Thursday, March 22, 2007

Let's give it another go

Having learned that I'm a D-list blog-ebrity, I figured that I have nothing to lose by switching to yet another blogsite. I wasn't all that happy with my previous blog venues, for different reasons. I guess I'm really an experimentalist at heart.

In a post or two, I'll write about the Latta-Liss family's Top 100 books, something that kind of slipped to the back burner of my mind after the move to Geneva. Fortunately, it doesn't seem to have suffered too much, apparently as succulent as it was when we compiled it in January.

I've been thinking about how fiction writers, especially genre fiction writers, often feel compelled to slip justifications, defenses, or sly asides into their books, often in not-very-subtle ways. Two cases in point. I'm currently listening to Voyager, the third book in Diana Gabaldon's gargantuan time-travel Outlander series, on my iPod. I have to admit that part of my original motivation for downloading the first book, Outlander, was that I have an subscription, which allows you to download two books a month for a set fee. Well, given the choice, would you download Outlander, with a listening time of 32 hours and 42 minutes and a purchase price of $34.99, or Stendhal's Scarlet and Black, coming in at just 3 hours and retailing for $13.99 (recommended to me by Audible, by the way). Keep in mind that I listen to books while I'm otherwise occupied running, or doing laundry, or washing dishes...I don't want anything too deep while I'm listening.

So I was amused by a passage in Voyager in which the near-freakishly literate 18th century Scottish Highlander Jamie Frazier explains to his British captor/friend that some books are long because that's simply what it takes to tell the story. In another passage, the contemporary Claire and her friend discuss the pleasures of escapist reading, in this case trashy romance novels.

The previous book I listened to was Stephen King's Lisey's Story. (At 18 hours and 59 minutes, not quite the bargain that Outlanders was, but worth it.) With Misery, King had already established his frustration with the literary establishment's scorn of "genre" literature, but it's back in full force in Lisey's Story, which describes the author's scorn for literary snobs.

Many children's book writers--myself included--also have a certain level of defensiveness. We write for children because we can't hack it in the adult lit world, etc. Does it show in our books? I can't think of an example offhand.


Patbrace said...

I've always thought that I couldn't be a writer of children's lit because writing for kids is so difficult.

I'm listening to Gabaldon, too. Some people don't like her because she's too wordy. Personally, I love all her in-depth descriptions and conversations. While I listen to Davina Porter's wonderful voice, describing events in the 18th century as I do my laundry or my gardening, I am quite literally transported to another time, as if I had stumbled into that stone circle myself. I want to emulate her way of "taking the time to tell the story" in my own historical novel. the amount of research she must have done is staggering. Yikes!!!

slatta said...

Hey, Pat, it's good to see you here. Too wordy? No, that's what makes it so rich, although sometimes the sex scenes do go on a little long. But I agree, Davina Porter's voice is wonderful, perfect for the series. You really feel that she has such affection for the characters, don't you? (Especially Jamie.) I find that narrators' voices make such a huge difference in audio books.

I hope that your novel finds such a narrator!

Well, I don't know about you, but for me the research part is the fun and easy part. It's when you have to put it into words that it gets difficult.

Patbrace said...

You're right, the research is The Best! And speaking of research, looks like I'll be going to Cambridge in July, if I can get in.

slatta said...

Congratulations! How competitive is the application process?

Patbrace said...

I think it's more a matter of timing. There are five slots left out of 25. Who would think that the Anglo Saxons would be so popular!

Now I have to read your 100 list.