Sunday, December 23, 2012

Vacation and the "New York Times"

We are in Chicago for the first part of a Christmas-New Year's road trip. We drove here Friday to see our son and his partner. So far we haven't done a whole lot. We went to the zoo last night and saw the Christmas lights they put there. I think we will go to a movie tonight or tomorrow, maybe The Life of Pi or The Hobbit. Otherwise we are watching season 4 of The West Wing, which Lynda and I haven't seen.

This morning my son a copy of the Sunday New York Time in front of me. I haven't read the Times since I quit traveling for business. I used to scoop them up in airport after people boarded a plan and left their newspapers in the waiting area.

But today I was the first to look at it. It has a lot of interesting articles for a writer. On the front page, below the fold, is the headline "Giving Mom's Book Five Stars? Amazon May Cull Your Review" (by David Streitfeld). The article talks about the problem with fake reviews that Amazon is trying to figure out how to correct, as well as reviews by those related to the author, or even by other authors in a review trade. The article gave no conclusion, but did mention that in the process of trying to cull the related reviews an the review-for-fee reviews, Amazon has also deleted legitimate reviews by true and ultra-loyal fans of the author.

Then, of course, there's the Sunday book review section itself. The page 1 story there is "Has Fiction Lost Its Faith?", an article by Paul Elie. The gist is that once upon a time Christianity was infused in fiction. He says it's been a half century since Christianity provided the background for the bulk of American fiction. He writers:
Forgive me if I exaggerate. But if any patch of our culture can be said to be post-Christian, it is literature. Half a century after Flannery O'Connor, Walker Percy, Reynolds Price and John Updike presented themselves as novelists with what O'Connor called "Christian convictions," there would-be successors are thin on the ground.
I suspect he's right. But if that's the case, I want to stand up and shout, "I'm here! My novels are underpinned by a Christian worldview, by the importance of faith in a person's life. I gladly pick up the mantel dropped by American authors decades ago.

It appears, however, that Elie is either unaware of the vast body of overtly Christian works available, or he counts them as nothing in the world of literature. I know that much Christian fiction has been panned as being, shall we say, less than good. But I have also read how it has come a long way over the last twenty years. And, really, is the vast majority of general market fiction really that much better? Not based on my limited reading of it.

Also in the book review section is an interesting interview of Lee Child. I've not read any of his works, but I have been following news about him for a while, so the headline pulled me in. Another article reviewed two books by Eva LaPlante on Abigail May Alcott, the mother of Louisa May Alcott. An educated woman, and as accomplished as was possible for her as a married woman and mother in that era, her husband and celebrated daughter took the scissors to her journal and letters. Enough remains, however, that LaPlante was able to pull these two books together. I'll keep my eye out for these once they go on the remainders table. $26 and $15 are a little steep for me to spend on them.

I haven't yet reached the editorial section of the paper, nor the business section. I can tell that this is going to give me more hours of pleasure. Ah, to be on vacation.


vero said...

Paul Elie makes a good point: Christian fiction has declined.

I hope to see this change, but it seems as if language development itself is on the decline.

Enjoy your vacation!

Gary said...

"Christian fiction" is a somewhat ironic term isn't it? Yes, I know what you mean -- fictional stories inspired by Christian understanding. Whatever the terminology, keep on writing Dave.

David A. Todd said...


I hear from other sources that Christian fiction from the main houses has improved over the 30 years. I haven't read a large enough sampling to know for myself.

David A. Todd said...


Yeah, I'll keep writing. Not sure that I'll be able to keep up the pace I did this year. Not sure why you say "Christian fiction" is somewhat ironic.

Susan said...

Wow -- this post makes me want to read the Times as well! Such interesting things you found ... Amazon has indeed removed reviews. On my books, it removed reviews my aunt wrote. I have no idea how they knew she was my aunt -- we have different names. She's a writer as well and wrote the reviews to support me, but not at my request. It was an uncomfortable situation, but Amazon is pretty much in charge. We're just its serfs. As one who reviews many Christian fiction books, I'll second the notion that its fiction has declined. Most of what I read -- and I decline to read MANY -- is "lite" and not high quality.