Sunday, March 21, 2010

Something is Not Going So Fast

Blitzed through a couple books on the old family vacation last week, while I waited anxiously for my critique group to get along with reading chapters 5-8 already, but it seems they all had actual lives they had to get on with. A little nagging did the trick when I got home, so we're up to 9-12!

Have you ever thought how very strange it is that authors spend months writing and revising a book that you (God willing) will read in just a few hours? (If the book also takes you a few months to read, I praise your perseverance but do not think that feedback would please any novelist.) A very strange process.

In any case, on the airplanes and while waiting in lines at Disneyland and in the hotel room at night, I enjoyed Steinbeck's CANNERY ROW and AMERICAN LIGHTNING: TERROR, MYSTERY, AND THE BIRTH OF HOLLYWOOD by Howard Blum. The former was a book club selection, and while it was no EAST OF EDEN (favorite Steinbeck to date), it was quick and amusing. Besides making me homesick for Monterey, where I'm not even from, but which I visited often enough in my first thirty years. It did, however, have a couple of those characters a la Dickens who drive me absolutely bonkers for the way they trash other people's lives. Also kind of made me think being a prostitute for a mid-century madam wouldn't be so very bad. Work a few hours a night and spend the rest of your time quilting! Funny to think the "low lifes" Steinbeck wanted to capture don't seem so hard up nowadays, after we've been hit with things like THE KITE RUNNER and PRECIOUS.

As for AMERICAN LIGHTNING, it chronicles some terrorist bombings in the early part of the 20th century, how the detective cracked the case, and how D. W. Griffith intersected with the goings-on. Fascinating and page-turning. A perfect candidate, I might add, for an iPad book because I would have loved to click on some of the movie titles and seen clips, or at least a few more pictures!

Back to the business of novels, Anita Loos' immortal Lorelei Lee has this to say:
...I decided not to read the book by Mr. Cellini. I mean it was quite amuseing in spots because it was really quite riskay but the spots were not so close together and I never seem to like to always be hunting clear through a book for the spots I am looking for, especially when there are really not so many spots that seem to be so amuseing after all.
Great advice as I edit. Not that the material needs to be "riskay" to amuse, but that, if it were something I would skim myself, better to cut it right off the bat. If only everyone would hurry!

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