2010 is over, 2011 has begun, and Smugglivus is nearly complete! Which means that we must also undergo another very important ritual…
The Airing of Grievances
(in which we air out any dirty laundry from 2010. Warning: plenty of swearing and spoilers ahoy)
In no particular order, these are the things that really pissed us off this year.
1. Overhyped Books
Publishers, there IS such a thing as overhyping your books. When we see one book all over the place on pre-packaged blog tours with guest posts at every single website that will say yes (regardless of whether or not the blog is a suitable fit for a particular book), chain emails every other day, marketing material that promises the book is the Next Twilight or the Next Name of the Wind or is the next big thing (Twilight Meets Gone With the Wind With Zombies IN SPACE!!!!!), it actually causes the opposite reaction to what you are aiming for. We tend to stay away from these overhyped books because they are almost always garbage. Yes, ok, sometimes hype is spot on (for example with The Passage by Justin Cronin, one of Thea’s top 10 this year), but most of the time it creates unreasonable expectations and we have been burned too many times to count.
One perfect example is last year’s Matched by Ally Condie. We saw it everywhere as early as 6 months prior to publication because of its shocking multi-dollar-digit advance, the movie deal, and being touted by newspapers/magazines as the next!best!thing! in Dystopian fiction. Well, it wasn’t. It felt more like a carbon copy of an earlier book (The Giver by Lois Lowry), just with a Love Triangle. Come on now.
2. Posts on How To Blog
We have seen myriad posts about Blogging Rules around the Internets last year and we tried to stay away from the conversation as much as we could – because, frankly, these posts are typically made of…GAAH. List after list of what a blogger should or should not do: how to behave, how to contact who and when, how to get ARCs, how NOT to blog for ARCs, how publishers CARE about what we do, how publishers DO NOT care about what we do, how being concerned about hits is WRONG, how Marketing is EVIL, how doing giveaways and blog tours are akin to skinning one’s cat, how we need to be more critical, how we need to be less critical, how blogging should be FUN, how blogging should be PROFESSIONAL.
Wanna know what we think? You gotta do what you gotta do, dudes. Forget what other people say and do your thing. That’s all.
3. Literary Fiction
The world of Lit Fiction gave us a lot of food for thought last year and not always in a positive way. We are obviously Genre Fiction readers and for better or worse do not read a lot of Literary Fiction. Mostly this is because, well, we tend to think “literature” is rather pointless in its gloominess and navel gazing. But if you think we think lowly of Lit Fic, then wait until you learn what Lit Fic thinks of us, genre readers! Check out this post published in The Guardian.
And Ana actually tried to read some Lit Fic this year, and the result was not pretty. The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson was shortlisted for Booker Prize and billed as comedy – but in Ana’s opinion, it failed miserably after about 50 pages, comprised mostly of endless lines in which the main character (male) kept describing his woes at not having a good wife to die on him. Seriously.
Then Ana tried again with the older, highly acclaimed Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami which featured talking cats, aliens and whatnot (because you know, that is not Genre Fiction at all), plus Incest and murder and a most annoying tendency not to answer anything, plus endless conversations about music that went nowhere – it was just a mess of gigantic proportions.
But those are nothing compared to:
3.1 Literary Fiction – The Wtfuckery
So, Ana got this book Skippy Dies by Paul Murray because 1) it came highly recommended by several bloggers 2) it was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 3) it was supposedly, despite its title, a comedy (albeit a “dark” one).
Internets, Ana did not laugh.
It begins with Skippy, this 14 year old boy dying. He is one of several boys who attend a catholic boarding school in Ireland (*inserts the SOUND OF DOOM*).
After the prologue, the story proceeds to follow several characters, including Skippy in the days preceding his death.
In summation: the boy’s mother is dying of cancer, his father won’t talk to him and they pretend she is not dying of cancer, he is sort of bullied at school because he is so small, one of the priests WANTS to sexually abuse him (but won’t because he is still atoning for the other rapes he committed several years ago in Africa) , the only person he trusts is the swimming coach (who after the boy goes to look for him to cry about his mother, drugs him and then proceeds to sexually abuse him while he is asleep). Not that we know that until about 2/3 of the book, but we know that something happened to Skippy.
ARE YOU LAUGHING YET?
Anyways, poor Skippy is falling apart and no one fucking notices – teachers, friends, psychologist – until he takes these pills and dies.
And then the adults at school, even thought they know about the abuse, just go all: oh let’s be all hush-hush and not tell anybody because after all the coach is such A GOOD MAN.
How about NOW??? LAUGUING YET?
Every single adult in this book is a creep or a jerk. The main “hero” learns about the Skippy’s abuse and agrees to shut up about it. Every single kid is either a drug addict, a bully, or plain crazy-psycho. There is this one kid who thinks only about rape and then rapes this girl who allows it because she loves him so much – we spend quite a lot of time inside his head.
IT WAS NOT FUNNY.
Every single female character – adult or child – is portrayed as walking, talking vaginas – the extent of their participation in this novel is how they can use their vaginas to get things.
IN WHAT WORLD DOES THIS CONSTITUTE A COMEDY???????????? Because let us tell you: Ana sobbed like a baby because of what Skippy went through, did not laugh once and actually read the entire book, all 700 pages of it, just to see what would happen hoping that at least someone would be arrested because of what they did to Skippy, but then it just ……ends. NOTHING IS DONE, HIS PARENTS NEVER FIND OUT, ONLY THE TEACHERS KNOW and they do nothing.
And this was not set back in the 60s. This is set in 2010.
NO Internets, IT WAS NOT FUNNY.
4. Movies That Sucked Huge Donkey Balls
4.1. Clash of the Titans – Remake
Aka the Movie that Made Ana Go Apoplectic. A remake of one of our favourite movies of all time (mind you, not because it’s excellent, but because it is so crappy it is actually good)(Thea’s addendum: I think the original was excellent, but because of the Harryhausen special effects, not the story!). But we didn’t go apoplectic because the acting was supremely bad. Or because the visual effects were actually WORSE than the first version’s stop motion ones (the first Medusa was SO much better). No, she hated it because the mythology was WRONG!!! WTF was that all about Zeus being all emo and WOE IS ME MEN DO NOT LOVE ME? WTF was that all about Perseus not hooking up with Andromeda thereby NOT founding Perseid dynasty which is one of the founding myths of the Greeks ?
Learn this Internets: You can not mess with Greek Mythology. It is just plain WRONG. (Unless of course, you do it intelligently, not in such an aggravating manner just for the sake of it).
4.2 Supposed Geekiness That is DECIDEDLY NOT AWESOME; aka Scott Pilgrim sucks huge donkey balls
A disclaimer: this is Thea’s rant (Ana, like most people in the universe, loved Scott Pilgrim).
I think it’s safe to say that both of us are Geeks. Thea LOVES video games, comic books, all manner of speculative fiction, movies, conventions, superheroes, etc. Thea also loves Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. But Thea was not peeing her pants with excitement when the trailers for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World came out, because it looked kind of…well, tryhard-ish and lame. Isn’t everyone TIRED of Michael Cera yet? Why does slapping on some word graphics and neon visuals set to garage band tracks make everyone go crazy with bliss? Thea simply didn’t get the excitement.
So, Thea refrained from watching Scott Pilgrim in the theater. She waited until it came out on redbox and coughed up the whopping dollar to rent it – only because everyone in the freaking universe, from the supposed target audience of 30-ish geek dudes to firmly NOT-geekish folks loved the film and were praising from here to infinity.
So Thea watched Scott Pilgrim. And, internets, Thea was just as mystified after finishing the movie as she was when the trailers first came out.
Scott Pilgrim is, simply put, disgusting. He’s disgusting in appearance – with that rare shade of pale and his toothpick skinny I-can’t-believe-he-isn’t-collapsing-under-the-weight-of-the-bass-guitar-he-is-supposedly-playing physique, not to mention the annoying fifteen year old pre-pubescent voice and general “oh look at me I’m so pathetic SOMEONE has to find me cute…right?” look. Even worse, he’s disgusting in character (which exacerbates the appearance thing) – he’s a pathetically apathetic, chickenshit, misogynistic asswipe. This one critic put it best by articulating Thea’s biggest problem with the movie: “[Scott Pilgrim is] singularly fixated on…shallow visions of women as one-dimensional objects to be either obtained or discarded.”
YES. This. Knives deserved better. And let’s face it – in what universe would Ramona ever, EVER be with a guy like Scott – who has no personality, no life, ostensibly no money, and is not even the tiniest bit physically attractive?
Thea will say that the visuals and the editing were cool, and the secondary characters were awesome fun (Kieran Culkin, Chris Evans and Brandon Routh in particular) – but the whole story is ADD nonsense. And this is coming from someone that owns every major game console to have come out in the past 15 years – Thea LOVES video games. Thea is a huge geek. Thea is a part of the so-called target audience…and yet Scott Pilgrim felt gratuitous, stupid and, well, soulless.
And now Thea will retire because evidently EVERYONE IN THE UNIVERSE loved this movie.
Because really, what would this list be without the TV show that has consumed our lives for the past six years? We love LOST. We started The Book Smugglers because of LOST! We’ve spent countless hours theorizing, spoiler whoring, debating, and contemplating the overall meaning of the island, the losties, and HOW exactly The Powers That Be (TPTB) would be able to tie it all together.
And, dudes, it is with pain that we say that while we wouldn’t give up LOST for anything in the world and the final season earned spots on both of our Best of TV lists, the final season of the show was a hot mess.
First, we hated what they did to all the characters we’ve known and loved over the years. In particular, we hated what TPTB did to Locke. Ultimately, Locke’s fate was to die alone, hungry for approval and full of his desire to be “special” – but just to be used by Smokey as Locke was used his whole, sad life? There’s no doubt that Terry O’Quinn is one badass actor, and his role as FLocke/theLockeMonster was awesome – but in that awesomeness, it’s important not to forget that the character we fell in love with was the broken but determined man that wouldn’t let anyone tell him what he couldn’t do…only he was tossed aside like so much garbage.
We hated what TPTB did to Sayid, letting him fade into obscurity, and really never giving the poor dude a break (first with Shannon, then he’s with Nadia for a nanosecond before she’s killed). We hated what they did to poor Claire (just that terrible wig they made her wear for the duration of the final season is an egregious enough offense). We hated what they did to Sawyer and Juliet, who are both awesome characters on their own but were forced into a weird relationship because of the demands of the clinically insane Jater audeince. Of course, we hated the ongoing, sniveling, tear-filled saga of Jack and Kate (and we suppose Aaron too, because yes, Kate needs a baby, that’s the only way to redeem female characters on this show).
We hated the shift of attention from the BIG PICTURE to so much nonsense – the weird Temple of Doom with the fountain of life and the Japanese dude with the baseball and his herbs and shit, the decision to give Alpert a whole freaking episode devoted to the mystery of the Black Rock in the jungle *insert massive eye rolling*. We hated the decision to give us a Jacob and MIB (still an acronym because HIS NAME IS NEVER REVEALED) childhood episode with the weird mom from Juno, just to uncover the mystery of Adam and Eve (who OF COURSE are characters that we haven’t even met until this point) and the magical light of the island (which we’ve NEVER seen nor heard of prior to this episode but is apparently TEH BIG SEKRIT OF TEH ISLAND) and is the light of good inside of every man *gags*
It became very, very clear that at this point, the writers were literally pulling storylines and “answers” out of their asses. And it did NOT smell pretty, dudes.
Most of all, we hated the way things were boiled down to the most simplistic elements – because at the end of the day, it turns out that LOST was really just about “GOOD” versus “EVIL” and WHITE versus BLACK with fucking crappy religious overtones and THEY WERE ALL DEAD AND THIS SHIT IS PATHETIC. All the mythology? All the electromagnetism and Dharma and Hanso and Time Travel and Healing Properties…
It. All. Meant. Nothing.
We would never give up the show, and we still finished the series with joy – but there was a lot of bitterness, too. We wouldn’t trade LOST for anything, but we can’t help but point out that the show’s final season – and the show’s ultimate “explanation” – had a lot of really big problems.
And that’s it! Our 2010 grievances are aired, and our 2011 slates are clean. Are there any gripes y’all have had for the past year that you want to get off your chest?