Lion of the Blogosphere

Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

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I finished reading this book by J.K. Rowling. I’m not sure what to think.

In case you’re not familiar with this book (and if you’re not, what rock have you been living under?), it was first published in England in 1997 and then in the U.S. in 1998, and soon became a runaway bestseller, and in fact is the third best-selling book of all time after The Lord of the Rings and The Little Prince. The book is allegedly aimed at 8-12 year-old readers, and the protagonist, Harry Potter, is 11.

I remember The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum being a much better book, but if I reread that as an adult, maybe I would also find it full of faults. (It’s strange that it has been 79 years since the last time they made a movie version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. During a much shorter time period, there have been two movies made based on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. With modern special effects, they could make a talking lion that looks like a talking lion rather than some guy wearing a lion costume. And the The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is in the public domain, so the movie studio wouldn’t even have to pay anyone for the rights.)

The story is, to put it bluntly, stupid. Harry Potter has these impossibly mean step-parents who make him live in a “cupboard” under the stairs. Which in this case means a small closet, but when I think of a “cupboard,” I think of kitchen cabinets. This is an example of the many Britishisms that are used throughout the book, which increase my surprise that this book became such a big hit in the United States, given that there are so many language usages that wouldn’t make sense to an American child, or for that matter to most American adults.

Also, the book is largely a satire of British boarding schools, with a made-up fantasy sport of Quidditch substituting for rugby. This seems like a strange foundation for a book that would become such a huge bestseller in the United States.

I think of it as a modern children’s book, but being 21 years old, it’s no longer really that modern, and as such it has elements of political incorrectness in it, such as the main girl character, Hermione Granger, being described as a “bossy know-it-all.” (“Hermione” is a name I would not have known how to pronounce if I had not seen the movie.)

The basic story concept and plot is silly and aimed at children rather than adults. A bunch of children manage to save the world from the evil Voldemort, while all of the adults running the Hogwarts boarding school are totally clueless and inept. Admittedly, this is a typical conceit of children’s literature. The real lives of children are actually very boring and inconsequential.

However, J.K. Rowling doesn’t shy away from big words or complicated sentences. At Thanksgiving dinner, I will attempt to determine if either of my nephews, aged 10 and 12, have read this book. I suspect that they haven’t, because they don’t seem like readers to me.

There is zero in the way of romance in this book. Of course, the characters are only 11 years old, and how many 11-year-olds hook up with the opposite sex? L. Frank Baum also kept romance out of his children’s books. It just isn’t a concept that children relate to. Especially not boys.

If this book were written today, The main character would probably be a girl instead of a boy. In 1997, the ideal main character for a children’s book was a boy, because conventional wisdom was that girls would read books with boy protagonists, but not the other way around. Joanne Rowling was asked to use the pen name of J.K. Rowling to hide her sex in in order not to scare away boy readers.

Today, the conventional wisdom is that so few boys read books that the commercial value in trying to appeal to them is limited, and it’s no big deal to write a book that alienates boy readers. However, there is a popular series of books about a boy named Percy Jackson that, I believe, is targeted to middle-school-aged boys.

The Harry Potter series is, perhaps, the last great young adult literature written in the third person. Nowadays, the vast majority of books aimed at this age group are written in the first person.

Do I want to read the next book in the series? Strangely, kind of yes, I do.

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A minor, specific complaint: I couldn’t remember if Filch was a cat and Mrs. Norris was its owner, or vice versa. J.K. Rowling should have repeated that information more than once. How are kids supposed to remember all those names?

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

November 21, 2018 at EST am

Posted in Books

Novel update

with 11 comments

The overweight teenage girl protagonist’s house was blown up by whoever is after her.

She flees with her “bad boy” robot bodyguard, a self-aware self-driving car, and a sexbot with a heart of gold. They head to a mysterious address in Staten Island found in an encrypted message on the dark web, her only clue.

I couldn’t resist the satire of naming the sexbot Cherry 2000. I suspect that only a tiny percent of readers will get it.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

November 7, 2018 at EST pm

Posted in Books

New story idea

with 63 comments

The story takes place in the near future.

The protagonist is a 16-year-old girl, who is fat. She has low self-esteem because she’s fat, and she’s also a loser at school, bullied because of her weight.

She’s also a straight A student with an aptitude for computers and engineering. For her science project, she’s building a robot detector from the sensor she took from a self-driving car and hooking it up to a smartphone.

She also has a secret psychic power. But I’m not sure exactly what that power is.

There’s a new boy at school, a total hunk, tall, muscular, a “bad boy” who was expelled from his previous school for unknown reasons.

For reasons at first mysterious, the new guy takes an interest in our fat protagonist, but she’s snippy to him in return because she can’t believe anyone as hot as the new guy could be interested in a fat girl.

But then, she’s in for a surprise when she points her science project at the “bad boy” and she discovers that he’s a robot!

The robot was sent by a mysterious benefactor to be her bodyguard. He was programmed with a “bad boy” persona because they know that’s what kind of fiction she likes to read on the internet, and the robot was intended to be attractive to her. (Of course she’s outraged when she discovers that everything she does on the internet is being spied on.)

We don’t know who sent the robot or who she needs protection from, but it has something to do with her secret psychic power.

And I’m not sure what happens in Act II. But I think it should be about how she saves the world.

UPDATE

About the superpower:

I have a secret superpower.

I bet I know what you’re thinking. First, you’re thinking, I want to know about the guy who sat down next to you on the bus. Don’t worry, I’m getting to that part.

And then you’re also thinking, I didn’t sign up to read a superhero story. Tell me about the guy! I wish I was a superhero, but nothing could be further from the truth. I’m just a fat girl who nobody likes. And also, I can move things with my mind.

Not anything big, mind you. It’s not like I can make people levitate. I couldn’t even make my house keys fly to me from across the room. I know, you’re wondering why do I even have house keys? Why don’t we have a fingerprint activated lock? Well for your information, there are a lot of people in this world who are too poor to afford to buy a decent modern lock for their front door, and my mom is one of them. But I’ll tell you more about my home life later.

A dime is just about the heaviest thing I can move with my mind, and only if I concentrate really hard. So you see, it’s not a very useful superpower at all. Even if I saw a dime on the sidewalk, it would be easier to just bend down and pick it up rather than try to use my superpower on it. But I keep it secret because the last thing I need is for people to have another reason to hate me. They already think I’m the freaky scary fat girl, it would only be worse if they knew I had weird powers.

The only people I’ve talked to about my superpower are the other people who post on a message board on the dark web. There are a few other people like me, some around my age, some are older, we all started manifesting these powers two years ago, which was shortly after that nuclear power plant blew up in Iran. Some people on the board thought it was caused by the radiation, but I don’t think that makes any sense. If you remember your history, you’ll know that there were two nuclear bombs used during World War II, and nobody got any superpowers after that. Also, Iran is halfway around the world from me. If the radiation was going to mutate people and turn them into freaks, wouldn’t it happen to people who lived in Iran?

Hardly anyone posts on the message board anymore. I guess they got bored talking about it, because it’s not a very useful power. The last time anyone left a message was two weeks ago.

And now that you know about know about my secret superpower, I can go back to telling you what happened on the school bus.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

November 1, 2018 at EST am

Posted in Books, Robots

How to become famous on Wattpad

with 54 comments

After examining this social media and online book publishing site, I have determined that the overwhelming majority of the site’s users are teenage and college-aged women, and what they want to read is what I would call young adult chick lit, which has a clearly defined format of being written in the first person, featuring a girl protagonist who is average at best, and sometimes downright ugly, who gets involved with a “bad boy.” That’s right, that’s the term that’s used, “bad boy,” and apparently the term is so universally understood by this audience that an author can merely write “John was a bad boy,” without any adequate explanation of why he’s bad, and the audience immediately gets it.

It’s actually a condemnation of the entire female sex that this literature is overwhelming popular. Everything that game bloggers like Roissy have said turns out to be true. You can say, “they are only teenagers, they don’t really know what they want,” but I would say it’s the opposite, they are not sophisticated enough to understand that they are supposed to be more woke about things, and instead they go with their raw emotions regarding what sort of guy gives them what Roissy would vulgarly call “gina tingles.”

The reason why it’s on Wattpad is that mainstream publishers are probably too embarrassed to put this sort of stuff in print, and because girls in that age bracket have very little disposable income (not having jobs and being completely reliant on their parents for money), so reading for free is appealing. And they probably lack the technical expertise to grab free (but illegally so) books from Pirate’s Bay or Library Genesis. Compared to this free young adult chick lit crap, The Hunger Games is like Nobel-Prize-winning literature.

I’m not sure how I, as a middle-aged man, can write convincing young adult chick lit. I suppose by studying the most popular books, and then writing something similar, but with better grammar and a better plot, it’s possible. But reading though this crap is difficult. And putting myself into the mind of a teenage girl with “gina tingles” for a bad boy, that’s even harder. Too bad I’m not gay, that would make it easier to imagine.

On the other hand, last night I reread the first two chapters of Piers Anthony’s book The Apprentice Adept, and I found it quite enjoyable despite it’s horrible dialogue, it’s ridiculousness (a planet where the lower classes aren’t allowed to wear clothes, and where the male protagonist is, therefore, turned on by women who are wearing clothes), and in spite of (or perhaps because of) what modern feminist critics would call “misogyny.” (That Piers Anthony books are “misogynist” but chick lit is never called “misandrist,” that’s proof that we live in a gynocracy.)

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

October 31, 2018 at EST am

Street justice

with 40 comments

Layla ran out of the subway car and ran towards the exit. After she was out on the street again, she slowed down, and reflected on what had just happened. What started out as fear turned into a sort of exhilaration. She was strong, and she could kick ass! Those two guys got what they deserved. She dished out some street justice that obviously the New York City criminal justice system had failed at. Maybe now, they learned their lesson and won’t go around sexually assaulting girls who are just trying to take the subway home.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

October 27, 2018 at EST pm

Posted in Books

Liberal bias in publishing?

with 25 comments

Commenter John writes:

It’s frustrating to see this liberal, PC censorship hold back any potential writer that might break through. If you spout anything related to gender, race, religion, or politics that goes against the media’s “official” narrative, then your manuscript will be rejected by a (most likely) female literary agent. Even if you did manage to get an agent, editors and publishers will erase any hint of racism, sexism, etc. No wonder the market is flooded with garbage. Heinlein would not get published today. Who cares about the Didions and the Joyce Carol Oates? Upper class neuroticism is of no interest to those outside Manhattan. Where are the recent novels about the poor, struggling to make it? Jack London would be considered toxic masculinity these days. What a joke. The best stories are always about young men wrestling with their potential.

I think that this is less of a problem in books than it is in TV shows and movies. These forms of media tend to be made by committee, and their funding and creation is controlled by big companies that are politically correct and do exactly the kind of PC censorhip that John talks about.

When it comes to books, there’s a much bigger universe of books, there’s more room for niche authors, and books are generally the work of a single author who can insert his own words without having them overruled by a committee of SJWs.

I don’t think that Heinlein would have a problem getting published today. With the caveat that his earliest books were targeted at teenage boys, and teenage boys, unfortunately, seem to read a lot less fiction for pleasure than do teenage girls. There’s a massive imbalance, and publishers therefore are seeking books aimed at teenage girls because that’s where the money is. Thus we get Twilight, The Hunger Games, etc.

One of the things I like about Wattpad and similar online self-publishing platforms is that now, authors can get their work out there and bypass the literary agents and publishing companies and their liberally biased screeners. I think that once you demonstrate popularity, someone will want to publish you.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

October 24, 2018 at EST pm

Posted in Books

Writing vampire fiction

with 26 comments

Here’s a link

It started out really hard. Writing fiction, even bad fiction, is an entirely different type of writing than writing blog posts. I gave up after the first three chapters, and then got side-tracked into writing the chapter-by-chapter review of the Lord of the Rings, which I mentioned previously.

But the last chapter that I published before writing this blog post came out more easily, so hopefully I just needed a little practice to get warmed up.

Special bonus points to anyone who can guess who the vampire introduced in chapter 5 might be.

* * *

I can see a big advantage to writing fiction. With fiction, you can influence people who would never in a million years read a blog like this. As I’ve written before, the big problem with the conservative movement is that all of the entertainment media is controlled by liberals.

* * *

toomanymice writes in a comment:

Guido vampires! The secret financial lives of vampires! Rat mind control! Read it guys, you don’t know what you’re missing.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

October 24, 2018 at EST am

Posted in Books

Chapter-by-chapter book review of The Lord of the Rings

https://www.wattpad.com/story/163208312-i-reread-the-lord-of-the-rings

I’m writing this on a different platform. I’m up to the part where the hobbits reach Bree and meet Strider.

* * *

Why? The Lord of the Rings is the best-selling fiction book of the 20th century. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_books

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

October 9, 2018 at EST pm

Posted in Books

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Although the book had a positive review in the NY Times back in 2008, I became very disappointed in it after …

Spoilers ahead

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Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

October 3, 2018 at EST pm

Posted in Books

Lessons from Xanth

After finishing the book A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony published in 1977, his first of 41 Xanth novels.

Spoiler warning: you’re supposed to find out these lessons by reading the book. Having them all handed to you will ruin the story.

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Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

September 29, 2018 at EST pm

Posted in Books

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