March 28, 2009

on revisiting books

Dear 15-year-old-self,

The Catcher in the Rye does not "suck." Trust me.


March 26, 2009

how to read a review

I'm sure I'm not the only writer who "reads" a review by scanning for criticism. You find the damning sentence(s), memorize the critique, let each of your inner editors (I've decided there are a whole host of them, each with her own manic quirks) take turns weighing it for truth, accept it as fact or something less ego-shattering, and keep writing. Usually, any critique will give you something you can use to be a better writer. The rest of the review, however complimentary, feels less vital and always, ALWAYS less believable.

But it occurs to me that the positive parts of a review might be worth paying attention to (if still dangerous to actually, say, believe). You want to know what sticks with people, what moved them. What works.

I've vowed that the next review I read (assuming there is a next one), I will try and take away at least one positive thing.


March 17, 2009

Help! I'm a prisoner in the library!*

The Guardian Books Blog has an article today on books you couldn't put down once you started, in reference to an article in the Mirror about a man who had a panic attack after being locked in a library when he didn't notice it close, so absorbed was he in his reading.

There are lots of books I couldn't stop reading (most recently Kate Atkinson's excellent When Will There Be Good News?), but I can think of only a few instances of books randomly picked up in a library where I felt compelled to read to the end:

Anthem by Ayn Rand, which I found by accident in Grade Seven when we were given a library period to find a book for a book report. It was on one of those metal spinning racks alongside Gordon Korman paperbacks and copies of Island of the Blue Dolphins, masquerading as a regular sort of YA book. It had a lot going for it: a bleak dystopian future, and a forbidden love story --- the romance between Equality 7-2521 and Liberty 5-3000.

I should say that this is the only Ayn Rand I've ever read, and though I certainly found it compelling (it was completely different from anything I'd ever read before), it did not turn me into a little twelve-year-old Objectivist. At least, not that I know of...(*cue ominous music*)

And in high school I was at the Ottawa Public Library, getting books for a paper I had to write, when I started reading a collection of Pinter plays and stayed there for hours finishing it. I'd never heard of Pinter (this seems slightly appalling now, but I hope not terribly unusual), but I was fascinated by the brevity of the dialogue --- just the way it looked on the page -- though in retrospect I think my fascination was fueled in no small part by a major case of procrastination on the assignment I was there to research.

*The title of this post is a reference to a book that I had as a little kid:

Two sisters go in search of a bathroom during a blizzard and get locked in a library. I remember it being fantastically spooky! Not actually scary, but the delicious type of creepiness where you know it's only your imagination but knowing that barely helps stave off the panic.

March 11, 2009

more good news

I forgot to mention that I received a statement for my short-story collection sales, along with a (very small) cheque. A cheque! This means that the book has earned out its (very modest) advance! I *think* this means that I am officially not a liability for my publisher, which is a good feeling.

I also reviewed Ali Smith's new short-story collection for the Gazette
a few weeks back. It made me want to reread The Accidental, which I remember thinking was perfect when I read it. I recently decided to add in another voice to my novel-in-progress, and I remember this being an example of a novel that really manages to pull off different perspectives. (Although I do feel a bit guilty re-reading something when there are so many new books I want to read. Not guilty enough to not do it, mind you.)