A couple weeks ago, I caught this article, “A Self-Publisher’s Manifesto,” by Martin Lastrapes and posted to the Self-Publishing Review. I thought it was a fairly good post, with a cogent argument presented, in which Lastrapes discussed the perceived “stigma” associated with so-called “self-publishing,” and made this claim:
So if the readers aren’t holding onto this stigma, then where exactly is it coming from? Unfortunately, the answer is it’s coming from the writers themselves.
Now, I disagreed, there; I remain of the mindset that the “stigma” associated with independent publishing is propagated mainly by the people who argue that independent publishing shouldn’t be called that, because IT’S DIFFERENT AND YOU ARE IGNORANT. Generally, the people who do so are agents and editors, or at the very least people who have some bias toward the late twentieth century distribution model as a result of being tied to it. I’ve also seen it from authors who have signed with corporate publishers after first finding some success via independence. MJ Rose, for example, has tweeted that authors should “own self-publishing.”
I think Lastrapes does have a point in that a lot of authors go indie first but yet never give up the hope of that elusive publication contract, that rockstar book tour, that etc. I’ve seen a lot of authors pursue independent publishing as a means to an end, rather than as an end itself; that is, that many seem to hope that rising up the Kindle charts will attract a corporate publisher.
But before I get off on too much of a tangent, the point of this post; shortly after I commented on Lastrapes’ article, to much the same effect as I elaborated above, he contacted me personally about the possibility of stopping by this site to do an interview.
I’ve never done that before. And I thought, well, okay. Why not? But, I thought, before I do anything, I should read his book. Which was just less than a buck.
Let’s spoil this early: if I’d ever managed to put together a ten-best books of last decade list, this novel would have been on it. It’s just that good. I’ve read it several times, and every time, it devastates me in the best possible way. It is one of my very favorite novels.
Earls is Australian, and this was published several years ago–2002, so far as I can see by Amazon, but that may just be the American publication. I’m not sure.
I read this back when . . . what are we calling this sort of lit now? Used to be, when this sort of book was written by women about women for women, it was often called “chick lit,” a term I’m pretty sure I still see with somewhat regular frequency but am also pretty sure has fallen well out of fashion. When this sort of book was written by men about men for–men? . . . there I’ve heard it called several things, including but not limited to “dick lit” and “lad lit.”
Basically, if you think of Rob Gordon and John Cusack in High Fidelity (which might have been another book on that ten best list, except it might have been out before 2000), you get some idea of the sort of book this is.
Except it’s not.
First, it’s completely coincidental that my most recent review before this one was of Austin’s brother’s novel The Magicians. Truthfully, I read them several months apart, and it really doesn’t matter, anyway, because they’re so different.
I’ve read a few superhero novels lately. Superpowers disappointed; it started well, but then it failed to really come together, or even have much in the way of a plot. My friend Aaron Dietz recently published a sort-of novel called Super, which I call a “sort-of” novel because it’s not one in the sense of having a linear narrative or plot; it’s experimental fiction that tells its story (which is compelling) through clever uses of graphs and applications and forms. It’s a rather ingenious concept that might well make it impossible to reproduce for Kindle; so far, it’s available on Amazon (and from other fine booksellers) by way of Emergency Press (you can also read the work via Scribd on Aaron’s page there, which is totally rad).
I love superheroes. I grew up reading comic books. I’ve always wanted a cape. I’ve always wanted to fly.
I don’t have one, and cannot, and so the closest I can get is superhero fiction. Superman. Iron-Man. The Matrix (which might well be one of the finest superhero origin stories ever, after the movie version of Iron-Man).
Soon I Will Be Invincible is one of the finest examples of superhero fiction I’ve encountered.
I first started using Kindle on my phone, a Samsung Vibrant on T-Mobile’s network, last summer while commuting into Manhattan every morning. I’d had the app on my iPhone but never used it; cellular displays just aren’t really meant for long-form reading, and I don’t really read much besides books. Usually novels, but lately more non-fiction, too. But it was much better to read my phone than to lug around a paperback everywhere I went, and I quickly discovered the convenience of using a device that built-in bookmarks every time you close a book.
Which is awesome. I love that. I never used to use bookmarks, anyway, but I always used to end up thinking I was on a page ten before the last one I’d actually read.
When Amazon announced the third generation Kindle, I knew I was going to buy it, because I knew I wanted to put Meets Girl on it. I also knew I was lusting after it.
I went sort of nuts downloading samples via Amazon (on the web. Because the device purchasing side of Kindle sucks), and was enjoying a lot of what I was reading. Neil Gaiman’s were among the first books I bought, and Amazon, knowing my predilection for Gaiman, suggested Lev Grossman’s The Magicians. So I downloaded the sample and began to read.
And the thing about the samples are: it takes about as long to read one as to commute. Long-form reading of books on a device blows. But reading samples is about the same as reading short stories, and reading samples is awesome.
I had picked up the book to browse (I think at the Strand, maybe?), but never gotten past the first couple of pages. Now, with the sample and a train ride, I had the better part of two.
And the better part of two was good. The better part of two were so convincing that I decided to make The Magicians the first novel I actually read on my Kindle.
When I first researched graduate school, what seems like all those years ago, one of the first things I did was order books from faculty members at every institution that caught my interest. Some great programs, like Johns Hopkins and Iowa, I had dismissed early because they hadn’t seemed to jibe with my direction, which left places like North Carolina and somewhere in Arizona. I don’t remember all the institutions, and only a few of the authors.
I didn’t have to do that this time around. This time around, NYU came to me with the same certainty as USC; all that’s left is getting in.
Which meant I felt I should familiarize myself with some of the work of some of the faculty members, the stand-outs of whom include E.L. Doctorow and Jonathan Safran Foer. Neither of whom I’ve ever read. Nothing against them, just never seemed like my thing; I’d rather read Neil Gaiman and Harry Potter and Joe Hill, most of the time. For me, the novels whose scope doesn’t stretch much beyond characters coping with ordinary lives have never really excited me so much. I’ve tried reading guys like Tom Wolfe and John Updike, and I generally feel decidedly meh about them. I hate to call it “serious” fiction, if only because it seems to imply that people like Gaiman and Rowling aren’t serious about writing and stories, and I think that’s foolhardy. I’d hate, too, though, to attempt to claim it’s all about marketing, because it’s really not.
Before this becomes a discussion of genre in fiction, though, let’s move on to the reading. Because the first book I picked up was Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.