Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, March 16, 2006

My Deepest Darkest Secret

I have a confession to make—I am a book-a-holic. I’m a book junkie. I haunt libraries and bookstores, thrift stores and garage sales, to get my fix. I can’t seem to help myself. I love LDS fiction. If I come downstairs in the morning, bloodshot and bleary-eyed, my children will roll their eyes and give each other that look, while muttering under their breath, "Mom stayed up to read a book again." And I smile sheepishly, mumbling an apology, then quickly change the subject as I make their lunches. I always regret the "next morning" feeling, but I really couldn’t help myself. I just had to find out how the book ended. Yes, my friends, I am a true book-a-holic.

I was one of those teenagers that read Shirley Sealy and Jack Weyland voraciously. There was even a short-lived Harlequin-esque LDS romance series that I read way back when. Then Anita Stansfield hit the market. Then Rachel Nunes. Then I discovered Jennie Hansen, Lynn Gardner Betsy Brannon Green and Kerry Blair. I was hooked. My bookshelves began to burgeon like a soggy water balloon. And just like a leaky water balloon, the books began to seep onto every flat surface in my house—my bed, my nightstand, my cupboards, even stacked on the floor. I knew it was bad, but when my husband started to make a little path between book stacks in our bedroom, I decided I needed to do something.

I began to weed out my collection, putting all the titles I loved in one pile, and the ones I thought I could do without into another pile. (This process actually took several days, because I discovered books I hadn’t read for a while, and skimmed over them to read all the good parts again.) After agonizing for hours, sweating over which of my treasured books would have to go, my discard pile was pitifully small. I tried to tell myself that I could donate them to Deseret Industries and other people could love them and treasure them, just as I did, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. It was like trying to figure out which of my oldest and dearest friends to get rid of. It was just too much to ask! My husband lovingly shook his head, and bought me another shelf, sparing my dog-eared, much beloved books. And then we had to buy another shelf. And another. And another. We now have shelves of books in every room of our house. But it’s not my fault. It’s the writers and the librarians and the store owners! If the writers would stop writing such great books, I wouldn’t have to read them! If the library didn’t take so long to get a new book in, and then let a hundred people put it on hold in front of me, I wouldn’t have to buy them! If store owners didn’t have sales and coupons I wouldn’t be drawn in to continue my habit! Sigh.

I’m a book junkie. I’m a book-a-holic. My book stacks are piling up again and two of my favorite authors have a new book out this month. What’s a girl to do?

(Honey, can we squeeze one more shelf in? Pretty please?)


At 3/16/2006 1:18 PM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

Don't you just think some days it would be easier to move into a library?

At 3/16/2006 2:10 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

If they could put my jetted tub and my king size bed in the library . . .DEFINITELY!!! :)

At 3/16/2006 4:21 PM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

For some odd reason, I really dislike public libraries. All the time I hear authors talking about how they love the library and hang out there all the time -- I hate the place.

Perhaps it's just another sign of my anti-social tendencies. (Which makes me horribly anti-social, since stereotypical anti-social people love to hang out there.)

At 3/16/2006 8:37 PM, Blogger KB said...

Your house sounds like mine. One of the reasons I bought my house was that it came with 4 GIANT floor to ceiling bookcases in one room! I have books in every room in the house -- except the bathrooms because they just get ruined in there.

At 3/17/2006 7:46 PM, Blogger annegb said...

How can you have anything to read if you only read LDS fiction? Most of those books only take about ten minutes to read.

At 3/17/2006 10:21 PM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

Gah, I hope not. I took a year to write my last one. I'm going to be very, very upset if someone reads it in ten minutes. (Although, admittedly, I would also be highly impressed if someone managed to read the entire thing in ten minutes. That would have to be some kind of world record.)

At 3/17/2006 11:34 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

Okay, Robison you gotta give up more info on why you hate libraries. I'm telling you that is close to heresy around these parts.

I actually used to cut school to go to the library. How's that for wierd? My proudest day of writing was seeing my first book on the library shelf.

Wandering the shelves is like going on a safari. You can try a taste of murder, sniff out a foreign land--or a foreign world, make friends with a president, escape from the bad guys.

How can you not like a library?

At 3/18/2006 12:14 AM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Actually, there is a TON of LDS Fiction out there now---mystery, romance, women's fiction, sci-fi, western, chick-lit, it's an amazing smorgasbord. There is a way better selection now than there was even just two years ago. I went to a bookstore today and found two new LDS authors whose books look fresh and exciting. (Okay, I confess, I spent some money today!) LDS Fiction is an ever evolving genre.

At 3/20/2006 9:09 AM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

Jeff, you've inspired me. Tomorrow's post will be an explanation of why I hate libraries.

At 3/30/2006 12:31 AM, Blogger annegb said...

Okay, my opinion is that most LDS fiction is a tribute to mediocrity.

Plus I pretty much hate sequels, they reflect an amazing hubris on the part of authors that people will remember everything in the other books. Also, they are lazy because they only have to write half a book because the other half is just what was in the last book.

Drives me crazy.

I have written a couple of books of short stories that I enjoyed. But mostly, sorry, just crap.

At 3/30/2006 8:28 AM, Blogger Candace E. Salima said...

Ah, you haven't been reading the right stuff then. The market, over the last five to seven years has improved drastically. Indeed, there are those that are mediocre but with the competition stepping up the LDS publishers are able to pick and choose the higher quality manuscripts. You've got to give the newer authors a chance!

As to sequels - love 'em. I love series and anxiously await the new book coming out. Some of the best writers in the business, national that is, write in series and its a sad day when you turn the page on the last book. Indeed, I haven't noticed the second and third books being shorter at all. You recap the earlier book in no less than two paragraphs and get on with the new story.

What books have you been reading? I'm curious to know.

At 3/30/2006 8:47 AM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

To slightly alter Sturgeon's Revelation:

"I repeat Sturgeon's Revelation, which was wrung out of me after twenty years of wearying defense of [LDS fiction] against attacks of people who used the worst examples of the field for ammunition, and whose conclusion was that ninety percent of [LDS fiction] is crud.

"The Revelation: Ninety percent of everything is crud.

"Corollary 1: The existence of immense quantities of trash in [LDS fiction] is admitted and it is regrettable; but it is no more unnatural than the existence of trash anywhere.

"Corollary 2: The best [LDS fiction] is as good as the best fiction in any field."

At 3/30/2006 10:09 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

If writing a sequel reflects "amazing hubris" on the part of the author, what does it reflect on the part of all the readers who anxiously await its publication? I'm sure that the worthlessness of sequels would come as a surprise to, say, JK Rowling.

As someone just finishing up a sequel after sixteen months of hard work, I'd say that there is nothing "lazy" about it. Good heavens. Book already half written? I wish. Assuming the reader remembers everything? Not remotely. It's a challenge to slip in little reminders without slowing the forward motion of the plot or making the recap feel forced or phony.

A sequel allows the author to develop characters beyond where she could in the first book and to extend plot threads while creating new ones, weaving it all together in a story that, while extending the first story, must stand on its own as a strong, compelling tale.

At 3/30/2006 10:04 PM, Blogger annegb said...

Yeah, you're right, other people like them, who am I? I don't care who reads them, I don't.

No, I lie. I read Harry Potter, although I got bored through the last one and didn't finish it.

Yesterday I read a book called Oh My Stars, it was okay. The day before I read My Detachment by Tracy Kidder. Not his best, but thought provoking.

The day before that I read Saving Fish From Drowning, by Amy Tan.

I enjoy Orson Scott Card's writing. Except the sequels, except for Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow, which weren't sequels, but well, you know.

Are you guys some kind of famous people I should know about? I'm not being sarcastic, I wonder if I've wandered into a group of published authors.

Quality fiction to me (just a few I've read lately) Pretty Birds,
We Need to Talk About Kevin, A Girl Named Zippy (sorry, not fiction). I actually loved James Frey's book and I read Brokeback Mountain trying to understand how men fall in love. It didn't help.

I loved The Kite Runner, although it was painful to read. Um, what else? I read constantly, but not necessarily well. I refuse to read Anita Stansfield.

I'll google you guys.

Oh, That book about Marley the dog was great. I actually read a few chapters of Augusten Burroughs book , the name escapes me, laughed out loud. Then he got explicit and I put it back on the shelf.

At 3/31/2006 12:38 PM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

Well, Candace is famous. Jeff's infamous. Julie is that person that everyone knows, but no one can remember her name. Stephanie is that person that everyone can remember, but wishes they could forget. And Sariah is a precocious neophyte. As for me, I'm above the fray, laughing at all the little people.

But yes, we're all published. (Sariah's book isn't out yet, but will be in July.) You can click the links on the right side of the page to get to our websites.

At 3/31/2006 2:58 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

You know, Rob, up until this point, I was feeling a little guilty about giving my villain a wisecracking sidekick named "Orbison Bwells", but now I'm thinking, yeah, I like it . . .

At 3/31/2006 6:38 PM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

Precocious neophyte? I had to read that twice. I thought you were calling me a neopet.

Whenever I hear infamous I think of that speech about what infamous means from "The Three Amigos."

At 4/02/2006 8:27 PM, Blogger annegb said...

I owe you guys an apology. I'm such a bull in a china shop. Yes, you are big cheeses in the world of writing. Although since I don't recall your names, my criticism was of course for other people, like no offense, but anita Stansfield.

My neighbor, think of a name, whose husband is the patriarch and who was the stake relief society president, and also had the unfortunate incident with her bowels while teaching kindergarten (in white pants), says to me quite regularly, "you don't have to say everything you think."

And I reply, "it feels like lying if I don't."

Have you read any of the books I've read? They really are wonderful worthy books. You might be too innocent for some of them.

Do you guys ever read the classics?

I will temper my comments and hope you give me the benefit of the doubt. Have you read Under the Cottonwoods, by I think Daniel Thayer, maybe it was Orson Scott Card. They are both wonderful writers.

I'm thinking of writing the memoir of my 6 weeks of working at Wal-Mart. which changed my life and my mind. If I can get up the ambition.

At 4/03/2006 1:14 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Hey, there's nothing like candid comments to stir up some discussion, right? We appreciate your reading our blog and taking the time to share your opinions.

Thanks for the list of books you've read lately. I'm impressed with how well-read you are and plan to check your list before I head out to the library next time. I've been needing suggestions of good books to read.

Orson Scott Card is a fantastic storyteller. Have you read his "Women of Genesis" series?

Best of luck on the memoir!

At 4/03/2006 7:47 PM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

I do read bestsellers, mainly to study their craft.

I haven't read Amy Tan's new one yet, but I will. She's someone I collect.

I also don't know if I have to turn in my membership card because I've never read anything by Orson Scott Card. I've always meant to...but I just haven't.

I have no desire to read James Frey. Liars don't do it for me.

I try not to read much literary fiction these days because of all the years it was crammed down my throat in high school and college. I much prefer the lighter and more entertaining escapism of commercial fiction.

I can say that while it was extremely depressing, the last literary fiction book that I read was "Prep" by Curtis Sittenfeld. It was actually painful to read because of memories of my own life as a teenager, but excruciatingly well written.

At 4/04/2006 11:56 AM, Blogger annegb said...

I think you're being unfair to James Frey. You need to read the book, to get some context into what he did. It was phenomenal.

There are a couple of points I would make in this, 1. He knew his memory was spotty and lobbied his editor to make it fiction, but his editor talked him out of it.

2. Think of Angela's Ashes, Tis, and Teacher Man--think of any memoir, think of what you write in your personal history. Do you honestly think Frank McCourt, who won the Pulitzer, got every fact right? NO WAY! It's the gist of our experiences we want in a memoir, because everyone remembers everything differently.

James Frey was heavily addicted to meth and crack cocaine when he was in and out of rehab and jail. No way was he going to get the facts right. But he got the experience right down pat.

Think about this, how many times did Joseph Smith re-write his history of the first vision. Did it make less true, no. It was time and limited memory.

A Million Little Pieces is a worthy book. It would have been just as worthy published as fiction.

What James Frey was guilty of was being so blinded by Oprah's light that he was afraid to defend himself and the wonderful work he did.

Augusten Burroughs and David Sedaris, do you think all that actually happened? No. Although you guys might not want to read them, they are gay. The gayness threw me off as well.

Oprah takes herself way too seriously. She did herself and the rest of a disservice by not recognizing the problems of writing a memoir, especially the memoir of somebody too stoned to remember what happened.

For instance, my sister claimed beyond doubt that I made her stand and put her hand on her heart while watching Martin Luther King's funeral (I shoved civil rights down their throats, my parents were AWOL). I believed her and was impressed by my own sincerity.

Until I realized that couldn't have happened because I was in Riverton, Utah, when he died and she was in Tonopah, Nevada. She still insists it happened.

What happened, happened years earlier, at Kennedy's funeral, when it was televised. It's all relative. If you want to test this, have your sibling write about something you remember and you write about it and note the differences.

Oprah's a putz.

My question wasn't about best sellers (Danielle Steele's books are best sellers), but the classics. Have you guys read Madame Bovary, for example, or Les Miserables? I keep trying to get my neighbor to read something besides Anita Stansfield, but she won't. I got her Turtle Moon, by Alice Hoffman for her birthday, but she was shocked. I forgot about the bad words. What about Hemingway, Steinbeck?

At 4/04/2006 12:13 PM, Blogger Candace E. Salima said...

There are fantastic writers in every genre, in every generation since the beginning of time. There are also bad ones in every one of those categories. Do I read all the classics? Yes and no. So many of them are so completely depressing I stay away from them while appreciating the strength of the writing. Give me Jane Austin, Mark Twain, William Shakespeare, John Milton, Lord Byron any day. Modern fiction: Dan Brown, Nora Roberts, Jayne Ann Krentz, Michael Palmer, Steve Terry (Loved "The Third Secret"). Give me any biography on just about anyone. I just picked up Saddam Hussein's and William the Conqueror's.

Innocence does not denote naievte. Because we choose to write fiction that is clean, does not make us comparable to children. Because we choose to read things that entertain, create tension and center them around the faith that is ours does not make them any less valuable.

I choose to write so that I can stand before the Lord and say, "I did not eschew my standards in lieu of fame."

At 4/04/2006 1:56 PM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

I don't know how closely you've followed the James Frey controversy, but it's been something I have really watched because of the effect on the national publishing industry.

Frey initially tried to sell the book as fiction, but nobody wanted it. He decided to change it to a "memoir" and sold it. He has now been dropped by his agent, by his publishing house and he has lost his movie deal.

And not just because he lied. But because he really, really, really lied. He didn't just have some lapses in memory. He made up people that never existed. He said he caused some girl's death that he had barely ever spoken to. Almost everything in his book is a blatant lie.

The problem is that the power and potency of the book comes from the fact that it is presented as truth. It would appear that he had this horrible, horrible life and went through unbelievable trials and obstacles, but he emerged triumphant! Except for when you find out that he didn't really have those trials or obstacles and this is nothing more than a scam and a smokescreen to sell books and make himself rich. I guarantee that had the book been put on the market as fiction, no one would have paid it any attention. The only reason it had a hold on people like Oprah was because they had mistakenly believed it to be true.

I'm not a big fan of Oprah's, but I'm glad she stuck it to Frey and called him out for being a liar and making it all up. She's the only reason he sold millions of copies anyways.

Of course memorists might dramatize some events in their life. But the goal of any memoirist should be to be as truthful and accurate as possible, and every other memorist interview I've ever read said that was their goal. And dramatizing does not mean that you say you spent six months in prison when it was in actuality only one night.

There's also a difference between perspective and reality, which Frey was well aware of.

So I'll never read Frey. And considering what he did, I'd be very surprised if anyone published him again.

As for the classics, I've read all of Mark Twain's collected works (my senior thesis in high school was on him), all of Jane Austen's. I've read classical Greek plays like "Oedipus" and "Antigone." I've read the works of Homer. I've read most of Shakespeare. I've read Dickens, Virginia Woolf, Kafka, Joseph Conrad, Victor Hugo, de Balzac, Oscar Wilde, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edith Wharton, Leo Tolstoy, Kurt Vonnegut, Thomas Hardy, many poets such as Whitman, Dickinson, Byron, Tennyson and Thoreau, the Bronte sisters, Stephen Crane, Thackeray, Edgar Allan Poe, Richard Wright, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Robert Louis Stevenson, Ernest Hemingway, Willa Cather, Steinbeck, Viktor Frankl, Harriet Beecher Stowe, ancient philosophers including Plato, Socrates and Aristotle, Harper Lee, Mary Shelley, Lewis Carroll, playwrights like Arthur Miller and Lorraine Hansberry, George Eliot and T.S. Eliot, Orwell, Dumas, Dostoyevsky, E.M. Forster, Louisa May Alcott, W. Somerset Maugham, J. Fenimore Cooper, Faulkner, Don DeLillo, religious texts such as The Koran, the Popal Vuh and the Bhagavad Gita, in addition to having a large collection of short stories.

That's by no means an exhaustive list - that's just authors I can recall and from perusing my shelves.

I have actually taught classes to women at church about selecting classics to read.

I also have a special love for folklore, mythology and fairy tales and have several collections of those from cultures and countries all over the world.

Just because I now choose to read certain works and to write a certain way doesn't mean that I'm not educated or well read.

At 4/06/2006 11:09 AM, Blogger annegb said...

Dang, I didn't know all that. I don't watch Oprah very often, she's so full of herself, so I missed the details. I thought he'd fudged about his jail time.

I was skeptical about the dental visit and the friendship with the mafia guy.

It is a really well written book, though, dang.

I read crap, as well as classics. That's my trick question to people to see if they know anything about books. My neighbor only reads Anita Stansfield and has never heard of Jane Eyre.

I'm going to figure out to get on your current post and I'll keep in touch.

Dang, he wrote a good book.


Post a Comment

<< Home