Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pseudonyms; Heidelberg Project; Not Really Book Reviews

In a strange coincidence, both xTx and Rachelle Gardner have words up today about pseudonyms. Rachelle has some practical considerations, while xTx, no surprise, is a bit more candid in her interview with WE ARE CHAMPIONS.

xTx states, unequivocally, that her reasons for using a pseudonym are fear-based: she writes some funky shit, and she'd rather no one from her real life associate stories about getting one's asshole tongued with, you know, her. The "real" her. Rachelle, meanwhile, talks about writing in different genres, or writing memoirs, non-fiction v. fiction, getting lost on the bookstore shelf, and so on. Commenters on Rachelle's blog talk about other writers having similar names, or their own name being boring or unpronounceable, etc. No one has yet said, "Well, I write primarily heavy bestiality with a side of scat, and I'd rather my boss/mother/neighbor didn't find out about it."

In a previous internet incarnation, I used a psueodnym. It always made me uncomfortable. I remember the first time I met people in person who I had only previously known online, and how I would say, bashfully, "Oh, call me Becky." And I'd probably do the same thing today if I were meeting people who know my writing, and know me as R.S. Bohn. "Ms. Bohn" or "Hey, R.S.," would sound strange. Rebecca's fine, Becky, but no Becca. And don't drop the "y." Those that go straight to calling me "Beck" get a frosty glare that shrivels their genitalia down to pea size. Just warnin' ya.


In my never-ending quest to prove that Detroit is a city you shouldn't dismiss just yet, pics from the Heidelberg Project. B and I went years ago, when it was still controversial. It's embraced more fully today, and I'm grateful for that.

There was a time when I despised living in my tiny suburban home in its grid neighborhood on the outskirts of the D. And now, to my surprise, I have become one of the biggest supporters of Detroit. It may, in fact, be a city I love more than any other. We try to get down as often as we can, go to the bars, clubs, restaurants. Listen to the musicians, go to the largest farmer's market in the U.S., walk through its museums, and we've seen a lot of musicals, plays and sporting events. Has it got its gritty side? Damn straight. And maybe that's why I love it so much. All I know is, it's in my soul now.


No book reviews this week. Just now, I abandoned the second book in two weeks. The first, "Paladin of Souls" by Loid McMaster Bujold, was bar-none the most boring book I've read in ages. I got about a third of the way through it, and I simply could not have cared any less about the characters, who all seem not to care about the book they're in, the world, etc. I'd heard a lot about Bujold, and I looked forward to reading it. Maybe I chose the wrong book of hers, I don't know. But I felt like I was just slogging along, wearily, and so were the characters. *yawn*

The second, not a genre book but straight lit as recommended by the New York Times Book Review: "The Emperor's Children" by Claire Messud. I'm halfway through and calling it quits.

"Masterly comedy of manners", NYTBR? Where was the comedy? I found a lot of self-absorbed, shallow individuals knocking against one another, like bits of puff blown into a jar. It's got a ton of detail, and most of it is beautiful in both its phrasing and its unique observations. Keen-eyed, this Messud. And on the surface, it should be amusing. But I'm halfway through, and our characters, who all get their own chapters, are still being set-up for... something. I can guess what, which makes it more dreary. And I can guess how each will react. *yawn, again*

Here's the thing, though. I'd be willing to keep going, to find out how each will be the agent of their own destruction as chaos eventually reigns, if Messud could stop showing us just how edgy and brilliant of a writer she thinks she is. Tell the fucking story, Messud. Every single page is filled with sentences like this:

Hunched forward over the table against the cavernous cacophony of the restaurant, the three women were playing the dessert game--each trying to hide her sentiments about the course while simultaneously attempting to gauge those of her companions; a routine in which the younger two rightly surmised that randy was more hopeful for a sweet than they were anxious to avoid one, so that they orderd, eventually, a single chocolate pot de creme and three spoons--when a shadow, the lean shadow of Ludovic Seeley, blocked their table's light.

*pant, pant* Goodness, that was long sentence. Messud's fondness for em-dashes and her love affair with the semi-colon are apparent in every teeth-clacking, open-mouthed kiss, er, paragraph. And it never ends. I grew wistful for a short sentence that told me what was essential. Many was the instance in which I had to stop and go back to the beginning of the sentence. I felt like I'd been put on a California freeway in a Neon without a map at rush hour.

This isn't to say that many of her observations are, indeed, brilliant. The dessert game! Yes, we've all played that one when we're out with others. Or the, "Should we get one last round?" game. But honestly, Messud could've made less of a mess of the observation. Because one sentence like that every couple pages is good for the mind, it's fun, but one after the other, neverending, becomes repeptitive and obnoxious. We get it, Messud. You think you're clever. And, indeed, you are. Now that we've got the message, do you think you could tell us a story and perhaps wield the "delete" key a bit more deliberately?

Of course the NYT loved it. It's a book about New Yorkers, and these are New Yorkers, after all. Well and skewered.

I start a new one tonight. Wish me luck.

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