Monday, October 24, 2011

A Revision of the Reviewer's Reviews. Uh, huh?

Previously I said I wouldn't do book reviews because of that whole 'I-can't-give-everyone-a-5-star-review-because-no-one-will-take-me-seriously' and 'the-publishing-community-is-small' thing. (Boy who cried wolf and dog doesn't poop in his space kind of deal.)

So, being almost brilliant, I've decided to feature books (two at a time because I like some pressure & tend to take on a lot more than I should), one published years ago and one relatively recently. I'll tell you what worked; what one element or device stood out. Even bad books can have some redeeming quality- I think porn and violent-content publishers use that argument to get past decency standards. But I'm not saying any of these books are bad; some will be great, some will be meh and some I will hate- but I won't tell you. No ratings, just one thing I liked about it.

The Lord of the Rings. It does happen to be my all time favorite book, and I've said so on interviews and such so this is not a deal breaker. It's probably the only time I tell you it's my fave book (other than my own!). The best element of this book (keeping the trilogy together)- is the world building. From descriptions of the inhabitants of  Middle Earth (elves, orcs, ents, etc.) to the magic (palantiri,  glowing swords, Light of Galadriel) to the rich language (poetry, elvish script, Rhohirrim etymology), Tolkien was the grand master. He incorporated good vs. evil, romance, war, murder and salvation, hope and tragedy, heroes and the lost, humor and darkness. The only things missing (but not missed) are sex, foul language, and teen angst. Like many, I consider Tolkien to be a literary genius. Wish I'd been able to read LOTR instead of some of the boring, dense, so-called 'classics' (D.H. Lawrence comes to mind...) I was forced to read.

The next book with a great device is Alissa Grosso's  Popular. It seems like a 'popular-girls-are-so-mean' story, but it employs one of my favorite devices: the unexpected twist. I love surprises! And Alissa made me gasp! (Sorry, not going to spoil it, go read the book.) There's nothing that's more detestable than being able to correctly guess a book. Okay, we all know how any story about the Titanic is going to end- but it's like that for stories about recorded human and natural events; we know how the main thread is going to shake out so the other elements must do extra duty to keep us interested. Two thirds through her book, Alissa threw a curve ball--right over home plate and I never saw it!

So, no stars or smiley faces or thumbs up; just something I liked about two books.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Word Up!

I was slacking off, watching TV and one of those infernal commercials came on; a couple are painting a room, they touch hands, and the background dissolves into a panoramic forest vista with a bed or tub. Yeah, a Viagra commercial. For... ahem... a malfunction. My son giggles- "It's dysfunction," he informs me. Dysfunction, misfunction, malfunction; what's the diff? According to Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary, circa 1983 (one of those big jabonies that weighs a gazillion tons which I refuse to give up because the online and Microsoft dictionaries are seriously lacking):

Dysfunctionn. Med., malfunctioning, as of a structure of the body.

It appears dysfunction and malfunction maybe the same thing. That's common in English, multiple words meaning the same thing (think Thesaurus).

Malfunction: n. failure to function  properly: v.i. to fail to function properly.  Same definition, but it looks like dysfunction applies strictly to medical issues. Okay, the body can have a dysfunction, while the car can have either (noun) a malfunction of the engine, or, (verb) the engine malfunctioned.

Misfunction / Disfunction Uh, no such words. At least as of 1983. And having made Webster's my literary lord and master, I will never use these two words. Ever. And neither should you. We have enough clutter, slang, anachronisms, abbreviations, made-up, ill-,  improperly or inappropriately used words in our language. So don't. It really annoys me. And you do not want me to hear you use the word 'irregardless.' (I will need a sedative or other serious chemicals to rein in my outrage.)

At least I know the makers of Viagra are using proper English. Hopefully Johnson & Johnson (my maiden name is Johnson, but no relation. Darn, could really use the fame and money), will take note and forever eradicate their slogan "It don't ouch me" on their bandage commercials. [Kindly note that I did not say 'Bandaid' which is a registered trademark of Johnson & Johnson. If I can observe the proprieties, so can they.] 

So my knowledge of dys- vs. mal- function has been refreshed, and two plausible but non-existent words abolished from my memory. Now if only I could obliterate all those 'dysfunction' commercials.