26 January 2009

The Graveyard Book

Gaiman's Graveyard Book just won the Newberry Award!! Woot! Now in the past, I have had quite a bit of disagreement with them over their choices, find some of the winners just plain losers as far as books go. This one, however, they got right. The Graveyard Book is sweet and sad, it's about life and death and growing up. The few places that did work as well as others were totally made up for by the vast and overwhelming grace of the rest of the book. Told in short stories, instead of chapters, it is the story of Nobody Owens, who toddles his way into the graveyard away from his family's murderer and is taken in by the Owens (a wonderful dead couple) in particular and the entire graveyard in general. What he learns of life and love and the world is a wonderful lesson for us all. It's a five star book and deserves this honor. I'm so pleased!

Read Neil Gaiman's excited response here.

14 January 2009

My GamerDNA

The Explorer motto: "No stone unturned!"
It's not so much the wandering around and poking about, but that euphoric eureka moment the Explorer strives for. The joys of discovery do not necessarily involve geography, real or virtual. They may derive from the mental road less traveled, the uncovering of esoteric or hidden knowledge and it's creative application. Explorers make great theory crafters. The most infinitesimal bit of newness can deliver the most delicious zing to an Explorer.
* Explorer Achievers have been there, done that and have the t-shirt...in fact they have a plethora of t-shirts, badges, trophies and other rewards. EAs are the completionists of the gamer world. They like to find new places, quests, easter eggs, unlocks, maps etc. and check them off as have, visited or beaten. Like real world travelers, EAs enjoy collecting memorabilia that helps them relive their experiences later.

Yup, that's me and that's how I game! :D I'm a HUGE explorer and am ALL about achievements, reputation, and the like. I love to game. . .

(Courtesy of theBartle Test of Gamer Psychology)

11 January 2009

More about The Millionaires

A commenter on Amazon "found it creepy and weird" that I reprinted Mr. Majors' email. I used it to back my points, as one might use correspondence from a more well known author to back up points in a published thesis. Had I not shown the email in full, I would have been accused of cutting and pasting it to suit my purposes. *shrugs* One can't win when one writes a negative review.

08 January 2009

The Millionaires by Inman Majors

The Millionaires tells the story of two brothers, J.T. and Roland Cole, of questionable reputation, bringing the World's Fair Expo to Tennessee in the 1980's and delving into gubernatorial politics.

While the actual prose itself was mechanically well-written (though the lack of quotation marks for spoken words kept me backtracking to see if a character was thinking or speaking, which was annoying), for me there was no real spark of life in the characters. Then there was the odd "cut scenes" between chapters. They were laid out like a movie script, not easy to follow and, far from segueing the chapters, felt stilted, distracting and unnecessary. Also the "New South" feel was, to a life-long Southerner, not realistic and somewhat stereotyped.

In addition to this, there was the problem of the plot. It is, quite frankly, an almost to the date and circumstance retelling of the life of C.H. and Jake Butcher. The Butcher brothers were quite famous in the 1980's, at least in Tennessee. Just like J.T. and Roland Cole, they were banker brothers of questionable reputation who brought the World's Fair Expo to Tennessee (Knoxville, Knox County in real life, Glenville, Glen County in the book). Jake Butcher ran for Governor, like his fictional counterpart Roland and the brothers were investigated just like in the book.

Some things in the book were such exact copies of the real life Butcher brothers that it was worrisome. Just one example: Jake Butcher built an impressive, tall, mirror walled bank with lovely fountains in downtown Knoxville that is a landmark of the Knoxville skyline--the tallest building in town. Here is a description from the book of Roland's bank:
"It was a damn awesome sight, the building, from any angle or vantage point you might choose for the viewing. Standing on Franklin Street, Roland's angle was straight up, like looking at a plane overhead. What he saw were twenty-nine stories of green mirrors on a shiny, rectangular tower, the mirrors catching and reflecting the sun's light and sending it in darting rays across the shadowed and dreary downtown below. Was there a better phrase than dwarfing the skyline? Obliterating the skyline? Inventing a skyline?"

Nothing on the Advanced Reading Copy credits the real life Butcher brothers with inspiring Mr. Majors by their life, so my husband (who was unable to finish the book, stating it just got "too boring") emailed him on our behalf to get the scoop. Mr. Majors replied, "I anticipate that reviewers in Tennessee will note the parallels in the novel to real life events" and "when I talk about the book to folks who aren't familiar with Tennessee, I mention the inspiration for the plot" and no, "the publisher will not be including a note about the book's inspiration." He goes on to say, that he "never pictured real people as I was writing the book, not for one second or one sentence" Wow. That's rather hard to believe, given things as detailed as the example above and the fact that he just admited that C. H. and Jake Butcher ARE the inspiration for the plot. . . This answer gave me a sense of unease, a distrust of the author that made me even less able to sink into his narrative.

Overall, with the writing style and my mistrust of the author, I was unable to enjoy this book or read it as closely as I generally do. Granted, I had a hard time getting over the obstacle of seeing the storyline so obviously the uncredited life of the Butcher brothers--and the fact that, knowing that, I already knew what happened. Would someone without my knowledge of Tennessee history enjoy this book? I don't know, but I did not see enough other redeeming qualities to think so.
Here is Mr. Major's email in full:
I anticipate that reviewers in Tennessee will note the parallels in the novel to real life events. When I talk about the book to folks who aren't familiar with Tennessee, I mention the inspiration for the plot, so that's warranted (and expected) if your wife mentions it in her review.

To answer your question, the publisher will not be including a note about the book's inspiration. The main reason being that I never pictured real people as I was writing the book, not for one second or one sentence. So though the plot may be inspired by real life events, the characters and scenes are all invented. A note, it seemed to me, would lead readers to believe that I had some kind of inside scoop on real events or actual people when I don't, and would distract them from the primary themes I'm trying to explore.

I was interested in writing a book about brothers (I have one that I'm very close to), ambition, and that large group of people my parents age who moved from southern farms and small towns to the city, and the effect that move had on them. There's a lot of my brother and me in the Cole brothers and a lot of my dad and uncles. So if the characters in the book are acting/thinking/feeling like any real life counterpart, the last name would have to be Majors. Looking at things in the rearview, the late seventies and early eighties seems like a really specific point in time in the south to me. This was still pre-cable, pre-sunbelt migration on a massive scale. I wanted to capture this moment in time just before the south tipped once and for all away from being a truly heterogenous region. That my father's generation would be in middle of that, this generation of farm boys and kids from small towns, as the south became urbanized and suburbanized and lost much of its rural heritage !! and identity, was really interesting to me. So basically, I just used the plot to explore themes I was interested in (the nature and cost of ambition/competitive but loving brothers/the changing south). I wasn't interested in writing about real people or telling biography or history, but in themes, and trying to find characters in which to express those themes.

I'm guessing I'll be answering questions about real life correlations from here on out. To his dying day, Robert Penn Warren swore that Willie Stark was not, in fact, Huey Long in All the Kings Men. Not sure how many people believe him, but I do.