djonn: (bird)

Counter-intuitive thought for the day: reading a bad book can be good for you.

Yes, really.  Let me explain:

From a craft standpoint, sometimes one way to figure out how good prose works can be to look at clunky prose. Looking at someone's clunky Cinderella retelling side by side with someone else's lyrical one may -- if you take apart corresponding passages word by word -- offer insights into why word choice matters and what makes certain dialogue or narration come alive rather than lying (and sounding) flat on the page.

Alternately, if you run into a page or two of text that annoys you sufficiently, it may be useful as a writing exercise to take that specific passage and recast it into stronger, more effective prose -- and then look at the two versions to see where one goes right and the other wrong.  (That said, I do not advise using this approach as a means of creating a story you intend to market as your own.  Entirely apart from the potential legal issues, dealing with that much bad prose is likely to drive you insane long before you finish.)

But that's only one dimension of the premise. Sometimes a book can be severely flawed but highly provocative in terms of the issues or ideas it develops.  There are works that one may not consider "good" in and of themselves, but which are important for the place they hold in the literary or genre canon. There are books that one might classify purely as "popcorn" -- to be read for sheer escape or entertainment value, irrespective of any quality stamp.  I've recommended titles in all these categories for the SF book discussion group I co-moderate, and I'm happy to defend any of those choices.  This coming Tuesday we're looking at David Weber's first Honor Harrington novel, On Basilisk Station -- which I'm sure some of our members will decry as a bad book. They may (or may not) be right...but I think it's worthwhile for the group to read and discuss it regardless.

Personally, though, one reason I read -- and even occasionally seek out -- bad books is that it helps me maintain perspective.  If I only read stories I like, or stories that I expect to be "good", I'm limiting my sample and narrowing my range.  I need a sampling of the negative outliers as counterpoint, so that I can better recognize and better appreciate the really good stuff on the upper end of the spectrum.

So feel free to read a bad book this week. And let me know what it was; I might just check it out myself.

djonn: (butterfly)
In the e-publishing landscape, five years is a fairly long time.  So I'm happy to note that my ebook publisher, Uncial Press, is five years old this month and still going strong, with a sturdy list featuring a wide variety of titles.  To celebrate, they're staging a month-long series of giveaways, with prizes including two ebook readers (a Kobo and a Kindle) as well as a host of Uncial ebooks.

Phantom of the Operetta, one of my two Uncial titles, is one of the daily prizes; to win a free copy, head to the giveaway page a week from tomorrow (Monday, Oct. 17).  In the meantime, I've also just updated my own Web pages to add Supernatural Timing, a short-short Halloween story that features some of the "Phantom" characters (but doesn't spill any of "Phantom's" key plot twists).  It's probably worth noting that both these stories derive in notable part from my enthusiasm for Gilbert & Sullivan....

Happy birthday, Uncial!
djonn: (Peter Iredale)

The week has slipped away entirely too fast; in an effort to catch up with the rest of the pack, we'll do two days at once this round.

Day 3 - The best book I've read in the past year

Ouch.  Singling out one title for this kind of tag is always a challenge for me, Read more... )



Day 4 - My all-time favorite literary series

There are a number of series I enjoy reading and keeping up with.  Read more... )

The Once & Future Meme (aka the Index of Days): )

djonn: Self-portrait (Default)

It is, of course, actually Day 3 by now -- that post will go up shortly, but this one is late.  Ah, well, it happens sometimes.

Day 2 - A series more people should be reading/talking about

This choice was harder to make than I originally anticipated.  The trouble is that while I've read a number of intriguing books recently, many of them already have a sizeable degree of buzz attached to them, and so arguably don't fit the category.  And when I looked backward to consider older or more obscure titles, the titles I looked toward first arguably belong in categories we'll get to farther along in the meme.

And then I thought of two books that have just come back into print, and I had my answer: The Night of the Solstice and Heart of Valor by L. J. Smith, who's mostly known at present for having written the books from which the Vampire Diaries television series was adapted.

The present volumes are of a different kind. )



The Once & Future Meme (aka the Index of Days) )

djonn: Self-portrait (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] alg has adapted the 30-day TV watchers' meme that's been bouncing around LiveJournal for those of us who are book-addicted -- and whereas I resisted the temptation to wade into the TV meme (I'm not quite that avid a watcher), the corresponding literary version is just too tempting for me not to play.

First, here's a link to [livejournal.com profile] alg's kickoff post, where you can expect to find many other folks' answers (and links to their launchpoint posts) in the comments.

And now, A Lifetime of Reading In A Month.  I have recast/rewritten the day-tags, but we should all still be on the same page....

Day 1 - A series that ended too soon )

The complete calendar of the meme: )
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