Sunday, December 19, 2010

Why You Shouldn't Read My Books: A Real Step-by-Step Guide

So Here's Part One of a Three-Part Breakdown of my books and Why You Shouldn't Read Them.

It's a novelist's job to tell readers why they should read their books -- a dismal, embarrassing task. I'm weary of all that. So, here's the opposite. It's the thing that I'm thinking -- clang, clang, clang in my head -- but not what I'm ever saying. So now I'll say why NOT to read my books.

I also provide handy Alternate Suggestions and a Cheat Sheet, if -- for some weird reason -- you've got to crack one of 'em open.

I hope this is helpful and saves you a lot of time -- not reading my books.

Here we go, in order.

1. Girl Talk -- a novel by Julianna Baggott. Don't read it. Why? Pink cover. It came out right at the Early Rise of Chick Lit. In fact, the first time I heard the term Chick Lit, it was in a headline reviewing a few novels by women, including mine. The headline read, "Chick Lit Deserves More Credit." So in one fell swoop, I found out what slot I'd been shoved into and that it was a disparaged one that deserved better. If the novel had been born a few years earlier, it would have been called -- I don't know -- a novel?

Alternate Suggestion: So, instead of reading this novel, you should read THE MYSTERIES OF PITTSBURGH by Michael Chabon. Seriously.

Cheat sheet: If you have to crack Girl Talk, only read the first paragraph. It sums the novel concisely and sounds a lot like THE MYSTERIES OF PITTSBURGH by Michael Chabon.

2. This Country of Mothers -- a collection of poems by Julianna Baggott. Don't buy it. It's now free downloadable at It does what first books of poetry often do -- big on image and content (you've had your whole life to sort through) and short on restraint, finery, dexterity. It tromps through three generations and sorts out a lot of personal things that needed sorting. Are these things that YOU need to sort? Probably not.

Alterante Suggestion: Sort your own things.

Cheat sheet: Hmm. "Blurbs" and, if you were raised Catholic, there's some stuff in there like "After Giving Birth, I Recall the Madonna and Child."

3. The Miss America Family -- another novel by Julianna Baggott. Funny, twisted, sure, absurd and sometimes kind of glorious -- at least in its gestures -- but way too ambitious for my talent.

Suggestion: Re-watch the popular film of this same era with Americana-verbiage in its title -- AMERICAN BEAUTY. Time better spent.

Cheat sheet: If you've got to crack it, only read page 11.

4. The Madam -- historical novel by Julianna Baggott. I can't even talk about this novel. It breaks my heart. Kills me. Still, any new therapist who takes me on has to sit through a good chunk of time devoted to the writing and publishing experiences on this one. Honestly, I had to do that weird thing where you follow lights with your eyes to process what happened here -- under supervision.

This was the one, also, when I stopped trying to be John Irving, and then reviewers said I was copping an Irving attitude because I had a bear in it. What?

I was lucky that this one was published after I'd written WHICH BRINGS ME TO YOU with Steve Almond because the going public of it marks the end of some kind of relationship I thought I had with the reader and changed my work forever.

Alternate Suggestion: FAIR AND TENDER LADIES by Lee Smith. It'll make you cry plenty.

Cheat Sheet: Last paragraph on p. 139 that wraps onto p. 140. Done.

5. Which Brings Me to You -- an epistolary novel co-written with Steve Almond. Actually, this one's easy. I have to love it because it's so otherly, a hybrid. But I didn't really especially love the review in the Washington Post by a male and a female reviewer (coauthored review, clever, right?), in which one of them said that the book was too well written to be believably written by the characters. Um. Wait. Huh? (I actually have a very long speech prepared for these reviewers if I ever were to meet them, a convincing argument, actually ,which I'm sure they would appreciate, oh so muchly, but I'll spare you.)

Alternate Suggestion: Read Steve's parts.
AND Cheat Sheet: Read Steve's parts.

End of Part I.