Tuesday, May 02, 2006

How Bookfraud Got Sick, Got Mild, and Got a Total Mess for Your Perusal

Between a nagging cold and a mini-vacation more exciting than even MiniKiss, I disappeared from the blogosphere the past two weeks, reading little online and writing less. Apparently, a lot happened in my absence. It’s amazing that the world can function without my bitter cup of tea.

Though I want to devote many words to this, I am not going to devote this entire entry to Kaayva Viswanathan, the Harvard coed who is looking at a serious Oprah-spanking following the discovery that sections of her young adult novel, "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got A Life," were mysteriously found in other books, or at least bore a closer resemblance to each other than, say, the Olsen twins.

Viswanathan has already been written about to death. But I have to get one thing off my congested chest: what the hell did these publishers, agents, and "book packagers" expect? Give a child $500,000, deadline pressures that make the most seasoned of writers insane, a pre-fab outline, and pre-fab cardboard characters, well, of course she's going to crib from other books. Unlike the situation of Mr. James Frey, I feel genuinely bad for this girl, despite the fact what she did was inexcusable and her “I’ve got photographic memory” defense is as implausible as it is pathetic.

Accessing the deep catacombs of my memory for "What was it like being 17?", and if somebody gave me tons of money to write a teen chick-lit book, I would have probably copied a Jackie Collins novel word-for-word.

(Also, I have purely gratuitous question to the publishers of "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed." How else could have Opal been kissed but by another mouth?)

Why they gave Viswanathan half a million is beyond me, except perhaps that they could market a young adult novel as actually being written by a young adult. But a young adult is still not an adult, and Ivy League pedigree aside, a child is going to act like one.

But I said I wasn’t going to write about this brouhaha. Wife and I skipped town the past few days, attempting to recharge our batteries and trying to recuperate from illnesses. Unfortunately, I had given mine to Wife, and in the spirit of sharing that comes with marriage, she did not threaten to decapitate me, though I thought I heard her say "kill you" and "I'm going to" several times during the course of conversation.

Copy chief

Although germs flew faster than "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed" flew off bookshelves following its recall, since all of my out-of-town jaunts the past 12 months have been related to family matters, it was good to take a few days off without having to think about my father's death, at least think about it constantly.

We hiked, we ate, we sat on our asses. I reread “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” which was as amazing the second time as the first time, which was about 14 years ago. Coincidentally, that was the first time I realized that the word "shit" is unnaturally close to the hearts of Romance speakers.

What was more interesting was what we did not do: write. Neither of us sat down at a computer, scribbled in our notebooks, or spoke into a tape recorder. Granted, had I remained at home, I still would have been slave to television and nasal decongestant. But the out-of-town element doubled my commitment not to work.

And the best part was that I didn't feel bad about it.

I remember reading an article about Graham Greene in which it was said he wrote 500 words a day. Every single day of his life. And it was 500 words, not 499 or 501, determined by an arcane formula of Greene's devising, showing that when it comes to being anal-retentive, the British will always kick our American anuses.

But now that I have returned to the worlds of the semi-comatose and work (yes, often one and the same), there is no reason to avoid the inevitable, slaving away at the computer. Somehow, I could get used to vacation.

Somebody is missing

Oh, one thing. Wife is still out of town for a few days. She wants me to tape tonight's episode of "Love Monkey," a short-lived network series that has found new life on VH1. Is Wife taken with Tom Cavanagh, a hatchet-faced Canadian who plays the series' protagonist, or a shockingly pudgy Jason Priestley, far removed from 90120? Is she interested in the sympathetic portrayal of women or the Love Monkey's interesting life as music talent scout in New York?

No, of course not. Bloody Joshua Bell, that violinist who defines "chick celebrity crush," is going to guest star in tonight's episode, for about all of 38 seconds. He may even speak a line. I am tempted not to record this for Wife, just to try to shake her out of her Bellhead addition.

But you know the above joke about Wife not decapitating me? Fail this mission, and I wouldn't put it past her.