Wisdom of Kammbia 3.30: The Importance of the Writer-Reader Relationship

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I believe this quote should make writers realize the importance of the writer-reader relationship and that we don’t disrespect that connection.

“What disrespect we writers have for the people who read our work. Our readers don’t expect perfection every time we publish a book. They expect a good read, something to take them from their lives for a few hours. They hope to get a memorable read, but escape will do. They’ll even settle for a bad read now and then, if you’ve already provided them with hours and hours of pleasure before.”

{Kristine Kathryn Rusch}

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Wisdom of Kammbia 3.23: Who Is The Best Novelist? (Elite 8 Round)

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We have reached the Elite 8 in the Sixty-Four Novelist March Madness Style Tournament to determine whom readers believe is the best novelist or the most beloved novelist.

Here are the results from The Sweet 16 round in the Cormac McCarthy bracket:

1 seed Cormac McCarthy vs 27 seed Russell Banks (McCarthy beats Banks 80% to 20%)

2 seed Philip Roth vs 26 seed Donna Tartt (Roth beats Tartt 75% to 25%)

3 seed Toni Morrison vs 23 seed John Irving (Irving beats Morrison in an upset 60% to 40%)

4 seed Don DeLillo vs 22 seed Michael Chabon (Chabon beats DeLillo in an upset 60% to 40%)

5 seed Thomas Pynchon vs 21 seed T.C. Boyle (Boyle beats Pynchon in an upset 66% to 34%)

8 seed Richard Ford vs 18 seed Flannery O’Connor (O’Connor beats Ford in an upset 57% to 43%)

9 seed Gabriel Garcia Marquez vs 16 seed Harper Lee (Garcia Marquez beats Lee 67% to 33%)

13 seed Margaret Atwood vs 14 seed Wallace Stegner (Atwood beats Stegner 80% to 20%)

Here are the Elite 8 Match-ups: (Vote for the Author you want to win the match-up)

1 seed Cormac McCarthy vs 23 seed John Irving

2 seed Philip Roth vs 22 seed Michael Chabon

9 seed Gabriel Garcia Marquez vs 21 seed T.C Boyle

13 seed Margaret Atwood vs 18 seed Flannery O’Connor

Vote often and thanks for your participation!

Wisdom of Kammbia 3.18: Resolutions Don’t Work!

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I agree with this header.

My 2013 Reading Resolution has changed significantly since I posted it at the beginning of the new year.

My resolution got off to a bad start when I didn’t finish reading The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell  until the middle of January. And if you’ve read my list, I was supposed to read In Sunlight and In Shadow by Mark Helprin for that month.

I did read my February book, The Unspeakable by Tessa Stockton.  However, I got sidetracked when I starting reading the Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison after The Unspeakable. I read one hundred forty pages of Song of Solomon and couldn’t finish it.

Instead of reading In Sunlight and In Shadow, I went to my local library here in San Antonio and bought a copy of Pirate Freedom by Gene Wolfe for a dollar and started reading that for the rest of February and now into March.

Whew…..I can see why resolutions don’t work.   It is so easy to get sidetracked and once you get off that highway you can never get back on.

However, I’m determined to get back on track and have revised my resolution list:

March’s Book-Vale of Laughter by Peter De Vries: This novel was recommended me to by someone on Library Thing.  De Vries was considered one of the funniest American novelists and compared to authors like Evelyn Waugh and Mark Twain. However, all of De Vries’ novels are currently out of print and there’s a push to have his work republished.

April’s Book: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

May’s Book: The Power and The Glory by Graham Greene

2nd May Book: Culture Making by Andy Crouch

June’s Book: Chess Garden by Brooks Hansen

July’s Book: Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

August’s Book: The Sleeper Awakes by H.G. Wells

September’s Book: Arena by Karen Hancock

October’s Book: The Deep Blue Good-By by John D. MacDonald

November’s Book: River Rising by Athol Dickson

December’s Book: The Little Country by Charles De Lint

I’m determined to stay on course until the end of year. However, I’m done with resolutions after this year.

Has anyone else gotten off track with their resolutions for 2013?

Wisdom of Kammbia 3.17: Reading Rules

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Do you have reading rules? 

Are there guidelines that will make you decide on what you are going to read?

I’ve noticed in the last few years that I have developed a certain pattern to my reading habits.

1) I Will Read From Any Genre: I have never understood folks who read from only one or two genres.  I only read Literary Fiction. I only read Mysteries. I only read Christian Fiction and so on.  I thought reading (like most of art) takes you to new places, different cultures, and the imaginative powers of that author’s mind.  The only criteria there should be: is it a good or bad novel.

My other hobby is listening to music.  I listen to good music from any genre.  Whether it’s Earth, Wind, & Fire or Sting or Van Morrison or Tito Puente or Miles Davis or Chris Tomlin or Israel & The New Breed. It is good music or not.  Heck, I just started listening to the Zac Brown Band this week after someone recommended that I should check them out.  Good music.

I have that same mentality when it comes to reading.  My bookshelf has Jorge Amado, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Philip K. Dick, Greg Bear, Paul Auster, Toni Morrison, Mark Helprin, Charles Dickens, John Steinbeck, Athol Dickson, John Grisham, P.D. James, & Stephen King all on the same shelf.

I believe the publishing industry while creating genres has been good for selling books, the downside it causes readers to stay in the neighborhood they are comfortable with and not venture into other neighborhoods.  I thought art is supposed to the ultimate barrier breaker and you can venture into other neighborhoods without fear or backlash.  Hmmmm…

2) I Must Read One Novel a Year Published Before 1950: I started this rule a few years when I read Madame Bovary by Flaubert.  And I have read David Copperfield by Dickens, Grapes of Wrath and The Pearl by Steinbeck, Islandia by Austin Tappan Wright, & Snow Country by Kawabata over the past few years.

Reading novels published prior to 1950 helps me get out of the mood of thinking about the world around me through a contemporary perspective. Also, it takes me into the past and makes me realize that human nature is basically the same.  It reminds of this verse of scripture: “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, See, this is new? It has been already in the ages before us.”  {Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 ESV Bible}

3) I Don’t Read A Novel in Bed.  This is pretty simple.  It will put me to sleep.  I have to read at my desk.  I’ve heard so many people say they read at bedtime.  I don’t think that’s a good way to read.  Your mind and body are in a relaxed state and ready for sleep.  Reading requires concentration and engagement and the bedroom is not the place for those things.

So there are my reading rules.  What are yours?

Wisdom of Kammbia 3.15: You Sure Do Read A Lot of Fiction For A Man?

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Someone made that comment to me a few weeks ago. The person was surprised and thought it was unusual for a man to mostly read fiction.

Last year, I posted a blog entry explaining why I read fiction. I’ve considered this current blog entry as part two of this topic.

I looked back into my childhood and realized the love of reading didn’t take hold until I was teenager around thirteen or fourteen. I had some friends who were into comic books at that time. X-Men, Batman, & Spider-Man were their favorites and wanting to fit in, I became interested in those same comic books.

They would catch the city bus in my hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida, to the comic book store across town to pickup their monthly subscription of comics. Well, I had to get my own subscription and within a year I had close to five-hundred comic books. I was hooked. I read comic books as fast as I got them and talked with my friends about what read and relived those stories. It was the first time in my life, I felt truly connected to someone outside of my mom and a couple of my sisters.

Growing up the last of eight children and having a different father than my half brothers and sisters, I didn’t believe I had ever fit in with the family. I always felt like an outsider and as a teenager when your hobbies were reading comic books and listening to music like Earth, Wind, &  Fire, The Isley Brothers, and Herbie Hancock instead of rap music, you were considered different.

I didn’t read my first novel until I was seventeen years old.  I was going through the latter stages of puberty, dealt with family issues, and flunked out of high school. (I ended up getting my GED the next year.) Reading The Chronicles of Thomas  Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson rocked my world. I read both trilogies that year and was enthralled by the anti-hero Thomas Covenant who had turned the Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia fantasy archetypes on its head. I had a friend at that time whom recommended those books to me and we would long, thoughtful discussions after I read each novel in the series.

In my early to mid 20’s, I worked at a couple of mom-and-pop bookstores as well as Borders Books. Since I attended only one year of college, the bookstores became my undergraduate and graduate courses in contemporary fiction. I discovered authors like Cormac McCarthy, Toni Morrison, Ishmael Reed, Paul Auster, Jorge Amado, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Greg Bear, Octavia Butler, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Dean Koontz.  I became fascinated when women would come into to the store to buy multiple copies of novels like The Bean Trees by Barbara KingsolverSnow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson, and Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden for their book club.  They would have these great discussions and I felt connected to them even though I had not read those novels.

My first recommendation of a novel was The Little Country by Charles DeLint.  I had recommended that book to probably every customer that came into the fiction section of Borders. I sold the most copies of that book for several months in a row and it delighted me greatly. People would come back to the store and tell me how much they enjoyed reading that novel.  They would have never read a fantasy novel until my recommendation.  Again, I felt that connection and a little closer to humanity as a whole.

Now that I’m in my 40’s, I’ve looked back on those years and recognized that reading fiction has been the saving grace in my life. It has made me compassionate, empathetic, and given me a different outlook on life. Also, I believed that reading fiction led to become a follower of Christianity. It was reading the Parables of Jesus and the Wisdom Books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes that grabbed my attention like reading fiction did.

Most people want to feel connected to something bigger than themselves or something outside of themselves. Some find that in religion, others find that in politics or humanitarian causes, many find it in the lives of athletes and celebrities.  But, I found that connection from reading fiction and I’m eternally grateful. I’m glad this love of reading fiction was put there by God and I believe this is the avenue he wants me to give back to humanity.

There’s my answer on why as a man I read fiction.