Recently Read: The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen

Drawing power: Does the story pull you in and make you feel as if you’re part of the world?

I was drawn to this book by the premise given in the blurb (book description/summary). The basic plot is a Romeo and Juliet kind of situation where the boy is one Hoodie Rosen, an orthodox Jew, and the girl is Anna-Marie Diaz-O’Leary, the mayor’s daughter.

A forbidden romance does take place, though probably not as most readers would expect. If you think you can guess what happens, you’re already wrong. On the other hand, if you’re a true Jew and you think you know what’s going to happen, then you might be right.

I was pleasantly surprised with how the story, and the romance, progressed.

Interest factor: Is the story something you want to hear, see, know? Are you craving to discover how it ends?

Yes, yes, yes. This is an extremely interesting, highly intellectual story. The characters are written well enough to make the reader care about them.

Offensive factor: Does it present sex, violence, cursing too abundantly or too vividly? Does it present a querulous agenda?

The book can be offensive because it takes free license with the name and title of The Son of God (interestingly enough, also known as King of the Jews). I was of the impression, and maybe I heard wrong, that orthodox Jews didn’t believe Jesus Christ was the promised Savior or The Son of God. But here we see the writer sprinkling dialog with “Jesus Christ” in the manner of all other writers who want to use the name of authority to cause the reader to feel the frisson of naughtiness and associate it with urgency in the narrative. This misattribution of arousal has been abused by writers of novels and screenplays alike for so long, some people forgot why the misuse was first employed. Forgetfulness may be the case here.

Despite origins and reasons for use, it may be offensive to those who revere Jesus Christ.

Range of emotion: Is the story serious when necessary? Do the jokes come at appropriate times? Does the story present emotions at pleasing intervals?

There’s a running gag which is employed really well. There are also a number of stand-alone jokes that will make the reader either cringe at the cheesiness or laugh out loud at the perfectly timed zingers. Every emotion is evoked through the writing and the emotions presented flow smoothly together, never colliding.

Character factor: Are there quality actors (not necessarily famous ones) in the film? Are there quality protagonists/antagonists in the literary work? Is there a quality dynamic between the characters? Is the narrator mostly invisible?

The characters are not one-sided. They have facets like diamonds. There are kooky side characters filled with humanity and real human traits. They make mistakes or they act admirably—exactly like real people. One such side character is Hoodie’s sister Chana who enjoys launching things off the roof. Though the narrative never explains how she gets all those things up there, it’s still fun to read about her brand of insanity.

This is a first person perspective novel and the narrator is the main character. I usually don’t like first person “diary” books which either have no suspense or rely on magic to save the main character, however, no god machine needed to be set in motion since the main character lives through his ordeal. The opening sentence lets you know all about that. The writer wisely lets the reader know at the beginning.

Style: Does the film use sloppy-cam? Does the literary work use loose plot lines? Are all the words in the right places? Are all the props in the right scenes?

The writing style is fluid, allowing the reader to move through the plot naturally. There is consistent quality in the writing style. Details are given at appropriate moments and in brief, so none are out of place.

Proper length: Does a fantasy world require multiple manuscripts? Does a dystopian world beg to be spartan or truncated?

Because the writing gives all the right details (aside from the one mentioned parenthetically above) it kept me reading, wanting to know what would happen next. It was only 14 chapters long, so the book is exactly how long it should be and no longer. There are no extraneous chapters.

To summarize: this book gets six out of seven stars. It only loses one star for the Offensive Factor. High quality writing and a thoughtful plot make The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen a book well worth reading.

Dear Librarian

Dear Librarian,

Recently I’ve noticed a great deal more books in the library about people like me.

Clearly I can attribute the new abundance of books to you and your attention to the plight of souls like mine.

We are sidelined. Pushed to the darker corners because we’re a little different, but only in some ways.

We are outcasts. Society at large would rather not have us around, and why? Only because we take what we want and give nothing back? What’s so wrong with it? Every rich man and business man and politician does the same.

Excluded for our lusts and passions, we often watch social gatherings from a distance. Watch, and wait, for our chance to participate.

But now I’ve let my imagination take me on a tangent. Forget the watching, and the waiting. I’m excited for this new chance to read about others like me. All these fascinating books you’ve collected are mine for the devouring. Well, for the reading, I should say. Devouring is such a strong word.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for stocking the shelves at the library with many books about vampires.

I’ll be reading them voraciously in the comfort of my room (on the top left, in the picture below).

Yours forever,

Peter Havim

Music Videos with Pizzazz!

Generally taking under five minutes, a great music video has hyper-elements for your entertainment.

First: music. Music is the highest form of entertainment. It can have the lowest score in the “diminishing return” factor, meaning its ability to amuse you doesn’t diminish over time or over repeated consumption. You can usually listen to a piece of music more than once without losing interest. The exception to the rule is any song which gives you an earworm.

Second: eyecandy. If a music video has some eye-catching scenes, you can watch it repeatedly.

Third: brevity. It doesn’t use up a lot of your time. You can fit in several in one day, if you have more time.

Of course, none of this means every video is worthwhile. The following is a list of some from YouTube which contain all three of the elements mentioned. Look them up for some great and non-time consuming fun!

  1. Jack Johnson—At Or With Me
  2. The Cardigans—My Favorite Game “Stone Version”
  3. Beastie Boys—Body Movin’
  4. Skinny Puppy—Pro-Test (HD Version)
  5. Audioslave—Show Me How To Live
  6. Drake—God’s Plan
  7. Clutch—Ghoul Wrangler
  8. Front Line Assembly—Alone
  9. The Mess Hall—Pulse
  10. Royksopp—What Else Is There?

Trying To Find A Good Book

Lately it’s nearly impossible to find a good book. I tried A Pho Love Story because it looked kind of normal on the front and the premise seemed real enough. It did have a good solid foundation: a boy and a girl with competing restaurants across the street from each other fall in love. It could work. The writing was just not there. It didn’t pull me in and keep me in the story. The writing was all awkward and twitchy, like someone with three elbows trying to keep their hat on in the wind. There’s a good lesson here for beginning writers. Don’t try to switch points of view. Even if your point of view is all first person and you’re switching from one character to another each chapter, it isn’t something a reader will want to read unless you have an incredibly lyrical style or some other crutch to prop up such a dated idea as switching characters every other chapter. Or the story might survive if you have a writing style that taps the vein of popular culture and gives the reader that type of ichor infusion they’re looking for to wash away the usual bloodless drudgery of their life. When writing fiction, try to be entertaining.

Another I tried to read but couldn’t continue was titled Ten Low. I couldn’t get into it for similar reasons. It too was written in first person style. I’m going to just jump in here and blame Stephanie Meyer for this trend. Her vampire diary about the girl who met the Seattle vampires who glitter because they’re under constant cloud cover was successful enough to spawn a horde of books with characters similarly impotent as that Edward vampire who apparently had zero vampiric qualities as well as zero of the seven deadly sins (weird, right?). How in the literary world does a vampire inspire fear if he or she doesn’t do anything but play sports in the rain? Inspire is the correct word here. The book titled Ten Low had a main character which did not inspire. There was nothing about the main character that was at all interesting—and if you’re writing a book in first person, you might as well put them six feet under. It’s like writing about a corpse. It doesn’t do anything. What reader picks up a book to read about a character doing nothing? Don’t readers want to be entertained? Don’t we choose the fiction books because they’ll be less mundane than all the mundane things surrounding us? But if a book doesn’t deliver that, where will we turn for our entertainment? To movies? Books like this could kill the literary world and encourage more people to stop reading altogether.

Not all the books I’ve picked up recently have been poorly written. I read one titled The Music of Bees and it was lively and fun. The writing was flowy, smooth, and yes, lyrical. The book was quick to read and was indeed about all aspects of bees. Caring for bees isn’t even a passing interest of mine, but this book was written well enough to keep me reading. I’d probably give it four or five out of seven stars. It was fun to read. On the other hand, I’m probably not going to read it again.

I also read one called Mean Baby by Selma Blair. It was kind of funny, but not as funny as all the reviews I read about it suggested. All in all it was an average memoir. When I go to read a memoir I have an expectation of some embellishment and chest-thumping. There were moments of that in this book, but not as much as others in the biography section, which is a good thing, and yes it has my endorsement for this reason. I skipped a few parts because some of her stories were dull. Not all were dull, just a few. She’s had an interesting life, regardless of whether I’m interested in it or not. The main reason I picked up the book is because it details how she was given what could only be called an amateur diagnosis. She was called a mean baby because she was always pulling mean faces. They weren’t mean faces, they were pained faces. She, like so many people, was assumed to be one thing, when she was really another. And this sort of misdiagnosis is only going to be more common in the future as we see psychology getting softer and softer, allowing the street diagnostics to reign.

Last, and best of all, was a book titled Like Water by Daryl J. Maeda. It’s actually a very interesting book despite being written in textbook fashion. The first chapter hits the premise of “transpacific” human currents really hard. Like any textbook, you’ll want to put the book away forever and never hear the word transpacific ever again, but if you don’t you’ll be rewarded. The author lets up on his pet theory of transpacific currents and digs in to the details of the life and times of Bruce Lee. There are some fun facts in the book such as: for one of Bruce Lee’s films, his salary was the biggest portion of the budget, second biggest was the budget for fake blood. This book, of the five I’ve mentioned, is the only one I could highly recommend.

Whom

Recently, I was caught up in the vortex of a Writer’s Digest article. It promised a smattering of literary agents and contact info for the same.

As I was perusing, I noticed each and every one of them had pronouns next to his or her name.

Cute, I thought, but unnecessary.

First off, the only reason I would use a pronoun is when I’m talking about someone behind their back. Generally, I try not to do that. The only thing that comes to mind immediately is if I was using an example, like so: His profile picture made him look like an underfed clown.

I definitely wouldn’t send an email with he or she in the text. Could you imagine getting an email written to you but referring to you in third person?

“Would he like to represent me? Recent works are attached to this email for his reading judgment.”

OR

“Her interests are my interests. She likes sci-fi, and I like sci-fi.”

Comes off a bit on the creepy side, don’t you think?

It reminds me of Golem.

Anyway, I wasn’t impressed with any of the agents listed. For one thing, all the pronouns chosen were the same. Nothing wrong with being honest. However, my creativity radar was on the lookout for an agent with the sense to throw a smart-ass pronoun in there, for good measure. You know, like…

WHOM…

And the kind of agent I’m looking to represent me would follow it with a prime example.

“Who? you say. He whom doth enlighten with erudite epigrams.”