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Friday, March 30, 2012

In Defense of the Kidult

As a writer of MG fiction, I tend to read a lot of children's books.  Sure, I need to know what my competition is up to, but I also genuinely like the stories.  But, then again, I'm a big kid.  I still laugh when a fart breaks the silence, burping contests around the dinner table are always welcomed at my home, and, well, life is generally more appealing when it isn't clipped, stripped, and proper all the time.

So when I read  Adults Should Read Adult Books, it touched a nerve.  I'm not sure if the article was meant as satire, or if the writer actually believes children books have no place in the adult read-o'-sphere--I suppose I could look the guy up and read some of his other stuff, maybe get a better sense of his style, but really, I'm investing more than enough time on this one already.  I do believe, however, that the message he conveys is harmful, so I'd like to examine it a bit closer.
The only thing more embarrassing than catching a guy on the plane looking at pornography on his computer is seeing a guy on the plane reading “The Hunger Games.” Or a Twilight book. Or Harry Potter. The only time I’m O.K. with an adult holding a children’s book is if he’s moving his mouth as he reads. 
Did you really compare children's literature to porn?  And if that wasn't enough, you figured you'd call a few hundred million readers idiots?  So what was the plan, exactly? Get yourself a nice little platform like The New York Times, and then blast their entire audience in one fell swoop?  Brilliant!
I’m sure all those books are well written. So is “Horton Hatches the Egg.” But Horton doesn’t have the depth of language and character as literature written for people who have stopped physically growing.
Yes, they are pretty well written.  That tends to happen when professional authors write books, even for children.  Horton doesn't have the depth of language and character, I'll agree, but most adults don't read Dr. Seuss to further their education; they read it for their kids or their students. Not even sure where you're going with this.  How did we arrive at Dr. Seuss from Harry Potter, et al, in the first place?  Why not go back to your original porn metaphor?  You were doing so well there.
I appreciate that adults occasionally watch Pixar movies or play video games. That’s fine. Those media don’t require much of your brains. Books are one of our few chances to learn. There’s a reason my teachers didn’t assign me to go home and play three hours of Donkey Kong.
Metaphor #3: Children's books are like Donkey Kong.  In all these great adult books you've read, have you not learned it's poor form to mix metaphors?  Believe it or not, some people do read for pleasure.  For whatever reason, story is an important component of fiction.  Still, there's a learning process going on, even if the message doesn't contain complex adult situation with adults doing miraculous adult-ish type things.  When you do not explore all that literature has to offer; when you decide that one genre, or one style, or one age group is the only one worth reading; that's when you stop learning.
 I have no idea what “The Hunger Games” is like. Maybe there are complicated shades of good and evil in each character. Maybe there are Pynchonesque turns of phrase. Maybe it delves into issues of identity, self-justification and anomie that would make David Foster Wallace proud. I don’t know because it’s a book for kids. I’ll read “The Hunger Games” when I finish the previous 3,000 years of fiction written for adults. 
Wait, what?  You don't even know a single thing about the books you're bashing adults for reading?
Let’s have the decency to let tween girls have their own little world of vampires and child wizards and games you play when hungry. Let’s not pump Justin Bieber in our Saabs and get engaged at Cinderella’s Castle at Disneyland. Because it’s embarrassing. You can’t take an adult seriously when he’s debating you over why Twilight vampires are O.K. with sunlight. If my parents had read “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” at the same time as I did, I would have looked into boarding school. 
What was this written in the 80s?  Who the hell drives a Saab these days?  But more to the point, the stories you've mentioned are cultural phenomenons.  Those things tend to get discussed, even if the arguments are sometimes ridiculous.  Then again, show me a conversation on politics, the economy, or any other adult-type topic that doesn't also dip its toes into the stupid pool, at some point.

And as for your comment regarding what you read vs. your parents, all I can say is, Looks like someone wasn't hugged enough as a child.

I'm right now reading MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN by Ransom Riggs.  I like it good and am reading it out in open and am managing to get through bigger words like "extraordinary" and  "infraction" without moving my mouth too a lot.  The book has pictures, too! So when my brain get tired I can stare at them till I can think again.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Updates and e-Wizards

Big thanks to all 782 of you who entered the EVE HALLOWS AND THE BOOK OF SHRIEKS giveaway over at Goodreads.  I've been notified of the 5 winners, and I'll have the books in the mail by Saturday.

If you're like me and you never win squat, don't worry.  There'll be more contests coming up in the next few weeks, so stay tuned.  Of course, the ebook is available for $2.99 here , so if you want to skip the whole contest thing, well, you won't be hurting my feelings by making a purchase.

Now that I'm done with that, let's get on to some actual important news ...  After a really long and painful delay, all seven Harry Potter books are finally available in ebook format.  What's most interesting, at least to me, is that Rowling has decided to sell them exclusively through her Pottermore site; however, if you visit Amazon, B&N, and a  few others, they show the ebooks for sale, but when you try to purchase one, you get redirected to Pottermore--something I've never seen a online book retailer do with an ebook before. (Heck, I can't recall any product having that much swagger.)  I did find it a bit curious that every major ebook retailer is listed, except for Apple.  They of the high and mighty refused to bend the rules even for The Boy Who Lived, it would seem.  Not that Apple needs the cash, but their iBookstore isn't exactly the king of the hill, either.

Anyway, it's gonna be fun to watch how this all plays out.  On the one hand, most people already own the books.  On the other, it took so long for the ebooks to come out that people who really wanted them already downloaded them illegally.  And on the third hand, this is J.K. Rowling we're talking about, and she's become quite comfortable with smashing every known record there is to be smashed.

And she priced the ebooks at $7.99 - $9.99, which, I must say, gives this whole venture some serious legs.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Apple, Book Publishers Price Collusion Suit

If you haven't been keeping up with the price collusion suit among the Department of Justice, Apple and five major publishing houses (Macmillan, Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin and Simon & Schuster) then here's a few articles worth reading to help you catch up:

My take on the whole thing is pretty simple. Major publishers are trying desperately to protect their two biggest assets: distribution and print books, and they sided with Apple as a means to protect those assets. Does the DoJ have a case against Apple, et al? Sure do. I have to side with Konrath and Eisler on this one. It seems impossible that five publishers came to the same conclusion at the same time. But I also can't disagree with Turow when he says, "given the chance, any rational publisher would have leapt at Apple’s offer and clung to it like a life raft." Either way, it's something for the lawyers, who charge by the hour, to sort through for a really long time, no doubt.

I don't believe for a second, though, that these publishing houses are trying to protect their authors or bookstores. Puh-lease! They're trying to protect themselves.  Here's why:
  • Anyone can distribute an ebook online to every major retailer
  • Anyone can hire a copyeditor
  • Anyone can hire an artist
What anyone can't do?
  • Get a book mass distributed to libraries, bookstores, supermarkets, etc
  • Offer a quality hardcover at a reasonable price point

That's what traditional publishers bring to the table, and that's what, in my opinion, is at stake here. If ebooks become the norm and bookstores go the way of the dinosaur, then big traditional publishers are gonna have a real hard time justifying their purpose.  And, yeah, I imagine when these publishers agreed to release ebooks at the same time as hardcovers, and suddenly saw ebook sales blow up, they got on their knees and prayed for someone like Steve Jobs to come along and save them.

How this one will turn out is anyone's guess.  I imagine it won't change the industry in any profound way, though--not with a presidential election on the horizon.  After all, no party wants to be labeled as an industry killer, even if said industry is broken.

Monday, March 5, 2012


Went to sees The Lorax over the weekend with my family, and we all enjoyed it very much.

I liked it mostly for the lessons:  While the environmental issues discussed in the movie are easy for children to understand, the even bigger lesson to take away from this story, or from Dr. Seuss in general, is that tree trunks don't have to be brown, leaves can be furry, and fish can walk and talk, if you want them to.  In other words, forcing creativity to conform to what is, especially at a young age, does nothing to foster the imagination. Just sayin'.

Also, saw new trailers for two stop motion movies I would've absolutely loved as a kid (which is another way of saying, I'll be taking my kids to see them, because I want to see them, too.)

First one is Tim Burton's Frankenweenie:

And then there's ParaNorman:

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