Friday, April 18, 2008

Somebody Get That Woman A Medal!

I am sure many of my faithful readers have been wondering what became of my quest to read An Incomplete Education: 3,684 Things You Should Have Learned but Probably Didn't, which, it turns out, I began a year ago this month. This was the Buy a Friend a Book Week gift I bought for some family members that didn't go over all that well, so I decided to read it myself.

You may have thought that I stopped reading the 678 page book because I haven't mentioned it here since May 17th. If so, you obviously don't know me at all. No, I stopped talking about it here because my professional and booky lives are so very, very full that I had many other things to write about.

What I'm getting around to telling you is that I finished reading An Incomplete Education this morning. And, no, I didn't read every word because I'd have to be insane to do that, wouldn't I? But I read lots. Lots and lots.

Here's what I've retained: Henry IV (Henry of Navarre) is the king of France who said, "Paris is well worth a Mass."

The end of the book included a vocab section with lists of words that are used improperly by many people, including myself. I've decided that I just won't use any of those words anymore.

The next improving book I plan to read is Herding the Ox: The Martial Arts as Moral Metaphor by John J. Donohue. I'm looking forward to it because even though it includes the words "moral" and "metaphor" in the title, it is only 133 pages long.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Some People Might Find This Discouraging

I rarely buy The New York Sunday Times. I don't have any objection to the NYTimes but, for me, it's a week long job to read the Sunday version. And that's even with dumping parts of it directly into recycling because I don't live in New York and just don't care about some sections.

For the first time in years I bought the Times on Sunday. Here it is Thursday, and I still haven't found the book review, the reason I bought the whole thing in the first place.

I have read an interesting article in the Business Section, though. The Greatest Mystery: Making a Best Seller is all about how unbusiness-like the publishing business is. By unbusiness-like I mean unlike other businesses. Agent Eric Simonoff is quoted as saying that when he talks with people in other businesses "they're stunned because it's so unpredictable, because the profit margins are so small, the cycles are so incredibly long, and because of the almost total lack of market research."

According to the article, 70 percent of mass market titles don't turn a profit. That seems like a lot, but how else should I interpret "with an estimated 70 percent of titles in the red?"

For a number of years now I've heard things about how much publishers favor debut authors. A second or third book is a hard sell if your debut wasn't big. Well, this article explains why. Publishers don't make huge amounts of money on big selling books by star writers because those books cost the publishers a lot of money. Those authors get big advances and those advances have to be covered by book sales before the book starts making money for the publisher. Where publishers really make money is on "surprise best sellers" by unknowns who accept smaller advances. They don't have to sell a million copies just to cover the big advance.

I had a much easier time understanding this article than I did the Economics section in An Incomplete Education.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Gail's Progress

The Durand Cousins: I broke ten thousand words today. They aren't ten thousand particularly good words, but it's really important that you not let yourself be burdened by worrying about quality with a first draft. At which point do you worry about quality? A good question.

An Incomplete Education: I'm on page 63 (out of 600+). While I still can't seem to retain much about literature or art, I feel that I now have a pretty good grasp of the Dredd Scott Decision.

NOTE: I wasn't on page 63 of An Incomplete Education. I was on page 93. Heck, I'm almost done!

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Biting Off More Than I Can Chew

I mentioned a while back that I had bought a book for some people who never even looked at it. Well, the "people" were family members who kept complaining that they hadn't learned anything in college or weren't learning anything in college. So I bought them An Incomplete Education: 3,684 Things You Should Have Learned But Probably Didn't.

I was just being thoughtful.

As I said, to my knowledge, they never even opened the cover. So I decided, Hey, I didn't learn anything in college, either. I'll read this thing.

Well, this thing is the size of a city telephone directory. I'm reading a few entries every night. Unfortunately, the authors don't number each item so while I'm on page 48 (still Chapter 1), I don't know how many of the "3,684 things" I've knocked off. I've only got 630 pages to go, though!

So I had this idea. I thought I should start another blog about my experience reading An Incomplete Education. You know, like The Julie/Julia Project or Blogging the Bible. And then some publisher could offer me a book contract. Then there would be a movie. And a television series.

But here's the problem with that plan: Though An Incomplete Education is very readable, even entertaining, I'm not retaining anything. I still can't tell you anything about Ezra Pound or William Carlos Williams...Wait! No! Yes, I can! William Carlos Williams was a pediatrician!

I finished reading a section on American intellectuals last night. How has this changed my life? I keep thinking, Intellectual. Just how do you apply for that job? What's the pay scale? Are there benies?

If I learn anything interesting and can recall it long enough, I'll blog about it. I wouldn't expect much, though.