Tag Archives: literature

There Needs to be an Oscars Ceremony for Books

Before I start, yes, I know there are already slews of awards for books. There is even the National Book Awards, which has all kinds of categories and a ceremony every year. Yes, that’s all true, but I don’t care.

trophy

For one thing, the National Book Awards (NBA) are even more obscure than the Oscars. I consider myself an avid reader but when I went through the list of ALL the NBA winners from 1950 to the present, I had barely heard of any of them and I had only read two (Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: 1961-Nonfiction, and Holes: 1998-Young People’s Literature). Both of these were good books, but I don’t think anyone would contend that book awards are as glitzy as TV or movie awards.

But they should be.

Some things are going to need to change. Here is my idea. I think together we can make them happen.

1. Design a Whole New Awards Show

This is all about branding. We need a new show with a distinctive name for the awards. Taking after the Golden Globes, you could call it the Golden Pen (even though Golden Keyboard might be more accurate these days). Personally, I prefer the Bookies. It has shock value and common sense wrapped up into one. But, of course, that exists already as well. Maybe the Inkies? Any better ideas?

They need to be televised too. I don’t care if they won’t have the market of the other awards shows, it’s just got to happen. And I don’t mean on PBS either. To get this done, we need to make a grand, garish spectacle of it. Grotesque even. I want to see Stephen King juggling chainsaws on stage and Neil Gaiman doing an interpretive dance to Ke$ha. Who wouldn’t want to see that, right?

2. Make Interesting Categories

The National Book Awards have all the categories you’d expect: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, various genres, etc. That’s all fine, but if the Oscars have Best Makeup and Best Film Editing, what can books have? Here are some suggestions:

  • Best Protagonist
  • Best Villain
  • Best Supporting Character
  • Best Illustrations
  • Best Cover Art
  • Best Passage of Description
  • Best Passage of Dialogue
  • Best Twist Ending

The problem with that last one is that they couldn’t reveal the twist ending without everyone who hadn’t read it yet being really annoyed, but maybe it’s their own fault if they’re watching/attending the awards and haven’t read all the nominations yet.

3. Bring Authors into Pop Culture

I’ll bet the number of authors you could pick out of a lineup are so small you could count them on your fingers. At least the living ones. That’s the problem with authors; they hide behind their words. Okay, so it’s not really a problem but it is if we want a huge, red-carpet awards ceremony where everyone discusses what Amy Tan was wearing the next day. We need tabloids that only follow author scandals and paparazzi who follow around China Mieville or John Grisham to find out what they’re up to. The writers have to play their part too, of course, and not just go to the grocery store and hang out at the bookstore for three hours. It would at least make me watch TMZ.

What do you think? Any nominations for me?

And the award goes to…

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Demons vs. Witches: The most ridiculously awesome book you will probably never read

Considering this is a fiction blog, I have not written all that much fiction lately; at least not as much as I used to produce. I will come back, but I’ve been pretty busy and I’m still recovering and catching up on things. I’m sorry if I haven’t read your blog in a while, but I’ll try to soon (it helps if you comment 😉 )

Okay, so the book I’m talking about isn’t called “Demons vs. Witches” but it might as well be. It’s called “The Worm Ouroboros” by E.R. Eddison and it is ridiculous, insane, and awesome.

The Worm Ouroboros cover

Synopsis:

The Demons and Witches are enemies. The Witch king creates a spell which spirits away one of the Demons and so they have to mount a huge, epic quest to recover him resulting in a lot of adventure. Plus, while they are away, the Witches invade Demonland and run amok there.

The Ridiculous: 

1. This story apparently takes place on Mercury. In the prologue, a talking bird comes to the house of a man named Lessingham, in England and takes him to Mercury to see what’s going on there. The thing is, though, that except for one or two times in the first few chapters, Lessingham and the bird are never mentioned again. It’s like the author forgot about them totally.

2. The four main races in this world are the Demons, the Witches, the Goblins, and the Imps. In case you were wondering, the Demons are the good guys. They have horns and one of them named Spitfire apparently breathes fire every now and then. Other than that, they’re pretty much all act human.

3. I actually like the name Spitfire, but naming is an area where Eddison has some issues. The reason is that he came up with the story and characters when he was a teenager and kept them all when he finally wrote the book as an adult. The main characters are Juss, Spitfire, Goldry Bluszco and Brandoch Daha. Actually, the Witches have some cool names, like Corund, Corsus, and Corinius, but there are also characters named Fay Fax Faz, Cargo, and Volle.

The Insane:

1. It is written in what can only be described as “middle English, at best”. It was published in 1922, but Eddison uses language that would have made Shakespeare reach for his dictionary. Here is an example:

“I like not the dirty face of the Ambassador,” said Lord Zigg. “His nose sitteth flat on the face of him as if it were a dab of clay, and I can see pat up his nostrils a summer day’s journey into his head. If’s upper lip bespeak him not a rare spouter of rank fustian, perdition catch me.”

OR

“Ere we leave it,” said Brandoch Daha, “hear what he speaketh concerning Koshtra Belorn. This he beheld from Morna Moruna, whereof he saith: ‘The contery is hylly, sandy, and baren of wood and corne, as forest ful of lynge, mores, and mosses, with stony hilles. Her is a mighty stronge and usid borow for flying serpens in sum baren, hethy, and sandy grownd, and therby the litle round castel of Morna Moruna stondith on Omprenne Edge, as on the limit of the worlde, sore wether beten and yn ruine.”

To be fair, that second quote is mostly from an old book they are reading out of, but you get the idea.

2. The description, the description. Eddison does not leave a thing to the imagination. He describes everything. In the first chapter alone, he spends at least 7 pages describing the throne room and all the main characters, including everything they are wearing. It is quite exhausting.

The Awesome:

You may have gotten the impression that I don’t like this book, but I actually love it. Here’s why:

1. The characters in this story are about the toughest, manliest men there are. I don’t mean that in a sexist way, but this story is written in the mode of a Norse saga and holy cow, do they live up to it. It is literally epic. This book has some of the most awesome battle scenes I’ve ever read. The characters launch huge invasion fleets, get them wrecked to bits, struggle across deserts and wastelands, climb Mt. Everest-sized mountains with no equipment (while fighting off monsters), and generally act like demi-gods as a matter of course.

2. Despite all the blood and action, there is a nuanced side to it. Surprisingly, it’s mostly from the Witches, the bad guys. The Demons are great guys, but relatively uncomplicated. However, the story follows the Witches almost as much as the Demons and you really start to relate to them. Sure, a lot of them are bad, but some are just on the wrong side. There is all kinds of deep, heart-rending conflict and pathos that is really quite well done.

3. It is hilarious in parts. For one thing, the Witches are insanely heavy drinkers and hold massive banquets that go on for pages where they get totally hammered and act like idiots. It’s pretty funny, really. Also (spoiler alert on this 91-year-old story), at the end, once the Demons have vanquished all their foes, they are all sad and depressed. They’ve won and they hate it. But then an enchantress or fairy or resurrects all the Witches and gives the Demons eternal life so they can fight forever. Then they’re happy again. It’s very Valhalla-ish, but the way it’s written in this book is very funny.

worm ouroboros

I would definitely recommend this book, but there is a good chance you won’t read it, mostly because of the language. I don’t blame you: I never would have read it either, normally. I first found it when I was commissioned by a publisher to write a modernized version of it. I was forced to read it and fell in love with it (my version has not made it to print yet, and may never, for various reasons outside my control. But at least I got paid and discovered a good book out of it.) Still, if you’re willing to put up with the language, I guarantee it’s worth it.


7 things you may not know about Lord of the Rings

My favorite novel in the world is Lord of the Rings. I’ve read it at least 20 times, in three languages. To anyone who has seen the movie or read the book, the basic plot is pretty well known. However, with multiple readings I started to notice little cool details which either aren’t emphasized or are easy to overlook. Here’s my list of such things. (By the way, this is about the book, not the movie.)

The One Ring was the only Ring of Power without a gem.

The One Ring was the only Ring of Power without a gem. [*]

1. Even though the movies show the four hobbits as about the same age, this is not the case in the books. At the time of the quest to destroy the ring, Frodo was 50, Sam was 38, Merry was 36 and Pippin was 29. Of course, considering hobbits come of age at 33, Pippin would have been about 16 if he were human.

2. Hobbits aren’t the only ones who look younger than they are: Aragorn was 87 at the time of the Lord of the Rings and Gandalf was over 2000 years old.

3. List of words that appear in Lord of the Rings that sound bad, but really aren’t:

–      faggot (Book 2, Chapter 3: “a bundle of sticks”)

–      niggard (Book 6, Chapter 6 : “a selfish person”)

–      boner (Book 1, Chapter 12: a nonsensical word in a song, rhyming with ‘owner’)

–      bastards (Book 4, Chapter 9: “illegitimate children, used in the context of Shelob’s offspring)

Rivendell, by Ted Nasmith

Rivendell, by Ted Nasmith

4. Sam actually has five siblings but only mentions one of them in the Lord of the Rings: his younger sister Marigold. He mentions her in the chapter “Mount Doom” as someone he would have liked to see again, after he realizes they don’t have enough food to get back home.

copyright John Howe

copyright John Howe [*]

5. The high elves are telepathic and can have conversations with each other without speaking out loud (Book 6, Chapter 6)

6. Gandalf has a telepathic link with Shadowfax and can call him mentally whenever he wants.

7. Nine women have speaking roles in Lord of the Rings. They are very ethnically diverse, although they usually don’t have many lines of dialogue. Here is the list, in order of appearance:

–      Lobelia Sackville-Baggins – hobbit (2 lines)

–      Mrs. Maggot – hobbit (1 line)

–      Goldberry – Maiar (wife of Tom Bombadil) (10 lines)

–      Galadriel – elf (many lines)

–      Eowyn – human/Rohirrim (many lines)

–      Ioreth – human/Gondorian (8 lines)

–      Arwen – half-elf (2 lines)

–      Rosie – hobbit (3 lines)

–      Mrs. Cotton – hobbit (1 line)

There tend to be large gaps between them, however, and at one point, 17 chapters go by between women speaking.


Classic Arguments – Friday Fictioneers

copyright Claire Fuller

copyright Claire Fuller

Classic Arguments

The library had only been closed a minute when the whispers began.

“You know, it is a universal truth that a single volume in possession of a beautiful cover, must be in want of a sequel.”

“Shut yer rot, Austen, ya gloopy devotchka.”

“Double plus right.”

“As God is my witness, I’m never going to listen to you all gripe again.”

“This is the best of nights, it is the worst of nights.”

Suddenly, from the corner of the library with primary colors and board books and beanbag chairs came a roar of fierce joy:

“Let the wild rumpus start!”



Previous Week Update: 

On February 13, I posted the story The Wrong Tourist, about a person posing and getting their camera stolen. So, in a fit of meta-fiction, I went down and posed by the statue in the photo prompt, handing my camera to a stranger to take my picture. However, instead of a creepy old man, it was a young woman with a much better camera than mine, so I don’t think she would have wanted it.

This was taken back in February, when I still needed a coat.

This was taken back in February, when I still needed a coat.


…and they lived happily ever after.

On Monday, I did a post on first lines in literature, and today I’m going to look at the last lines of stories. The first line of a story does not have to be brilliant, but it is important as the reader’s first impression of the story. The last line is even less important, of course, because the reader has already read the entire story and the last line is not going to make much difference either way. The only exception is a writer like H.P. Lovecraft, who often revealed the twist of the whole story in the very last sentence.

Still, I am interested in last lines. Most are nothing special, but some of them sum up the whole story very beautifully and leave the reader with a lasting impression of things. Here are some of the ones I really like, but first an explanation and caveat: first lines are often very quotable because they don’t rely on any context. They can’t; they’re the first sentence. But last lines only make sense when taken with the book as a whole. And there are often spoilers. I couldn’t tell you the last line of “The Wasp Factory” by Iain Banks without giving away the major plot twist. Anyway…

“We look forward to getting you back.” Fight Club, by Chuck Palahniuk. This is so perfect because it has a hint of foreboding. The main character escaped and you thought the story was over. It isn’t…

“The creatures outside looked pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.” Animal Farm, by George Orwell. This is the perfect ending for this, since that’s the whole point of the book, that the pigs eventually become exactly like the thing they tried to get rid of.

“And, feeling better, fixed herself at last a cup of black, hot coffee.” Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. I like this because I think a cup of coffee is a good end to anything.

And probably my favorite ending to a book for sheer poignancy and summing things up is from Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien.

“‘Well, I’m back,’ he said.”

 

Do you know any good last lines? Do you put much work into them in your own writing? Share your thoughts in the comments.


It was a dark and stormy night…?

I love working on the first line of a story, especially a novel. The first sentence sets the tone for the whole book. It’s the first impression and if it’s off, it can sour the rest of the book for the reader. The first sentence will always be more memorable than the 100th sentence, so it has to be better.

So, what’s important to say in the first sentence? Many writers introduce their characters, since they are central to the story. Some introduce the landscape. A commonly held no-no is to start with the weather because usually the weather is trivial. One of my novel’s first lines is: “The air in the room felt close, like a cave, and the darkness smelled like baby powder and diaper rash cream.” There, I was trying to introduce the setting, but also set the mood and also give foreshadowing for the story to come, since it’s about babies and darkness. Another, where I introduce the character right away is: “Jonah liked being a hunter.” That also is trying to give a setting for the whole story, since the whole story in one way or another, is about hunting.

Here are some books that I have in my house and their first lines:

“The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring cleaning his little home.” (The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame). This introduces the character and gives a tone for the rest of the book. It’s a domestic story about domestic problems, and also about animals.

“A mile above Oz, the Witch balanced on the wind’s forward edge, as if she were a green fleck of the land itself, flung up and sent wheeling away by the turbulent air.” (Wicked, by Gregory Maguire). Another character introduction. This is actually in the prologue of the story, I think. It introduces the Witch as solitary and disconnected with the rest of the world, a problem she has through the whole story.

“Marley was dead: to begin with.” (A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens). Dickens was wonderful at first lines. This just grabs you and throws you into the story.

“Coraline discovered the door a little while after they moved into the house.” (Coraline, by Neil Gaiman). This first sentence introduces the character and also shows right away what is important in the story by saying “the door” instead of “a door” as if we should already know about it.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” (Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen). I think this is another of those classic first lines that lays out the whole book in a single sentence.

And then, the first line that I read and just laughed and laughed. Good or bad is for you to decide, but it definitely grabs you: “It was a long day, the day Axis tried to kill Azhure, then married her.” (Starman, by Sara Douglass).

Do you have any favorite first lines from novels? What are some of your own? Let me know. 🙂

 


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