Tag Archives: Oscars

The third reason I’m slightly less stupid than I was a year ago

5 Feb

There is every accounting for taste

I didn’t like the latest movie version of Le Miserables, even though it will win 23 Oscars, including “Best Musical Number by an Aussie during a Suicide Plunge.”

So sue me.oscar-statue

I much preferred the 1978 version with Anthony Perkins. Because it was a TV movie, it wasn’t up for an Oscar. If it had been, it would have nailed “Best French Accent by that Guy Who Stabbed Janet Leigh in a Shower.” It was a pretty small field of nominees that year.

MV5BMTIzMTE1OTYwNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODM4NTc0MQ@@._V1_SY317_CR3,0,214,317_I know what I like. You know what you like. “Vive la difference,” as Jean Valjean might have said/sung when his hair turned white in a few minutes’ time. (That’s in the book.)

The 2012 version of Le Miz is a good movie. It just ain’t my cup of tea. The director of the latest Les Miserable shouldn’t care what I or anyone else thinks of his movie as long as he believes it is good—and he can still pay his mortgage on the Tuscan villa.

A year or so ago, when I was much younger and more unsure of myself, I equated the character of my writing with the feedback it received. Positive feedback foreshadowed my entrance into the pantheon of literary greats such as Edward Bulwer-Lytton and Paris “I wrote the title myself” Hilton.

More, um, ambivalent feedback nearly spurred me to give up writing in favor of stick-figure drawing. Nine people could react positively, yet one person could say “meh,” and I believed I had  failed. Worse was when the story idea didn’t interest them enough to give the book a shot. What could I have done, I wondered, to lure or please that one reader? Or those ten, or one hundred, or one thousand readers?

Taste is a slippery creature which changes not only with each person, but within each person. I might watch the musical Les Miserable a year from now and love it (OK, a bad example). Some who like my writing one day may be left cold by it the next. What’s the point of worrying about what anybody thinks?  (This is where I explain that was a rhetorical question.)

In the past year, I’ve re-learned that quality is a nebulous concept that means little in the creative arts. Personal taste is more important. To the individual, taste dictates quality. Otherwise, we would not have so many book genres and sub-genres, such as Dystopian Erotica, Cozy Eighteenth Century French Mysteries, Christian Romance with a touch of Horror Suspense, or Gay & Lesbian Family Saga. When someone says, “That’s a good book,” they mean “I like that book.” Unless they’re a book critic or a high school language arts teacher, they are not saying the sentence structure was superb, the grammar was impeccable, or the story arc was magnificently presented. They mean it affected them in a positive way.

That’s good enough for me, when and if it happens.


P.S. I have a few little books you might enjoy here.

The second reason I’m slightly less stupid than I was a year ago

18 Jan

Reason #2: I now know quality is not the biggest factor in book sales.


Christopher Waltz with his Golden Globe for Django Unchained

According to IMDB, Austrian actor Christopher Waltz is 56 years old and has more than one hundred acting credits. Yet, most people outside of Austria and Germany never heard of Waltz until Quentin Tarantino cast him in Inglorious Basterds a few years ago.  He won an Oscar, BAFTA, Golden Globe and a bunch of other awards. Does that mean Waltz was a middling actor all those years before? Is the only reason he hadn’t been “discovered” because he sucked at his craft? Thank goodness Tarantino came along and showed him how to do it right, huh?

The role in Inglorious Basterds called for an actor who could act simultaneously charming and homicidal, speak impeccable English and German, sound like he could speak impeccable Italian and handle a movie set that used copious amounts of fake blood in nearly every scene. Tarantino fretted he had written a character so specific that no one could play it. (Maybe Will Farrell came close.) If Tarantino hadn’t found Waltz, the actor would still be taking middling roles in German TV and film. Instead, his career took a big leap, and now he’s up again for big awards for Django Unchained. The guy is taking away more hardware than a thief at The Home Depot.

Waltz has been a good actor for a long time, but it took  him many years to get lucky.

It takes luck to sell books, too. I ignored this fact until recently. I thought if I wrote something I could be proud of, the battle for sales would be half won. That’s what I inferred from a lot of blogs on self-publishing. As long as I followed that with book blog tours, a handful of positive reviews from bloggers, a web presence, tweeting and all the other stuff the experts say you should do, the book printer wouldn’t be able to keep up with demand for my works. As Christopher Waltz might say, “Nein.” America’s forests are still safe.

I don’t know from one day to the next if my writing is any good. Some days, I think it’s more than passable. Other times, I’m a hack who needs to find something else to do. Every writer goes through the same ups and downs, but our goal is always to write our best. Last time was our best; the next time will be better. But none of it–the quality of the writing or the effort that comes afterward–guarantees success. It also takes luck.

How many actors in community theater could hold their own with Daniel Day-Lewis? How many of us know singers in church choirs who could put Taylor Swift to shame? Or how many Great American Novels are sitting on writers’ shelves collecting dust?

That’s another thing I’ve learned this past year. It doesn’t matter. As long as I get to write stories that I like, with maybe with an occasional word or two of validation from someone I care about, I don’t need the rest. I’m happy.

But I’ll keep working to get better. And  when our Quentin Tarantino comes knocking, I’ll be ready for my closeup.