Friday, April 9, 2010

I don't know nuttin' about nuttin' . . .

By Shane Gericke

You know me. I can flap my trap about anything.

Except YA books.

Cause I don't read them.

When I was a kid, sure: I devoured the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Tom Swift and other kid-centric books of the '50s and '60s. I loved the adventures those Junior G-men found themselves in. The intrigue. The danger. (In Tom Swift's case, the ray guns and potato weapons.) Sure, the dialogue was stiff and cliched: "It's a wonder those cutthroats didn't murder us in our own beds!" Frank exclaimed angrily. Didn't matter. For a pre-Internet kid like me, these YA books were my magic carpet ride into a wide, wide world.

While the Hardys were my No. 1 series, my single favorite book of childhood was a nonfiction written for grade-schoolers: Rockets, Missiles and Moons, about the dawning Space Age. (Not a textbook but a real book, it was published in 1957, about the time America started looking seriously at swingin' on a star.) It didn't have detectives, bad guys or zany sidekicks, but I read it a zillion times--the thought of soaring among Jupiter and Mars fed gasoline to my already-burning curiosity about things outside the tiny town in which I grew up.

That's what the best YA books do: deepen a kid's curiosity about the world, and in the process transform him or her from "me" to "we." Yes, back then the books were Eisenhower-era-paternal: the writing simple, the themes pure, the young heroes polite, even while walloping no-good-niks. Yes, I read them anyway. Eagerly. In the living room, the bathtub, and after bedtime, under the blankets with a flashlight. If mom and dad knew--and they probably did; it was a small house--they never said anything, cause they liked us kids to read.

But that was then. This is now. And I have to admit my terrible secret: I've not read any of the modern YA canon. Not a one. No Harry Potter. No Twilight. None of the terrific books my CM mates have enthused about this week.


For one thing, we don't have kids, so there's no family pressure to know who Bella and Edward are or why I should give a ^&%$# about Hogwarts. But mostly, I don't have time. I wish I did, cause the new generation of YA, which dives deep into real issues and emotions, sounds addicting.

But after devouring the AA--Adult Adult--books I adore, from John Sandford to Lee Child to Tess Gerritsen to Douglas Preston to Gayle Lynds (her new spy book is out, yay!!) to the occasional Jodi Picault, Chris Bojalian and Kathryn Stockett to keep me well-grounded--and writing my own stuff, and ThrillerFest volunteerism, and blogging and reading newspapers and nonfiction books and going for drinks and/or coffee with fellow authors and, well, life, there's no time any more. So what suffers?


It's a shame.

One silver lining, though: I managed to squeeze enough out of it to fill my BDR. (Bloggy Daily Requirement, right up there with niacin and Vitamin D and that stuff that keeps your maculars from degeneratin' when you're old.) But I did use a lot of words to say what boils down to "Shane don't know nuttin' about nuttin'."

So, in apology, I offer this humble film for your Friday Amusement. If you have YAs in your family, have them write the dialogue. If you don't, write it yourself. Hilariously cheesy cop action movie, do-it-yourself dialogue, fun for kids from 1 to 92 . . .

Who says I can't write for the whole family?

Shane Gericke hasn't been a child since Nixon was president. But he is childish and child-like, so it works for him. He invites you to visit him at Please indulge the poor lad, as we at Shane Gericke Books and Metal Refinishing can't stand it when he whines that nobody comes over to play.


Meredith Cole said...

Thanks for the giggle, Shane. I've only read a few Harry Potter's and haven't read any of Twilight. I'm still solidly in the children's section at my house. But it's fun to find out that YA continues to be a growing genre. Hopefully all those readers will grow up to devour "AA" books someday...

Bill Cameron said...

None of us can read everything. I don't like to think about all the AA, YA, AC, DB (okay, those last two are made up) books I haven't read. :)

Sophie Littlefield said...

i heard a crazy statistic somewhere about the growing number of adults who are reading "down" - 20-somethings reading YA. It's not a reading-level issue because the reading level tends to be the same for YA as for much popular fiction. I personally think it's the more visceral way issues are broached and the tendency toward a faster pace.

Unknown said...

Thanks for making it okay to come out of the closet! I went (literally) from Nancy Drew to Sherlock Holmes, and never looked back.

I started reading a few YA novels at random to see if my overly-sincere 12th Century Mongolian novel could be a young adult novel. But it became clear that overly-sincere is no better for young uns than us oldsters, in fact since their radar is more intact, I think it's worse. A bad adult novel does not ever a good YA make, that much I've learned. Also, that the writer's attention to rhythm, mood, sensory detail, and many other things is if anything more crucial.

However, since two friends are publishing YA very soon, I'll be there in line and looking forward to what I'll learn.

If anyone can explain why 30-50 year olds read Twilight, can someone shoot this old feminist a clue?

Thanks for a lovely Friday sendoff Shane!

Shane Gericke said...

Thanks, everyone. Glad to know I'm in good company here with not reading YA religiously. Bill, is AC Adult Challenged? If so, I qualify :-)

Shane Gericke said...

Couldn't agree more, Sophie. Fast pace and primal issues are key to grabbing today's audience, YA or adult. I hopped into the wayback machine (note: clever TV reference!) in January and checked out what novel was the No. 1 bestseller in ... 1909. One hundred years before Grisham, Patterson, Child et al locked up all the top spots. Checked it out and was is sssslllllooooowwww. Modern times have shortened attention spans, that's for sure. Reading goes along for the ride.

Shane Gericke said...

Overly sincere will doom anything, that's for sure, Mysti. Even the backs of cereal boxes, which I read religiously as a kid. Remember when Wheaties would have an actual story on the back, as opposed to just marketing and sales eyegrabbers? Wish they'd go back to it ... for us adults. I'd love to read a new little story every time I buy a box of cereal.

Shane Gericke said...

Whoops! I forget to name that No. 1 Publishers Weekly fiction bestseller from 1909. It's "The Inner Shrine," by Basil King.

I read the book online cause I was curious how No. 1 bestsellers have changed over a century. As I suspected, there were no opening lines like "Jack's blood spilled like a broken hydrant." No, the writing then was more, um, sedate. The opening paragraph:

"Though she had counted the strokes of every hour since midnight, Mrs. Eveleth had no thought of going to bed. When she was not sitting bolt upright, indifferent to comfort, in one of the stiff-backed, gilded chairs, she was limping, with the aid of her cane, up and down the long suite of salons, listening for the sound of wheels. She knew that George and Diane would be surprised to find her waiting up for them, and that they might even be annoyed; but in her state of dread it was impossible to yield to small considerations."

Basil does pick it up considerably at the end. The final scene:

""But, Diane, I love you."

He stood as he was, listening, but as if without much expectation, for a response. When none came, and he turned round inquiringly, he beheld in her that radiant change which was visible to those who saw the martyred Stephen's face as he gazed straight into heaven.

For a long minute he stood spellbound and amazed.

"Was it that?" he asked, in a whisper.

She gave him no reply.

"It was that," he declared, in the tone of a man making a discovery. "It was that."

"Why didn't you tell me so before?" she found strength to say.

"Tell you, Diane? What was the use of telling you--when you knew? My life has been open, for you to look into as you would."

"Yes, but not to go into. There's only one key that unlocks the inner shrine of all--the word you've just spoken. A woman knows nothing till she hears it."

He looked at her with the puzzled air of a man getting strange information.

"Well," he said, after a long pause, "you've heard it. So what--now?"

"Now I'm willing to say that I love you."

"Oh, but I knew that already," he returned. "A man doesn't need to be told what he can see. That isn't what I'm asking. What I want to learn is, not what you feel, but what you'll--do."

She smiled faintly.

"I'm asking what you'll--do?" he repeated.

"If you insist on my telling you that," she said glancing up at him shyly, "I'll say that--since the inner shrine is unlocked--at last--I'll go in."

"Then, come, come."

He stood with arms open, his tone of petition still blended with a suggestion of command, as she crossed the room toward him."


Yes, the writing's changed considerably over the American century. But some things are remarkably the same:

Guys are still hopin' for a little of that inner shrine.

Kelli Stanley said...

Cool post, Shane, and thanks for the look at a bestseller of yesteryear!! ;)

I'm always amazed when I see a magazine or newspaper or periodical from the teens. (Not -agers, the decade. Sorry--I still live in the twentieth century mentally.)

The sheer amount of words on a page or in a column is jaw-dropping. Tiny print, too.

People actually READ. Full sentences. With polysyllabic words. Maybe they used magnifying glasses, but still ...

Of course, that was before TV and Captain Lucky's Sugar-Dipped Chocolate Banana Monster Bomb Pops left subsequent generations increasingly bereft of attention spans ... say, breakfast cereal sounds good. Want some? ;)


Shane Gericke said...

Thanks, Kel. And publishers would actually publish books that ran more than 85,000 words. Imagine!

Terry Stonecrop said...

AA sounds better than OA, I think.

Loved the post. The video makes me want to write for Hollywood.

And that old novel. Yes, "come, come." I like a man who has my best interests at heart.

Shane Gericke said...

I know what you mean, Terry. I saw that video and thought, Hey, I could write that dialogue.

As for "come, come," yes, us guys are selfless that way. Always putting the needs of our women first. Hoping and praying we anticipate your every need and desire, without you having to ask. "Darling, you look sad," we say. "Please sit and tell me all about it. I want to hear what YOU think. Footrub?"

With no thought of reward other than the service of love itself ...

Terry Stonecrop said...

Precisement, Shane! That's what I love about men. Their chivalrous generosity knows no bounds...

Unknown said...

Good video plus the good article certainly made this segment amazing.Keep it up!

Best Attorney

Shane Gericke said...

Thanks, Helen. Thanks for reading our mini-works!