Thursday, April 9, 2015

March Attacks!

I didn't know this picture was being taken.

March escaped a couple weeks ago, and I barely noticed. There was food poisoning, and a wedding to plan (not mine, I was a mere taskmaster). I was so wrapped up in editing thirteen different short stories for submission, and beta reading two novels and an additional three short stories, that if it weren't for #NaNoReMo, I wouldn't have noticed us spilling into April.

Then again, we got snow flurries on Easter. Yesterday when I stepped outside to grill, I saw my breath and the cold flashed my face with dry-burns. So maybe the world doesn't know it's April yet, either.

I've been criminally negligent on #NaNoReMo posts. I'd wanted to run two more about The Color Purple, and one on my disappointment with Siddhartha, but blogs got eaten in the avalanche. Let today serve as a tardy wrap-up.

The Only Color That Matters
So, Alice Walker's The Color Purple is now on my list of books I'm ashamed I waited so long to read. It's so pregnant with racial and sexual injustice that so little of the American canon truly grapples with. In those lights, I think it completely outdoes Twain's The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn, and would vote it onto high school reading lists. Yes, the dialect makes it a challenge, but by 12th grade the kids can handle it.
That it's banned some places is ridiculous; book bans usually are. There's that early scene where our narrator learns what her clitoris is, and I can just tell that some parent would deride the book for that. I can also hear myself asking that parent if he really thinks his daughter hasn't found out what's between her legs yet.

It is a fascinating book, both for how many touchy subjects it grapples with, and for how consumable it is. It's valid Literary fiction that reads faster for me than a lot of standard entertainment thanks to short chapters and an excellent cycle of hooks. You want this family to pull it together, both in the South and in Africa. Even its ending is refreshing compared to the notes most literary writers end their work on. It joins Middlemarch as a book that makes me glad we started a hashtag for visiting classics every year.

Some Guy Named Sidd
Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha wasn't quite that experience. It's blessedly short and written in a style that's meant to be reflected on, but the journey of Siddhartha seldom felt worth reflecting on. He's very much a special guy because the text says he's special, and so it only came alive for me when he made grave mistakes. That he seems to have it made after following some paths of enlightenment, only to be corrupted by ease and luxury, and has to almost start over, is where the book is interesting. That he struggles with children is similarly interesting.

Interesting then, though still, none of it delivered the level of insight friends and family led me to believe the text possessed. I wonder if I wouldn't have liked this more a decade ago, when I was more of the mind for religious texts. As an artificial religious text, there's clearly more to it.

Pride and Publishing
Doesn't it feel odd when an author espouses disappointment with a classic? I know I've run into a few recently, and it's always, "But you're not as good as that author you're attacking."

It's become something I'm concerned about in my own appearance. I'm much more interested in literary positivity than negativity (evidenced, I just noticed, by my unconsciously writing twice as much about Color Purple as Siddhartha). But in such statements, I don't mean to say I have skill that Hesse is lacking. It's what the text did with me, not what the author did with the text. Which, I hope, comes across differently than a certain popular author saying he thinks Roald Dahl was a corrosive writer that's dangerous to give to children.

Last moment tease: good news is on the horizon!


  1. How lovely to see you back. I worried that health issues had kept you away, and hoped that you were being industrious. And your tease suggests the latter. Yay.
    As I said, I have read both your selected classics, both many years ago. My memory of them accords with your assessment though. I loved The Colour Purple, and was much less committed to Siddhartha.
    I did join NoMoReMo, and my contribution can be found here.

    1. I have to check out your take on Turning of the Screw now! I had a funky relationship with that book.

      And yes, it's all been about productivity. Ran out of hours in my day, but it was a heck of a tear to be on! I've got to get back to beta reading within the hour.

  2. Well, congratulations on reading two classics in the month, I struggle just to get through one. I'm glad you liked Colour Purple, I certainly liked the movie and now I think I must add it to my reading list.

    Good news on the way? You're getting married? You're pregnant? You're getting a book published?????? ^__^

    1. Haha, me getting married might be very bad news. But I am working diligently with publishing. The short stories almost all out to markets, and I think it's about time I finished these novels.

  3. Sorry about the food poisoning.
    I can understand a book loaded with the F bomb not being allowed in middle school, but most book bannings make no sense.

    1. I also wonder increasingly about foul language in books for teenagers. Who among us didn't know those words? Few didn't use them, and we all learned them from adults in our lives, usually our parents and guardians. Expurgating such things from books for teens feels like pretending about reality for the comfort of parents, not the education or engagement of the young. It's a smaller version of the problem of banning condoms from schools that already had teen pregnancy and STI problems.

  4. I don't think nature knows it's April yet either. It's snowing and blowing here.
    Sorry about the food poisoning. Icky! =(

    1. I lost six pounds in one night! On the plus side, I fit into my tuxedo very easily.

  5. Busy, busy John! Bravo!

    Ditto on the snow, I woke up to Jingle Bells the other day, I mean c'mon...enough already!
    No cool on the food poisoning. Hope you is okay now!

    I had an argument with a friend about Siddharta the other day. I guess I unknowingly won it by not reading it and now having read your review on it. Hoozah!

    I've added The Color Purple to my to-read list. I'll compare notes someday.

  6. Wow, that's quite a schedule! No wonder you haven't posted quite as much, but you have been missed! I love your writing. :)


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