazies?”

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Literary agent Nathan Bransford (Curtis Brown Ltd.) has opened up his blog today for discussion of the often bizarre mental state that unpublished novelists experience as they wrestle with the self-doubt and uncertainty of the writing process:

You probably know what I’m talking about: the “Am I crazies” are that feeling you get where you’re spending so much time writing a novel or multiple novels, your friends and family are wondering what you’re doing, and you have idea whatsoever whether you will ever see publication. You could be spending your hours writing the great American novel or you could be writing something that will only be read by your critique partners. No way of knowing. That’s when you stare at the ceiling and wonder, “Am I crazy for spending so much time doing this?

Join in the discussion here.

Discussion of the Day: How Dare She?

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

Courtesy of DemocraticUnderground:

Behold the slow-motion trainwreck of highly-politicized partisans getting their loyalties all in a bunch over Elizabeth Edwards’ new book, Resilience.

Who to support: the cancer-stricken woman scorned or the progressive political hero?


Discussion of the Day: Murder a-Twitter

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

Novelist, R.N. Morris, has gone and done something that might be cyber-crazy.  Or it could be any or all of the following: cool; a study and lesson in mixed media; a vivisection of fiction-anatomy; or a great lot of work to the result of him tearing out all his hair for purposes only a very few will understand.

He’s serializing his novel, THE GENTLE AXE, on Twitter. He’s been at it since mid-March.

Now, I’ve read THE GENTLE AXE.  Thought it was terrific.  So, I’m not sure what I’d get out of it a hundred-some words at a time, but I’m enjoying following the progress of the project and Roger’s commentary over at his blog and thought I’d direct AuthorScoop readers to it for whatever angle of the project sparks their interest or ire.

So, here you go.

Discussion of the Day: Dirty, Dirty e-books

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Peter Smith at IT World scratches his head over Barnes and Noble’s (latest) foray into e-books. The article’s well worth the read, but for a brisk discussion, catch out the comments thread at Marginal Revolution, spurred by Tyler Cowen’s chosen plucked cherry from the original piece:


What’s popular on Fictionwise? Well, once again it seems like porn is blazing a path to a new media format. Of the top 10 bestsellers under the “Multiformat” category, nine are tagged “erotica” amd the last is “dark fantasy”…People who read erotic romance and ‘bodice rippers’ love ebooks because of the privacy they offer, both during purchase and when reading.

Discussion of the Day: Kindle 2

Sunday, March 8th, 2009

An interesting roundtable of sorts at The New Atlantis, where Alan Jacobs has kicked off a hypothetical dialogue of the pros and cons of the Kindle:

Suppose you bring one book along with you on a trip. Suppose you start it and it’s not really doing much for you — you’re having trouble getting into the mood of it, the swing of it. If you have it on a Kindle, you’re almost certain to give up and turn to one of the dozens of other books you have available. But if it’s the only book you’ve got, you’re more likely to stick with it. And if it’s a good book — if it’s a book that holds real pleasure or instruction for the persistent and non-distracted reader — then later on you’ll be glad that you read it. You’ll be glad that you didn’t have something else to read on that trip. You’ll be glad that you had a book instead of a Kindle.

As you might imagine, the comments bring to bear a variety of perspectives.

“Hey, I’m just the author! I didn’t *write* that…”

Saturday, September 6th, 2008

The complexities of producing a blockbuster novel must, now and then, create tangles that eventually catch someone out. The head that rolls, though, may not be connected to the feet that tripped.

A front-page article in this weekend’s Sydney Morning Herald points out where Lynda La Plante’s novel, Entwined, contains a number of passages that are identical – or very nearly so – to passages from Five Chimneys, a memoir written by Holocaust survivor Olga Lengyel and published in 1947. The broadsheet version of the article shows the corresponding passages side-by-side; the web article does not. (The passages not only include similar or exact reproductions of phrases and sentences; they include exact statistical references. The similarities are, to my eye, beyond coincidence; if I can find a reference online, I’ll provide the link here.)

According to the article, La Plante responded – through her lawyers – that she hadn’t lifted the passages, nor had she ever read Five Chimneys. A research assistant whom La Plante no longer uses, they said, may have taken the passages.

The article asserts that La Plante denies intentionally plagiarising, and it adds that the newspaper makes no such accusation. It also points out that use of research assistants is common, if not universal, but that Entwined contains no acknowledgements of assistants or sources.

The article goes on to raise, or imply, several fascinating, and difficult, issues:

- The difference between plagiarism and failure to acknowledge sources
- “Forgivable” and “unforgivable” plagiarism – e.g. lifting a Holocaust survivor’s personal recollections
- The author’s accountability for the sins of the research assistant, named or otherwise
- The use of sources, such as research assistants, without acknowledgement

The biggest question, to me, is this: If the author’s name is on the cover, and no other sources are credited, is the author not accountable for every word in the book?

[Note: Ironically, I find that William's already provided a link to this story in the Friday Morning Lit Links. I must get a research assistant.]

If They Asked You, What Would You Say?

Monday, August 25th, 2008

Publisher, Richard Nash, guest-blogging on Ecstatic Days, admits that the industry doesn’t hold readers in very high regard. You think?

…there is a real tendency in our business to treat the customer as this perverse, mysterious, gullible, arrogant, narrow-minded, slightly thick, imperceptive lug. We largely talk down to him, dumb down for her, expect the least, fear the worst, and generally leave it up to the retailer to figure out how to reach him or her…

So he asked (on his own blog) the grubby, punk readers for their opinion on the matter of a book cover he was considering. Impressed with the answers he received, Mr. Nash – sort of thinking out loud during his stint as guest blogger – wonders how publishing could be improved by asking those who’d care enough to answer: what do you want to read?

So, you tell me and I’ll pass it on. Or hunt him down yourself. Couldn’t hurt.

Discussion of the Day: The Politics of Amazon Reviews

Saturday, August 16th, 2008

The fascinating partisan tug-of-war in Amazon reviews of Jerome Corsi’s The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality.


Ender’s End?

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

Science Fiction as a genre, by and large, has never tugged at my interest or imagination with any regularity. But even I know ENDER’S GAME. It’s one of those books I keep meaning to read, because hundreds of thousands of people simply cannot be wrong. (I mean of course they can, but if they are, I’ll get to feel smug about it for a little while. And if not, I’ll get a to enjoy a great read. Everybody plays, everybody wins.)

Orson Scott Card, the author of the ENDER’S GAME and its series, has been sent up in op/eds, blogs and in newspapers everywhere recently for his anti-gay sentiments in general, and, in specific, over his call to literal revolution in an article in The Mormon Times on the issue of same-sex marriage. While I happen to disagree strongly with his rant, however articulate it may be, I haven’t felt inspired to refute his position, point by point, primarily because it’s been done so well elsewhere. All my nodding has rattled loose my prose, leaving it to bounce off the pillars and posts of my indignation and fall in an incoherent tangle on the floor of my brain.

But today, I ran across this blast by blogger, Michael Swaim, and it sparked a question: will the sum of Orson Scott Card’s considerable literary efforts be relegated, as time passes, to a tainted curiosity, like a term paper by Ted Bundy or a grocery list of David Duke’s. And if it does, is this a shame or is it justice?

Card’s zealous question goes as so:

How long before married people answer the dictators thus: Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn.

and is answered by Swaim in his post, ripe with hilarious signature Cracked profanity. But as it often is with the accomplished and clever cusser, the point is there, delivered on a bed of sauteed expletives and garnished with the occasional F-bomb.

… you will be classed with all those others who stood in the way of expanding rights and humanity: the Ku Klux Klan, Apartheid, the anonymous boardroom of fat men arguing about which secretary has the best ass. And if there’s any justice, even though I’ve no doubt you could fire off a response to this post that would be perfectly eloquent and arresting (in fact, you totally should…my hits would go through the roof), your work will be read only as a curiosity, a way to peek into the mind of a caveman. Or else by lovers of great fiction, who will have to read them, set them down, shrug, and say “well, that was super good, even if the guy was a Neanderthal Nazi.”

Personally, I’m torn. I want works of literature to stand on their own merit. If a bubble-headed celebrity whose cinematic work I hate writes a book and it’s good, I shall call it good. (Not that it’s happened, so far as I can recall at the moment.) I’d also like to be brave and denounce immorality, when I see it and as I see it, and root out its influences. In this case, I would like to take the high road, but I’m not certain which one that is.

Weigh in and stay tuned.

Discussion of the Day: Humor Through the Ages

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

ColoradoGuy over at the Absolute Write Water Cooler is shepherding an interesting thread, spun off of this Times piece (which is, in turn, spun off the actual books reviewed therein, of course) on the endurance and evolution of humor through the ages of civilization.

Good stuff for pranksters and pedants alike, and definitely worth a perusal.


Discussion of the Day: Poetry and Respectability

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

Though still in its infancy, this thread is sure to yield some fireworks (at least I hope so… I like fireworks).

In the red corner, a poet who wants nothing more than to assemble a collection of his works to be made available for friends, family and perhaps the odd stranger who might find them interesting.

In the blue corner, a traditionalist who feels that the right to publish poems should only be derived through the approval of self-appointed gatekeepers, namely editors and academics. Without this stamp of approval, he reasons, publication is an “EMPTY and EXPENSIVE” gesture.

To reduce this to an argument about the ethical nuances of self-publishing is to miss the broader issue, in my view; which is to say, “What is the goal of the writer?”

If it is to become a “poet” in the accepted, mainstream sense—lecturing, being included in anthologies, being discussed by critics, then certainly there are protocol pitfalls in self-publishing that rightly should be  avoided.

If, instead, it is merely to have your works read, even by a narrow audience, what harm is there in offering it in a bound volume that can be cracked open for personal enjoyment and placed on a shelf alongside writers who went on bended knee to editors to kiss the ring of the publishing establishment?

Discussion of the Day: Page One

Monday, June 9th, 2008

An interesting screenwriting discussion over at Done Deal Pro examines the importance of starting with a bang.

Check it out.

Discussion of the Day: Nature vs. Nurture

Sunday, June 8th, 2008


Usually when this topic comes up for a discussion in print, it will be accompanied by pictures of naked, adorable babies and maybe Ted Bundy for contrast. But interestingly, the argument is wrangled in arenas beyond those of the psychologist and anthropologist. In fact, I’ve encountered it more often in writing circles than I would have ever expected.

The question is – is achievement in art more a product of natural ability or the systematic honing of a skill set, in this case: vocabulary, grammar, style, and language/poetic theory. In the arts, does practice make perfect?

The scale is a study in shades of grey, but at the extremes you’ll encounter little engines that can and mystic advocates of inspiration and destiny. The meat of the sandwich is gristly with frustration from those who maintain that you have to crawl before you can walk, and the countering examples of virtuosity.

There are a surprising number of people who’ll argue that there’s no such thing as innate talent at all; that achievement in the arts is a product of pure will and diligence. (A long example of this can be read here, but be warned, it gets ugly and was ultimately locked, so you won’t be able to weigh in if you get all wound up one way or the other. But you can always bring your grump back here. We’re open all day, every day.)

Right now, the topic is heating up on the Absolute Write Poetry Discussion Board where the question has been posed: should beginner poets be confined to writing exercises, since their efforts inevitably stink?

What do you say?

Discussion of the Day: Fanfic

Saturday, June 7th, 2008

Fanfic as Reader Response in Action, an excellent thread at the Absolute Write Water Cooler’s Critical Theory and Philosophy of Language sub-forum (initiated by valued AuthorScoop reader Chris Johnson—known around AW as Colorado Guy), examines the motivations and manifestations of fan fiction.

Check it out.