Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Monday, July 28, 2008

Confession Time

Okay, I have a confession to make. No this doesn’t have anything to do with the potato I stuck in Rob’s exhaust pipe. Really sorry about the muffler, man, but it probably needed to go anyway. And this isn’t about those anonymous anti-Canada signs someone has been plastering all over Julie’s garage. (I think it was LY.) And it definitely doesn't have anything to do with that picture of Margaret Thatcher, that I added just because I had no other odd pictures on hand.

No this actually has to do with Kerry’s wonderful post about the ten books you should read before you die. Before I make my confession, let me just say that I am probably the wrong person to ask this question. When people interviewing me ask what one book I would take to a deserted island, my first response is, “A book that would tell me how to get off the island, silly. Something like Deserted Islands for Dummies.” I’m also really bad at things like the live-each-day-like-it-was-your-last philosophy. I tend to agree with Lucy when she has this conversation with Sally in “You’re a Good Man Charley Brown.”

[SALLY]
You know, someone said that we should live every day as if it were the last day of our life.

[LUCY (passing by and overhearing)]Aaugh! This is the last day!! This is it!! I only have twenty-four hours left!! Help me! Help me! This is the lastday!! Aaugh!

[SALLY]Clearly, some philosophies aren't for all people.And that's my new philosophy!

With that forewarning, I confess that if I knew I was going to die in x amount of time, and I could only read ten books before I die, those books would be far more likely to include a fantasy novel than say, Dante’s Inferno. I wouldn’t even give a thought to Shakespeare, but I would probably buy the newest Dean Koontz novel. At least one of the ten would be a graphic novel and there might even be some—shudder—horror. Does that make me shallow? I’m sure it must. But you know what? I just don’t care. Yes there are times I read for deep meaning. You know like when I’m stuck in the dentist’s office and it’s taking forever, and the only thing in the lobby is a pristine copy of Hemingway’s short stories.

But in general I read to be amused. I read to be uplifted. I read to be inspired. And, as good as Grapes of Wrath is (I’m not kidding here. I really do like Grapes of Wrath in a sick and twisted sort of way.) it doesn’t pass the time the way something like “Life Expectancy” does. And it certainly isn’t uplifting. I know, I know, we’re talking “Masters” here. Writers with standing and gravitas draining out their long dead ear holes. But I don’t read to be impressed and I definitely don’t read to impress. I actually did buy a book of Somerset Maugham stories to read on my last trip. And I tried. I really tried to get into them. But I kept looking at what my kids were reading with great envy. Finally when they fell asleep, I ditched SM and started reading Star Wars.

The other day, a wonderful young woman, and teacher to be, listed her top ten books on this blog. As soon as I read that list, I thought, “This is the woman I want teaching my kids.” See here’s the thing. She listed books like “The Uglies” and “Harry Potter” and “Oh the Places You’ll Go.” In other words books that my kids would “get.” Books that would lift them to new heights, give them dreams, introduce them to new worlds. Books they could get into right away and enjoy. If my kids have a teacher who knows how good “The Uglies” is, I have no worries about my kids learning to read.

Now I’m not saying there isn’t a place for more weighty volumes. I mean shouldn’t college students have to suffer at least a little to get to wear the goofy caps and gowns and put letters after their name other than WAS HERE? There’s nothing like a college level literature appreciation class to make you appreciate that you don’t have to read literature all the time. And maybe it will even teach you something other than the fact that Tolstoy seriously needed some St John’s Wart.

What I am saying is that all too often we feel that reading should be work. We should preferably be reading the scriptures, and if not those, than non-fiction. But if you have to read fiction, make sure that is historically accurate, or better yet, so old it actually is history. Next time you see someone over thirty with a fantasy or Sci-Fi novel in their hand—or heaven forbid, a romance—ask them what they are reading. Watch how they blush, and kind of wave away the book as if they’d just found it abandoned on a bus station bench, and are on their way to the trash with it.

But then say, “Oh, I love that book.” And watch how quickly they open up. A fellow degenerate. Next thing you know, you’ll be discussing the difference between Stephen Donaldson and Tolkien. You’ll be comparing Card to Heinlein. You won’t need to pretend that you prefer to go to bed with a copy of 16th Century Politics and It’s Effect on Modern American Economic Psychology. You can even admit that you’ve read all the Harry Potter books, and the Redwall books—twice.

Yeah, I know I’ll never earn the accolades of the New Yorker, and my mansion in heaven will probably be a little on the small side. But it will be lined with bookshelves from top to bottom, and they will ALL be books I like. I may let my grandkids come over and read them occasionally. Heck, I’ll bet would even like Hemmingway would like to read Dean Koontz, now that he’s sober.

I'm also excited to post several new stops on my tour. It's not every day you get to discuss things like having an extra eyeball in your pocket. Enjoy!

Sarah posted a great review on her blog Toddler Drama. Sarah is a talented writer, photographer, and graphic artist. As well as being the sister of some schlep of a writer names Dashner.

Next I got to go to Disneyworld with one of my most long-time fans, Brian at Bookworm. We had a fun interview and got to watch the fireworks from the Big Thunder Railroad. My stomach is feeling much better now.

You can read a fun review of Farworld by the wonderful Reader Rabbit the 2nd here.

Or you can drop by Mrs. Magoo as seen on TV, for her review at Mrs. Magoo Reads.

Qu Grainne and I had a chance to swap stories at the Alterra – Humboldt Café. You can read about it all here.

Gamila of Gamila’s Review and I chatted as we floated along the Avon River. You can read of Q&A here. And her interview here.

Trish and I had a had a ball at Hey Lady Whatcha Readin’? Check out her interview and review, and wish her congratulations on her recent nuptials.

Queen of Chaos and her 11 year-old son read my book togther. You can read her review and interview here.

And last, but certainly not least, (as she would tell you herself) the charming, talented, lovely, and writeaholic, Tristi Pinkston wrote a stellar review and interview on families.com here and here. (Did I get in all the superlatives you asked for Tristi? J )

Thanks all. This has been a riot.


28 Comments:

At 7/28/2008 4:57 PM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

HEAR FREAKING HEAR.

Marvelous post, Jeff.

 
At 7/28/2008 5:33 PM, Blogger Allison Hill said...

THANK YOU!! It's about time someone said that.

 
At 7/28/2008 6:07 PM, Blogger Kimberly said...

Mmmm...what you say makes sense, but I'm not quite ready to elevate you to Guru status yet. There's a wee bit of difference between the ten books you'd read if you only had X amount of time left and the books you'd say are good to read in general before you die.

Thought-provoking post regardless, though.

 
At 7/28/2008 6:15 PM, Blogger Melanie J said...

I like Shakespeare. Nay, I love Shakespeare.

But he's not on my nightstand. And I've been working on Brothers Karamazov for uh....six months?

In which time I've zipped through about 37,000,000 more entertaining, less weighty tomes. And heaven knows it was The Lightning Thief that got my kid reading, not an actual Greek classic.

Although, to be fair, if my eight year old did read a Greek classic, I would totally brag about that.

 
At 7/28/2008 6:40 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

Melanie: Try starting him out with something light, like Oedipus Rex. ;)

I'll confess, too. I've tried to "better myself" by reading the classics, but I almost always will put them aside for something more fun, like a Shandra Covington or Samantha Shade book. Or Myron Bolitar. ;)

If only someone would recommend a book on how to write mysteries, my life would be complete...

 
At 7/28/2008 8:03 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

I love the post, but what if one's brain is wired wrong so she really, honestly, truly LOVES reading Dickens and Dickinson and Faulkner and Shakespeare and Steinbeck and, father-I-have-sinned Maugham? (But let's also assume this perons also owns every book Dean Koontz and Jeffrey S. Savage ever wrote -- even under their pen names.) What if fun, for one person, is feeling words on her tongue and an "ahhh" in her heart that can only be found in books some other people think should be confined to university rooms of torture? Are people like that okay too, Jeff?

(Not that I personally know anybody like that. I'm asking a rhetorical question here.)

Perhaps you're really saying, quite eloquently, that maybe we shouldn't use these lists -- or any lists of any kind -- to judge one another and label each other lacking . . . just for a difference in taste. Or brain wiring. Or anything else.

If that's what you're saying, I'll add my Hear, Hear! to Rob's. If not, well...guest blogger this Friday for sure!

But you're still my hero, Jeffrey. Today more than ever.

 
At 7/28/2008 8:13 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

Nope, Kerry. I'm saying you're wrong, and just plain wierd. :) Okay, point taken. If you really and truely do like that dross, who am I to tell you you're wrong? (I'm speaking of the Savage stuff of course.)

Melanie, if my kid was reading the Greek classics, I would be shouting from the rooftops. Then, I'd have him given a complete mental evaluation. Then I'd shout again.

Jon, Point taken. Why would you possibly send your request to an e-mail I haven't checked in like two years? I'll e-mail back shortly.

Kimberly, No guru status? Grrrr. I agree that there is a difference. But it just makes me laugh how we have one set of books we read all the time, and another when someone asks us what our favorites are. I always feel a little inadequate when my favorites have all been published in the last hundred years.

Allison and Robison (sounds like a Karate Kid pair) you guys rock!

 
At 7/28/2008 8:37 PM, Blogger Allison Hill said...

well, our dad DID go on his mission to Japan...

But seriously. I really enjoy certain "classic" novels. Crime and Punishment for instance. Great Expectations as well. But that's not to say that just because they were written a long time ago by a famous author that I would recommend them any more than others. I think, that were I given a death sentence of 6 months I would not choose to fill my remaining time reading boring books just because they are classified a certain way. I would rather read a bunch of well written books about a subject that actually interests me. If those books happen to be recently written fiction about dragons or space ships or knights or amateur detectives who have an inhuman success rate, then so be it.

Most "classic" books are well worth a read, (except for Grapes of Wrath, and then don't ever ever ever even open it because it's not worth it), but that doesn't mean that you need to force yourself on them at the expense of your love of reading. Why do you think Harry Potter did so well? So many children (including my stepson) got really interested in reading simply to read those books. And when they had finished them they didn't stop reading. Reading for pure enjoyment should never be looked down upon.

That said, if you find pure enjoyment from reading Dickons and Faulkner and Shakespeare (I actually do keep 12th Night on my nightstand), then more power to you. But no one should ever have to be ashamed of the books they read just because you prefer something else.

 
At 7/28/2008 9:05 PM, Blogger Pat said...

I love it!
Thanks for the LOL's

 
At 7/28/2008 9:23 PM, Blogger Just_Me said...

You've gotit all wrong! The dentist's office is the perfect place to bring a very large book. I prefer physics textbooks and or my Russian language text. That way if the dentist gets the wrong tooth you can smack him over the head with something solid. Although, I did bring my great big books to the dentist and wound up having a marvelous conversation about books (and toads going pop!) with my hygenist, Rachael, who I love and miss now that we moved. For 3 years I went to the dentist like clock-work every 6 months just so I could talk with her.

As for the masters, no, I won't read them. Does that make me a bad person? I write "dirty genre fiction".... the kind with spaceships! And I will happily corner anyone who even glances at my book and go on and on about how wonderful the Lost Fleet series is, or how much I like Harry Dresden (not bad) or why hoop earrings make me laugh and think of pixies (Dead Witch Walking anyone?).

Some people don't like sci-fi or fantasy. I worry about those people. I think they must lead very sad, dull, lives. Or maybe they have their fingers crossed behind their back and a Calvin and Hobbes comic book stashed under their bed.

 
At 7/28/2008 11:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff:

We enjoy what we understand. Anything else is confusing. We're entertained by whatever reflects our experience. Anything unfamiliar lacks humor, satire, drama and, in your case, horror.

Or does it?

Could something unfamiliar be humorous, but the humor goes undected? Could something unfamiliar be filled with satire, yet we lack the ability to see the irony, the paradox, the spoof? Is it possible for a novel to contain some drama outside our grasp, some horor beyond our ability to comprehend? Is it possible that a book could be entertaining, but we fail to be entertained simply because the culture, the science, or the language is unfamiliar territory?

I really don't apprecaite the literati looking down long noses on the reading public. Its usually disgusting. No one likes condecension. At least not from another mere mortal. But in defense of Kerry, is it possible that someting outside of a readers expereince could still be blissfully entertaining to another reader who shares the author's culture, background, experience, language, or upbringing. Its possible, isn't it?

I have an interesting example from the scriptures I'd love to share some time. Its shows how something absotlutely mundane and apparenlty unimportant becomes intriguing and possibly even entertaining when you have some background in Hebrew, a little brush with Jewish culture and presto....you're drawn into the scriputures like a Harry Potter novel sleuthing your way around.

Just a thought.

Ly

 
At 7/29/2008 1:09 AM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

Ly,

Interesting point. Let me think about it.

Ummmm, no.

 
At 7/29/2008 1:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff:

Ummmmmm, no, you've decided not to think about it? No, its not an interesting point after all? No, it isn't possible for a reader to to miss the entertaining elements of a novel? Or no, you didn't stuff the banana up Wells' tail pipe?

Ly

PS: I was born in Canada....

 
At 7/29/2008 1:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff:

If it is no, its not possible to miss entertaining elements in a novel, doesn't that dismiss the change that experience brings to our understanding, appreciation, and familiarity?

Ly

 
At 7/29/2008 1:29 AM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

Ly, all of the above. Of course it could also be possible to read a blog reply and miss the sarcasm.

Kerry knows that I am teasing her. She is one of the few people who enjoyes original Latin texts one night and a Stephen King novel the next night. I am sure she finds the humor and insights in both of them.

 
At 7/29/2008 1:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay. I knew you did the banana thing.

 
At 7/29/2008 1:41 AM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

Tattle tale! Ly, you make me laugh all the time. Now I know it's from all the Ketchup Chips! I also know you stay up way too late.

 
At 7/29/2008 1:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They're not nearly as sinful as the coffee crisps....

Ly

 
At 7/29/2008 9:59 AM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

What Kerry said. Only she said it better than I ever could. I'm one of those freaks who actually enjoyed Grapes of Wrath (although Jeff, you know how much I detest Faulkner. I do have my standards) AND will happily gobble up modern genre fun.

 
At 7/29/2008 10:41 AM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

Yeah, well you're evil too. Rob told me.

 
At 7/29/2008 10:50 AM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

Well, I did hope that you'd use "beautiful," but you did use "lovely," so I guess that's close enough.

 
At 7/29/2008 11:05 AM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Ly: Thank you for defending me. Jeff is just mean. Ignore him like I do.

I'd like to know more about the Book of Mormon mystery! Are you writing a book about it, perchance? Want to guest blog? At least send me an e-mail.

 
At 7/29/2008 11:45 AM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

If I had to choose only 10 books to read before I die, I'd sneak and read 11.

 
At 7/29/2008 12:13 PM, Blogger Kimberly said...

Keep working at it. You've got potential.

I am unabashedly pretentious when it comes to my reading tastes. I really should compile a list of "The Ten Books I've Enjoyed Reading Most" instead of getting all pondersome over which books have had the most profound impact on my life. Of course, I think nearly all those ten books were written by Terry Pratchett...

Gotta keep it real, yo.

 
At 7/29/2008 2:12 PM, Blogger Gamila said...

Great Post! I occasionally enjoy a classic. I really enjoyed Jane Eyre and Pride and Predjudice, and The Secret Garden. But for the most part I read popular fiction, though like Kerry I occasionally read my way through a Latin text. :) I think that main thing to remember is that if you find something your kid loves to read. Then let them read it all they want! Eventually they are going to get tired of it or want to try something new every once in a while. They will go out on a branch and try maybe a LDS fiction novel, or a historical novel, or (gasp!) a classic. Just to see what they do like and don't like. So I'm a great believer in letting kids read what they want to read.

As for greek classics keep them around the house. I remember being 12 or so and poking through these really pretty looking books that had a bunch of the classics in them and reading Plato. My parents never knew. I didn't make sense to me at all, and I never really went back to reading it but I did experiment with reading plato because it was in a cool looking book on the shelf. You never know!

 
At 7/29/2008 4:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just got in from the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles where we experienced a two minute earthquake. They're getting ready for the X games by ESPN and the ground was shaking. Sounded like a semi truck rolling by. Felt like one too. Everything was moving. It was awesome. The stadium director said, "Welcome to LA." Apparently they've gotten used to it here.

Which brings me to this:

Kerry: I always ignore him, except when he drives me to the freaking edge of sanity. If I'm encarcerated someone tell the judge Savage made me do it. And by the way, are you kidding? You want me to send you an email asking permission to write a blog? Isn't that like asking someone to ask you permission to mow your lawn, clean your house or pump the septic tank? That's just twisted Kerry. Just plain twisted.

I will expect a private email. You know, an invitation. Like they used to do in the good old days before gmail. With a greeting, a salutation and date. I prefer sincerely over yours truly.

Jeff: Evil is such a harsh word. Can you find something a little more rationalized?

Rocking in LA,

Ly

 
At 7/29/2008 4:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And another think Kerry...I have a hard enough time writing pertinent, interesting, and moderately entertaining content for the posts on my blog.

Can I double post?

Ly

 
At 7/30/2008 4:38 PM, Blogger Anna Maria Junus said...

And isn't it good that we like to read fun stuff.

Otherwise we wouldn't need new writers.

 

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