June 19, 2005

true colours

A Matter of Taste
This morning I listened to a wonderful discussion on CBC Radio's The Sunday Edition. Michael Enright hosted a conversation with a guest (maybe it was Bob Carty?) concerning taste in music. They weren't concerned with individual likes and dislikes, but in tackling the more important question of, "What makes for a tasteful musical performance?"

My favourite example of taste vs. tasteless performances came when they compared the original broadway cast recording of West Side Story (Larry Kert singing, "something's coming") to a Deutsche Grammophon recording with Jose Carreras singing the same selection. (click on the singer's names to find sound samples of each) Bernstein conducted both recordings, but they are completely different. Michael Enright's guest went so far as to say that not only did the 'operatic cast'not do justice to the music because they didn't understand the genre of the broadway musical, but that by singing it in an over-the-top, inappropriate manner, they 'turned the music to dust.'
Amen. Jose Carreras = excellent vocalist, but in this case the style of his singing made the piece feel insincere and cloying.

Emotion vs. Sentimentality
A similar sort of conversation happened this past week via comments at Mark Sarvas' blog, The Elegant Variation.
His post, In Which Heros Stumble addresses a recent review of Nicole Krauss' The History of Love by LTBR critic, James Wood. The post itself takes issue with Wood's accusation that Krauss' work is 'Hysterical Realism', with Sarvas asking in the end, How “real” does it have to be? How much heart is too much?
I don't know where Krauss' latest novel falls on the sentimentality scale, I haven't read it yet. But the comments that follow Sarvas'post make for wonderful reading and give a refreshing take on where emotion in writing ends and sentimentality begins.

To me, Sarvas' question is as much about music and other art forms as it is about writing. There's a big difference between honest (true to the characters and to the story) writing and something that is written merely to 'perform'. I think sentimentality in writing (and music, and visual art, and in life) ultimately comes from fear. The 'give 'em what they want' mentality sets in and truth steps out. Like a singer who gives a performance with only the intention of 'sounding good' rather than being true to the music, the writer's words become dust.
But, if a writer is willing to truly know their characters and the story well, going back to the well again and again, the payoff is, in the end, something that can't help but be real.

A few years ago there was a boy who decided to stop talking for a year. When the year was over, he was interviewed about his experience. The one thing he said that stuck with me was that through listening and observing other people in conversation he realized that most people's conversation is devoted to talking about themselves in a way that they think will impress those listening rather than to portraying their true selves.

Something to think about.

Note: Written under the influence of Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors".
In my opinion, she's one of the most genuine (and unafraid to be who she is) artists of our time.

June 10, 2005


Here's a couple of nifty things I stumbled upon the last few days. Translation: I'm still hammering away at last minute revisions so I haven't much brain power to devote to pondering the Universe (or my toes) and write about it. Still, it's some cool stuff.

Shelf Awareness
Shelf Awareness will focus on what's happening now in book retailing and lending. We'll talk regularly with booksellers and others close to the retail action. We'll report on bookselling news and cover industry issues. We'll cover books that are coming out now or have hooks whether based on media, anniversaries, movie and TV tie ins, etc.

We'll also be looking for that one sleepy backlist title that booksellers have handsold for years and that others in the industry should know about. Likewise we'll seek good new books that fly just under the radar. In addition, we'll offer unusual bestseller lists, reviews of reviews, and more."

Sounds like a good thing to me!
Here's where to get a free email subscription:

Wickett Wows at Conversational Reading
Dan Wickett, founder of the EWN (Emerging Writers Network) has taken the helm of Scott Espisito's Blog, Conversational Reading for a couple of weeks. (While Scott gets a much deserved vacation.)

The posts so far have been nothing short of amazing...writers, publicists and publishers all blogging about the ins and outs of being published for the first time. It's been great for me, as I try to wrap my head around all that's happening (and yet to happen) with my book, to read through it each day. It's a great inside look at things, with lots of inspiration and advice. And the posts keep comin' ! Thanks Dan!
Check out Conversational Reading

Searching for Me
Most people won't admit to it, but I'm guessing the average joe/jane has 'googled' him/her-self at least once. (or at least the name of the person they've recently started dating)

I've also read many accounts of authors obessively checking their Amazon.com ranking. (many, many times a day)

But a when a friend sent me an email the other night telling me that my book was now listed at Amazon.ca, I had to go and search for myself. Yes indeeed, when I typed in my name, up popped the title of my book. (sorry, no cover image available at this time...but you can pre-order the thing from both Chapters and Amazon!)

So, in a rare, googletistical moment I bring you the following links:
The Birth House - Chapters.ca

The Birth House - Amazon.ca

Wow...I have my very own ISBN.(International Standard Book Number)
ISBN: 0676977723
Isn't she lovely?

I know, I sound like a total geek, but you have to understand...when I was in university I worked at the ISU music library. Most of the time I helped students check-out the latest lute song collection, or watched them sit next to each other in the listening-booths and cheat on their music theory assignments (yes, I saw YOU). But one long, droughted summer I had the job of cataloger. Day after day I sat behind a typewriter, plucking the vital information from record jackets, book covers, and OCLC print outs and then typed it on to index cards for the card catalog. (ah, the good old Dewey days) ISBNs have been very very good to me (or at least helped me pay the rent).

BTW my favourite local bookseller, Mitzi, at Box of Delights in Wolfville says you can also pre-order books not yet in print from your favourite independent bookstore.
Just call with the title, author's name, ISBN, and publisher.
Better yet, go in and place your order in person. Have a visit, chat the clerks up, stumble on a good read (or two, or three or more) for the summer!