Friday, February 21, 2003

Five Digits

I just noticed today that I've passed ten thousand hits on my site-meter! I just love these little milestones! Whatever shall I buy for myself in celebration? Oh, that's right, I already bought this... perhaps it will have to do.

But somehow I feel like doing something special to commemorate this milestone. Perhaps it's time for a redesign, after all. Everybody's doing it lately, which is probably my main reason for resisting... that, and the fact that I haven't the tiniest little idea where to start on a redesign. Perhaps I ought to get a book or something on the topic; but O how I hate reading nonfiction! Maybe I should just browse around and look for designs to steal inspire me.

Whatever I do, rest assured that I will not part with my pictures (though I think I'll put up some new ones... I'm getting a little tired of that smirk on my face), my readably-sized serif font (though I'm thinking of changing to Bookman or Garamond, Times Roman is so tired), or my color-scheme (though maybe I ought to lose some of the jpeg backgrounds). I would like for the whole thing to load faster, and have a more spacious look, but my Baroque mind fears blank space, and my alcoholic mind fears change.

So in other parts of my life, things are going reasonably well, considering. I read a book that was so badly written that I felt a little embarrassed to be reading it... and yet, I did read it, all the way to the end. The book was A Man of Taste by Clayton R. Graham, under the extremely variable-quality Knights Press imprint (I've read a number of poorly written books from that publisher, and quite a few really nice books as well... I think it's defunct, though; now that I think of it, I usually buy such books used).

The story was about Reginald Marne, a wealthy young man (though one isn't told his age until the third-to-last chapter, as if his being 27 was meant to be some sort of mystery) who is preoccupied with matters of taste and with trying to become the Poet Laureate of Colorado, and who, for reasons not explained until the third-to-last page, adopts a sixteen-year-old fundamentalist Christian boy named William who had first been adopted by Reginald's dead wife's sister. Complicating the plot are: Reginald's butler Winston, a fat and effeminate queen who collects dolls; Reginald's psychiatrist Dee, who is trying to get into his pants; Reginald's in-laws and William's adoptive parents Fordyce and Ardyce Vanis; Reginald's twin chauffeurs, Cal and Barry Uhm; and a variety of nonsensical walk-ons with stupid names and difficult-to-place rationales.

The first thing that got my goat in this novel was the author's use of capital spelling to indicate that the person speaking has raised his or her voice (extremely childish). The second thing was the recurrent and wildly irritating misuse of certain words, such as "insouciant" (when he meant "insensitive") and "spritz" (I never did understand what was meant when I was told that Winston waved his arms and spritzed). There were a lot of running gags based on names and misunderstood words, which required an Olympic-level suspension of disbelief, as well as a lot of slapstick, none of which was described very well. At one point, Reginald's jacket changed color from one paragraph to the next, and in that same paragraph he gained a hat that not only wasn't with him in the previous paragraph but would not have been worn with such an outfit in the first place.

What really got me was that this so-called "Man of Taste" actually had no taste whatsoever... he was an obsessive-compulsive label-whore with an etiquette fetish and a lot of money (though we don't discover where that money comes from until quite late in the narrative... in fact, one reads most of the book without any basic information about the characters, where they come from or why they're there or what they're up to).

I wondered on a number of occasions whether or not he was meant to have no real taste, if the author was giving us a tongue-in-cheek portrait of a man who thinks that labels and fastidiousness equal taste... Reginald spent a lot of time worrying about taste while absolutely flouting it, and his habit of sniffing wine-corks in an unpleasantly strenuous manner indicated the uneducated pseudo-connoisseur. There were all these little clues that Reginald was a classless twit who tried terribly hard to believe that he was suave and elegant.

But then there was a scene involving a wine-tasting where the author showed himself to be under the impression that Château Lafite-Rothschild is a champagne! Any idiot with the meagerest access to a public library or a reputable wine-shop would know that Château Lafite-Rothschild is a red wine, of the Bordeaux variety!

I don't know... on the one hand, these little flurries of fury on my part were rather enjoyable, giving me a sense of superiority and confidence; on the other hand, it's worrisome that so much ignorance would be published. I know there are a lot of little publishers out there who will print just about anything, sometimes with the author contributing to the expense. But I'm bothered that an author would write a whole book without researching his own details, and that nobody, from the publishers to the proof-readers to type-setters, would have noticed and corrected such blatant errors. It's bad enough that someone is walking around this world under the impression that Château Lafite-Rothschild is a champagne, but it's simply terrifying that nobody stopped him from writing such a false impression in a printed book!

I feel quite inspired now, in the knowledge that I'm able to write a much better book than that... and also inspired to make sure I research all of my details quite thoroughly. I remember once writing a scene in which the narrator was walking through the Park-facing rooms of a Fifth Avenue apartment, with the sun streaming through the windows at seven in the morning... I was enchanted by the word-picture I'd painted, but suddenly realized that Fifth Avenue faces West over Central Park, and the sun would only stream through the windows in the late afternoon. Another time I had to rearrange the description of a garden when Shiloh pointed out to me that none of the plants I had named would have been blooming at the time of year I'd stated. In that same story, I mistakenly had two characters watching a football game in the middle of June (just about the only time of year that you can't see football somewhere in this country).

Well, anyway... with the completion of A Man of Taste, I am out of books again. I'm working through my collection of Dorothy Parker short stories, but they're all so short. I want something long and meaty to sink my teeth into (and people wonder why I don't have a boyfriend... always with the teeth). Maybe I should take another stab at The Lord of the Rings or Remembrance of Things Past, the two abandoned epics that are sitting beside my bed, begging to be picked up again. Or maybe I'll just go shopping again for something new, let Tolkein and Proust gather a little more dust while I waste another few hours on something light and frivolous.

In the meantime, I suppose I ought to get some work done here at the office. I need to send off some bills and fax a correction to the attorney. Or maybe I'll go take a nice long lunch and walk somewhere... it's a beautiful day out, and I happen to have a tube of 50-spf sunscreen in my desk drawer. Yes, that's exactly what I will do... the bills can wait until I get back, and the fax can wait until Monday. I'm going to go outside and not soak up any sun.

No comments:

Post a Comment