Saturday, June 13, 2009

parting with(tradition)

Okay. So I lied.

A few days ago, I said I don't review books -- even if what I'm going to write about today will sound an awful lot like a review. The reason I don't review books is that there are only a few sources of book reviews that I'll pay attention to. NOT bloggers, NOT crackpots on bookseller websites, and NOT other authors.

See, publishing is so inbred, and so many of us really collect our paychecks from the same small handful of companies, that I always wonder how truly "genuine" an author's review of another's work can be.

Okay. I'll try to get over it.

And this isn't going to be your typical review, either, because, as can always be expected, I'm going to talk about my own weird life.

So, anyway, I don't read when I write. Now that I just finished writing another novel, I've been reading at a fairly manic pace. The other day, I read Cynthia Chapman Willis' novel, Buck Fever. Then I sent her a couple messages about the book, which I wanted to share here:

Sure, lots of books start out just fine, but when I close them up, I mean, really, are they going to stay with me? Buck Fever will.

I say this as not only a guy who grew up with a deer hunting dad (while he was alive), but also as someone who recognizes the definite lack of outstanding books for boys. Cynthia's book resonates, for me, with an experience reminiscent of Wilson Rawls' Where the Red Fern Grows. I can remember when I was a kid (probably in fifth or sixth grade), and my best buddy loaned me his copy of that book. Yeah, guys actually used to do stuff like that back in those days. But I got so into that book as a kid, I remember telling my dad that I wanted to go out hunting raccoons. And my dad, who taught me how to shoot his deer rifle when I was six -- and he was never a fan of hunting raccoon -- said something like, "Holy heck, I reckon, son! You might as well go out shooting at rats as well as old coons!"

(Seriously. I shit you not. He talked like that.)

And my dad was a real hunter, too. So I never questioned the idea of killing animals as a means of providing for our family. Besides, deer meat is delicious. And cute. My dad could bring home an enormous deer, tied down across the hood of his Ford, but, at the same time, would hand-feed wild squirrels in our yard, and would never dream of shooting the deer that came and stripped the cherries from the trees on our land, telling us boys, instead, that if we wanted any cherries for pies, we'd have to chase the deer off on foot -- and if we caught one, he'd give us a nickel. We got close some times. And a nickel meant something in those days, too.

So I could imagine a boy, in say, 6th or 7th grade, picking up Buck Fever and falling in love with the great experience of becoming a reader, just as I did way back a hell of a long time ago when I used to chase deer through our fields, hoping for a nickel from Dad. Now, as a father of two kids the same ages as the main character in Buck Fever, Joey, and Philly, his sister (but my older is the boy), I found myself wishing I could jump through the pages and slap the living snot out of Joey's clueless parents.

I mean, seriously, the guy's dad is a total crybaby wuss who can't function when his wife is away from home. And his inability to be a man has a devastating effect on his kids.

Let me tell you a secret (since my wife never reads this blog). When my wife is away, it's party like there's no freakin tomorrow at El Rancho de Drew for me and the kids. Feeling guilty about not eating salads? Um. Nope.

But I digress. Back to this remarkable book.

Anyway, I live in this tiny rural community up in the mountains, along the shores of a couple small lakes. There are only a few hundred families here, if that, and all the kids grow up together and attend the same school for grades K - 8. They even bus some kids in from even more remote areas just to get the school population (total) around 400 kids. The Language Arts teacher for the 7th and 8th graders is always looking for books for boys, and I am really excited about giving her my ARC of Buck Fever. It is a perfect book for boys that age.

Honestly. If I weren't such a man, I'd admit that the book almost made me cry.

I will admit, too, that I'm going to break my no-review tradition and talk about another pure gem I read just a couple days ago, because it's for boys, too.

Okay... funny and Zen-like situation: The other day on Facebook, a YA Librarian blogger asked a question: ...hate that women's/ya books are both looked down upon. how do we fix this?

Ha ha. Funny that Women's and YA are joined with an interconnective slash.

That's what I'm talking about. You can start to fix it by:

1) Reading this blog.

2) Stop putting such trashy, vapid, empty, stereotyping books on your review sites.

Hey... maybe you should pick up (and READ) a copy of Buck Fever.

No offense. I've given you an assignment, now go do it.

As for me, the wife and kids have gone up north to some horse thing for the next three days, so I will leave you with three words: