Tag Archives: books

Readers of Popular and Literary Fiction Can Get Along

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I have been away from this blog for a while.  I apologize.  I have a reason: I started a publishing company!  The company is called Hope Books, LLC and I am its manager.

For the past few months I have been juggling teaching with parenting with late-night publishing work.  I was thrilled to have received a summer class to help pay the bills.  I am excited to see all that Philip is learning and discovering.  And, it has to be said, I have had some fun sharing my love of Bruce’s book, Schism, and helping to make sure people know about it and, for those that can, buy it.  To leave no stone unturned, people who have the means can buy it via the following vendors:

amazon.com

Barnes and Noble

Kobo.com

goodreads.com

For those who do not have the means, you can read it or listen to it online for free here:

Wattpad.com (read for free)

itunes (listen to podcast for free)

Smashwords.com (OK, for this one, you can only read the first 30% for free)

That said, I want to tell you what’s been on my mind today.  In the interest of that “better world” dream I persist in having, I would like to talk about readers of POPULAR fiction versus readers of LITERARY fiction.  There seems to be a long established tradition of enmity between those who read for fun and those who read for status, a mental workout, etc.  In my recent experience, I have seen friends and relations in the literary fiction camp frown on popular work as lacking in intellectual gravitas.  I have also witnessed independent bookstores rejecting popular fiction categorically because it is not literary fiction.  (Plus, there seems to be a high correlation [or reputation] between poor craftsmanship and self-published works, which is unfortunate.)

I will tell you, most unreservedly, that I am a fan of both.  That was not always the case.  As a young woman, I felt that Jane Austen and I were soul sisters.  Even in college, I had a hard time breaking the mold and venturing out into new genres.  I loved everything that rambled with a mellifluous bent.  If the characters were pathetic, miserable and had a horribly tragic end, all the better.

I have since changed my tune.  I think the transition occurred when Bruce and I started to read Harry Potter.  I remember it very clearly.  He had gone to our local bookstore and found Harry Potter #2 (The Chamber of Secrets) on a 20% off stack.  He brought it home, started reading it and loved it.  Then he said, “You should read this, too.”  I snootily replied that I was, in no way, going to read a CHILDREN’S BOOK.  He said, “OK.  Well, I’m going to go back to buy the first one.  I really think you’d like it, though.”  So, he bought it and two things happened.  First, I agreed to read it and started on the path of reading for entertainment and not just to prove my intelligence.  Second, we began our tradition of reading books aloud to each other.  We have, in fact, read ALL of the Harry Potter books this way (and we even reread the series from the start prior to each new release).  But, of course, we haven’t only read Harry Potter.  We discovered Suzanne Collins, Jim Butcher, Greg Rucka (Tara Chace and Atticus Kodiak–AWESOME), Alexander McCall Smith (charming Mma Ramotswe) and many others along the way.  We have also supported our love of Michael Chabon (however you pronounce his last name, we still think he’s BRILLIANT), Cormac McCarthy (house divided on this one) and others.

The point?  There is room, my friends, to love them all.  There is space out there in the universe for us all to enjoy the quirky and the sublime.  We do not need to fight.  We do not need to pose.  We do not need to disrespect each other.  And whether you prefer to get your knowledge in life from fact or fiction, pulp or parchment, via the library or bookseller, in-person or online, remember this quote from Dr. Peter Nazareth, one of my professors in college: “You can get something out of everything you read.”  So true.  You never know where that next book will come from that will change the way you think about things.  It’s worth the risk to cross the line.

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Accentuating the Positive

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Poor Philip.  Being 4 can be rough sometimes.  Lots of rules.  Lots of expectations.  Lots of emotions.

Sometimes, his emotions erupt like a volcano.  I understand.  I feel that way sometimes and I am still a work in progress on “turning the wheel” and keeping my emotions under control.  Today, in fact, I felt a rumbling of anger when he had drenched himself with the rainwater (irresistible!) while I walked the dog.  I had this big plan.  It was a cloudy day so we were going to relocate some of the 4′ x 4′ garden beds from the back garden and put them in the front garden.  But, a soaked child in cool, persistent wind is no good and I was not in the mood to dress him in fresh clothes, stick his feet in plastic bags to allow him to wear his sodden boots and layer him in a fleece and a windbreaker since his winter coat was dripping.  It was so disappointing.  We were going to be EXCAVATORS!  We were going to unearth these beds and haul them.  He was going to get wonderfully worn out and I was going to tackle a chore.  But, it drained me.  I lacked the reserve to be resilient about it.  We went in.  I removed all of the wet items, made sure he was warm and dry and relocated myself to make a bed while he listened to Poetry Speaks to Children in the kitchen and read along with the book.

As I made the bed, I argued with myself about whether or not this was a major big deal (not really) or just a learning opportunity (probably) and what I could do about it (get calm, move forward).

When I got downstairs, he was still listening to poetry, and I was still feeling pretty negative.  So, I grabbed a notebook and a pen and just started writing.  I sat on the chair near the window (trying not to think about all of the seeds that I have not yet planted) and I got my mood back in order after about 2 paragraphs (I wasn’t given much time for more).  He came up with some games to play, we had book-and-a-snack on the chair a bit later, then enjoyed reading the graphic novel version of The Little Prince over dinner.  Afterwards, he had a fabulous splash fest in the bath followed by a bedtime book, then lights out.

As I gave Philip his bedtime hugs and kisses, I told him how much he helped me get chores done (he helped me vacuum and he helped me clean dishes), how hard he worked on controlling his emotions (He and I worked on a list together.  For example, “When I get angry, I will stop and think quietly.”), how gentle he was with the dog (lots of pets and a reminder to brush the dog’s teeth) and so on.

He was grinning ear to ear.  He even said he was blushing.

As Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish point out in How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and How to Listen So Kids Will Talk, lecturing, preaching and harping about mistakes are ineffective motivators for positive change.  When the situation has passed, when the milk has been spilled, when the brains (both the parents’ and the child’s) are back in normal mode, it’s time to talk about ways to do things differently.  It can be really hard.  Parenting is a selfless act, but not all parents are selfless (nor, I think, should they be).  But, having faith and trust, leaning on patience and collective plans really can help ease the burden on all in the family.

The Storytelling Animal

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Bruce and I started reading a new book that we are enjoying immensely.  It’s called The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human by Jonathan Gottschall.  In the Preface, he introduces the “infinite monkey theorem.”  Then, he proceeds to discuss how researchers from Plymouth University in England arranged a pilot test of the theory with Sulawesi crested macaques.  The subsequent paragraphs are hilarious, as you can imagine.

We are only at chapter 2, but this will be a book that we will visit regularly until we finish it.  The writing is smooth and engaging.  The wit is amusing and periodic enough to entertain.

I am going to provide an excerpt below about daydreams that struck me as quite interesting:

“Many, perhaps most, of our waking hours are […] spent in dreams.  Daydreams are hard to study scientifically, but if you tune in to your stream of consciousness, you will discover that daydreaming is the mind’s default state.  We daydream when driving, when walking, when cooking dinner, when getting dressed in the morning, when staring off into space at work.  In short, whenever the mind is not absorbed in  a mentally demanding task–say writing a paragraph like this one or doing some difficult calculations–it will get restless and skip off into la-la land.”

He goes on to say that we daydream about the past, our future, and everything in between.  Again, quoting from the book:

“We screen films with happy endings in our minds, where all our wishes –vain, aggressive, dirty–come true.  And we screen little horror films, too, in which our worst fears are realized.”

So true.  Somehow, it helped to read this.  I thought, Well, I’m not completely crazy or unhinged.   This is pretty normal.  Whew!

When I read The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield years ago, I had worked myself into a sweat about all of the passing thoughts in my mind.  Each one had to be significant.  Each one had to be important.  Then, I started feeling disappointed by all of the thoughts that I had that I never pursued.  Remember when John Travolta’s character in Phenomenon started pursuing all of his wild ideas?  I recall admiring that character and thinking, Wow, this guy is living proof that so many of us are wasting our potential.  Not a cheery thought.

So, here’s what I’m thinking now.  It’s OK to daydream.  It’s probably quite therapeutic, in fact.  Just like children need to act out their fears in play to lessen them, we have to daydream to construct ways to navigate our lives.  Kind of cool that we have a safety net ready and waiting, happy to accommodate whenever we call.

Now that I’ve planted 11 trays of seeds (more to come later) and 6 pots of flowers have been stowed in the fridge, I will dream about this year’s garden.  I will wake up one day in the summer, and it will be vibrant, healthy and nearly weed free!!  ha ha ha ha ha…

And on that note, have a good night and have fun dreaming about what can be.