The Gift

This year for Christmas, my true love gave to me a conundrum. Not only did I have to figure out:

a) how a partridge managed to lodge itself in my pear-tree; but also

b) how exactly I came to be the owner of a pear-tree; and furthermore

c) how to deal with the disdainful present of … well, a book. (Bookworms around the world pass out).

Okay, clearly, I’m exaggerating.  It wasn’t my true love. And of the above, only part c) is in fact accurate. Clearly if I owned a partridge I would not be sitting here at present. I’d be teaching it to play fetch.

The book was given to me by a family friend who was surprisingly thoughtful and put two (I love books) and two (I love books) together and came up with books. And I’m afraid I haven’t been this disappointed in a long time. I haven’t wished for socks so bad in my life. And I feel really bad!

I was touched by her thoughtfulness. And I was over the moon to discover it was a book. I don’t want to seem ungrateful but it’s just not a book I’m into. Despite this, I really tried to read it. And sincerely wished I hadn’t.

It’s not just the genre. This book is in short, well trash. It’s the sort of story they turn into a midday movie that you’re further afflicted with when you’re home sick because clearly you haven’t suffered enough.

Still, I did try and oh how I tried to read this, out of respect for the gift, out of respect for the simple fact that it is a book. And I just could not do it. One page was mindless stupidity involving the two main protagonists calling each other “darling” whilst sipping champagne and discussing their engagement. It reeked of superficial, rich, Manhattan nothing. No A5 sheet of dialogue should have the word “darling” in it 7 times, unless it’s a comedy pointing out the obvious fact that the protagonists are calling each other darling through gritted teeth. I hope the writer got a thesaurus for Christmas. In short it was bollocks. Complete bollocks, and I feel for the forest that was ripped to shreds to make copies of this pure crap that was eventually sold to the masses who actually buy this pure crap. If you need fertilizer, hit up the hardware stores, people!

Oh the torment that pulsated through my being when the protagonist had to decide between fish and chicken for their wedding reception! Nail-biting moments, simply nail-biting. I had an alternative suggestion – big bowls of plastic to go with the rest of that fake bollocks. These characters could not have been more dense and plastic and fake if they had been manufactured by Mattel.

This was one of those books that made me want to take the ‘author’ out with a pea-shooter full of pellets made from her book.

I’m sorry to say, this wasn’t a book, it was embarrassing and unfortunately it’s opened me up to the hideous truth that I can no longer dream of reading and devouring all the books in the world. Because some are so painfully damaged I’m surprised they’re not in therapy.

It pains me to think of it. I love books. Love them. And yet, I’ve come across a book I just can’t stand. There was no story, no real characters, nothing. There was no point to this thick mass of nothing. And it breaks my heart that there are truly talented writers, yet to be discovered who haven’t had their work published, yet there is this crap out there.

I know, it sounds like I’ve done a complete about-face since my blog about ‘at least it’s got them reading’. Here’s the thing. I love anything that introduces people to the world of reading and books and makes it more enjoyable for them. But it’s like that midday movie, it’s like that trashy magazine. Yeah, sure, sometimes it’s great to hang out and enjoy something entertaining and slightly mindless. We all have that moment. But I am advocate for the story. And I’m a big advocate for a good character. You know this; you’ve read my blogs about it.

I suppose the reason I write this is to be honest here. The main goal for any writer, I would imagine would be to write a story well. When I get together with other writer friends of mine, we sometimes read each other’s work and give critiques. Not bad ones, just feedback from an audience and writer point of view. It’s great, because there is a lot that we can sometimes miss. And there are things out there that we need fresh eyes and fresh perspectives on. It’s happened with my work a bit, and I’ve done it with other people’s work. It’s important not to get so wrapped up that you can’t see the story for all the words. And I think that’s what’s happened here. Either this author’s editor was too scared to tell her that this needs to be tweaked, or there was no editing process at all. No one was on hand to read this beforehand and mention that the characters need…character. They can’t be cut out of a cereal box and stuck in a book.

And yet, when stories like this are published, it throws some of my beliefs out the window. If the goal is to get your work published, and to do this by writing really well, then how is it possible for this kind of trash to exist in the public forum? I think the answer is democracy. We’re lucky to have the freedom to write whatever we choose and because we’re this lucky, some hideously written work will get out into the world. It’s up to the discerning public on whether they choose to read this or not.

My only advice to writers is, though it is disheartening when you see something that’s just painful to read, and as a published work makes a mockery of all things writing, keep going. Yes. It hurts. I know I’ve been there, I’m designing the shirt. But keep going. Personally, I use these sorts of books as a reminder of what not to do. I don’t want my characters to turn out like this, and it’s a great way to keep that in the back of my mind when I’m writing. A brilliant teacher of mine once told me, you only fail if you give up. Never think that you’re a failed writer, because your work hasn’t been published. It will happen, if you keep going. Among a lot of my writing friends it seems to be the consensus that if you’ve received a few rejection letters from publishers, you’re onto a good thing and your work is probably pretty damn good. Hey look, it’s so good it’s been rejected a few times.

So my point here is keep going.

Oh, the book? Yeah, I’m giving it Lifeline. I figure they might get a few bucks for it at their amazing bookfest.

 By Sandy Sharma

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I scored this Christmas with books. Everyone knows that I love reading and its an easy gift to get me. Just ask. I’ll tell you the name of the book, author and who has it for the cheapest. If the gift allowance is $50, and the book is $30, just give me the book. I don’t care, or better yet, get me two books! People won’t generally buy me a book they think I will like, people normally ‘recommend’ books to me. Or if you say you like an author, they’ll say have you read this one or that one.Even my most hated books I still tend to keep, so good on you for passing it on to lifeline. A job well done.

    • Yeah most book buying for me is done by my mum who picks up on hints quite well (I circle books in her bookclub catalogue) or friends, most of whom know who I read. I’ll try anything book wise and usually keep them (I still own a copy of twilight) but yeah if it cant be regifted may as well donate it.

      Also may I ask what book it was?


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