Monday, March 22, 2010

We must create the book-review cliche drinking game

Are you tired of lazy critics calling books “timely,” a “tour de force” or “beautifully written?”

Do you wish reviewers would find a more creative way to express their pleasure or disappointment?

Don’t get mad. Play Bingo.

Michelle Kerns of The Examiner identified the most annoying book-review cliches and put them on bingo boards. Now, instead of rolling your eyes when someone calls a book “thought-provoking,” “powerful” or “readable,” you can cross off a square. After reading Kerns’s column, I found a pair of my old book reviews and saw if I reached Bingo. (Not quite, but I came close.)

I’ll make a deal with you readers. If I ever write a book review and you score a Bingo on any of the eight, supplied game cards. I’ll take you to the local bouquiniste and buy you something. (If you’re reading this from Colorado or Bratislava, I’ll have to mail your reward.)

Moving on, Matthew Simmons of HTMLGIANT uses Old Man and the Sea to teach how to write dialogue.

So, Hemingway wrote a book called The Old Man and the Sea. And in The Old Man and the Sea, an old man goes out to sea. And he fishes. And he hooks himself a big, big fish. And, for quite a lot of the rest of the book, the man and the fish pull at one another. For pages and pages they pull at one another. He—the old man—pulls at the fish. And it—the fish in the sea—pulls at the old man. They pull and pull and they fight and fight.

This is dialogue. This is how to approach dialogue...

When people communicate, they do so to reveal to the listener their wants and needs. I want to get away, says the fish. I want to reel you in and devour you, says the old man. I am pulling to get away, says the fish. You are pulling me further out to sea, and I will give you some line to tire you out, says the old man. Characters communicate with each other like this.

Simmons scores bonus points by attaching the image of an appropriately named Magic card to his column.

I would have appreciated if Simmons would have included examples of actual dialogue that he likes, but his point is still an interesting one.

Finally, I think this is saying the same thing as this.

-Jason Lea,

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