Top Ten Tuesday: Book-Related Facts About Me

toptentuesday

Image via The Broke and the Bookish

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, focuses on the book bloggers rather than the books themselves. But since talking about myself is not nearly as interesting as letting others do the honors for me, I’ve enlisted my friends to contribute!

Here are ten book-related facts about me, according to those who know me best! (All facts have been quoted via Facebook comments).

1. “You’re a bit of a grammar queen, who tends to correct people’s Facebook posts. Like mine, for example.”

2. “You love Greek mythology.”

3. “If there’s a sexist rich guy in a book, he automatically reminds you of Christian Grey.”

4. “You prefer the fresh smell of binding to the fluorescent glow from some lifeless e-book.”

5. “You hate when books end, and you’re left without any real closure.”

eatpraylovemindy

6. “You’re frenemies with Elizabeth Gilbert.”

7. “Ideal book: Dystopian feminist-centric romance novel based in an alternative universe where dogs and cats have equal rights as humans.”

8. “Ideal male leads to fight for the heroine’s heart and affection are played by none other than Tom Hiddleston and Jared Leto in the movie adaptation in three parts.”

9. “You love fantasy with supernatural types and fireworks at the end.”

10. “I know you may not kick stray puppies when you’re bored, but you sure do have some built-up tension towards Nicholas Sparks.”

All I can say is that my friends have certainly described me in a nutshell! Do any of their facts resonate with you as well?

Advertisements

Merry Christmas to Me: Nicholas Sparks is Sued and Other Literary News

Happy holidays everyone! ‘Tis the season to sit around a fire, drink hot cocoa, spend time with your loved ones…and relish the fact that the author you hate the most is in a bit of legal trouble. Hey, what can I say? I’m on Santa’s naughty list!

But before I jump into this major headline, let me quickly recap the latest literary news of this month:

  1. 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and the literary world is going wild! Adaptations of the Bard’s plays will soon be flooding a city near you. I have yet to watch this year’s “Macbeth” retelling with Michael Fassbender, and I’ve been told that I really need to see Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” both of which sound like excellent ways to celebrate #Shakespeare400!
  2. I’ve been procrastinating big time when it comes to finishing Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf, but perhaps this upcoming TV series will inspire me! This 13 episode drama will premiere on Esquire on Saturday, January 23, at 10 p.m. ET.
  3. Want to boost your speed-reading skills? Lifehacker has a how-to guide on reading an entire book in one day. My personal best was 12 hours for each of the last few Harry Potter novels!
  4. The Internet Engineering Steering Group recently approved Error 451, a status code to inform web visitors that the content they can’t see is due to censorship. This online addition is appropriately named after–you guessed it–Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

Image via Queerty

Now moving on to the big news! My blog followers obviously know how much I loathe Nicholas Sparks; in fact, last month one reader informed me that the author is now caught in a legal feud for being–let’s face it–an utter ass.

In 2006, Sparks poured $10 million of his own money to found the Epiphany School, a Christian prep school in New Bern, North Carolina. This devout Catholic who refuses to write about homosexual love is now being sued by Saul Hillel Benjamin, the former headmaster of his own school, for discrimination.

Sources report that Benjamin is accusing Sparks of threatening him and creating a hostile environment after he attempted to establish a non-discrimination policy and a gay-straight alliance organization at Epiphany. Other claims against Sparks include barring African-Americans and promoting anti-Semitism. When Benjamin resigned after he was allegedly held hostage in a conference room to explain his beliefs, he called the school “a veritable cauldron of bigotry.”

Sparks’ defense? Taking a plot from his own books, he claims that Benjamin has Alzheimer’s and is making everything up. I for one completely believe that Sparks is a raging bigot and am not surprised to hear that he uses religious fundamentalism to spread his hateful views.

Granted, the lawsuit was filed in October of last year, so this news isn’t exactly new, but I’m sure that I’m not the only one to receive the story belatedly. Everyone has a mission in life: mine is making sure that the entire world knows that Sparks is a total scumbag, but fortunately he seems to be doing a fine job of that on his own.

Why I HATE Jonathan Franzen

Good, because haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate!

A couple years ago, I published one of my most popular blog posts–my rant on why I can’t stand Nicholas Sparks. And while my loathing for him is still going strong, I want to spend today extending my annoyance to another author dominating the industry…Jonathan Franzen.

Well-known for his novels The Corrections (2001) and Freedom (2010), I’m aware that writing this rant could come back to bite me in the ass in the future. Franzen, after all, has been labeled a “Great American Novelist” by TIME magazine. His net worth is estimated into the tens of millions. He’s got a *lot* of opinions, and he certainly isn’t afraid to share them with the world.

Too bad, he’s full of crap.

Need proof? Behold, my reasons why I HATE Jonathan Franzen:

1. He’s a book snob. I appreciate Franzen’s respect for journalists and the print media they produce, but that doesn’t mean that online communication is evil. You know that you’re out of touch with the world when you call the Internet a “bloodsucking monster squid.” Sure, I prefer paperbacks to ebooks, but without social media networks like Twitter and Goodreads, I never would have stumbled upon new books and authors–not to mention have virtually met all of my wonderful followers! That world of bloggers you despise so much is the same one praising your own work. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you, Franzen.

2. He’s a sexist book snob. Case in point: his long-standing feud with Jennifer Weiner, whom he believes is “freeloading on the legitimate problem of gender bias in the canon.” You know, the legitimate problem from which he gains a massive amount of privilege. The same gender bias that consistently places him at the top of the NYT bestseller list while hordes of female authors get stuck with cutesy covers because they’re deemed ‘commercial’ rather than ‘literary’ writers.

See what I mean?

If I ever felt guilty for hating on Franzen without actually reading a single word of his, I just refer to the fact that he’s committed the exact same sin:

I have yet to hear one person say, “Oh, she’s really good, you should read her.” And basically if two people say that about a book I’ll read it. I know no one, male or female, who says, “You’ve got to read Jennifer Weiner.”

Maybe if Franzen spent more time supporting female authors and less time huffing and puffing over why gender discrimination is, like, just not his problem, man, then he wouldn’t come off as such a jerk.

Because of course men can’t write about young women without replicating Lolita. It’s not creepy, you are.

3. He definitely doesn’t put the “sex” in sexist. I find it ironic that Franzen believes he’s better than all those romance novelists like Weiner, and yet he can’t write a love scene to save his life. Here’s an example, courtesy of fellow Franzen hater Madeleine Davies from Jezebel:

Click on the link above to read more tidbits, but you’ve been warned! I want to bleach my eyes after laying them on that horror. Dare I say, Franzen makes E.L. James look good!

4. Did I mention he’s sexist? One of my favorite books of all time is The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (an award, I should add, that Franzen has yet to win).

You would think that Franzen could recognize such genius, but alas, you’d be wrong. What did Franzen decide to write in The New Yorker on Wharton’s 150th birthday?

Edith Newbold Jones did have one potentially redeeming disadvantage: she wasn’t pretty.

Nothing says literary appreciation like calling a writer ugly and sexually ignorant! But wait! There’s more!

Lacking good looks and the feminine charms that might have accompanied them, she eventually became, in every sense but one, the man of her house.

Ah yes, the only reason why Wharton became a renowned writer is because she was practically a man! Silly me to forget that pretty women are worthless when it comes to putting pen to paper.

Instead of publishing a kind commemoration, Franzen managed to objectify a woman who has been dead for almost 80 years. Classy!

So yes, just like with Nicholas Sparks, I haven’t read Jonathan Franzen–and after witnessing this misogyny, I don’t intend to. I’m sure that there are plenty of straight, white, male authors who reach great levels of success without demeaning women or other marginalized populations, but these men clearly do not qualify.

What are your thoughts? Is Franzen one of your fav writers or just a literary frat bro? Were you aware of his less-than-admirable opinions, and does it change how you see him? Share your love or hate in the comments!

Please let this be sarcasm…

Philosophical Questions about Reading

As the year comes to a close, it’s natural to become more contemplative, evaluating your past and planning your future. Today I’ve rounded up some articles I’ve read online, which posited these questions about reading that are sure to get you thinking:

Image via Gawker Media

1. How can fiction help you live a better life? Lifehacker reports that reading fiction has tons of benefits, including learning empathy, breeding curiosity, and making you a better storyteller. So how has reading fiction changed your life for the better? Here were my favorite comments on the article:

“Game of Thrones taught me to not be a hero and to eat and drink more.” – ichiban1081

“LOTR taught me that the world is changing for the worse and Elves are leaving because of it.” – PeteRR

For extra credit, answer me this question, from a previously reported NYT blog: how has reading changed your life for the worse?

Image via The Frisky

2. What do you do when the things you love don’t match up with your politics? Rebecca Vipond Brink at The Frisky feels conflicted over her love for Kurt Vonnegut despite his poor representation of women in his writing. It’s one thing to love an author who lived centuries ago, when racism and sexism were more intensely upheld in society, but what happens when you find yourself admiring the work of a modern author who offends you?

I felt the same cognitive dissonance when reading Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, a known homophobic Mormon author. I also love Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, even though I’m aware of the author’s reputation of appealing to misogynistic frat guys and MRAs. I guess my response to the question would be that I try to distance fiction from author when applicable, as not all stories are intended to be autobiographical. And when it comes to the especially offensive, if I must read their work, I find ways around supporting them monetarily by borrowing books from friends or libraries.

3. Have you ever had a relationship end because of a book? The New York Times does it again with another literary brain-teaser. One writer was dumped in part because her boyfriend couldn’t get over her distaste for Hunter S. Thompson, and another learned that many men can’t handle a woman being more preoccupied by reading at times than them. Whether it was a specific book or just reading in general, has anyone split ways over fiction?

When it comes to books, there’s nothing that turns me off more than a man who doesn’t read enough or unenthusiastically reads something just because you like it. Instead of trying to change yourself for someone, it’s best to find partners who share your values. This is why I would dump someone over a book, if need be. If you utterly abhor The Lord of the Rings, just see yourself out. It’s not me, it’s you.

Image via The Telegraph

4. Why does Nicholas Sparks suck so hard? Apparently I am not alone in thinking the king of the romance novel is a total ass. Turns out Jodi Picoult is not a fan, according to this article by The Telegraph. She laments that women’s fiction does not mean that women are your audience, but rather you’re just a women who writes fiction.

When asked whether she ever used a pseudonym, this was her response:

“I did once,” she says. “So let me tell you what happened. I wrote a book under a man’s name. It was years ago, my kids were really tiny. It was when The Bridges of Madison County [by Robert James Waller] had been published. Nicholas Sparks was becoming big [as a romantic novelist]. Please don’t get me started on Nicholas Sparks,” she says, rolling her eyes. “I haven’t had enough caffeine yet.” But anyway.

“I was so angry about these men who had co-opted a genre that women had been slaving over for years. There are some really phenomenal romance writers who get no credit, who couldn’t even get a hardback deal. And these men waltzed in and said, ‘Look what we can do. We can write about love. And we are so special.’ And that just made me crazy.” Her agent tried to sell her pseudonymous book, but was told it was too well written for the male romance genre. “So there you go,” she says, angry, and yet ever-so-slightly pleased.

A-to the freaking-men, Jodi Picoult. I haven’t read any of your books, but maybe it’s about time I started. It looks like we have at least one thing in common: our hatred of the suckage that is Nicholas Sparks.

So let me hear your thoughts on these philosophical questions! I’m all ears!

Some Friday Fun: Book Cover Flipping

Happy Friday everyone! I can’t believe that it’s the end of May already; time just seems to fly by!

This is especially disconcerting when I realize that the year is 42% over, and I’ve only read 35% of my reading quota. Alas! I’m about 100 pages into Catch-22, which I’m enjoying so far, but I definitely need to spend time this weekend making a bigger dent into the novel.

Some might say that setting an annual reading goal is stifling, but I find that it keeps me motivated and pushes me to be a better blogger for my followers. I only wish that sleep was unnecessary–oh, how many books we could all read then!

Anyways, I found an interesting literary link that I thought I’d share: The Huffington Post’s coverage of author Maureen Johnson’s book cover flip experiment. As a YA fiction writer, Johnson was frustrated with the stereotypes targeted toward books written by women:

And the simple fact of the matter is, if you are a female author, you are much more likely to get the package that suggests the book is of a lower perceived quality. Because it’s “girly,” which is somehow inherently different and easier on the palate. A man and a woman can write books about the same subject matter, at the same level of quality, and that woman is simply more likely to get the soft-sell cover with the warm glow and the feeling of smooth jazz blowing off of it. If we sell more — and we often don’t — it is simply because we produce candy, and who doesn’t like candy? We’re the high fructose corn syrup of literature, even when our products are the same.

So Johnson tweeted her request that people recreate book covers as if the stories were written by the opposite gender. Here are some of my favorites, all of which you can check out at HuffPo:

 

 


I completely agree with Johnson. I believe that the publishing industry can be extremely sexist, perpetuating the idea that men won’t read female authors by packaging their novels in highly feminine covers–despite the fact that the quality of work is just as good as that of their male counterparts.

And while I have nothing against “chick lit” as a genre, since I read quite a bit of it, I realize that there’s no such thing as “dude lit.” We have perceived stories about women’s lives as different, and thereby somehow lesser.

So yes, I’ve described books as fluffy, light, beach reads, but only as an indicator of subject matter, not sex. There’s a huge difference between teen queen Meg Cabot and activist Margaret Atwood, and whomever you enjoy more is just a matter of preference.

And when it comes to my preferences, what I think is trash also has nothing to do with gender. I love romance novels when they’re written well, and loathe them when they’re written by Nicholas Sparks.

But if boys are so insecure in their sexuality that they refuse to read books with “girly” covers or written by women who use their first names instead of initials, then we have only ourselves to blame.

Let’s stop giving into cultural misogyny and start teaching all children to love reading, no matter what the main characters’ or authors’ genders are. Let’s stop polarizing the publishing industry by book covers and start encouraging more gender-neutral marketing. Lastly, let’s stop writing off entire genres as inferior and start reading outside our comfort zone so that we expand our preconceived notions and actually learn from one another.

Who’s with me?!

Why I HATE Nicholas Sparks

Roses are red, violets are blue, Nicholas Sparks–you suck, and I just hate you too.

Get ready to get your panties in a twist, girls: I’m about to share why I hate, loathe, and otherwise despise one of the most beloved writers of our day. Usually I let people squeal about these romances with my mouth shut, for fear of raining on their parade (even though rain would probably only make their parade more swoon-worthy, right?). But now I’m invoking the whole “my blog, my rules,” and telling you how I really feel. So fangirls beware, because haters gonna hate today!

Who is Nicholas Sparks? He’s a 47-year-old author from Nebraska, a devout Catholic with five kids. In 1996, his first novel The Notebook was published after a stroke of good luck when an agent fished it out of the slush pile. It became a huge success, and his current bibliography of 17 novels and 10 film adaptations have built him an estimated net worth of $30 million.

But you know what? Good for him for making a fortune with his writing. It’s every book blogger’s dream, and I’m not going to hate him just for being rich.

I’m going to hate him because he’s an egotistical, arrogant jerk.

I’ll bet money that no Nicholas Sparks fan has read his 2010 interview for USA Today, because I don’t know how anyone can come away from it still believing he’s a great guy.

He also looks like a creepy plastic surgeon.

How do I hate thee, Nicholas Sparks? Let me count your pompous, deluded ways:

“I don’t write romance novels […] Love stories — it’s a very different genre. I would be rejected if I submitted any of my novels as romance novels.”

Oh, really? You know what this is? Sexist BS. God forbid he ever gets lumped in with all those female romance novelists, who are writing exactly the same kinds of stories as him. A novel about romance is a romance novel, and a crappy book filed under any other genre is still a crappy book.

“There’s a difference between drama and melodrama; evoking genuine emotion, or manipulating emotion. It’s a very fine eye-of-the-needle to thread. And it’s very rare that it works. That’s why I tend to dominate this particular genre. There is this fine line. And I do not verge into melodrama. It’s all drama. I try to generate authentic emotional power.”

Again, Sparks, you’re splitting hairs. Own up to the fact that you make people cry by invoking the tear-jerking subjects of cancer and military deployment. Whether you evoke or manipulate emotions, who cares? You make your readers feel what you want them to feel.

And when you spout off lines like this, that’s straight-up melodrama.

He spends the entire interview trying to convince the journalist that he’s a special snowflake. He compares himself to the Greek tragedians, William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Ernest Hemingway all in one breath. As the interview takes place in a bookstore, here’s what he says when he picks up A Farewell to Arms:

“A Farewell to Arms, by Hemingway. Good stuff. That’s what I write,” he says, putting it back. “That’s what I write.”

You know what Hemingway hated the most? Fake people. How I wish he could come back from the dead and slap your self-absorbed face.

Sparks’ favorite tale of youth? “I think A Walk to Remember,” he says, citing his own novel. “That’s my version of a coming-of-age.” He pauses and adds: “You have to say To Kill a Mockingbird is an all-time classic.”

Why study race relations in TKAM when you can learn that teen marriage is totally cool as long as you have leukemia? Way to go American education system!

Oh, sure. Citing your own novel as your favorite–then adding one of the most influential masterpieces in modern literature as simply an after-thought–is a prime example of humility.

 “There are no authors in my genre. No one is doing what I do.”

Ok, that’s it Sparks. STFU. I can’t take it anymore! How can your head even fit through doors when it’s that big?

Luckily, there are some sane people who call Sparks out. Roger Ebert declared his novels “soft porn for teenage girls,” and plenty of other book bloggers have shared their loathing. Cracked has a hilarious critique of the author, a part of which I’ve shared below:

Now here comes my disclaimer: I have never actually read a Nicholas Sparks novel. I have seen the movies, “A Walk to Remember” and “The Notebook,” which I enjoyed because I was drinking the Kool-Aid like every other teen girl, but now? I refuse to give one cent to this yahoo.

And I really stick to my guns. I don’t care how hot Zac Efron’s washboard abs look, I turned down all of my friends’ invitations to the theater. There are plenty of other formulaic, sappy love stories that I can experience which were written by people who aren’t complete sleazeballs.

So yes, feel free to judge me for judging a writer without reading his writing. I completely understand the argument, and I admit that it’s not entirely fair. But after seeing his personality, why in the world would I start reading his stuff now???

Sometimes you don’t need to experience something to confirm it’s bad–like heroin. I wouldn’t shoot up to see what all the fuss is about, and I don’t need to waste money on someone who clearly doesn’t deserve it.

In fact, as much as I’d love to hear how much you hate Nicholas Sparks too, if he’s your literary homeboy, speak up! That’s what book blogging is all about! Trust me, I did debate in high school, so I’m all for some lively discussion!

So give it to me, readers: Nicholas Sparks–love or hate?

I say we just blame Nicholas Sparks for everything.

Masterpiece Monday: Book Versus Movie (Venn Diagram Edition)

So I found this Venn diagram the other day on TheFrisky.com, and since we were discussing classic novels and their respective film adaptations yesterday, I figured you all would have plenty to say about this.

As for me, I completely agree that The Great Gatsby, The Scarlet Letter, and One Day are better as books. However, I think that Never Let Me Go is outstanding either way, and I’d avoid Beloved in any form.

I’d be hard-pressed to find somebody who hated The Godfather, Fight Club, and The Princess Bride as movies, but I’d add that Fight Club is just as kick-ass on paper. And obviously, Harry Potter and To Kill a Mockingbird deserve to overlap both categories.

Lastly, after reading interviews of the egotistical, pompous jerk that is Nicholas Sparks, I refuse to give him any money whatsoever. I only wish I knew about his arrogance before I watched The Notebook, because I admit that it was a great movie, for being a sappy sob-fest, that is.

I haven’t read or watched most of the others, so please enlighten me with your opinions. Did this diagram get it right? What would you add? Let’s keep the debate going!