The Most Brilliant Woman in the World
Business writer. Songwriter. Protecting creator's copyrights.
My very first book review ever was when I was in first grade. That's right. In first grade I had a big ol' hint as to what I was going to be good at, what would make people hate me, yet what would serve readers well.
It came when the teacher gave out a book called "Fun With Dick and Jane" featuring two kids who looked like brother and sister. A picture showed Dick running. The words said "See Dick run." I turned the page and there was Jane running. "See Jane run," said the words. I turned the pages and saw more equally inane content and story line. I slammed it shut and issued my first book review.
"This book is stupid!"
So what that Dick and Jane ran. Where was the plot? Why was Dick running and why was Jane running after him? Where was the fight? Who was being threatened? What were they running toward? Hell, what were they running from?
I needed backstory. I needed a compelling first paragraph that would suck me into the story. Something that would make me care they were running. Did the writer deliver any of this?
No, he did not.
Look, when I saw the title included the words "Fun with...", I assumed a completely different story than some insipid little tale of two kids running around doing silly things like playing with a dog or brushing their teeth or running around a yard.
And the repetitious use of words like look, up, run, and see, made sentences completely boring. As you can see from the graphic to the right, it was obvious to me, a first grader, that this man had no clue how to write. Hell, I was in first grade and already could make sentences better than that.
Granted, I couldn't write them too well because I was still learning how to form the letters, but by second grade full sentences with little to no repetitious words were the norm for me. My sentences also tended to wrap to at least a second, and sometimes a third, line, whereas the other kids in the class sweated over sentences that included maybe three or four words.
By fourth grade, I was at the public library checking out stacks of books over a wide array of subjects and that used lots and lots of words that I had to use a dictionary for.
I was in heaven. Librarians did not understand. They thought I was faking reading those books. Reading above my grade level was not the norm and you would have thought they would encourage it, but many didn't know what to do with such a child and kept pushing me toward age-appropriate material.
They could tell by my gag reflex that none of those were my cup of tea. Once, a librarian suggested I read a story about teenage love. "All the other girls like it," she said. I took it because I couldn't figure out how to get out of it and, besides, maybe this will be a good book.
It wasn't. All drama and girl-boy parties, but not one bullet, fight, or big issue on the table.
So when I issue a book review these days, I only do it when I like the book because there are still so many bad books out there with the equivalent of insipid writing in the first book I reviewed.
Nothing has changed. That is so sad.
Reviewing books naturally led to editing. After all, what is a good editor but someone with an opinion they can back up with hard facts and who can offer a brilliant solution? So many writers wear their hearts on their sleeves that when they get my edits back their first thought is how much they hate me. They never think, "Gee, I have to improve my writing."
By seventh grade I was reading John lé Carré, Frederick Forsyth, Victoria Holt, and others like them. Those folks knew how to make Dick and Jane run.