Share Your Exciting (or Horrifying) Literary Secret

Is everybody dead out there? What, Ed’s charisma is non-transferable?

Okay, so this is riffing off of something on my own blog, but what the hell. There’s no harm in it. It won’t result in babies being shoved onto spikes or anything.

Got a deep, dark literary secret? Want to share? Go ahead–post to the comments. Anonymously if you like. (Ed does allow anonymous comments, right?)

C’mon. You know you want to. It’ll make you feel clean again.

A Great Post 9-11 Novel in Disguise

John Burdett’s Bangkok Tattoo, his second in a series of “mystery” novels featuring a Buddhist cop named Sonchai Jitplecheep, created some controversry with its attitude toward the sex trade in Thailand and its supposed creation of stereotypes of Westerners. The novel received many good reviews, but few reviewers seemed to notice that Bangkok Tattoo is an excellent post 9-11 novel in the way that it shows the influence of that event on other parts of the world. Jitplecheep’s involvement in the investigation of a murdered CIA agent and his encounters with two jaded/incompetent CIA operatives also on the case, provides a fascinating view on the fantasies we’ve fed ourselves while taking on an enemy that is not a nation but a state of mind. on several levels, from the mysteries of his violent past to his conversations. Perhaps one of the main points of Burdett’s novel is how the rest of the world has to live with America’s rather unimaginative interpretation of “terrorism” and it’s equally unimaginative response to terrorism.

The genius of the novel is how it manages to deal with these themes in a non-didactic way while still being successful as a mystery-thriller, a study in extremely deep characterization as we find out more about the murdered CIA agent, and a fascinating look at the effect of American policies on moderate Moslems.

In this case, you can clearly see the damage a genre label does to a book. Burdett’s Bangkok Tattoo is several things at once, does them all successfully, and yet to most people it’s, on the surface at least, a lurid sex-and-violence-filled mystery novel. This kind of categorization tends to limit and dull discussion about a book.

Anyway, if you haven’t checked out Bangkok Tattoo, you should.

From the Annals of Freelancing: Object Lesson #1

So I became a freelancer 100% as of February of this year. For awhile I was scrambling around for work and I wanted to take everything that came my way. I quickly learned this was a bad idea, but not before a few interesting experiences.

Probably the most interesting involved doing re-told Bible stories for young adults. I was really appreciative that my friend had recommended them and I read through all of their extremely horrible instructional information soberly.

As part of the indoctrination, I then took a conference call with the CEO and their creative director. I really didn’t know what to expect, except that they would be telling me more about the project.

What I did know upfront is that for their version, they were changing the name of the snake to something like Scottie and having him tell fart jokes…in addition to tempting Eve and all. That probably should have tipped me off.

So I get on the phone and the creative director tells me right off the bat that he’s an ex-comics executive, in a ham-handed style right out of Used Car Salesman Don’ts, adding, “This ain’t like writing for your penny dreadfuls, Jeff. This is mainstream audience. This isn’t penny dreadful work, Jeff.”

Okay…what the hell is a penny dreadful, was my first thought. And where can I get me some of that?

Followed by: “You can’t go wrong if you just think of Adam as being like Batman, except without parents.”

Batman, without parents. Okay…

And then, this kicker: “Pitch me the Tree of Life, Jeff. Pitch me the Tree of Life.”

Me: “Pitch you the Tree of Life? Um…what?”

“Ya know, how would you deal with the Tree of Life.”

“Um. Mysterious. Unknowable. Dappled in sunlight?”

And it just went downhill from there.

I wound up not doing anything for them. But it was an instructional experience in freelancing. Most definitely.