Saturday, November 15, 2008

Judging a Book

By Keith Fisher

There is an author’s event today. Several LDS authors will be on hand to sign their books, offer encouragement, and be your friend. Most of these authors have never been recognized nationally, like Stephanie Meyer, or J. K. Rowling. I very much doubt any of them will be compared to Herman Melville, Mary Shelly, or Rudyard Kipling. Although, some of them should be compared to Mark Twain, he’s one of my favorite authors.

I’ll tell you about the event in a moment, but first, I want to talk about an argument that ensued at work the other day. My friend is an English major and has strong opinions about many things, but so do I, so we get along. I got involved after overhearing a discussion about Twilight. The movie, by the way, comes out in 5-days 19-hours and 8-minutes (according to Nichole’s counter at the moment I write this).

Anyway I believe his statement was, "No LDS author has written good literature." Or something like that. I thought about all the national market authors I’ve heard about who make six figures a year, and many people don’t even know they’re LDS. Of course, his response condemned the use of a monetary yardstick. He wanted to talk about "literature".

I’ve written before about a Dead Author’s Society. And I’ve been critical of the so-called classic literature that school kids are forced to read. My friend wanted to compare all fiction to Moby Dick, because the lessons learned about life are priceless. Then he went on to condemn Twilight.

I tried to persuade him to realize that a book is worthwhile if it gets people to read who never would have before. The discussion turned to Harry Potter and others. We went around and around, as you might guess. I asked him how he can discount the fact that J. K. Rowling probably single handedly influenced thousands of people to turn to books instead of movies. More people are reading today than before, none of them, I’m sure, would’ve considered reading the classics.

So, if we judge a book by the yardstick of how it changed or helped the lives of those who read it, Stephanie Meyer, J. K. Rowling, Brandon Sanderson and Janette Rallison along with dozens of LDS writers, should be ranked with all the so-called, classics authors. When all is said and done, the classics of the past were popular fiction in their day. Maybe in 75 years Harry Potter will be a classic too.

LDS writers, although sometimes not celebrated as such, are writing books for the masses. Books that can help the readers improve their lives. Thanks to popular fiction, those readers are more inclined to read Moby Dick than ever before. The classics are coming back. People are reading them because they want to, because a popular fiction novel persuaded them to make the journey into the satisfying world of reading.

The event I spoke about is at a new independent bookstore. Provident Book/Humdinger Toys. 661 W State Pleasant Grove, Utah There will be drawings and fun stuff. Look here for a signing schedule.

By the way, when pressed, my friend admitted he had never read Stephanie Meyers books or J. K. Rowling’s. Also, the counter now says 5-days 17-hours 18 minutes, but I don’t like vampire books, just thought you’d like to know . . .

Good luck in your writing—see you next week.


Annette Lyon said...

Those arguments annoy me, too--they're generally made by people who have read much by LDS writers.

But there's also the fact that with "Mormons" being less than 200 years old total, it's impossible to have many "classics" in our cannon. We aren't OLD enough for that!

Janette Rallison said...

You are 100% right! It just kills me that teachers are forcing kids to read "classics" and in so many ways are just turning kids off to reading.

You can assign Moby Dick to a reluctant reader, but that doesn't mean he'll read it. Spark Notes are now available online.

You give a kid Eragon, or Harry Potter, or anything that's actually fun, and you'll show kids that reading can be worthwhile.

lachish said...

I also like the quote over on the Whitney Awards site: "We will yet have Miltons and Shakespeares of our own."

Keith, it was nice to meet you today.

Karlene said...

Hi Keith. Thanks for giving our store a plug. It was great to see you there.

I totally agree that to read is better than not to read and you have to give kudos to those who can get today's kids to turn off the tv and the nintendo, put their cell phones aside, and curl up with a book.

Danyelle Ferguson said...

Ugh! I would have been so frustrated! It really annoys me when others bash LDS writers, but haven't actually read any of their books. I run into that quite a bit here in the heartland. Sigh. It's a good opportunity to educate others on the wonderful of LDS fiction though. My bookshelves have turned into a mini-library! :)

Keith Fisher said...

It was great to see you at the store Karlene. I am so looking forward to an independant bookstore in this area. Don't forget I want to hold a lauch party in your store.

Danielle, how would you like to come to work where I do? you're fiesty enough to box his ears.

Tristi Pinkston said...


I want you to go to work on Monday and tell this friend of yours that I will meet him in a dark alley of his choosing at midnight.