Passover is coming and I thought you might like a Jewish monkish late Medieval story to celebrate. It’s unpublished and unedited. I have a dream of a whole alternate history. This is its first actual incarnation. The form of the story is not a story form, but one I borrowed from a bunch of Medieval documents. If it works, it ought to feel slow, and religious: it’s not an action tale but a way of encouraging monks of a certain order to limit their spiritual growth for the betterment of bridges.
Someone once wrote that they hadn’t read one of my novels because they didn’t read that kind of book. I want to know what they meant, for there tends to be a general disagreement on what kinds of books I write. Still, the dismissal-without-reading made me recall an essay, so that’s your repeat essay for this month. I also like the date. It was published on 10/10/10. It’s one of the essays I did for BiblioBuffet.
Several people were dismissive of paranormal romance in the same day. I hadn’t read nearly enough paranormal romance to have an opinion of it, so I spent a year reading it and this was the first of my opinions. This is a continuing pattern in my reading behaviour: if enough other readers are negative about a genre or sub-genre without having read it, I’ll go out and read fifty or so volumes of that genre or sub-genre and then I’ll make up my own mind. To put the paranormal romance in perspective, it belongs with all the other genres I’ve tested. There are amazing authors. There are appalling authors. There are a lot of authors worth reading. Once I tackle the genre in its fullness, I always wonder why people didn’t read for themselves before stating these opinions. Anyhow, I’ve now taken to encouraging people to be stupid in my presence, because it gives me more books to read. Although I’d rather they weren’t stupid. I’d rather people read the books and found out the best writers in any given genre and were enthusiastic about their favourite writers.
This month’s new essay achieved exactly half the votes of those who have voting rights. Given it was exactly half, I’ll do the other essay next month. Some of your happinesses will therefore be delayed, but all your votes are covered. This month’s essay explores (quite briefly, I’m afraid, for it turns out I need to think about it longer) one of the critical reasons for forgetting our favourite authors. It’s a small element of the cultural stuff I’ll be exploring all year.
For writers this month I have a set of exercises. A month’s worth, in fact.
I was teaching a group of students my novelist’s toolbox course and it struck me that there was an exercise that I could do that would expand my understanding of my own work. I taught a version of it in class. A very short version, for we only had an hour to spend on it. Then I took it home and played with it.
The value in this set of exercises is that one element or another will push your understanding. Which element depends on the writer. That’s what I discovered with my students. We all found value in different aspects. Work through the set slowly and think about everything – it’s as simple as that.
And today, just today, there’s something extra for all of you. An essay and some ads. My Pesach present to you, as a special thank you for supporting me.