Update On: A New Way of Keeping Tabs, Reader Edition

Can you believe it’s nearly the end of September already? My August dragged its feet, but right now it feels like I blinked and the solstice has hurried itself closer. Sunday night I submitted my final exam for my current course, so right now I am exhilarating in the warm swell of post-exam lassitude. I’m also fighting a bug; I apologize for any apparent lack of coherency today.

Since we’re three-fourths-and-a-bit of the way through the year, I thought it was about time I wrote an update on my previous post, A New Way of Keeping Tabs: Things in My Face, Reader Edition. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure my wall tracker is helping me accomplish my reading goal.

When it comes to writing, my tracker is more about helping me stay on top of my volume goal. When I use it—by which I mean when I don’t fall behind with the actual tracking—I never miss a week of getting my words in. I’m not finding a similar sense of accomplishment carrying over to my reading.

For instance, I just finished my 27th book of the year. In the grand scheme of things, that’s a decent amount read. In my little world, that’s pathetic. The main issue keeping me from getting more read completed is my lack of making it a priority. I don’t make time to read, plain and simple. I squeeze it in when I can, which isn’t enough. The exact same issue is tied to my writing; however, because I have deadlines, I get more writing done.

Yes, I’m terribly hard on myself. And I have a lot on my plate right now. But I have so many unread books—all of which are sitting directly behind me, accusingly—and I want to read all of them because they’re going to be amazing. I’m annoyed with myself because I can’t seem to make reading important. I live to read, so what is my problem?

I don’t have an answer, but I do know beating myself up about it is probably not going to help in the long run. Still. The numbers sitting on my tracker disappoint me; perhaps I need to channel that disappointment into action instead of letting it get me down. I have three and half-ish months to catch up. Let’s see if I can do it.

Have you challenged yourself to read more this year? How are you doing?

Rereading, Or Coming Back at the Right Time

This past weekend, I attended the readercon When Words Collide. I know I’ve talked about it before, but just in case: it’s a writing conference that also caters to readers, hence the name. This year marked my fifth year of attendance–yes, I can’t believe I’ve been to that many.

Each year there are big name guests, just as there are at any kind of festival. This year, Guy Gavriel Kay was one of the guests of honour. I haven’t read a ton Kay’s work, but those which I have have left their mark on me as a reader and a writer. He always makes it onto my favourite writers lists.

Anyway, Saturday morning writer David B. Coe basically interviewed Kay for 50 minutes. Not only did I learn so much about applying other passions to one’s writing, but it was so much fun to sit and watch because Coe basically bounced in his chair the whole time. Yeah, he’s a huge fan of Kay.

There was too much to take away to discuss here–especially about an ancient Chinese dynasty. But Kay said one thing that truly resonated with me as a reader. I can’t recall it verbatim, so here is my translation:

There’s a reason I’m such a big believer in rereading. You can pick up a book and nothing about it will work for you. Then six months later you’ll pick it up and it’s one of the best stories you’ve ever read. Those six months change you into a different person. We’re so mutable as humans, and what we bring to a book, even one we’ve read before, is always changing.

Currently, I’m rereading Kelley Armstrong’s Cainsville series because the final book is coming out today and I can’t recall everything that has happened in finite detail. Plus, I hated the first book when I read it. Armstrong is one of my favourite authors and I have never disliked anything I’ve read by her. But her main character and I did not mesh, and my dislike of her coloured my reading of the first and, I’ll admit, second book.

Coming back to them now is amazing. I’m not in such an anxious place myself now so my personal life isn’t colouring the main character like it did the first time (also knowing how she grows as a character further into the series helps too). This allowed me to enjoy the story so much more. In addition, because I read the books as they come out each August, I didn’t realize the timeline is so short across the series arc. The second book has picked up a couple of weeks after the first one ended. And I’m seeing so many little things that meant nothing to me when I first read them that I know are foreshadowing parts in books further along. It’s awesome!

I’ll also add that this is not the first time I’ve come back to a book and it worked much better the second time around. I’ve done the same with Wuthering Heights, one of my favourite books of all time; Sex and War, an excellent study on the nature of sexual violence as a tool of war; The Hobbit; and The Scarlett Letter, which I basically didn’t comprehend the first time I read it at 13 years old.

I have always argued that people should reread books. I think you take away something new, or at least appreciate something new, every time you read them. Kay’s statement has only bolstered my argument: you get to learn something new about yourself each time too.

Part of me felt guilty starting Omens because I have so many unread books on my shelves. But I’m loving meeting everyone all over again. I made the right choice.

Are there any books you’ve reread that hit the mark the second time around?

Interesting Finds

Since it’s summer I decided to keep the list light this month. Enjoy! And try not to melt in this heat.

I shared this on Anxiety Ink too because it needs to be shared everywhere! It can’t be a shock that I’m sex-positive. Or that Kushiel’s Dart has moved up my to-read pile. Bonus: this article starts off quoting one of my favourite writing books, The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, and one of my favourite sections therein. http://www.tor.com/2017/07/19/kushiels-dart-is-the-sex-positive-fantasy-we-need/

I love the idea of a women’s history museum. This piece features info about a solely American museum, but it’s a start. http://msmagazine.com/blog/2017/07/18/carolyn-maloney-womens-history-museum/

This article is rather alarmist but it raises excellent points about branding and Amazon in general. Since Amazon directly affects artists now it seems relevant here. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/amazon-going-kill-your-brand-job-jr-little?trk=eml-email_feed_ecosystem_digest_01-hero-0-null&midToken=AQHTbzDnBqWmog&fromEmail=fromEmail&ut=0dfKthMwwrCDQ1

Follow up to a link I shared a while back about The Man’s Right to Know Act. http://msmagazine.com/blog/2017/07/20/turning-the-tables/

People Who Don’t Read Fiction, or, A Defence of Fiction

Chances are, if you’re reading my post here, you are a fan of fiction. After all, I’m all over the internet as a writer and reader of fiction. Also, taking an assuming leap here, chances are that if you are a fan of fiction, like I am, you too are confounded by people who do not like or refuse to read fiction.

I have to admit that I see people who don’t read fiction in a strange light. Just like I think there’s something fundamentally wrong with people who don’t like animals. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people who don’t like fiction. I think it’s strange, but it’s not nearly as odd to me as the animal thing.

My friends and I have discussed this topic at length, and the main rationale we hear from people who don’t read fiction is that they don’t/can’t learn from it. Honestly, this infuriates me. I don’t want to insult anyone, but if you can’t learn from fiction, you’re either too lazy to figure out its purpose or you lack an ability to sympathize, or you have some combination of the two.

Understanding fiction isn’t for lightweights. Not only do you have to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, but you have to be able to read between the lines. Reading and comprehending fiction requires skill and intuition.

Now, I read non-fiction as well. I enjoy books on history and philosophy and science. One of the best books I’ve ever read is a non-fiction book called Sex with the King. But the thing about non-fiction is, you don’t have to go an extra step. All you have to do is read a straightforward argument and decide whether you agree or not. You can go an extra step, but you don’t have to.

With fiction, you’re always presented opposing views. Sure, the author leads you in a certain direction, like a thesis would, but you get to see all the sides. This isn’t always the case with non-fiction. Exceptional non-fiction will provide a full view and use counterarguments, but there is still no requirement that you think outside its confines.

I must admit, I’m tired of people trashing fiction, especially genre fiction. If you open your mind, you can learn just as much, if not more so, from fiction of any kind. And it’s usually a much more enjoyable journey. Some books I would liken to non-fiction, as far as what they can teach a person, include: The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984, A Thousand Acres, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and Beautiful Monsters.

Those are just off the top of my head. What fiction books would you consider more educational than some non-fiction?

Point of View: N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season Will Change Your Reading Life

There are so many things in N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season that will change your life as a reader and a writer and a human that I can’t touch on them all. I just don’t have the time and space. So I’ve decided to touch on the story’s point of view.

I’ve shared my opinions on point of view extensively on both blogs. I have strong opinions, mainly that different points of view should not be mixed in the same story. It’s a major pet peeve of mine both as a reader and a writer. As far as I’m concerned, when it comes to your book, novella, or short story you stick with the narrative style, tense, and point of view you started with. There are no takebacks.

Writers who mix things up always make me feel like they’re simply trying to get unstuck, which doesn’t make for compelling or convincing reading.

I’ve read books where one character is in first person and then another character is thrown in and their view point is written in third person. Usually this is done because the story needed extra information that the main character couldn’t provide with her limited point of view and the writer couldn’t think of a different solution.

I’ve read books in series where all of sudden in the third and/or final book, the author realizes they’re stuck, the story arc can’t go further the way they started, so they have to throw in a new narrator. Yeah, Allegiant, I’m talking to you. No, Veronica Roth is not the only guilty author out there, but I was particularly upset with Allegiant, so it has to feel my wrath.

The Fifth Season swung out unexpectedly and toppled me off my Perch of Judgement.

The story is written from three different points of view: Essun’s, Syenite’s, and Damaya’s. There’s a purpose to each choice because they show different aspects of the complex world Jemisin has created. Essun, in her 40s, shows us the dangers and consequences of hiding what you are in a world that hates your kind. Syenite, in her early 20s, shows us what it means to follow the rules and dictates of an order that will control everything about you and destroy you if it can’t. Then Damaya, only 8, shows us what it means to be discovered as the other and the painful lessons the world will use to break your spirit.

That doesn’t sound too different from your average coming of age story despite the separate narrators, right? Well, Essun’s story is written in second person. Syenite’s is in close third person. Damaya’s is also in close third person, though I feel there is greater distance with her narration. Perhaps because I’m closer to Syenite’s age.

At first I was a bit shaken as a reader. I haven’t read much, if anything, written in second person. And I’ve never been exposed to second person point of view for such a long piece. Mixed with the third person parts, I should have been outraged as a reader.

I waited to be. And I waited. And then I was hooked.

Jemisin’s skill as a writer so pulled me in to each character’s story that I couldn’t help but be enthralled. I was too excited to pick up different threads and try to figure out where all of them lead. I was floored and I was schooled. I have never encountered a writer with enough skill to leave me satisfied with mixed points of view.

One of the keys was her consistency. Each point of view was given nearly equal time to the end. And the second person narration didn’t change into anything else. Plus, the story starts out in second person, in the prologue, and I think that was a genius choice. That the narrative jarring didn’t happen after a third person narrator started things off was important because I don’t know that a lot of readers have been exposed to second person point of view. So moving to the strange from the familiar would have been a bad choice.

Besides, Jemisin can write. She just can. Her words are magic.

If you haven’t read or heard of The Fifth Season, you should remedy that. Before the third book in the trilogy comes out this summer.

I still have strong opinions about point of view and I don’t think it should be messed with lightly. But if you know what your aim is, and it reflects not only the structure of your story but your characters and world perfectly too, do it. I will be much more willing to fiddle with my points of view in the future now that I’ve seen it done effectively. And I will give stories more of a chance when point of view is altered –but the author needs to sell it, and not do it simply because they’ve backed themselves into a corner.

Forethought. Forethought and purpose are everything.

 

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