Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Critical Reader

Reading thuRsday

I took a course in museum studies in graduate school. As part of that course, we toured a number of museums in the north eastern United States. The more museums I visited the more I noticed that the explanatory text in exhibits was almost always too small.

I've noticed that getting technical training in something usually takes the fun out of that thing as you develop professional sensibilities.

Thanks to my writing, I'm getting to that point with my reading.

I've read several new books recently and wondered why they had been released. For example, one book had the phrase "suddenly he slowly ..." (if that phrase doesn't bother you, see my complaint about "barely flooded"). Another was fine except that the story felt like another currently popular story with the serial numbers filed off. Then there are the books that are praised and given special promotions by their publishers and I don't see how they're better than others.

To be clear, in all these cases the books aren't bad in a general sense--in fact they were pretty good overall--but they weren't as polished, in terms of art or craft, as we're told our unpublished work must be.

Those of us who are still trying to get our books published (so that others can complain about us in turn) often come away with the feeling that there's a secret book of rules, the violation of even the smallest of which eliminates your chances for publication. So it's hard to understand something published recently in spite of the fact that they broke one or more of the secret rules.

My point here is not to complain about how unfair it is that the rule-breakers get published and I don't. Rather, I've become very interested in questions like, "What was the editorial process?", "What led to the decision to go with this book and not another?"

Image: Michelle Meiklejohn /

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