It's alright. I'm paid to think like this. I am, you will not be surprised to discover, the best writer that has ever lived. Unlike my colleague, "Doctor" David Thorpe, who criticizes music but, as many a cogent and insightful email has pointed out, is unable to actually play an instrument (I have no proof of this but it can be safely deduced from his dislike of bands such as The Mars Volta and System of a Down), I am not afraid to put my money where my mouth is, for instance creating sentences that are almost a paragraph long and have a tremendous amount of commas.
Writing about faults in a book is like singing about a bad song or painting a picture called "Mona Lisa Sucks." You simply have no choice but be judged by the standards of the very medium you are critiquing, and yet I relish every chance to show that I am equal to the task.
Here's the rub: (This is a phrase I borrowed from another writer of similar skills.) Every single book ever written would have been better had I written it. This might seem like a sudden change of subject but that is simply because you can't follow my higher level of reasoning. Besides, I'm not just going to say something like that. Oh no, I'm going to prove it to you. I'm going to make the classics of literature better before your very eyes. It's like a magic trick, only with less magic and more words.
Let's get started.
The famous saying goes "Don't judge a book by its cover" but let’s be honest here. Are you more likely to buy a book called "Walden" or "She Softly Moans and Bites Her Bottom Lip"?
A new paradigm in literature...
Take these improvements, for example:
Original Title: Steal This Book
Problem With This Title: There is a chance someone might take it seriously and you would lose out on a valuable sale!
Better Title: Please Do Not Steal This Book Instead You Should Purchase It Legally
Original Title: For Whom The Bell Tolls
Problem With This Title: Possible confusion as this is a book and not a famous metal song.
Better Title: For Whom The Bell Tolls (This Is Not A Metallica Song But Rather A Book)
Original Title: Walden
Problem With This Title: It’s Walden
Better Title: She Softly Moans and Bites Her Bottom Lip
Good, we've hooked them with a killer title, but here’s where a lot of classics drop the ball. Yeah, there may be something very profound in chapter 5, but I’m never going to get there if I have to slog through fifty pages of someone’s family history that never gets referenced again.
Crime and Punishment
Old Opening: "At the beginning of July, during an extremely hot spell, towards evening, a young man left the closet he rented from tenants in S_____Y Lane, walked out to the street, and slowly, as if indecisively, headed for K______n Bridge."
Problems With This Opening: Uhhh, for one thing, Russia is not hot, it is cold. Everyone knows that. It's always snowing in Russia, which is why they got so desperate and made communism and then got jealous of the rest of the world's not cold weather so they threatened us with communism like an ideological gun pressed against our forehead (This simile would be another example of why I am the best writer ever.)
Also, I don't see any characters I can immediately connect with. Who is this young man and why should I care about him? It would be better if there was someone I could immediately recognize and have a bond with.
New Improved Opening: "Jack Bauer stood over the desk, which was as cold and barren as a Russian tundra. There was a glacier outside.
KERBLAM'Where's the body?' he shouted pensively, and turned to the window, sighing. 'Goddamnit, we don't have much time here,' he added, musing on the responsibility of men to live out their destiny and then ordering the opening of an unauthorized sat feed."
A Tale of Two Cities
Old Opening: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way."
Problems With This Opening: 2 MANY WORDS
New Improved Opening: "It was a time of iconicly opposing concepts arranged in a list."
Old Opening: "In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth."
Problems With This Opening: Boring narrative, not enough action.
New Improved Opening: "God explodes."
Old opening: "Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta."
Problems With This Opening: Too literary and poetic. Gives the impression that this book is anything but filthy pornography about little girls.
New Improved Opening: "They have sex on pages 114, 149, 204, 253, and 267."
We've gotten past the hard part now, and we only have the other 347 pages to worry about. This is the part in a book where the author has to come up with something called the plot. Unfortunately, many writers simply choose the wrong plot. Allow me to correct them: I am extremely serious about this.
East of Eden
Old Plot: Several generations of two families in the Salinas Valley helplessly reenact the story of Cain and Abel against a backdrop of change, war, and love.
Better Plot: Several generations of two families in the Salinas Valley helplessly reenact the story of Die Hard against a backdrop of change, buildings, and terrorists in buildings.
Lord of the Rings
Old Plot: A group of heroes works seperately to unmake a ring of ultimate power and defeat its evil maker.
Better Plot: A samurai sword wielding pizza delivery man teams up with a young stakeboarding chick to stop a madman from using the internet to spread an ancient Babylonian spell that turns everyone into Pentecostals.
Old Plot: ?????
Better Plot: Having a plot.
As for endings, keep them short and to the point. Like so.
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I was able to pull some strings and secure an advance copy of this year’s PAX panel schedule. Enjoy!
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