Life as a Reading Challenge, Chapter 15
60 Second Guide to Learning the Awful Truth about Yourself? If his name sounds familiar, that's because he's the guy who got me to make CLOSE my word for 2013. I appreciate his newer article as well--and not just because it gives me a challenge I can adapt to one of my own posts. Here's a sixty-second exercise for you . . .
1) Write down the names of the five authors whom you own the most books by.
2) Write down the names of the five authors who are the greatest literary influences in your life.
3) Use your Secret Decoder Ring for the twist: understand that the five authors on the first list are the real greatest literary influences in your life.
You already know which authors would be on my first list. As for the second, it would have (in alphabetical order) Charlotte Bronte, G.K. Chesterton, Nick Joaquin, F. Sionil Jose, and Madeleine L'Engle. Of course, the one who made both lists is also the one whom I try to shrug off these days. =P Does this matter, though?
Well, yes. Wong's original challenge was to write down five things you did yesterday and then the five things you think are most important in life--and [Secret Decoder Rings again, please] to realise that the first things are your real priorities. And his point was that the amount of time that we spend doing something is an objective standard about how much we value it. If you spend eight to ten hours a day at a job you hate, well, that does say something awful about you. Such as that you've swallowed, hook, line and sinker, the idea that a centralised mass production economy run by wage-slavery is your destiny. It's not the only thing about you, of course, but neither is it something you can shrug off.
Speaking of economies, there are also the amounts of money that we spend . . .
Now, in these Games, the writers who will always have an edge are not necessarily those with excellent writing or original stories, but those with savvy marketing strategies. Romance sells really well not just because women are romantic and acquisitive in comparable proportions, but also because someone figured out that siblings who each get their own love stories will push more books than the same number of unrelated characters in identical plots by the same author.
We could say the same about Young Adult and Middle Grade, where series rule. The writers in these genres who appeared on the most other Tenners gave us the "Tortal universe" (17 books) . . . The Princess Diaries (16 books) . . . The Morganville Vampires (15 books) . . . Vampire Academy and its spin-offs (10 books so far) . . . Percy Jackson and the Olympians and its spin offs (9 books so far) . . . Covenant (7 books) . . . and of course, Harry Potter (8 books if you also count The Tales of Beedle the Bard). Provided they don't actually set their money on fire for kicks, these authors are set for life.
By the way, J.K. Rowling actually topped several lists. Not just because Potter-heads also had her adult novels, but also because they had multiple editions of the Boy Wizard series. Including copies in other languages, which they sometimes couldn't even read. And they were the ones whose glosses went along the lines of: "This probably won't come as any surprise to someone who knows me . . ." And David Wong would totally respect that.
So would that unnamed author who inspired my Sneaky, Sneaky Book Thieves post--because what she was trying to get at by insisting that borrowing books instead of buying them is stealing from the author, is that money is an objective standard. If someone is your favourite writer but you've never paid to read any of his books, there's a sense in which your regard is worthless. Especially now that we're living in the age of the dirt-cheap mass market paperback. Come on, people.
Okay, that was just me being provocative. But the point stands . . .
Basically, when we value something, we throw stuff at it. Frequently time. Often money. On occasion, also shelf space. But always something measurable and objective that even someone who doesn't know you would mark.
What have you thrown at your favourite writer lately?