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ROTFLOL and . . . LATWTTB January 18, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Books & Movies, Humor, Writing & Writers.
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150px-Carlo_Crivelli_052One of my pet peeves in the publishing arena is the proclivity of publishers to publish “bad books” by known authors rather than stellar books by unknown authors.

Of course, if I were in the business to make money, I might do the same.

A related pet peeve is the proclivity of known authors to stop producing their “best work” because they know that any book with their name on the cover will sell millions of copies.

As a teen, I read Danielle Steel’s novels and enjoyed them.  No longer.  Either her writing has deteriorated over time (because her name, not the story, sells), or I’ve changed my reading preferences.  I expect it’s a bit of both.

A few months ago, I  pulled a Danielle Steel novel we inherited with the villa off the shelf and start reading.  I managed to read Chapter One before derisive laughter at her characters inspired me to close the cover (for good) and turn out the light.  By that point, a mere twenty-six pages into the book, I had realized that The Wedding should be re-titled, The Farce: A Fairy Tale of Epic Proportions.

The heroine, Allegra, a long-legged beauty who, of course, is oblivious to her looks, practices law at “one of the most important firms in L.A.”

Her clients – a number of important stars and musicians – have catapulted her into a position as junior partner with the firm, despite her tender age of 29!

LOL!  At 29, most law school graduates are junior associates with no client base of their own, and they aren’t practicing with the most prestigious firm in Hometown USA – much less L.A..

Her father (“a major movie producer”) has made “some of Hollywood’s most important movies.”  Her mother “has written and produced one of the most successful shows on television for nine years.”  Between them, they have earned Emmys (or is it Emmies?) and Golden Globes and Oscars too numerous to count.

And, of course, unlike all the other marriages in Hollywood, their union is based on mutual respect, admiration, and love!  And they are respected in the business.  And their looks have not faded one iota ~ they are still as gorgeous as teens and the envy of all of their friends.  And all three of their children adore them, and each other, with no sibling rivalry what-so-ever.

Ain’t life grand?

Allegra’s younger brother, well on his way to becoming an orthopedic surgeon, wants nothing to do with Show Biz.  Nevertheless, he flies across country, away from his strenuous medical studies, for the weekend, to watch The Golden Globes with his younger sister . . . at home, on TV!

The younger sister – as gorgeous as Allegra – is a teen model whose “real identity” (as the daughter of two prominent personalities around town) is hidden from the press and paparazzi.

Like Ms. Steel’s readers, the press and paparazzi are easily fooled, eh?

Are you buying it?  Or are you “rolling on the floor laughing your ass off” at the unlikelihood of such a “functional” family unit existing in Hollywood (a virtual training ground for dysfunctional families)?

Allegra has been in a series of failed relationships ~ first with a professor at Yale (who ended their “affair filled with lust, excitement, and passion” when his wife got pregnant with their second child while they were “hiking through Nepal” on sabbatical), then with a commitment-phobic director (who left her “beautiful behind” behind when he moved to London), and now with an attorney, Brandon, also married with child, who (after two years of separation) is no closer to filing the divorce papers.

Brandon, a dour litigation attorney with no sense of humor, looks down his nose, in condescension, at Allegra’s practice since it involves, among other things, taking phone calls at 2 AM from frightened stars who are paranoid that stalkers are outside their bedroom windows, despite the fact that Allegra has already arranged for security alarms, bars, and roving Dobermans to guard the premises so that the stars – and Allegra! – can get some sleep.

While we all might agree that some degree of condescension is warranted, given the lack of actual legal work in her “challenging” entertainment practice, why would practically-perfect-in-every-way Allegra hook up with someone who disregards her needs on a routine basis, and isn’t even fun to be around? 

As Dr. Phil would say, “Kick him to the curb and get on with your life!”

Dr. Green, the therapist that Allegra is seeing, agrees with Dr. Phil ~ yes, a chink in our Stainless Steel heroine’s life.  Allegra has been seeing a therapist for four years.  Excellent!  Real life drama at last ~ except that the conversations between Allegra and her therapist (which revolve around her less-than-stellar choice in dating material) end up covering the same ground (Brandon! Brandon! Brandon!) visit after visit.

Despite his unwillingness to file for divorce, Allegra remains convinced that Brandon (the dour divorce-challenged dork) is worth all the bad feelings that he generates.  “Marriage had just been too confining and too traumatic.  And he is afraid to make another mistake.”

Allegra, Yale Law School graduate, is convinced that Dr. Green “just doesn’t understand Brandon’s motivations, or how traumatized he had been by having to get married when his wife was pregnant.”

LOL!  If your therapist doesn’t understand underlying human motivations, perhaps it’s time to hire a new therapist!

But, wait, there’s more ~ and this is the kicker:

The Wedding, a farcical look at life, love, and the pursuit of happiness, not only garnered a spot on the New York Times Bestseller List . . . it claimed the #1 position.

Yup, while I’m ROTFLMAO, Danielle Steel is LATWTTB! – “laughing all the way to the bank!”

No rules.  Just write!

Related posts: Destiny’s Destination * Andrew Zimmern’s Picks Don’t AppealThe Clean (Book)Plate Club * A Writer’s Life For MeAusten & Dickens Had It Easy * Eavesdropping on the Rooftop Literati *

Destiny’s Destination January 18, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Books & Movies, Humor, Writing & Writers.
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Since we’re on the subject of books . . .

When we moved into this villa, the furnishings included more than a few pulpy paperbacks, with terrible titles  and thin plots.  I ignored my initial (and immediate)  inclination to donate them all to Goodwill, because  periodically wading through badly written books reinforces my desire to write something actually worth reading. 

So, how bad are these books?  Harlequin Romance bad. 

We meet the heroine (in each) on page one and she is always physical perfection personified ~ gorgeous body, lustrous hair, and dressed to the nines.  

Despite Destiny’s alluring looks and demure demeanor, she has, thus far, failed at love ~ but that is about to change . . . 

As we turn the page, we meet the hero of the story ~ always an Adonis who takes our heroine’s breath away to the point that she can do nothing but think, obsessively and compulsively, about this man – nay, this god – who is “her destiny.”

For the next one hundred and seventy-five pages, we hear over and over and over and over again how, despite his various and sundry faults, like being domineering to the point that Castro could take a few pointers from him,  Destiny knows, in her trembling heart, that she cannot live without this man in her life. 

They argue, fuss and fight with each other, due to a series of painfully contrived misunderstandings, but always end up back in each other’s arms where the passion ignited between them at first glance overwhelms them to the point that they do not have sufficient strength and will power to resist falling into bed, yet again, to exchange tender words and magical embraces. 

Readers are regaled with countless quarrels, and sophomoric spats, as  Destiny and her Adonis spend each and every out-of-bed conversation arguing with each other like tomcats, while tossing witty barbs and snipes back and forth like rubber daggers.

But, and this is key, no matter how much they cause the other to worry, wonder, and wander, and no matter how embarrassing their actions toward each other, they are destined to end each chapter (or so) back in each other’s arms, with smoldering (or sizzling) looks and flaming  touches.  Ouch!

The settings are different, but generally opulent:  a thousand acre ranch in Australia; a penthouse apartment in London or New York; a five hundred year old estate in Tuscany; a castle in Scotland. 

The heroines are often rich, as are their knights in shining armor.  There is no reason for Destiny to worry about work, or buying groceries, or fixing meals ~ those mundane tasks are left to servants hovering in the background, their characters barely fleshed out and often left unnamed. 

As a result, Destiny has all the more time to go sit in the garden, crying over the latest lovers’ spat and realizing (for the 99th time!) that she cannot live without this man.  

Sometimes a third character looms large ~ a gorgeous show stopper determined to get her hooks into Adonis, not for love (the realm of love belongs only to Destiny), but for  some selfish motivation, such as power, privilege, or financial gain. 

(Or just because Adonis is a good lay).  

If a femme fatale makes an appearance in these formulaic books, she is used to add fuel to the flames whenever a misunderstanding heats up between  Destiny and Adonis.

She is a jungle cat on the prowl with sharp claws, a wicked tongue, and matrimony on the mind. 

Often the women have successful careers – not because they need the money, since most are independently wealthy – but because they are interested in using their allegedly superior intelligence to become captains of commerce. 

Despite having climbed the rungs of the corporate ladder, ostensibly based on innate brain power, Destiny often is stupid-to-the-third-power.  

Her inability to pierce through even the slightest of  misunderstandings, before page one hundred and seventy-five, is re-known in the world of Harlequin.  

Destiny’s ability to misread every cue tossed out to readers about the true motivation and intent behind the “inexplicable” and “inexcusable” behavior of Adonis toward Destiny is laughable.  

She has the collective intelligence and street smarts of Homer Simpson and a box of jelly donuts. 

“Mmm . . . donuts.”

When read in rapid succession, the characters in these books meld together into one homogeneous mass, because the stories are not driven by believable characters residing in the real world. 

Instead, the stories focus on a single unifying message which does not vary from book to book:  women (at least young, good looking, rich ones) have a soul-mate out there, somewhere, riding around on the range, who is gorgeous, wealthy, sophisticated, and, best of all,  phenomenal in bed ~ a tender lover; a ferocious lover; a well-endowed lover (complete with six-pack abs and sinewy muscles).   

“Mmm . . . muscles.”

Women reading these fairy tales are told that their purpose in life is to fall in love-at-first-glance with  their knight in shining armor, scrape off the residual  rust from previous ill-fated relationships, clear up the clouds of confusion and misunderstandings designed to test their true love, and finally, upon reaching Destiny’s Destination, on page one hundred and eighty-four, to cleave to Adonis for eternity.  

If you’ve never read a Harlequin Romance, stop by your favorite used book store and grab one – it makes no difference which one – and use it as a reminder that your destination, your destiny, is not nearly as stereotypical as Harlequin Romance would have you believe.

Related posts: Andrew Zimmern’s Picks Don’t Appeal * The Clean (Book)Plate Club * Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland * A Writer’s Life For MeAusten & Dickens Had It Easy * Eavesdropping on the Rooftop Literati * The Power Of Awesome

Anger or Angst January 18, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Life Balance, Mindfulness, Poetry, Spirit & Ego.
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Why do you delight
In pushing people’s buttons  
Existential Angst?

Instead of “I think”
As proof of “therefore, I am”
You just step on toes?

Instead of thinking
To establish your being
You “bitch-slap” away?

Hmm . . . anger or angst?
Anti-social, or psycho?
It’s all illusion

There is no divide
We are one spirit inside
Stop hitting yourself

Ego confusion
Negates claimed self-awareness
Just let it all go

* * * * *

Artwork by Maitte Van Arsdel ~ available at Island Gallery West.

Related posts:  The Inner Path to Peace * The Answers Lie Within * It’s Time To Wake Up * Backwards LivingA Not-So-Quick Quiz: Who Are You? * The Awakening by Sonny CarrollAccess Your Inner Wisdom * Meditation 101