It’s just been one of those long, grinding weeks at work, so this is even more fragmentary than usual.
Not Ranting But Laughing
It seems yet more authors have been telling readers how to review and who is qualified to do so. I’m not linking. Even if you haven’t read this week’s iterations, you’ve seen the same arguments. Ad nauseam. Everyone from the self-published to the New York-published, New York Times bestseller can play. (Let’s be clear, though; the vast majority of authors appear to have perfectly sensible opinions about online reader reviews).
Since this issue of who’s qualified to review online keeps coming up, and since I’ve now attached my RL identity to my blog, I thought I’d go ahead and post a picture of me with my most impressive credential. But guess what this PhD diploma qualifies me to do? Teach at a college! And write literary criticism! (Actually, I’m not always sure about those things).
It is not my qualification for posting my thoughts about books I have read here or at Goodreads. You know what qualifies me to do that? I read the book. The same thing that qualifies anyone else. Suck it, writers with dumb-ass opinions.
NaPoWriM0 (or, Be Careful What You Wish For)
This is my goal for November: a policy-writing binge. I mentioned last spring to the Powers That Be at work that we really needed someone to review all our academic policies (this controls stuff like student appeals and how we approve new courses and programs at the college). So they gave me extra teaching release to work on it. I actually care a lot about having good policy, but I was kind of thinking they would get someone else to do it. It’s not easy to do well. One problem is finding time to focus on it. I know meetings are part of my job, but lately I have so many it feels like they’re keeping me from doing my real work. And the outcome of every meeting seems to be more work for me. My plan for next month is to build longer chunks of writing time into my schedule. I was never someone who did well writing in short stints here and there. I really admire people who can. I’m amazed by some of the writers I follow on Twitter and all they accomplish.
What I’m Reading/Listening To (No Complaints Here!)
Ben Aaronovitch’s Whispers Under Ground, third in his urban fantasy series featuring apprentice magician/Police Constable Peter Grant. I love these books. I love the blend of magic–and the clever magical world-building–with police procedural. I love the way Peter tries to reconcile scientific thinking with discovery of his magical abilities. Perhaps above all, I love the London of these books: modern and multicultural, but shaped by its history and folklore of all kinds. (My dissertation was on Victorian urban literature and now I teach an academic writing class focused on urban livability; I love reading about cities). There’s great real-world-building in Aaronovitch’s depiction of London, and he finds magic in its strange byways and their history.
For a taste of the voice, here’s Peter interviewing a (drunken) American senator, father of a murder victim:
“If I was to, hypothetically speaking, call you a limey or a nigger–which one would cause you the most offence?” [the senator asks].
“Was [your son] an embarrassment?” I asked.
“Do you know why you evaded the question?” asked the senator.
Because I’m a professional, I thought. Because I spent a couple of years talking to morose drunks and belligerent shoplifters. . . . And the trick of it is simply to keep asking the questions you need the answers for, until finally the sad little sods wind down.
Occasionally, you have to wrestle them to the floor and sit on them until they’re coherent, but I thought that was an unlikely contingency given who I was talking to. . . .
“If you call me a nigger you just sound like a racist American,” I said. “And limey is a joke insult. You don’t actually know enough about me to insult me properly.”
Smart and funny and magical in all kinds of ways.
I’m also still glomming Michael Connelly’s mysteries and courtroom dramas on audio from the library. I’m on the third Mickey Haller book and I’ve listened to one of the Bosch books, too; the next is downloaded. All of this reading is making me think about how writers sustain and renew characters in long-running series. Connelly’s two series intersect. Bosch shows up in the second Haller book, but it’s a big jump forward in time from the first book in his series. A lot changes in these characters’ lives, as in Peter Grant’s, even in the few books I’ve read so far. I think they themselves do change in some ways, but they’re also recognizably the same people. And in that, I think they’re like real people. Our circumstances change, but most of us don’t have dramatic changes in character over our lives. We can just move the needle a little way.
Reading a long-running mystery series is like checking in on old friends. Some of my favorites in this regard are the late Reginald Hill‘s Dalziel and Pascoe series (Hill’s style changed pretty dramatically over the almost 40 years he was writing the books, from classic British mysteries to something far more experimental and odd, but the lead policemen remained recognizable through it all) and Peter Robinson‘s Inspector Banks (wait, there’s a TV series of that one, too??). It’s been great to find a new mystery author to enjoy. I’ve been a mystery reader ever since my childhood crush on Encyclopedia Brown.
A short break from romance reading has been refreshing, but I’m thinking I haven’t read a historical in a while. I’ve got some in mind for next week. What about you? Read anything good lately?