Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mostly Good News

There's just a little bit more bad news. I'm going to get that out there real quick, like pulling off a band-aid. Then we're all going to think Happy Thoughts together.

The bad news is that my mother's father is now in the hospital, due to heart failure. He was admitted on Sunday, and I found out about it on Monday. The good news is that his life isn't in imminent danger, he's not in pain, and he's being well-looked after. I'm not sure if he'll get to go home again or if he'll need to move into a nursing home, because he's awfully weak at the moment, but either way, it's not horribly shocking. He is 90 years old, after all.

Now onto some the Good Things:

1) I got a raise! Not only that, it came with a glowing performance review. As my Scottish nanny used to say, I'm chuffed.

2) Ken cleaned and de-cluttered our condo and now it looks like something out of Better Homes & Gardens. I feel that I should get dressed up to go and sit in the living room. It's very restful to exist in such well-cared-for surroundings.

3) I spent the weekend resting my body and my soul. I took time to feel my way through all the thoughts that have been overwhelming my mind in recent weeks. I feel more centered and grounded.

4) I've been escaping into mass-market paperback novels, something I haven't done much of since high school. Once I became an English major I absorbed some of the literary snobbishness that comes with the territory. Any softcover book with shiny lettering on the cover was off-limits.

During university I signed up for a week-long internship with Harlequin, the romance publisher. In order to prepare, I had to actually read some Harlequin romances. I remember sitting in Robart's library, hiding a bodice ripper behind my enormous, hardback translation of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. The shame associated with being found reading such "trash" would have been immense.

For the record, the most memorable parts of my internship were: a) reading unsolicited manuscripts sent in by all types of women, some of whom did not speak English as a first language. Judging by their manuscripts, it was a very distant second. Much as we chuckled over their terrible grammar, I felt bad that they had gone to the trouble of writing a whole novel and we were treating it as a joke. Writing a whole novel is pretty freaking impressive.

And b) The editor who was my mentor described to me how they determined how explicit to be when writing about sex in the various series they published. There was a line of very prim and proper romance; there was the middle-of-the-road stuff; and then there was a steamy, red-hot series. Apparently there was a major discussion in a meeting amongst the editors over whether or not they would allow use of the word "penis" in the red-hot line. That must have been some meeting. In the end they decided that "penis" was acceptable, and the first Harlequin novel containing that word was published shortly before my internship, in the early 1990's.

But I digress.

As it happens, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the published Harlequin novels I read for the assignment. I'm not so much into the romance genre for my own purposes, so I haven't read any more since then. However I have been enjoying a somewhat trashy thriller, and discovering the joys of Maeve Binchy.

I find a lot of "serious" novelists are morbidly depressed about life, and don't feel that their job is done until they've dragged the reader down with them. At this point, all I want is a good story with a happy ending.


Warped Mind of Ron said...

Hoping your Grandpa is doing as well as possible and glad you are in a better place. Hmmm... as are as books with happy endings go I stick with porn.

DarcsFalcon said...

I'm sorry about your grandfather.

And I'm glad that you seem to be in a better place. That always seems to make it easier to deal with the more difficult things. Here's to more happiness!

wigsf said...

Next time, please include a link to a definition of "bodice ripper" and save me the embarrassment of having to Google it.

G said...

Happy endings.....That sounds like a novel concept I should explore (sorry, but after three years of writing all kinds of wierd schtuff, I've written exactly one story (out of 50+ stories) with a happy ending.

Which can be found at www.beattoapulp.com, look for the story called "Cedar Mountain".

I promise it will touch you in a way that a short story hasn't before.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry about your grandfather; I'll say a prayer for him.

The information about working at the publisher is really interesting. I'd love a crack at doing something like you did.

I mean, you know ... for real, support-myself-and-my-family money. :)

powdergirl said...

Thats funny!

OMG, I read a Maeve Binche novel once, the weirdest thing would happen when I went to sleep at night. I'd have running narrative/dream in which I finished writing the book with different ending every night. There was no visual aspect to the dreams at all but
I even had an accent but in my own voice. Really, I don;t know what that was all about, I had some really good endings though. I'd wake up completely disoriented and trying to go back to the book was just freaky.

Hope Grandad is doing all right?

LL Cool Joe said...

I hope your Grandfather feels better real soon.

I never read any fiction, so really can't comment on the books. I do think there is a great deal of snobbery around reading certain more lightweight novels, in the same way there is with pop and chart music.

NicoleB said...

That's why I love fantasy novels. Usually lots of happy endings and a whole new world to explore ;)

SoMi's Nilsa said...

Sorry to hear about the health of your grandfather. Hope he recovers soon. In the meantime, isn't it wonderful to have time to read for fun? I wish I had more of it!

Sparkling Red said...

Ron: I don't think I've ever heard of such a thing as tragic porn. Yup, I think you're safe there, in your "home genre". :-)

DarcsFalcon: Thank you. :-)

wigsf: Right, my bad. Although I doubt I'll ever use the term again on this blog.

G: I went looking for your story but I couldn't find it. A search by title keyword turned up nothing. If you'd like to e-mail it to me I'd like to read it. Sparkingredredred at hotmail dot com.

darcknyt: Harlequin, which is actually based in my home city of Toronto, is one of the most successful publishers worldwide. It was a great adventure to work there for a week. I hope you get a chance to work in a place like that, for real.

powdergirl: That is incredibly weird. It's like you were channelling Maeve Binchy's muse in your sleep. I bet you could write your own novels like that! I can see a whole sci-fi movie on that premise, like Stranger Than Fiction, (but not starring Will Ferrell as you). ;-)

LL Cool Joe: That's true! I have a love of certain extremely mass-market pop songs, but I don't admit that widely. Would you believe that I have Miley Cirus and Ashley Simpson in my iTunes? Only one track each, mind, but still! My mother raised me to be snobbier than that. She'd be so embarrassed...

Nicole: I haven't read a fantasy novel since I can remember. You have inspired me. There's a whole genre out there for me to explore. *rubs hands together excitedly*

Nilsa: I can forget how much I love to read, when I don't have time for it. It's easy to put it low on the priority list. But my imagination wants to be nourished as much as the rest of me.

Anonymous said...

Would Ken like to come to my house and clean? Mine looks like the "before" shots in BH&G.

I know what you mean about reading for fun. It took me 2 years after I finished college before I could read anything longer than a magazine.

Jenski said...

I've become a huge fan of historical fiction over the past 7 or 8 years. The kind in which there is a romantic story and lots of research about the time period by the author. It's a good escape.

I hope you've had more great stuff this week. I'm sending good thoughts your and your grandfather's way.

Jameil said...

i love me some novels that are embarrassing to the average English major. luckily in journalism, there was less of a stigma. we didn't have to hide our novels in bigger books! (hilarious!) we're encouraged to know about pop culture! oh yeah! yay for a raise!! romance novels do make me weary.

Scarlet said...

I read her Evening Class and liked it at the time, but now I prefer something a little more suspenseful, like ANYTHING by Harlan Coben. You should look into Koontz's The Husband...it's a page turner!

Hope your grandfather is feeling better!!

G said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
G said...

The ending got cut off, so here it is again.


E. Gorst said...

Sorry to hear about you granddad! And as for harlequin--coincidentally I have just started reading bodice tippers again. I also had to explain the term to e :-)

E. Gorst said...
This comment has been removed by the author.