Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Writing the Novel AND Why I Hate The Historian

I started my attempt at National Novel Writing Month (known as NaNoWriMo). On the first day the word count goal is 1,667 words (or something). I wrote 2, 450. I think it's the only day I will be ahead, so I'm bragging. Don't ask me next week when I'm behind by 5,000 or so words. Shall I share one line from my new version of the novel I've been working on? Okay, I just looked at what I wrote and I can't bear to reveal any of it here. Which must mean I am taking NaNoWriMo to heart and have kenneled my Inner Editor. So you'll just have to wait until August 12 (the day after I finish my novel!) to see if I can bear to reveal any of it here, to you, my faithful readers.

In other news, I am incredibly irritated by the release and instant Best Seller status of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. First, Random House paid two million dollars for the book, so of course they are going to promote the hell out of it (articles in Time and Newsweek; full page ads in The New York Times and New Yorker, etc, etc, etc.). Second, it's getting press for no other reason than. . . Random House paid two million for it. "It's the next DaVinci Code!" As if we all needed another reason NOT to read it. But at least the New York Times didn't fall in line and praise it. Henry Alford (the reviewer) didn't hate it, but he hated the tricks it employed and the many references in the book to "writing" or "scrivenings." He said it makes him feel "ready to skin a small animal." Ha!
But the most irritating thing, to me, is that BookSense (the consortium of small book sellers) has chosen The Historian as it's top pick for this month. Why? Does this book need any more support? To me, the point of small bookstores is to tell me about the books I wouldn't normally hear about, the small, quiet book that might never make the Best Seller list, but should; the book that will quietly continue to sell decades after the DaVinci Codes and Historians are taking up space in used book stores. Every time I look at the Fiction Best Seller list I want to weep. There is no book on the hardback Fiction list that I even want to read! On paperback, I am happy that The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is there. It redeems the otherwise lowbrow selection. On the paperback NonFiction, I'm happy to see David Sedaris maintaining his reign. Actually, the nonfiction list is suprisingly good: Malcom Gladwell's book is there, as is The Devil in the White City, and Guns, Germs, and Steel, and Under the Banner of Heaven. So the nonfiction list gives us reason for hope. I should switch to nonfiction?
Well. Please join with me in not reading The Historian (or at least check it out of the library rather than buying it). Instead, visit your local small bookstore and ask them to recommend a book you've never heard of by a writer you've never heard of but will love. Middlebrow has promised to argue with people who insist that The Historian is a good book, even though he refuses to read it. Can you get more Middlebrow than that?

3 comments:

Sleepy E said...

Hey is this the same novel you've been working on or are you starting something totally new? I'm gonna do the novel race in November (w/ everyone else on the planet), I think.

lis said...

Looking forward to hearing how NaNoWriMo goes for you. I promised my brother I do the thing in the Fall, but now that he's having a baby I might just get out of it.

Dr. Write said...

Yes, same novel. But I'm trying to write 50,000 new words. I still have what I wrote before and will try to integrate in the "revision" process. So far, the main character has only left her house once. Mostly she talks on the phone. And she's gone to the library. So very little overlap with old old novel. This is new old novel. I guess.