Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I'm Late To The Party, But I Finally Made It

I just finished watching "Tuesdays with Morrie" starring the late, incomparable Jack Lemmon, God rest his soul. I realize that I am late to the party on the Tuesdays with Morrie phenomenon, but I somehow never managed to be in the right place at the right time to watch the movie or read the book. I am also often disappointed when it comes to bestsellers at the quality of the writing in the book or the story development and the characters in the movie. Tuesdays with Morrie, however, did not disappoint, it was a marvelous movie and a heartrending book, and I loved every minute of both. Great writing, wonderful characters and timeless just can't beat that. As with all great art, I was moved by this work, and made to see life in a different light. Due to a horrendous bout with a cold and upper respiratory infection, I've also had time to read several books. First of all, "The Dare" by Susan Kearney and "A Simple Gift" by Karyn Witmer suffer from the same problem; neither author has ever heard of the writers cliche to "show, don't tell." Particulary in The Dare, Kearney rambled on and on about everything the characters were feeling, their tiniest motivation, their every mental burp, not allowing the reader to learn what kind of characters these are by their actions or inactions. The exposition was so deadly dull that I nearly threw the book across the room in frustration. I believe that it is important for the reader to get to know the character by their conversations, their actions, their memories or adventures so that the plot can move forward and continue the normal story arc of introducing the characters to the problem, investigating the problem or challenge, finding the solution and tying up loose ends. And Kearney compounds her glacial plot problem by redundancy. We hear so many times that the main character wants the main male character, wants to be more human, is having trouble being human, blah, blah, blah. Over the course of the book, it became ridiculous and laughable. I can't imagine Kearney having a decent editor who didn't point this out to her. I would heap scorn on the head of any editor who didn't care enough to ask for a rewrite of a book with so much deadwood in it. A Simple Gift was a romance novel disguised as "chick lit" because I assume the publishers wanted it to sell better than another sappy romance novel would. Witmer sets up the problem nicely, but soon degenerates into sloppy writing and weakens her characters with soggy, overdone melodrama. I knew before the second chapter exactly what was going to happen and how it would all take place, that's how cardboard cut-out the characters and plot became. Transparent characters are boring, and thin plots grow tiresome, fast. How these authors get published in the first place is beyond me. There aren't any real editors left in Publishing, apparently. Fortunately, Cory Doctorow's "Someone Comes To Town, Someone Leaves Town" transcended that abhorrent title to become a nicely done dark fantasy. There were some seriously bizarre moments and characters, yet Mimi and Alan manage to survive their freaky friends, relatives and backgrounds to come together at the end. The author never does reveal Alan's actual origin, as in human or some other form of life, but, to be fair, he also doesn't reveal Mimi's origins, so we never know if she is just a freakish winged mutant from a long line of Russian mutants, or an angel. His descrption of her wings, and her flight, are riveting, and the intricate building of the life and surroundings of both characters wins readers attention also, making the place he's created seem real enough for a visit. "The Truth About Medium" by Gary Schwartz, PhD, is one of those random books I pick up to keep up with what is going on in the world of paranormal research. The book illuminated the authors scientific study techniques with several psychic mediums, and the outcome of those tests, which was amazing, but failed to convince the reader completely of the veracity of the powers of mediums, like Allison DuBois, on whom the TV show "Medium" is based. I've watched that show and found it dramatic and interesting, but only mildly so, not enough to go out of my way to TiVo it every week. But I do believe that there are people who can communicate with "ghosts" or the prescense of those who have died and left something of their soul behind. I've worked in hospitals and nursing homes and hospices, so I have been there when a person died, and I felt something leave that person, so the very air in the room seemed to change. I believe the soul exists, I am just not certain of whether there is a real heaven and hell for it to tour when it leaves the body it has inhabited. Perhaps, as some in society claim, we make our own heaven and hell while we live. Or perhaps, as the author of the Doomsday Book, Bellweather and Passages has written, our brain creates a scenario for our selves when we die, because it can no longer make sense of the signals from a body that ceases to function. At any rate, I am glad that February, with its ice, wind and gray frosty days is at an end, and March has come in like a sunny lamb. Thank God!

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