Browsing articles in "Books"
Nov 6, 2012

Reading Slump

Open Books Store in Chicago. If you haven't been there, you're a ninny. “You have impressive powers of concentration,” said the woman at the fountain in the park. I blinked at her. “You know, with all these kids running around.” I laughed. The kids were white noise, like the fountain and the cicadas. The kids were, to be honest, appreciated. If they were there, I was more likely to concentrate, to keep up the appearance of being the girl who sits by the fountain and reads.

Once the kids left, I took my book and walked the path around using the motion of my walking to force myself to concentrate on the words. It’s a small park with a lot of low-hanging branches. I got really good at ducking. It was almost like exercise, I imagine.

The reason that I was so intent on my walking and reading was that, for about 18 months, I suffered from a reading slump. I couldn’t concentrate, I DNF’d a dozen books, and I didn’t particularly enjoy anything I managed to finish.

I don’t really know what the issue was. I’ve never gone a protracted amount of time without being able to read.

Eventually, I complained to a friend, and he did what friends are supposed to do in such circumstances: he lent me a really good book. I finished the book on an airplane, and bought a second on my layover. I finished that one and started a third book. This doesn’t sound particularly revolutionary, but I hadn’t done anything like that in a very long time. It felt great.

Since then, I’ve been slowly building up my tolerance.

I would classify myself as mostly cured. It’s been probably six months since I’ve felt any sort of dread about reading, so I’m going to say I’m doing ok. As such, I thought I might make a list of the things I’ve done to help me return to being a reader in the hopes that it might help anyone else out there who is going through a similar trial.

1. Social Reading
If I were to list my favorite discoveries of 2012, the list would probably look like this: 1) Peanut Butter Shakes, 2) Book Clubs.

Book clubs provide this unique environment where you sit in a room with a bunch of people you like (preferably) and eat snacks (essential) and everyone must talk about the book which you have all read (usually).

Those are the rules. I didn’t even make them up. I know.

It brings me this feeling of glee that I haven’t had since I was six and made all activities into clubs. Back then I had to rig elections and make myself president in order to make rules that good. (Side note: both neighbor kids would have made terrible presidents. I was being kind.)

Book clubs provide a gentle accountability. No one’s going to throw a heavy volume at your head if you don’t finish your reading, but if you don’t read, you miss out on fun discussion. Through the magic of book clubs, I’ve finished two longish books this year that I might not have finished otherwise.

2. “Social” Reading
One of the other great joys of this year has been my very serious implementation of GoodReads. I followed Roommate’s lead and started listing my books by years read, and this created a small obsession. (It was a large obsession for a few weeks. Don’t worry, I have everything cataloged back to eighth grade. I stopped there for my own sanity and also because I was getting worried text messages from GR friends.)

The act of adding a book to my list and watching my 2012 numbers grow is extremely satisfying.

3. Book Polygamy
When I was little, I abhorred the thought of reading more than one book at a time. I didn’t think it was possible to love more than one book at a time, or to give them the attention they deserved.

This is silly: I’m not sitting on my couch, left eye on Kavalier and Clay, right eye on Travels with Charley. That would give me a headache. What I am doing is reading K&C at a pace that works with my book group, and TwC between times. It also gives me the freedom to get bored with something I’m reading, to set it aside, and to come back to it later.

4. Audiobook Listening
Listening to audiobooks is the grown-up version of having bed-time stories read to you. Then, you used bed time stories to put off the very unpleasant task of going to sleep. Now you can apply that same principle to make just about any activity better. I like to listen to audiobooks while washing dishes, driving in traffic, and cleaning out terrifying closets.

During my reading slump, audiobooks were just about the only way I could make myself pay attention to a story. I am indebted to them.

5. Reading Aloud
Here’s a secret: I really like reading aloud. To myself. Alone. I know this sounds incredibly narcissistic. Possibly weird. However. It’s true. I don’t like reading poetry any other way. If there’s a book I really love, sometime I have to read it aloud just so I can experiences it through more than once sense. I’ve also found that I can pay better attention when I’m physically engaged in the book (this is sort of the same as the walking and reading thing I talked about earlier.)

If you don’t believe me, rent your self a little apartment, make some tea, and try it. It’s probably my favorite way to spend a Sunday evening.

There you have it: Those are the five things I did to end my terrible, terrible slump.  I hope they can save you from the same.

Also, now I’m curious. Have you ever had a terrible, horrible reading slump? How’d you get over it?


That photo was taken at Open Books Store in Chicago. It’s one of my favorite places. You should go.

Oct 17, 2011

Happy Fall! And Happy Giveaway!

Update: Giveaway closed. Winner announced at the end of the post. 

I know that as a grown-up, I’m not supposed to have fall breaks. However, one of the perks of grown-up-iality is that I get this thing called paid-time off. Paid time off is sort of like Choose Your Own Break. So, all of this to say…

Happy Fall Break!

I plan to spend the day drinking cider or going to a corn maze or looking at dry leaves or watching scary movies or sleeping all day. I haven’t decided yet. However, in celebration of my day off, I’d like to give you a book.

Which book?

This book:


You may remember Matt Mikalatos when I spent a week last February celebrating is first book, Imaginary Jesus. I wrote a review of the book, interviewed Matt, and told you just how much I love the audio version of IJ.

I considered writing a review of this book, but a) I’ve sort of stopped writing book reviews and b) it’s my day off and that sounds a lot like something I shouldn’t do on my day off.

Instead, I’ve decided to cobble together a new review out of bits and pieces of the ones that I’ve found on the Internet. Yes, that’s right. It’s a Frankenreview. Cue lightning and maniacal laughter.

Matt’s books are love letters to the Evangelical community in all our broken mess. New believers or those exploring Christianity won’t get a lot of the subtle jokes and gags, but the story is sufficiently rich that anyone will enjoy and be challenged by what they find. For those who do pick up on the subtleties, Matt takes shots at everyone across the board, including an honest look at himself. It’s a great book to read for fun or as part of a discussion club.

Bottom line: This book is outstanding. We need more totally silly, totally serious theology like Matt gives us. Not everyone will enjoy the monster metaphor, but if that’s your cup of tea, then you need this book. It’ll make you take a hard look at the monstrous aspects of your own soul. And you’ll ache for the same transformation Matt and his band of monsters discover.

JR. Forasteros, Relevant Magazine

Mikalatos’ allegorical tale is funny and insightful. In a world of vampires, zombies and monster hunters, he uses this subject matter to full effect. Vampires are the opposite of Jesus, they have eternal life, but are not living. He suggests that a lot of Christian’s are zombie like – following a preacher’s sermons without thinking for themselves; that they should try to see how they can be true to Christ through their own actions and not wait to be told how to be a Christian. That so many churches are filled with people who have insurmountable faith but don’t have any ‘deeds’ to confirm their faith. Why live a life that isn’t transforming you?

Lini536, Book Reviews

There are so few truly humorous books and even fewer humorous Christian books. But Mikalatos, both the writer and the character in the story, succeed unconditionally and for that reason alone this book is worth a read. The fact that it is also clever, pointed and enlightening only serves to add to its appeal. Night of the Living Dead Christian is one of the best Christian books this year. Not only does it entertain but it informs and challenges. Anyone who reads this book cannot but be transformed.

Scott Asher,

Now hang on while I teach this Frankenreview “Puttin’ on the Ritz”.

Ok, so that’s done.

I have one copy of Night of the Living Dead Chrisitan to give away, so in order to win it, you should do the following:

Matt Mikalatos’ first book, Imaginary Jesus, is available as a free download at Barnes & Noble, CBD, Sony, and Amazon. Go to one of those places, download Imaginary Jesus, then leave me comment saying “I downloaded Imaginary Jesus, and I would love a copy of NLDC.” Then tell me your favorite fall activity. (If you already own a copy of Imaginary Jesus, that counts. Good for you.)

So your comment would look something like this: “I downloaded Imaginary Jesus, and I would love a copy of NLDC. My favorite fall activity is burying my dog in a pile of leaves and telling my sister that it’s a monster.”

You have until Friday, October 21st to do this, at which time I’ll use to choose a winner.

Happy Fall

Oh, and DISCLAIMER: I work for Tyndale House Publishers, who published Night of the Living Dead Christian and Imaginary Jesus. But I’d tell you to read it anyway, so there.

So you know, I did end up at a corn maze. It was great, thanks for asking. Congratulations to James Eldridge. Email me (jadoogan (a t) gmail)  your address and I’ll send you a copy of Night of the Living Dead Christian.

Jul 25, 2011

Saying Goodbye to Borders

My spot.I’m trying to find the words to explain how important Borders was to me as a Midwestern, suburban kid with no indie bookstore and an uncooperative library.

Before Borders, my books came from one of a few different sources. They were gifts, they were treasures found at antique malls, or they were chosen from one of the two or three shelves–shelves, not cases, since I hit literary adolescence before YA became the darling genre of readers everywhere–that were allotted to intermediate readers in the back of the cramped Walden Books at the mall.

My book choices were limited.

When I walked in to Borders for the first time, it was like I was being allowed in to the Beast’s library. I knew that there must be that many books in the world, but I had never seen them all together. I felt the weight of those millions words and thousands of books and felt a small sense of panic that I would never be able to read them all.

I had work to do.

I found my way to the YA section, which was now a full book case, front and back. There were almost too many choices. There was a spinning rack of Penguin Classics, and I spent a year or two picking my way through that. I couldn’t believe my luck. My family would go after dinner and stay until close, and I could buy a hot chocolate and spend hours browsing. Borders saw all the money I made babysitting, and all of my birthday presents came in the form of Borders gift cards.

On special occasions, on my birthday or when my family would visit Chicago to see the Christmas lights, we would visit the big Borders on Michigan Avenue. There were four floors of books. Let me say this again. There were four stories of books. You needed to take a series of escalator rides in order to see all the books. Do you understand how many books there were? Do you understand the impression this made on my young mind? That store was my idea of heaven. A mecca I planned birthdays around.

Sometime in early high school, I promoted myself from YA to Literature. It was around that time I found my spot. Since the books are all alphabetical by author, I found a place towards the end of the alphabet so I could work my way through the As and Bs and so on, looking for something to take home. It was directly across from the literary anthologies and short stories, so I could flip through those if it was going to be a short visit. The books that served as my backrest were always changing, but Nicholas Sparks was always on the shelf to my right. I thought it was important to keep him close so I could make faces at him when I felt the need. (I developed good taste at a young age.) I would find a book and settle in to my corner until the five-minutes-to-close warning.

When I spent a year at home between high school and college, Borders was the place I could go that would make me feel like I wasn’t in a rut. When I graduated from college and moved back home, I went right back to my old Borders. I wrote my first blog post there. I built this little website there. I made friends with some of the other cafe regulars, and flirted enough free coffee out of the baristas to explain the store’s financial crisis. When I got my job and moved away, I visited my new Borders when I needed someplace that felt like home.

I went home to say goodbye to my Borders this weekend. I was hoping to get there before the liquidators did, but I was too late. The cafe was closed and all the tables were piled in the corner. The Paperchase section was picked over and there was a line to the cash register that stretched to the back of the store and around the empty music section. I was overwhelmed. I was a little bit angry that people seemed to be enjoying themselves. I wasn’t really sure what an appropriate goodbye would be, so I just did the same thing I always do: I took a quick walk through the Literature section, nodded at the anthologies, pulled out a book, and read until it was time to go home.

Thank you Borders, and I’ll miss you.

Jul 1, 2011

Printers Row Lit Fest Recap


Ok. I know the PRLF was almost a month ago, so it’s a little late for a recap post, but we’ve already established that I’m a terrible blogger.

Last year, I attended the PRLF as a volunteer. (I recapped that experience here.) There was nothing about that day that wasn’t spectacular, but I really wanted the opportunity to choose the events I attended and to wander around when I wanted and to not wear a giant white tshirt that said GET LIT.

So. This year I brought Marianne. This is why Marianne is the perfect person to bring to the Lit Fest: as soon as we turned down Dearborn and Marianne saw the dozens and dozens of tents and the hundreds and hundreds of book people and hundreds of thousands of BOOKS, she turned to me and said, “Jesse. Jesse, I think this is the coolest thing I’ve ever been to in my life.”

And that’s why I love Marianne.

The first session we went to was a conversation between Elizabeth Stuckey-French, author of The Radioactive Lady and Elanor Brown, author of The Weird Sisters. This turned into an excellent conversation about what it’s like to be a woman author, and if women can write as well as men, and if there’s a difference between men and woman writers. (This was right after that whole Naipaul controversy.)  I had just read The Weird Sisters and wanted to get a chance to ask Brown a few questions, but Naipaul carried the conversation away, and no one called on me. It was very like high school in that way.

We went to a couple other sessions, but the other main highlight of the day was sort of an accident. A torrential downpour started about midway through the afternoon, and our choices were either to find an indoor event, or head home. We decided to try the poetry slam tent, and hoped that enough people chose the “head home” option so the tent wouldn’t be too crowded.

It was too crowded, but we went anyway.

Now, attending a poetry slam is a dream I’ve had since a poetry workshop I attended in high school. Let me tell you that I should have fulfilled this dream so much sooner.

Poetry slams are, as best I can tell, one part improv comedy, one part theater, one part spelling bee, and a few parts something amazing that I don’t have a category for. Basically, poets perform–not read, not recite, perform–their poems, are rated on a scale of one to ten, and compete for a prize of dubious value.

There was a level of electricity and excitement in that tent that I’m not sure how to get across. What I can tell you is that I spent the hour clapping and bouncing in my seat and hoping that Poetry Slam Day could be every day. New life goal: attend more poetry slams.

It was just such a good, full day. I felt like I had to walk around with my arms spread out just so I could hold in everything I was learning and seeing. There were so many perfect little details sprinkled in to the overall adventure, like the Eloiseian girls who live in a high-rise but dragged their tea-party table down to the sidewalk to sell $1 cups of lemonade, or the car-commercial-in-production that we stumbled into, or the street performing drummer who travels with his full drum kit, or the crazy midwestern storm that forced us inside, or meeting the author whose signing I missed because she took shelter from the storm in the same restaurant as we did so I could still get the book signed and also have a very short conversation about magical realism. See? It was just an arms-too-small-to-hold-all-this kind of day.


I encourage you to draw a big red circle around the first week of June and to plan on being at the Lit Fest. These sorts of events can only happen if people show up, and you should show up, because that’s how adventures happen.

If you’re looking for more information about the PRLF, here’s the official Chicago Tribune recap.

Here are some videos of a few of the sessions, but just FYI, these are from Book-TV, so they’re very interesting, but a little bit dryer than some of the other events at the fest.

If you want to know more about poetry slams, one of my favorite Chicago inventions, check out Chicago Slam Works. They ran the PRLF slam, and I think I have a crush on the entire organization.

Oh, and if you’re looking for letterpress letters, I suggest you check Etsy. But really, you should just do like I do and make them a yearly PRLF tradition.

Feb 28, 2011

Imaginary Jesus Week Wrap-Up

Thanks to everyone for participating in Imaginary Jesus Week! It was a week just chock full of imaginary fun.

On Monday, I started things off by announcing a giveaway. Let’s not mention Tuesday. Wednesday, Matt Mikalatos gave this excellent interview. Thursday, I posted my review of the book, and Friday I told you all about one of my favorite Imaginary Jesus mediums, the audio book.

Speaking of that giveaway, I have a winner to announce!

I used to choose a winner, and the winner of the signed copy of Imaginary Jesus is…



Niki, I’ll e-mail you shortly to get your address.

Thanks so much to Matt Mikalatos for partcipating in the interview and for writing the book in the first place. Catch a sneak preview of the cover of his next book over at his blog, The Burning Hearts Revolution.

The free ebook promotion seems to have ended, but you can still find Imaginary Jesus wherever the best books are sold. Check it out if you haven’t yet.

By the way, if you’re looking for more free ebooks, keep an eye on Tyndale’s blog. They post about them pretty regularly.

This concludes Imaginary Jesus Week. I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself. Please take a moment to count your blessings and collect your things.

Feb 21, 2011

Welcome to Imaginary Jesus Week! (& Giveaway!)

It's an Imaginary Jesus!It’s Imaginary Jesus week here at Short Version the Blog. This means that every day (or nearly every day), there will be some kind of Imaginary-Jesus-inspired festivity.

Why, you ask?

Because I really love this book. And I want you to read it.

And what is today’s festivity, you ask?

It’s a giveaway! I’m giving away a signed copy of Imaginary Jesus by Matt Mikalatos.

(I assume there is much hooting and hollering on your end. I’ll give you a minute.)

Imaginary Jesus is currently being offered as a free ebook at several different internet ebook retailers:

Why do you need a signed copy if you’re just going to get a free ebook anyway? So many questions today!
Because signed things are cooler than unsigned things, and even if you tracked Matt Mikalatos down and asked him to sign your ereader, you might end up regretting it when you realized that you just ruined your fancy screen.

So, to enter this giveaway, I need you to do three things:

  1. Download a free e-copy of Imaginary Jesus. If you have any questions about that, ask me in the comments or e-mail me or tweet at me. I sort of do ebooks for a living, and I should be able to answer any questions.
  2. Share a link to this post. Share it anyway you like: Facebook it, tweet it, write it on a Post-it note and show it to your friend. Share it as many times and ways as you want. I’ll count each time as a new entry.
  3. Comment. Leave me a comment telling me that you’ve shared a link to this post and how many times.

Check back here through out the week. I’ve got an interview with Imaginary Jesus Week’s guest of honor, Matt Mikalatos coming up, as well as some other exciting festivities. You’ve got until the end of the week to enter, and I’ll announce the winner on Friday.

Want to know more about Imaginary Jesus? Check out the book trailer:

Disclaimer: I work at the fine publishing house that publishes this book, but I’m celebrating this title of my own free will, and I don’t receive any compensation for it other than the warm fuzzies that I get when I see you’ve downloaded the book.

Feb 17, 2011

Reading a Book

Apparently, this has already made the Internetly rounds, but I saw it for the first time this with my sisters while we had our Brownies for Dinner Weekend.

***Coming soon! Posts without YouTube videos! Indulge me here. I really missed the Internet.

Dec 8, 2010


In honor of this morning’s #whyIread hashtag, I wanted to share a bit of Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa’s acceptance speech, “In Praise of Reading and Fiction“. It was excerpted in this morning’s Shelf Awareness, and it’s one of the best arguments for the importance of literature that I’ve ever read. I don’t agree with every point he makes, but I love the idea that literature can be the grain of irritation that brings freedom from tyranny. My favorite bits are in bold:

I learned to read at the age of five, in Brother Justiniano’s class at the De la Salle Academy in Cochabamba, Bolivia. It is the most important thing that has ever happened to me. Almost seventy years later I remember clearly how the magic of translating the words in books into images enriched my life, breaking the barriers of time and space and allowing me to travel with Captain Nemo twenty thousand leagues under the sea, fight with d’Artagnan, Athos, Portos, and Aramis against the intrigues threatening the Queen in the days of the secretive Richelieu, or stumble through the sewers of Paris, transformed into Jean Valjean carrying Marius’s inert body on my back.

Reading changed dreams into life and life into dreams and placed the universe of literature within reach of the boy I once was. My mother told me the first things I wrote were continuations of the stories I read because it made me sad when they concluded or because I wanted to change their endings. And perhaps this is what I have spent my life doing without realizing it: prolonging in time, as I grew, matured, and aged, the stories that filled my childhood with exaltation and adventures.


Without fictions we would be less aware of the importance of freedom for life to be livable, the hell it turns into when it is trampled underfoot by a tyrant, an ideology, or a religion. Let those who doubt that literature not only submerges us in the dream of beauty and happiness but alerts us to every kind of oppression, ask themselves why all regimes determined to control the behavior of citizens from cradle to grave fear it so much they establish systems of censorship to repress it and keep so wary an eye on independent writers. They do this because they know the risk of allowing the imagination to wander free in books, know how seditious fictions become when the reader compares the freedom that makes them possible and is exercised in them with the obscurantism and fear lying in wait in the real world. Whether they want it or not, know it or not, when they invent stories the writers of tales propagate dissatisfaction, demonstrating that the world is badly made and the life of fantasy richer than the life of our daily routine. This fact, if it takes root in their sensibility and consciousness, makes citizens more difficult to manipulate, less willing to accept the lies of the interrogators and jailers who would like to make them believe that behind bars they lead more secure and better lives.


From the cave to the skyscraper, from the club to weapons of mass destruction, from the tautological life of the tribe to the era of globalization, the fictions of literature have multiplied human experiences, preventing us from succumbing to lethargy, self-absorption, resignation. Nothing has sown so much disquiet, so disturbed our imagination and our desires as the life of lies we add, thanks to literature, to the one we have, so we can be protagonists in the great adventures, the great passions real life will never give us. The lies of literature become truths through us, the readers transformed, infected with longings and, through the fault of fiction, permanently questioning a mediocre reality.

Nov 15, 2010

Top Ten Most Terrifying Villians

I’m jumping in on The Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday party. They host it every week. Check out the other lists here.

I can’t think “villain” without thinking “Disney”, but this list is supposed to be about my top ten book villains, so “Maleficent, Maleficent, Maleficent…” would not be appropriate. Just know that’s what I’m thinking while I make this list.

So, here is my list of top ten non-Disney villians, in no particular order…

Lady MacBeth in Macbeth by William Shakespere

Without Lady MacBeth, there’d be no story. MacBeth’s conscience would have kicked in, and there would have been quiet and peace among the people. Everyone would have gone home happy. Shakespeare could have written a comedy about the Weird Sisters and their cat. But no, Lady MacBeth comes in and challenges every excuse that MacBeth tries to make to get out of the murder he has to commit.

The White Witch from Narnia in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardobe by C.S. Lewis

I love the White Witch because she’s consistent. She turns up in at least three of the seven books. She’s always there with the same temptation for the kids: power.

She’s beautiful and cold, and surrounds her self with coldness. She gives the children Turkish delight. Have you tried that stuff? Totally villainous.

And, she reminds me of Maleficent.

Imaginary Jesus from Imaginary Jesus by Matt Mikalatos

This villain isn’t quite so overtly terrifying. Well, I mean, I guess he’s as terrifying as you make him. Imaginary Jesus is the Jesus you invent to supplant the real thing. I just re-listened to this book, and it reminded me of how easy it is to be distracted…and how scary that is.

Cruella De Vil from 101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith

I’m not cheating here. I don’t mean the Disney one. The literary Cruella is much scarier than the movified one. She’s the opposite of the White Witch: she’s craves heat. Her house is always kept 10-degrees higher than comfortable. She eats so much pepper that it becomes a natural defense system when the puppies try to bite her.

Dorian Gray from The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

He doesn’t start out as a villain. He starts out as a nice young man. Then, he falls in love with himself. I love this book because you watch the villain become the villain. Instead of getting the Cruella De Vil-type, the ready-made baddie who is bad at the beginning, continues to be bad, and then dies before they stop being bad, you get Dorian: he starts out good, grows a little less good, gets really bad, has a small (possibly fake) turn for the better, and then dies fully bad.

Nellie Olson from Little House on the Prarie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The spoiled brat. The one who has everything, including the blond hair. She goes out of her way to make Laura’s life miserable. It’s a relief when the Ingalls family moves away from Walnut Grove, if only to get away from Nellie. Laura gets a few quiet years (you know, poverty, hunger, Mary going blind. Typical, quiet prairie life). but then, wonder of wonders, Nellie shows up again in De Smet. Same thing: she goes out of her way to ruin Laura’s life. Not only that, but she goes after Almanzo. The nerve.

Miss Minchin from The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The woman who made a pauper out of the poor Little Princess. Well, she didn’t make her a pauper. But she hurried it along. She didn’t like poor Sara Crewe from the beginning, and you know she was just waiting for a way to make Sara’s life miserable. No one needs to put a 12-year-old girl to work. She just did that out of spite. A lot of my little-girl hate went toward Miss Minchin.

Evil Stepmothers from…95% of all fairy tales.
I lived on Grimm’s fairy tales when I was younger, and believe you me, Evil Stepmother is a scary lady. All they ever do is order limbs cut off and organs cut out. I think they had too much time on their hands, what with their stepchildren doing all the housework. Maybe they should have learned to knit.

So here’s what I’ve learned while making this list: one, woman are way scarier in men, at least in literature. Two, I need to read some more books with straightforward villains in them. Seriously, how many times can I read “man vs. himself” before my brain falls out for lack of, I don’t know, adventure. And three, when I was little, and should have been reading books about adventure and villains, I was reading books about conversations. Maybe I should have let ol’ LMA rest for a bit while I fought some pirates.

I’ve been reading more genre fiction lately, and it’s been quite pleasant. More real villains. I could get used to this.

Yeah, still can’t help it.

Nov 12, 2010

Insert Pun About “In the Frey” Here

What the heck.

James Frey has a YA fiction sweat shop.

I have so many problems with that man.

He thinks he’s the Messiah of Fiction.

Only cooler.

Because no one is as cool as James Frey.


To expand his greatness, Frey’s hiring MFA students, paying them about $500 for several months’ work, and having them write commercial YA fiction for him, so that he can sell the books to Hollywood and everyone can make lots of money. Mostly him, but other people will benefit too. How nice.

You may remember that Frey wrote a book about his addictions and arrests, fabricating details like how long he was in jail and how deep into addiction he fell. When the public, and specifically Oprah, found out that they had been tricked, there was a negative-media explosion.

Frey was dropped by his publisher and his agent, and he had to apologize to Oprah. (This happens to me all the time.)

Now, if you’re going to write a semi-fictional memoir, please go right ahead. If you’re going to write creative non-fiction and embellish so that the reader understands the way the events effected you, even if it isn’t a full representation of the events, do it.

Just say that that’s what you’re doing.

Frey, on the other hand, marketed his “memoir” as truth. When he got caught, he apologized to the plebes, but he was really only sorry that they didn’t understand his genius. Silly little Americans, they’re so obsessed with truth!

Here’s my issue: After all his highfalutin crap, he’s writing books and including fancy swords in them so he can sell Happy Meals to the kiddies. It’s totally contradictory. In Million Little Pieces, he wrote what was “true to him” or “true to the artistic vision of his life’s soul struggles” or whatever. Now, he’s writing books in tandem with Dreamworks.

That’s only “true to his desire to make rat-loads of money”.

I call “hypocrite”. And some other words.

I need to go pray.

Here’s an article about a writer who worked with Frey for a short time.

And here’s one with more details.

And here’s a link to the trailer of a movie that Frey has successfully sweat-shopped and sold to Hollywood.


Am I overreacting? Should I give the guy a break? What do you think about books (specifically  fiction) for money’s sake?