This blog is basically about how good books are nice and bad books are the pits. And then I get grumpy.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

libraries are fundamental and, the library card as literary passport

One of the best things about modern life is the circulating library. That we can go to a big building (or a small one) and take away loads of books (and CDs and DVDs and other stuff, too) for a few weeks without paying a cent (unless you count overdue and lost fines) is an amazing thing, and a great edifier for the soul and intellect of a society.

Think of it: If you don't have any money for recreation - and there's a lot of that going around these days when a movie costs more than an hour's minimum wage - you can still read books. If you don't have money for a paperback - again, an hour of minimum wage often doesn't cover a mass-market - there's always the library.

A library card is like a literary passport. It gets you - really your mind - into places it would otherwise have a very difficult time being allowed into. Borders and Barnes and Noble don't let hoards of students sit in their caf├ęs monopolizing books (i.e. merchandise) and table space so thet can complete their twenty page research papers. Libraries do.

To be sure, I love owning books. But, come on, you can't have everything and, when it comes to books, should only HAVE TO HAVE very little, if anything. Who can live without a dictionary? Most people have one, probably. But even if you don't, every town or group of towns has reference materials. This is as it should be.

A library provides a way for a determined yet penniless person to learn about any topic he or she wants. It doesn't take the place of a school system, but it's a necessary supplement and often an educational lifeline. It is a fundamental component of intellectual life for a people who wish to be lifelong learners and informed voters. And it's fun.

I feel rich that I have the benefit of cards to four different library systems. And I'd venture to guess that it's historically and geographically exceptional experience to live in a time and place when libraries are considered a basic human right, or nearly so. Many of our ancestors would have felt like royalty if they could have stepped into a city library and stepped out with a three week reading supply that could outlast the pace of a book a day.

And it's an exquisite privilege to have a public library system that goes out-of-state to find patrons books that it lacks in its own collection. And don't forget all the internet resources. From my corner of the world, I have searched databases in Europe and all over the United States, which is a great research tool.

So I think it's disgusting that towns and cities feel they have to close libraries as a remedy for the bad fiscal health of their budgets. It's disgusting that, perhaps, they are correct. If the choice is an adequate police force or books, obviously bodily safety comes first. I just hope that everyone remembers that, ultimately, the safety and health of societies lie in education and access to information. We need our bodies so we can live and function; we need our minds to make living worthwhile.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sookie - What I'd like to see...

I'd like to see:

- Sookie hit Bill upside the head (figuratively speaking) about his secretiveness and his treatment of her. He needs to do more than beg her lamely to come back. Harris is doing a good job of making Bill into a lame heel. I want the moment to come when Sookie calls him such. And I want him to explain himelf. I mean, really, 130 years old and he tries to win her back with a hastily mentioned word at an elevator door while he's dating someone else? Didn't he learn anything over the past century and a third?

- more with Remy Savoy. He seems like a nice human sweetie who might make a good mate for Sookie if his character is developed.

- Sookie grow up and make better decisions. So oftne she worries when she need not and doesn't when she should.

- Sookie go through a needed soul-searching about her religion and the supes, especially since she's religious and the supes bring up a lot interesting questions.

- Jason and Sookie get even closer in a mature sibling relationship. He's getting so much better.

- Sookie be liberated in the seemingly hopeless world she's in.

- Some vampire (Eric?) start a vampiric revolution to regain free will in their crazy, strict power structure. Now that would make interesting conflict, something different... There could be a lot more books if that happened and the stories would be refreshingly different from what is currently seeming like a constant case of more of the same.

Top Sookie Moments

I'm trying to think of what the top Sookie Stackhouse moments were since I have finished the 10 novels that have so far appeared.

Here are a few without book references as all the titles have run together for me:

1 - Cute little Hunter saying bye to Sookie telepathically after their first meeting.

2 - The joyful love of the 1000 year old vampire, Eric, bouncing Sookie up in the air as they waltz at the Rhodes ball.

3 - Similarly, the joyful way Sookie jumps into Erics arms at his request upon her seeing him at his house in the last book.

4 - Pam's peck on Sookie's cheek before the witch war.

5 - An exchange in an early book between Eric and Bill which involves a reference by the former to possessive pronouns. It just tickled me. Of course, it wasn't really a pronoun; it was an adjective, but the idea was great. (Perhaps, you have to be a bit of a grammar nut.) ; )

6 - I hated when Sookie finds out about Bill's motives in dating her, but since I had such a visceral reaction I am adding it here. It moved me.

7 - Eric whipping off his coat to reveal that ridiculous spandex outfit he wore to accompany Sookie on her fact-finding expedition to the creepy party in an early book.

8 - Any scene in which the enigmatic and maddeningly quiet Bill opens up, though for various reasons there are too few of them.

9 - Sookie's enjoyment of sunbathing... Particularly, the first time when her Gran is fussing with gardening or laundry or something in the yard and we first see Sookie in the lawnchair soaking in the relaxing moment, the sun and the music from her radio. It's a simple pleasure of her human existence that she gives up as her supernatural saga plays out. Sunbathing will never be the same again for her.

10 - Pam's humor and Harris's fleshing out of her personality. Does anyone else imagine her talking like Lilith Sternin-Crane in the old TV show Cheers?

11 -  Jason's paternal concern for Alexie in the last book.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ah, well....

I finished Definitely Dead. You might see my posts below describing my initial infatuation with the Sookie series, based on the first book, and the subsequent rough patches I hit. It actually ended not bad. I told you I get grumpy...

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sookie burn-out - What a disappointment!

Why does bad writing happen to good story ideas??? Oh, why?

I was enjoying the Sookie Stackhouse series. But now that I'm in the middle of book 6, Definitely Dead, I have to say this is showing how terrible it is when ideas that have potential are executed so badly. Quite disappointing.

I'll submit this: Charlaine Harris is a pretty good storyteller, but really a pretty bad writer. There are so many reasons to say this, and the very, very least of them are the striking misuse of vocabulary that one wouldn't expect from a purveyor of the language.

1 - The wonderful beginning of the series - ordinary woman in extraordinary circumstances - is destroyed as the series progresses. As an observer of this imaginary universe, it seems that there are virtually no humans left on the planet. No contrast whatsoever; it's all supes all the time and the depth that gives the reader some orientation in this universe is lost.

2 - Why all the boyfriends? Even in other series this is not normal. Man, it's like some kind of manic reaction or something. Can we please just stick to one or two guys and actually explore a relationship?

3 - This brings me to the bad writing. Harris does whatever she feels will make an exciting story, and if that means major inconsistencies - far more than other professional writers - and incongruous behavior by characters (Sookie is smart but does some massively and unbelievably stupid things), then so be it, I guess.

4 - This leads to there not being a backbone to the series. No general guiding direction. We, the readers, don't need to be aware of it - we shouldn't, actually - but we should feel it. It's like she's making it up as she goes along the way you make up a story at a campfire. The characters don't work. The story has no integrity.

5 - Harris can do what she wants with her books - they're hers, anyway - but she should take care of a good idea if she has one. She discards her good ideas the way other people waste food. A reader should be insulted by this. It is irresponsible for a writer to pluck an idea out of the world of storyline possibilities that exist in our collective imagination and to then treat it so badly. To top it off, on Harris's site, she gives a curt response to why she doesn't like fan fiction. But, my goodness, someone has to do it right.

6 - There are so many interesting and juicy ideas wrapped up in the characters and fantastical element in the books readers could chew on if Harris chose to explore them. But she doesn't. Perhaps she doesn't recognize the possibilities, or perhaps she does, but doesn't know how to realize it.

7 - Finally, the careless/non-existent proofreading by editors doesn't help. It's like no one cares about the product.

Opinions, anyone?

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