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…

Top Ten Book-Related Problems I Have

Apologies for postponing my movie review of “50 Shades of Grey,” but it’s taking me a bit longer to gather my thoughts! Goodness knows I have plenty to say about that film, and I don’t want to leave anything out! Bear with me!

So in the meantime, let’s discuss this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s topic is about all the book-related problems that come up when you’re an avid reader. Reading can be an emotional rollercoaster, so why not explain the ride with some gifs?

1. Too many books. Over 300,000 books are published in the United States alone every single year, and since I read about 20 each year, that’s only 0.000067%. No one can ever make a dent in that enormous TBR list, and that’s crazy depressing.

2. Not enough time. Even if I live to be 100 years old, assuming I continue my annual reading rate, that means I only have time to read 1,500 more books in my life. That might sound like a lot, but all I think is, “THAT’S ALL?!”

3. Not enough money. Ok, so after looking over my budget from last year, it seems that I only spent about $300 on books in 2014. That’s only $25 a month, which isn’t lavish by any means. BUT! We all wish we could make it rain when it comes to books, especially in audio form, which are much more expensive than paperbacks. Sure, I could go to the library more often and get books for free, but boy do I love collecting them (see problem #4).

4. Not enough space. Every year I collect a bunch of new books, and I’m forced to thin the herd. To a reader, that’s like giving away your own children! If I won the lottery, after doing all the responsible things with the money, I’d buy my dream home with a library that could rival Belle’s in “Beauty and the Beast.” No more book spring-cleaning for me!

5. Jumping on a bandwagon too early. There’s nothing like falling in love with a new series, only to realize nobody’s even heard of it. Maybe the movie’s not coming out for several years, so you have to sit there twiddling your thumbs. And you will, because you can’t wait to tell everyone else, “I TOLD you so!”

6. Jumping on a bandwagon too late. The reverse situation is even more painful, because I hate feeling left out of things. If too much time has passed on a novel, I won’t even bother reading it. I’m looking at you, The Fault in Our Stars!

7. Not getting a seat on public transit. This is why audiobooks exist, people! It’s awful trying to read an old-fashioned book standing up, as the train jerks and jostles you around. It’s hard enough trying not to trip with nothing to distract you, so unless I can get a seat, there’s no point pulling a book out of my bag.

8. Floor sitters. Look, it sucks having to buy books (see problem #2). But if you’re a floor sitter, meaning you can be found on the floor of a bookstore camping with a book until you finish reading it, then don’t be surprised when I kick you accidentally-on-purpose. This especially applies in the graphic novel/manga section, since there’s even a term in Japanese for these annoying people. Stop being cheap and taking up space. Buy your book and GTFO.

9. Bad romance novels. Insta-love, Mary Sue characters, and really bad sex. I could go on and on, but just check out my rant from last week’s Top Ten Tuesday! I’m convinced that there must be a circle in hell for crappy romance novels specifically, because there’s nothing worse than expecting a ‘happily ever after’ and getting a ‘never again’ instead.

10. WAITING! I feel for Game of Thrones fans, waiting years and years for a sequel. It’s one thing to get a sequel after several decades when you never knew one was in the works, like Harper Lee’s upcoming release. But when you’re counting down the days until you can dive back into an amazing story? Absolute torture!

So if you’ve got 99 problems, how many of them relate to books? Shout ’em out in the comments!

Top ten things I HATE when it comes to romances in books

Image via The Broke and the Bookish

I couldn’t resist participating in today’s Top Ten Tuesday, a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is right on the heels of Valentine’s Day, as it discusses what we love and hate when it comes to romances in books.

I’ve read plenty of romance, and whether it’s the main story or just a side-plot, there are standards that must be met for me to consider it worthy of my reading time. It’s no surprise that Fifty Shades of Grey breaks pretty much all of these rules, considering just how crappy it is. Since the movie adaptation is about to hit theaters, why don’t we take a few more stabs at the series while we vent about what we despise in romances?

Haters, let’s start hating! Here are the top ten things I HATE when it comes to romances in books:

The look of a guy with mommy issues

1. Sob story backgrounds to justify normal behavior. In Fifty Shades, Christian Grey’s mother was a drug-addicted prostitute who committed suicide, an excuse he uses for enjoying BDSM. Say it with me: Boo. Flipping. Hoo. While it’s a tiring trope to make a character orphaned or ‘troubled’ to make him more likable, it’s especially annoying when authors do it to justify typical human behavior. There’s nothing wrong at all with BDSM as long as it’s consensual, and Grey’s backstory just creates the false impression that his kinkiness is a sickness. Commitment-phobic because your parents are divorced? Distrusting because your ex cheated on you? Call the whambulance. You’re not a special snowflake; you’re normal. Now get over your sob story and become a better person!

White people almost writing: a crappy attempt by Nicholas Sparks

2. Excluding the vast majority of society. Hey, romance novelists! Where are all the people of color? How about LGBT characters? Would it kill you to write about men shorter than 5’10”, or women who are larger than a size 6? Maybe I’m not reading the right books, but most of them seem to be about stereotypically attractive white people, and lord knows there’s enough of those in romance. How refreshing would it be to see more interracial or gay couples? Reading has been shown to increase empathy, so including more diversity in books will in turn better society’s tolerance. Get to it, writers! The world depends on you!

3. No secondary characters. Just because you’re writing romance doesn’t mean you’re excused from writing sidekicks. Your main characters had friends and family before they met, and those people didn’t disappear once they hooked up. Bella Swan sacrifices her mortality and her normal teenage life for vampire love; that doesn’t make her romantic, it makes her a stupid jerk. Don’t all Twilight fans realize that Bella gets the lovely opportunity of watching her parents and all her friends die? If your love interests “complete” each other, then congrats, you’re writing a crappy romance. How about making them complete on their own? Make love the frosting, not the whole damn cake.

Lighten up, Grumpy!

4. Why so serious? We get it: your love interests have never had chemistry like this before. No one in the world has ever experienced passion at this epic level. Ho hum. Too many romances have been written about brooding, angsty men and the cold, uptight women that they turn into sensual vixens. Everyone should check out Vicki Lewis Thompson’s Nerd series if they want excellent examples of how playfulness can be sexy. Let’s face it, falling in love can be painfully awkward, and if you can’t laugh at yourself, then I don’t care about your happily-ever-after.

5-10. Bad sex. Okay, I tried to make ten unique complaints, but I realized that most were on this particular subject, so I’m grouping them together. Let’s be honest, nobody reads Playboy for the articles, and nobody buys romance novels to read about two characters holding hands. #SorryNotSorry!

What makes sex bad in books? Let me count the ways:

5. Calling your lover by name way too frequently. I’m talking to you, Mr. Grey and Ms. Steele. If you have to reference your lover’s name that often, whether it’s inside or outside the bedroom, might I suggest name-tags?

6. Referring to your lover’s nether regions with obnoxious terms. I swear, if you use the phrase “velvet-covered steel,” I will stab you in the face. Same goes for rods, members, nubs, and love buttons. You don’t have to talk like a doctor, but don’t talk like a middle-schooler taking her first shot at fan-fiction either (*cough* E.L. James *cough*). If you wouldn’t use the term in real life, don’t write it down!

7. Gasping at your lover’s well-endowed package. Cue eye-rolling! There’s nothing wrong with admiring the male form, but if your sex scene begins with a gasp and a “But…will it fit?” then you need to go back to Creative Writing 101. Not all men are porn stars, and that’s totally fine. It’s about quality, not quantity. I could add something about boats and the ocean, but I’m pretty sure you get what I mean.

8. Expecting climactic results with little-to-no foreplay. This is my biggest pet peeve in all erotic media: it’s all reward and no work, creating generations of men who are horrible in bed. No man’s “member” is so magical that he can flat-out ignore his partner’s pleasure. If your male protagonist doesn’t make a stop downtown, you can bet I’m throwing your book out the window.

9. Having an inner goddess. Imaginary friends are for children, and there’s absolutely nothing sexy about that. Your inner monologue doesn’t need a spokesperson providing commentary. If you’re having a great time between the sheets, just say so! The inner goddess trope in Fifty Shades is so absurd that even Cosmopolitan magazine makes fun of it–a huge red flag that the book really does suck.

10. Not making it safe! Look, no one is saying that contraception is a turn-on. But you know what’s definitely NOT sexy? STDs. Even Mr. and Ms. Perfect are at risk, and since they most likely fell in lurrrrvvvveeee in only a matter of weeks, they better wrap it up after whipping it out. I also feel inclined to make a joke about life’s most common sexually transmitted disease–babies–but I’ll leave that to comedic genius Donald Glover:

Alright, on that note, I’ll see myself out! There you have it: the top ten things I hate the most when it comes to romances in books! I hope everyone has a wonderful Valentine’s Day! You’ll find me at the movie theater, hate-watching Fifty Shades, of course. I’m taking one for the team, so you don’t have to! Don’t forget to come back to Book Club Babe this weekend for my review!

Literary Things that Grind My Gears

It’s no shock that hating on something gets more attention than loving it. Between the hipster sentiment of enjoying something ironically to the concept of the ‘anti-fan,’ we’ve created an entire culture based on opposing the things around us. Heck, I’ve even benefitted from it, given that my rant on why I hate Nicholas Sparks continues to gain the most amount of traffic on Book Club Babe.

So why fight it when you can join it? A little complaining can be therapeutic after all, so here are two things in the literary world going on this month that are grinding my gears!

Amen, Meme Generator!

The plight of the white male writer. There’s nothing quite as obnoxious as a white man who does not recognize his privilege in society. Many blogs are criticizing Kevin Morris, an entertainment attorney, for lamenting that before he got published, he was rejected many times and had to self-publish his book on Amazon. His book White Man’s Problems (ugh) discusses how hard it is for white men to get the credit they deserve now that women and people of color are dominating the cultural narrative. Hang on a second while I play the world’s smallest violin.

Oh, woe is the white man!

Not to worry, though, because Morris was fortunate enough to have a co-creator of “South Park” as a client who was able to hook him up with a publisher. Thank goodness there were other white men to help a white man out!

So let’s just completely ignore the fact that women often use gender-ambiguous pen names to increase readership, lest they get unceremoniously shoved into the infantilizing “women’s fiction” genre full of pink, fluffy covers. And let’s just bypass that in 2012, there were only three out of 124 authors on the NYT bestsellers list that were people of color, none of which were African-American. No, what the literary world needs more of is white men, of course!

Book vlog trolling. Anyone who has read YouTube comments knows that that’s where common decency goes to die. One poor girl named Katie who posted videos of book reviews was harassed so badly by mouth-breathers from 4chan forums that she decided to take down her entire channel. They mocked her personality, appearance, and sexuality so incessantly that she felt “disgusted” and “violated.”

As someone who has recently posted my own book vlogs on YouTube, I sympathize with Katie completely. My channel may not have enough of a spotlight on it to attract these gnats, but trolling book vloggers has to be a new low. If your hobby involves verbally assaulting people on the Internet–especially innocent, introverted bookworms–then you have a sad, pitiful life, and I hope you spend the rest of it stepping on Legos.

And this might be my new favorite gif!

So what’s grinding your gears right now? Feel free to let loose, because as Taylor Swift said, us haters are gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate today!

Call the whambulance: Jealous writer tells J.K. Rowling to move aside

Ohhhh, have I been itching for another literary rant, and now is my chance!

The blogosphere attacked with full force last week, this time at Lynn Shepherd, a novelist and copywriter who recently wrote on The Huffington Post, “If J.K. Rowling Cares About Writing, She Should Stop Doing It.”

Let’s just take a look at her complaints, shall we?

I didn’t much mind Rowling when she was Pottering about. I’ve never read a word (or seen a minute) so I can’t comment on whether the books were good, bad or indifferent. I did think it a shame that adults were reading them (rather than just reading them to their children, which is another thing altogether), mainly because there’s so many other books out there that are surely more stimulating for grown-up minds.

Ah yes, another uber-sophisticated person who thinks she’s above Harry Potter. How original. It’s one thing to judge a writer without reading her work (heck, I did it to Nicholas Sparks with zero regret). But she never even saw the movies? Was she living under a rock from 2001-2011? Perhaps, because *surprise surprise* up until this drivel was published, no one but her fellow HuffPo click-baiters had even heard of her.

Then Shepherd throws shade at Rowling’s adult novels, starting with A Casual Vacancy:

It wasn’t just that the hype was drearily excessive, or that (by all accounts) the novel was no masterpiece and yet sold by the hundredweight, it was the way it crowded out everything else, however good, however worthwhile.

You know what? Too bad! Rowling is insanely rich and famous now, and that means no matter what she writes–even if it suffers critical reviews like A Casual Vacancy in fact did–her fanbase is large enough that she’s still going to make bestseller lists. As a former single mother living on welfare, Rowling managed to overcome the odds and become successful. Good for her, and shame on anyone who would want her to give up on her dreams.

Shepherd continues playing the world’s smallest violin with this nonsense:

I know she used a pseudonym, and no doubt strenuous efforts were indeed made to conceal her identity, but there is no spell strong enough to keep that concealed for long.

So you acknowledge the fact that Rowling tried to remain anonymous, and you still diss her? I can’t comprehend the cognitive dissonance that takes. Rowling has never fought for anyone’s attention; she’s a very private person who rarely does interviews or public appearances.

And she donates more to charity than you could ever hope to earn in your lifetime. Seriously, the woman donated $160 MILLION a couple years back, knocking herself off the Forbes billionaire list. Green isn’t your color, Shepherd, and now you just made millions of people see red with this poorly crafted pity party.

Shepherd ends her article with this:

By all means keep writing for kids, or for your personal pleasure – I would never deny anyone that – but when it comes to the adult market you’ve had your turn. Enjoy your vast fortune and the good you’re doing with it, luxuriate in the love of your legions of fans, and good luck to you on both counts. But it’s time to give other writers, and other writing, room to breathe.

Come on, we all know that you don’t mean “other writers:” you mean yourself. God forbid you work on perfecting your craft when you can just demand more talented people take a back seat. With your line of thinking, Beyonce should stop singing, Meryl Streep should stop acting, and Jared Leto should stop doing both AND chop off his gorgeous hair (Just kidding Jared, don’t do that. Our future wedding photos will look dreadful!)

Wins an Oscar for dressing up as a woman. Looks better than all women by doing so.

Shepherd is what I’d like to coin as a creative communist. Guess what? Life isn’t fair! You shouldn’t get trophies for participation or blame others for your lack of success. Suck it up, work harder, and be grateful for what you have. Rowling is not your competition; your ugly attitude is what’s getting in your own way.

And might I point out that it’s a bit sexist that you targeted Rowling solely, when there are plenty of male authors saturating the adult fiction market, like James Patterson and Stephen King. They’ve been writing crime and suspense for much longer, but you just had to get your panties in a twist and start a catfight. Petty much?

Fortunately for karmic justice, no one can write without thinking and not suffer the consequences. Her article gained over 700 comments, most verbally ripping her to shreds. Jezebel called her out with their own critique, and Amazon now hosts dozens of one-star reviews of Shepherd’s novels, written in retaliation. Hell hath no fury like Dumbledore’s army scorned!

So I hope you’ve learned your lesson, Lynn Shepherd, and eaten the huge slice of humble pie that the Internet has served you. I’m glad you sent an apology to The Guardian, because you have a lot of sucking up to do now. It’s a shame that you had to resort to such pathetic levels to find a spotlight, a plan which backfired with gusto and essentially killed your career.

Now please go back into literary oblivion where you came from.

Books and Big Data: A Rant (in GIFs)

As marketing coordinator of a supercomputer company, it’s my job to manage all of our social networking sites, post relevant industry news, and occasionally write for our blog. It just so happens that an article which a colleague of mine shared the other day is also perfect for this blog!

Let the fun begin–it’s about to get super ranty up in here! And the bonus? I’ll be accompanying all of my emotions with the ever so addictive reaction GIFs! Huzzah!

On Financial Times, John Sunyer writes, “Big data meets the Bard,” so when you’ve got Shakespeare alongside the biggest buzzword in the tech world, I’ve got to admit I’m pretty interested.

But my excitement comes to a screeching halt after reading the first sentence:

Here’s some advice for bibliophiles with teetering piles of books and not enough hours in the day: don’t read them.

Oh, I get it. This is clearly a joke! Pull the reader in with a shocking statement, then transition to the real point? Apparently not, as it gets worse:

Instead, feed the books into a computer program and make graphs, maps and charts: it is the best way to get to grips with the vastness of literature.

This must just be some computer geeks thinking of ways to get out of their literature homework, right?

That, at least, is the recommendation of Franco Moretti, a 63-year-old professor of English at Stanford University and unofficial leader of a band of academics bringing a science-fiction thrill to the science of fiction.

An English professor from Stanford is suggesting we let computers do our reading for us?!

Alright, let’s say I’ll trust this guy for a second. What sort of amazing insights has he discovered by crunching words into numbers?

Moretti takes 7,000 British novels published between 1740 and 1850 and feeds them into a computer. The results reveal that books with long titles became drastically less common during this period.

I’m sorry, I don’t need to be the head honcho at the Ivy League of the West to know that insignificant tidbit of info. But if computers can only enlighten us with this drivel, that means there’s still lots of human reading to be done?

Ryan Heuser, 27-year-old associate director for research at the Literary Lab, tells me he can’t remember the last time he read a novel. “It was probably a few years ago and it was probably a sci-fi. But I don’t think I’ve read any fiction since I’ve been involved with the lab.”

So he works at the Literary Lab, but he hasn’t read a book in years?! Please tell me that novelists everywhere are writing angry letters to these so-called researchers!

“My impression is that Moretti is a passionate and astute scholar,” the novelist Jonathan Franzen tells me. “I doubt it is his aim to put novelists and novel readers out of business.”

Et tu, Franzen? But if that is his aim, I will cut him.

So what does Moretti and his buddies have to say for themselves after filling book lovers like me with rage?

Moretti is used to defending his work. “I’ve received so much shit for the quantitative stuff,” he admits.

As Jockers says: “Literary scholars have traditionally had to defend their worth against those working in the sciences. Yet now that literature is beginning to reek of science, there’s a knee-jerk reaction against it. We can’t win. There’s an endless battle between the disciplines. I’m still repeatedly accused of ‘taking the human out of humanities’.”

For once, they speak the truth: they are indeed “taking the human out of humanities.” They have managed to take literary criticism, one of the most debated, subjective, personal fields of study, and mangle it into a sterile, soulless profession. By trying to turn art into a science, they have lost the essence of the art itself.

And with that, I bid you good day, you book traitors!

Book Review: Pop Kids

Image via Scene Point Blank

Rating: 2 out of 5


I’ve been dreading writing this review as much as I was excited to read the book. I even blogged my ode to Davey Havok just to ensure the skeptics that I’m still a devoted fan of his.

But Pop Kids definitely tested that devotion.

Why you ask? Let’s sweat the small stuff first, then build up to the real issues, shall we?

1. Grammar Nazis, get out your red pens. Rumor has it that Pop Kids is self-published behind a vanity press. You all know how I feel about that, but I’m not about to dwell on whether it’s true.

However, I can see why this assumption holds weight. Now don’t chuck your books at me, but perhaps it’s because the majority of self-published books lack the amount of talent that it takes to compete in the industry. But even if there were many professionals involved in the editing and publishing process, I’d be surprised, because there were too many typos for Pop Kids to pass inspection. Miley Sirus? Vanessa Hudgins? Come on, if you’re going to write a novel about society’s obsession with pop culture, at least spell celebrities’ names correctly! That’s just lazy.

I know, Molly Ringwald. I’ll never look at “The Breakfast Club” the same way again either.

2. This book is 95% pornography. And not in a good way. Pop Kids is 320 pages and 70 chapters, and only a handful of chapters don’t contain any sexual behavior. That fact itself wouldn’t bother me if this book had been marketed as erotica. It shouldn’t, however, because erotica implies sex with substance. The whole plot revolves around Michael “Score” (short for Scorsese) Massi as he channels his passion for cinema by hosting Premiere parties in an abandoned hotel for his closest friends, whom he dubs the “Filmgreats.”

It starts off innocent with a showing of “The Breakfast Club,” but you know how it goes when you’re “watching a movie.” The parties rapidly devolve into full-blown orgies, topped off with plenty of drinking and drug use. Eventually, Score exchanges his cult classics for the latest Jenna Jameson and Sasha Grey skin flicks. Word starts traveling through the high school grapevine, and more people crash in on the craziness.

I’m no prude, but there’s nothing sexy about these scenes. Everyone is so wasted that in one chapter a girl freaks out when she gets a bloody nose after snorting too much coke. Clearly, under such intoxication, consent isn’t as enthusiastic as it could be. After so much objectification, you just come away from the book feeling dirty. And talk about monotonous! Pop Kids could have been half as long and the point, however pointless, could still have been made.

I’m sure Johnny Marr would disapprove!

3. There’s very few redeeming qualities to this story. I understand that liking the protagonist is not a requirement for good writing, so I’m okay with the fact that Score is a self-absorbed, obnoxious, pretentious waste of oxygen. He worships Morrissey but doesn’t know who Johnny Marr is. He cares way too much about designers and brands, to the point where I wondered whether San Pellegrino paid Davey for all the references.

It’s easy to say that Score’s just a teenager and excuse his overblown sense of importance. However, I find Score and his equally annoying friends disconcerting because their hypocrisy is actually dangerous. Score goes around burning churches, thus breaking the law, destroying property, and giving atheists a bad rep. He touts a straight-edge lifestyle, refusing to drink or do drugs, but he has no problem with substance abuse if it gets girls to take their clothes off. The Filmgreats engage in a ton of sexual activity, but won’t wear condoms because it’s “so ’90s.” What?! Oh sure, it’s all fun and games until someone gets pregnant. Not joking, two of the girls did.

I’m disgusted by how nonchalant all these people are when it comes to really serious issues. At one Premiere party, a teacher invites himself to the festivities, and at another a boy is supposedly murdered. Any of these disasters would cause a normal person to cease and desist, but what’s Score’s actual final straw before he burns down the venue of  debauchery? His crush was not as pure as she said she was. Boo flippin’ hoo.

Fahrenheit 451: The satire for the recovering pyromaniac!

4.  Satire is not a get-out-of-bad-writing free card. I know that there’s plenty of people out there who want to scream in my face, “You don’t GET it! It’s SATIRE!!!

To those defenders, first off, pump the brakes, cool your jets, slow your roll, and any other calm-down-cliche. I know that it’s satire. I majored in literature, so I’m not stupid. I’m a book nerd, not a book n00b.

But it’s not good satire. Writing satire does not give you the liberty to ignore the essential elements of storytelling. Characters must be multidimensional, plots need the right sense of pacing, and the criticism excels when it is nuanced rather than over-the-top.

Aristophanes, Voltaire, Pope, Twain, Swift–these are a few of the greatest satirists because their mockery provided a call-to-action; their works packed so much intellectual impact that they incited societal change.

“A Modest Proposal” took the gruesome concept of eating infants to grab England’s attention toward Irish poverty. The dystopian classics Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, and 1984 created outrageously oppressive governments to address political corruption and societal apathy.

I could go on about better comparisons, but I feel that the reason that they’re such powerful satires is that they can stand alone from satire. Without considering any deeper meanings, they’re–at their very core–examples of fantastic writing.

Despite its attempt with flowery prose, Pop Kids isn’t deep, although it gives off the impression that it’s trying so hard to be. And even if you’re purposely looking for a light read, it’s superficial and sad, not sexy and fun.

I’m not the only one posting a negative book review, but I’m prepared for the backlash from fans. Heck, I idolized Davey so much that I thought that I would love this book no matter what.

But you know what? I didn’t. If we’re being totally honest here, my adoration of Davey is the only reason that Pop Kids managed to get two whole stars out of me. But just like I can complain about my government and still be a damn proud American, I can be disappointed by a book and still love its author. 

So bring on the hate mail if you must. Scathing comments aren’t going to hurt more than falling off the pedestal on which I put this novel. Supposedly, it’s part one of a trilogy, and now I’m facing the dilemma of deciding whether reading the sequels would be the actions of a die-hard fan or a delusional masochist.

In the meantime, I’ll be psyching myself up by listening to AFI and reminding myself that Davey is capable of pure poetry.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

“I was too touched to see you clearly, far too young to realize, I had loved so dearly, you whose world I had designed, but the sweet smoke came with mirrors, and it brought tears to my wide eyes.”

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.

Does Having Children Make You a Better Writer?

Maeve Binchy, who lived a wonderful, successful life full of affection, thank you very much, Ms. Craig

For the record, I’m having a pleasant low-key weekend while my parents are at the coast celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. Tonight one of my best friends is coming over for a girls movie night, and we’ll be binging on pizza, popcorn, and these delicious smores bars I’ve discovered.

However, yesterday I had a moment of blinding rage after I read this article by Amanda Craig in The Telegraph. The sub-heading lets you know this is going to be one rollercoaster of a read: “Does a female novelist need to have experienced childhood to truly understand human emotions?”

Why is she asking such a ridiculous question? She’s criticizing Maeve Binchy, an Irish writer who passed away earlier this week. Binchy’s sold more than 40 million copies of her books, has been featured in the New York Times bestseller list and Oprah’s book club, and won a “People of the Year” award in 2000.

But according to Craig, she would’ve been so much more successful if she had some babies too.

Starting with the photo caption, which states, “Maeve Binchy, who had no children on whom to lavish her affections,” this whole piece reeks of sanctimonious, patronizing, condescension. I cannot believe she has the gall to say that, “there is no practical difference between a man and a woman writer when the latter has not had children.” You know, because if you don’t use your womb, you might as well hand in your women’s ID card because it’s void now.

Let’s point out the real motive here: Craig is jealous. A writer with two children, she’s published six novels with relatively little fanfare. Oprah hasn’t chosen her for her book club. She moans that life is so hard when you’re trying to write and raise kids, so why can’t there be special mommy writing awards to celebrate all her extra hard work?

I have often wondered whether the Orange Prize should be renamed the Navel Orange Prize, given the difference in time and energy available to women writers before and after motherhood.

You’ve got to be kidding me! Craig is bitter at her relative lack of success compared to Binchy–and the echelon of childfree female authors, including Austen, Woolf, and the Bronte sisters–so instead she decides to judge a person’s career on their ability to reproduce.

Which by the way, is highly offensive, considering that many readers have commented that Binchy and her husband suffered from infertility. The woman just died, and you’re criticizing her life choices when she possibly didn’t choose them at all.

No matter what your experience of adult love, there is nothing as strong as the bond between a mother and a child.

I disagree wholeheartedly. Craig’s on a roll pouring salt into Binchy’s wounds, but even if Binchy was childfree-by-choice, this statement holds no weight. The bond between mother and child is just one kind of bond, and if you look to the likes of Casey Anthony, many women have not honored that bond. Love comes in many forms, between partners, spouses, friends, relatives, pets, etc. Love is not a hierarchy.

And by the way, men should also feel disgusted by this article for its inherent silence on fatherhood. Kafka and Poe never had children either, but you don’t see Craig judging childfree male authors. Are they somehow inferior to Hemingway or Fitzgerald because they didn’t create offspring?

Anyway, I could rant all day about this ridiculous piece of “journalism,” but I would love to hear your thoughts. I’ll just leave you with a final quote:

I make no moral claims for motherhood ­— which can bring out the worst in a person, in the form of vicarious rivalry, bitchiness, envy and even mental illness…

Finally, we agree on something, Ms. Craig, because motherhood has certainly brought out the worst in you.

Fifty Shades of Grey: My Rant on Crappy Books and the People Who Buy Them

Nothing gets my blood boiling more than animal abuse, religious fundamentalism, and crappy books. As someone who hopes to write novels one day, I get pissed off when mediocre writing gets an abnormal amount of hype, followed by movie rights and millions of dollars before I can even say “For the love of the Oxford comma!”

Right now, that hype is surrounding Fifty Shades of Grey (FSG), an erotic fiction trilogy by E.L. James. While I could discuss my annoyance over the excessive use of initials among authors–usually to disguise the writer’s gender in order to appeal  to a larger audience (sexist much, publishing industry?)–I have WAY too many other things to rant about. Here’s an abridged list:

These crappy books are crappy Twilight fan-fiction. Why are people acting like this is an original story? FSG used to be known as Master of the Universe. James, or “Snowqueens Icedragon” as she’s called online, wrote a BDSM tale about Edward and Bella, but then decided to rewrite it with her own characters. Instead of a story about a billionaire vampire and a high school virgin, it has become a story about a billionaire mortal named Christian Grey and a recent college grad/virgin Anastasia Steele. I’m not accusing James of copyright infringement because FSG now contains no connections to Meyer’s equally crappily-written trilogy, but I’m tired of media outlets ignoring the fact that James is essentially a crappy book copycat.

These crappy books make real erotica look bad. I read the previews of FSG on Amazon, so I believe that I have enough knowledge to judge their literary merit. (Trust me, you don’t want to read more than that!) I have also read my fair share of erotic novels, and even erotic fan-fiction, and I am embarrassed for the writers out there who are actually good at what they do. Here’s an excerpt from the Tumblr “50 Shades of Suck:” “Oh my, the look he gives me could be solely responsible for global warming” (Freed, Ch. 2). And another one: “‘Hold tight, baby,’ he murmurs, and magically produces a foil packet that he holds in front of my mouth. I take it between my teeth, and he tugs, so that between us, we rip it open” (Darker, p. 194).

If you didn’t cringe and groan while you read those sentences, then you might want to re-evaluate your literary standards. But there are many more examples where those came from, so feel free to check out that Tumblr. If anything, the outrageous number of times that these characters say each other’s names is enough to turn me off, not turn me on.

These crappy books have created a sexist conversation. Look, I have nothing against BDSM. I believe that women can be submissive in sexual relationships without being submissive in other aspects of their lives. As long as people enter into consensual agreements, what they do behind closed doors is none of my business. However, I can’t stand how media are calling this trilogy “mommy porn.” I find this term offensive, because it implies that (1) the only readers of erotica are housewives and (2) women don’t watch actual porn.

Both of these generalizations are completely false. Women are sexual beings just like men, whether they have children or not, and to trivialize their desires is sexist. What women can do to fight this verbal misogyny is to discuss their sexuality in an honest way and battle stereotypes about sexual fantasies. Stop this romance novel versus hardcore video, gender war nonsense! You should be able to like, or not like, various expressions of sex without “The Today Show” cracking jokes about your preferences.

These crappy books have undeservedly made way too much money. Speaking of “The Today Show,” E.L. James was recently interviewed on the NBC program. The author even admits, “I’m not a great writer.” (As if we hadn’t noticed!) Jezebel discusses how James is just as shocked as I am about her books’ popularity. And yet, they are topping the NYT bestseller list, and people are already hoping to cast Chris Hemsworth and Dakota Fanning as the film’s stars.

It simply boggles my mind what books make money nowadays, while well-deserved stories go unnoticed. James is now a millionaire, while the rest of us aspiring novelists are considering lowering our standards to get published, or at the very least, adopting pseudonyms just so we can earn enough to pay our bills without sacrificing our literary integrity.

Granted, I realize that this blog post is only fueling James’ success with publicity, but I hope that my intelligent subscribers will recognize crappy books when they read them–just don’t pay for them if you do!

What are your thoughts? Do you love or love-to-hate Fifty Shades of Grey? Or maybe you have never heard of it? What other crappy novels get your blood boiling?