Friday, April 13, 2012

My Ideal Type


It’s hard being a moderate because as good as waffles are (WANT), waffling seriously slows your writing down. We moderates are a winging, nitpicky, soppy bunch of indecisive saps obsessed with our own level-headedness.

“That seems a bit much,” the moderate in me cautions. “Yes, waffling occurs, but perhaps it is better to be level-headed than hot-headed. Shall we discuss it over tea?”

No! No time! I’ve already begun this post eight different ways now, but I can’t get a short, snappy topic sentence because you, O Moderate Dear, will not shut up. So, without further ado, this is what I mean:

Some books are bad enough to be burned.

But that’s no good at all! Because now you think I’m either a crazy Christian[1] or a reprobate of a writer who ought to be thrown into the flames along with the literature I propose to burn. And so, the moderate must win as I waffle my way down from such a strong statement.

Thank-you, Rowling.
I’ve heard teachers encourage their classes to be inquisitive by saying, “There are no stupid questions” and then for the next fifteen minutes be forced to answer seven variations on “If I don’t do my homework what happens?” These poor, well-meaning teachers can do nothing but answer, trapped by their own misguided encouragement. There are stupid questions—many of them—just like there are Bad Books.

There is no universal “bad book,” of course, but variations on a theme. The book I find bad enough to forget so thoroughly that I read it twice without realizing it—Eregon—might be a national best-seller and quite enjoyable to others. Everyone has their own their own standards, their likes and dislikes. Here are mine:

     ·         original plot that becomes apparent quickly and moves smoothly, without contrivances
     ·         complete dearth of clichés
     ·         full, memorable characters who develop throughout
     ·         snappy dialogue
     ·         surprisingly talented people
     ·         women who aren’t stupid[2]

And I prefer it if there are swords and adventure and thieves and magic. And dragons are good too. But I’m flexible.

There is not enough time in this world to read all of the books that should not be burned. In the meantime, I hold a significant grudge against the books I do take the time to begin which are not up to snuff.

This post prompted by the awfulness of Joe Abercrombie and his nightmare of a book called The Blade Itself. If I could fit more cliché characters into a wandering plot speaking such awkwardly unrealistic dialogue, I might have to burn my own book.

“Then again,” the moderate chides, “he’s actually finished a book, dull though it may be. And you have not.”

It’s hard being a moderate.

[1] I am. Jesus is pretty damn awesome.
[2] Call me a feminazi, but even misogynist male writers ought to be able to have a few female characters that don’t suck and aren’t merely stock. We make up half the population, give or take, after all and a much higher but yet undetermined percentage of the reading population.

Disclaimer: I have very little say on where the pictures go on these posts. Apparently the internet is stronger than I am. Who knew?


  1. okay, seriously? how were we not friends until a year ago? This post could have been written by me...except that you're a better writer than I am.

    On a mostly unrelated note, I had to listen to a speech by a student recently about the subjugation of women. And the thing about being the teacher in that situation is that not only do you have to actually listen, you have to listen and try to look like you aren't wishing your ears were vestigial organs.

    1. Shocking, isn't it??

      I think there are about ninety more ways this post could have been written and most of them would be better. I think you should write one. I think every reader should, really. Like the writer of Eats, Shoots & Leaves? I'd love to read the scathingness in which that would result.

      what did the rest of your students do?? Did you at least raise an eyebrow? I think I am a bad teacher, because I probably would have tried to make him uncomfortable speaking like that in front of me. grrr.

    2. The rest of my students were mostly okay with it, which is even more disturbing to me. The context of the assignment was that it was a heckling speech - the rest of the class was allowed to interrupt him and challenge what he was saying, and he had to maintain control, answer their questions, etc. Well. Once he pulled out a couple of Bible verses (I'm sure you're familiar with them), the challenging of his assertions sort of stopped. After the speech, though, a couple of other students looked at me and noted that I clearly wanted to say something. So I told them that, at the very least, they were taking too narrow a view of what those verses looked like played out in real life, and how Matt and I submit to each other out of love, and it's not evil to have a working mom and a stay at home dad, for example. And how men sort of naturally respect their wives, because men feel loved by being respected, and women generally naturally love their husbands, because they feel loved by being perhaps the Bible is just reminding people to do the things they're less good at to make marriages work.

      ...I don't think I really meant to reproduce my rant here.

      anyway, they LISTENED. And they were super quiet afterwards. And apparently thought about what I said, because the math teacher came to me later and asked why half his fourth hour pre-calc class was so questiony on what he thought of stay at home dads that day.

      I consider this a victory.