On Writing: The Difference Between a Critique and a Review

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One of the biggest mistakes I made as a young writer, upon the publication of my first (and only, so far) novel, was to try to read reviews as though they were critiques. This messed up my head and made me hate reviewers. I was, after all, used to the nurturing environment of the Creative Writing Workshop, so anything anybody said about my writing was an opportunity for me to improve it. Right?

Wrong. Reviews are not meant for writers, and they are definitely not meant to help a writer improve. They are meant for readers. Their only function is to report on the reviewer’s response to the work as a consumer — fair or unfair, insightful or not. There are cars I’ve owned that I’ve liked more than others, and I’ll be happy to tell you about it. My thoughts will probably not be useful to the designers and engineers who worked on the car, except maybe by accident. That’s because I’m a consumer, not a creator. Consumers like what they like. They contradict each other, and they struggle to make their pronouncements seem authoritatively objective — but they are not. They are just statements of preference. Trying to understand their complaints (or even their praise) as though they were rigorously-crafted, objective, helpful feedback, is the way to madness and hatred of reviewers! They’re not even trying to offer you that — why would you try to take it in that way?

Here’s a less direct way of putting it that is maybe more clear:

When somebody says, in a critique, “It needs more action sequences,” what they mean is: “I, as a peer of yours, have looked over the structure of your story, and, taking into consideration the goals that you seem to have set for yourself, I am telling you that adding more action sequences will help you achieve those goals.”

When somebody says, in a review, “It needs more action sequences,” what they mean is: “I like action sequences.”

Neither is wrong. They’re just serving their audiences. The critique’s audience is you, the writer. The review’s audience is decidedly not.

The Nebulas and Me

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Participating in a fandom isn’t just about liking what you like. It’s also about knowing what others in the fandom like, too, and why they like the things they like. This holds true whether the fandom is a narrow one, based on an individual creator (I am a fan of MW Kaluta and I am also a fan of The Avett Brothers) or a broad one (I am a fan of literary fiction). When you read (or watch, or listen to, or consume in whatever manner) a specific text within the context of a fandom, you are not just taking in that one work — you are adding it to your knowledge of the object of your fandom as a whole.

Or at least I am. That’s what I do. For me, part of the pleasure in reading (or watching, etc.) the things that I read (etc.) is in connecting what I’ve read (etc.) with other things I’ve read (etc.), and with other things that other people are reading (etc.), especially other people who like the kinds of things that I like. This is the difference between a person who is truly a fan, and one who is simply a reader (viewer, listener, etc). If you spend all your reading time with Dickens and Austen and Tolstoy, for example, you are certainly a literary reader, but the true literary fan doesn’t want to just read good books. The fan wants to read what’s new, what’s hot, wants to anticipate what’s on the horizon, wants to argue with other fans about which writer is underappreciated, which is overrated, which is Goldilocks-perfect. “This book fits into its place in its genre because of these reasons, and it makes an interesting pattern when viewed against these four other recent books.” That kind of thinking. Fandom can be a sort of non-rigorous comparative lit.

Fans follow books (or movies or television shows, etc.) in exactly the same way that fashionistas follow clothing trends — not because they mean anything, but because they are the trends. Red is in this year for men’s pants because red is in this year for men’s pants. There is no reason or objective calculation. It just is what it is, this year, probably because somebody “who matters” said so. Same with the reputations of Eugenides, Englander, and Strout in literary fandom: they’re hot because they’re hot, even though most readers (readers of Dickens and Austen and Tolstoy on the one end, readers of Dan Brown and Stephen King on the other end) have never heard of them, and likely never will.

I used literary fiction in my examples above because I am currently a card-carrying member of that fandom, so it was easier to make my case. I used to be a big science fiction/fantasy fan, too, in my high school and college days, very up on the field. In my middle-age, though, I’ve turned into a dabbler. I maybe read five or six f/sf books in a year, but not with any intentionality or agenda. When I look at a screen of science fiction titles on Amazon, I have no idea which books are considered must-reads and which are also-rans. Reviews and blurbs don’t help, because I don’t know which reviewers “matter” anymore (most science fiction/fantasy magazines review books by summarizing them, anyway), and blurbs are always positive. I can pick out old favorites, easily, most of whom are still in print in some form, some of whom are more famous than ever (Dick, Malzberg, LeGuin, Zelazny, Delaney, Ballard). But that’s like only listening to the rock and roll of one’s youth: enjoyable, and even necessary occasionally, but dead-ended. My choices are not made within the context of the trends, is what I’m saying, and, I’m sorry, I think I need for them to be, at least partially, in order to be who I think I am, and who I want to be — a fan.

The fastest way to get to an understanding of what’s “in” is to see what the insiders think. What they like is what’s hot, by definition. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I’ll like what they like, I hasten to add — but this exercise isn’t about taking pleasure in any individual book. It’s easy enough for me to pick books I know I’ll like (oh, hey, here’s a Delaney I never read). It’s about taking pleasure in the genre as a whole, and in my growing understanding of that genre — where it is now, and where it’s going tomorrow. So I decided to read all of this year’s Nebula Award-nominated novels, to start my re-education.

Nebula Awards LogoThe Nebulas have been awarded every year since 1966 by the Science Fiction Writers of America, an organization that demands of its members proof of gainful employment in the field. These are the ultimate science fiction (and fantasy) insiders. They have a decent track record of picking great books, too: Dune by Frank Herbert was the very first winner, for example, and the subsequent winners and nominees include classics as various as The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin, Forever War by Joe Haldeman, a brace of Philip K. Dick books, several Delaneys and Zelaznys and Silverbergs and Asimovs, etc. They even throw in a William S. Burroughs and Kurt Vonnegut into the mix every once in awhile for some literary spice.

But history is history. I have finished the six books in this year’s nomination pool, and I was disappointed. Maybe it was a bad year, or maybe my criteria and the typical SFWA member’s criteria for what’s great and what’s good and what’s bad are different, which would not make me less of a fan, by the way, just an argumentative one (the best kind).

Here are my own micro-reviews of the nominees:

“Throne of the Crescent Moon” by Saladin Ahmed

A nicely-polished sword & sorcery tale, set in the Islamic caliphate, but not really, in the same way that most fantasy novels are set in a fake version of medieval Europe. Despite the setting, the overall vibe was very conventional: a curse, an evil king, a sacred text, a swivelling throne that hides a powerful artifact — good pulpy fun, basically, with no ambition to break new ground. This could have been an Indiana Jones movie or a Fritz Lieber story. I don’t expect or demand a blown mind every time I read a fantasy novel, but I do kind of demand a blown mind of Nebula award nominees. It’s a higher standard they have to meet. This one? Supposed to be at least as good as Dune? At least as good as Slaughterhouse Five? Nah. Kind of run of the mill.

I didn’t hate it, though. I want to be clear on that. I just didn’t love it.

“Ironskin” by Tina Connolly

In the first few pages, we see our heroine arrive at the site of her new job — a mysterious castle on a foggy moor! She’s to be a governess there! She has a dark secret! She is instantly attracted to and repelled by her employer, a man who apparently has a dark secret! The child she’s to govern has a dark secret! Need I say more? The synopsis reads like a parody but the book itself is dead earnest, with the leaden prose and impossible-to-believe-outside-of-gothic-genre-convention characterizations to prove it. I read the whole thing. I didn’t want to. It’s not that I disliked this book because of the high standard of the Nebula Awards. This one, I’m surprised it even got published.

“The Killing Moon” by N. K. Jemisen

As with most of these books, the world-building here was primo, though in this one, the (non-heteronormative!) characters and their fates actually mattered to me. The elevator pitch: Neil Gaiman’s Sandman crossed with Assassin’s Creed. The prose was unobtrusively well-done, which came as a huge relief after the clunkiness of “Ironskin.”  I can’t give this the most hearty of recommendations, but I can give it a recommendation. I am not awaiting the next volume of Jemisin’s “Dreamblood” series with bated breath — but I might pick it up if I happen to see it. I could see an interesting long-term franchise spinning out of this world, which is something we fans enjoy. Right? Or is it “us fans?”

“The Drowning Girl” by Caitlín R. Kiernan

Of all these, this one strikes me as the most literary. I don’t say that to signify quality, only to signify genre. The plot runs along an axis defined by characters and relationships, rather than actions and adventures. Every fantastical thing that happens could (or could not) be due to the narrator’s mental condition — something she acknowledges. The language is dense, allusive, self-reflexive, and chatty all at the same time. Reminds me more of Jeanette Winterson, especially “Written on the Body,” than any science fiction or fantasy book I’ve ever read. I liked it a lot, but not in the way I expect to like genre books, which kind of threw me off. Okay, I can hear the complaints now: if a book is “too genre,” like “Ironskin,” predictable and formulaic, Joey bitches, but if it’s “too literary,” he also bitches.

I maintain that there’s a balance!

I also maintain that this could have been published by Knopf or Little, Brown rather than Roc, and it would have satisfied me more. Context is a big factor in our enjoyment of a book. Or at least it is in mine. (That’s what this whole post is about). Reading this book in the context of the fantasy genre was like sitting down expecting a dinner of ham and macaroni and cheese, and being served opera and Fauvism instead.

“Glamour in Glass” by Mary Robinette Kowal

I was afraid of this one, since the description made it sound like Jane Austen fan-fiction with magic. Which it is. But it’s not so bad, even so: light, harmless fun. It was not remarkable enough to make me want to read more in the series. When it comes to the surprisingly burgeoning Regency-Period-With-Fantasy-Elements genre, nothing I’ve read so far compares to the great “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell” by Susanna Clarke. In “Glamour in Glass,” Kowal gets nothing exactly wrong, but Clarke’s novel gets everything exactly right, and that constitutes the difference between an entertainment and a mind blowing. Probably an unfair comparison, since Kowal’s ambitions don’t seem to be as large as Clarke’s in the first place, but I am just operating as a fan these days, not a critic, so I can be unobjective. That’s part of the fun!

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This one — the actual winner of the Nebula for Best Novel (the winners were announced while I was still reading through the nominees) — definitely had a lot going for it: strong prose, great characters, interesting world-building. The overall plot remained confusing to me at the end. I don’t understand why the antagonists were doing all of the things they did (I do understand a couple of the things they did). That may be because I only skimmed a lot of the jargony science/exposition stuff while waiting for the next character bit.

Out of five stars, I’d give most of these a “three” and only one (“The Drowning Girl”) a “four.” I’ve actually had better luck finding books I love by picking random science fiction books off of Amazon’s genre page (I found “Perdido Street Station” that way) than I did by reading these, the supposed cream of the crop. That happens. I’m not here to complain about that, or at least I’m not here to complain about that very bitterly. Just a little.

I’m also not here to accuse the people who make the nominations of being evil, which is what a lot of readers and fans do when their tastes are not validated by industry awards. I think most people put in the position to judge the work of their peers approach the task with the best intentions and earnest effort, and yet it almost always goes wonky anyway, for whatever reason.

Maybe the mind-blowing works cause such heated passions for and against, half the jury in one column, the other half in the other, forcing the judges to find middle-of-the-road, inoffensive three-starrers to praise unanimously.

Maybe there’s a little bit of log-rolling and back-patting (how could there not be, people being people)? Maybe. Probably.

More than any of that, though, I believe that there’s some way of looking at these books and seeing the best in the field — using some set of criteria that I am not using. My best guess? World-building is the primary thing these books seem to do best. Even “Ironskin” did a good job in that regard, with its world where the early twentieth century’s Great War was between humans and faerie kingdoms, and where bits and pieces of fey magic still stuck around the edges of a rapidly-industrializing England. World-building is important in any genre — yes, even literary (Hemingway’s world is not William S. Burroughs’ world) — but in science fiction and fantasy, it seems, world-building, and only that, is enough, according to the trendsetters and taste-makers of the day.

Despite not being bowled away by any of these books, though, I’m still glad I did this. I might even do it again, next year. Or maybe I’ll look at the Clarke Awards instead. What do you think?

A Note on Genre

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Whether we’re talking about heavy metal music or science fiction or alternative comix or anything else, genre is a conversation, an ongoing back-and-forth. The best genre works aren’t “timeless”– they are very much of a particular moment in the history of the genre that gave them life. They build upon what came before, and point to what comes next. That is exactly what we respond to and why we like them. What’s good about a good genre work is often the way that it bends or breaks the conventions it is supposed to abide by. That particular way of bending and breaking then becomes a part of the genre.

That is why someone new to a genre may have a hard time appreciating it. How can you understand Star Trek without knowing Heinlein, Limp Bizkit without Loverboy, David Foster Wallace without Raymond Carver? Sometimes the new thing is an extension of the old. Sometimes it is a rejection and a negation. But always it is connected to, and dependent upon, what came before.

Yes, I include “literary fiction” as a genre.

Re-Reading (and Re-Re-Re-Re-Reading) Starstruck

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I remember reading in TCJ, a long time ago, that a good comics page was just as dense as a good page of prose, and that if you didn’t spend enough time on a page — if you just “skimmed for story,” you would miss out on most of what the comic was telling you. I believe Gary Groth may have written this (that’s how long ago it was!), or maybe Kim Thompson.

So I set to staring at my comics pages after the first “skim.” It didn’t help me any. I just felt stupid, staring.

When I was a kid, I used to read my comics over and over and over and over again, each re-read in rapid succession (as in: finish the comic, start over reading the comic). I was reading some pretty sophisticated — for a second-grader — comics back then, like Bob Haney’s Brave & the Bold. I believe that the re-reading was what allowed me to comprehend these comics.

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Copyright (c) MW Kaluta and Elaine Lee, all rights reserved. Used for illustrative purposes in the context of a commentary/review.

I’m doing the same thing now with Starstruck by Elaine Lee and MW Kaluta (which, by the way, I read in the 80s for the first time, but had mostly forgotten): re-reading each chapter six or seven times before moving on. It’s a dense, dense book, one that actually could justify Groth’s statement that a comics page can contain as much information as a prose page, and should be read as slowly as one. Staring doesn’t help, though. Re-reading is the key. Each time I re-read a chapter, I definitely catch something I didn’t catch before, and these aren’t just little detail-schmetails, these are big story elements that I totally glossed over in my usual quick-read-the-word-balloons-and-glance-at-the-artwork manner. For example, I didn’t realize, the first few times I read the page above, that the dude who shot the android’s head off was the boy’s father, even though I had already met the father, a very distinct and memorable character, just a few pages before. A stupid thing to not realize, but there you go. There was a lot going on in addition to this plot thread, and I got distracted. Anyway.

Do you like dense, “difficult” comics that are also beautiful to look at? If so, you will like Starstruck. If not, you won’t. There’s an easy way to find out: you can give Starstruck a try for free. Creators Elaine Lee and MW Kaluta have been posting the pages of the original book online in low-rez webcomic form at starstruckcomics.com. Despite my past heralding of the webcomic form, though, I have to say that Starstruck, of all the graphic novels I’ve ever read, really suffers from web-based presentation. It really needs to be consumed in book form. Fortunately, IDW has put out a gorgeous collected edition for you to read, and re-read, and re-re-read, etc.

Elsewhere on the Web


Lee and Kaluta recently completed a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund production of a new Starstruck graphic novel. Yay!

The contemporary TCJ writer John Hilgart does a great job of close reading Starstruck:

As important, there are no explanatory boxes of narrative copy to be found in Starstruck, urging you along, making everything obvious. Anything that’s not dialogue in a speech bubble is either raw data (time, place) or a quotation from a notable figure or book from within the Starstruck universe, casting a provocative or oblique light on events. Together, Lee and Kaluta have engineered a comic book storytelling mode that approaches documentary. No one is in a rush here. As a reader, it’s easy to be a spectator, to step inside and linger.

Everything You Need to Know About Promoting Your Projects with Social Media

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If you are:

a). a Facebook friend I don’t remember actually having any relationship with, online or off, and

b). you send me a link to your Kickstarter or your Amazon author page, or even a request to “like” your website,

c). by private message, and

d). that’s the only contact we’ve ever had since we “friended” each other, then

e). I will unfriend you.

If that was the desired outcome of your promotional activity, then we are golden! But I suspect it was not.

Self-publishers and other indie artists have simply got to learn how to properly promote their brands and their personae online. It’s not about sending random, unsolicited pitches to people you hardly know, if at all. You can’t just hit me with a spam and expect any kind of happy response, even if you “apologize” for spamming in your spam. Extra demerits for

f). typing your message in all caps.

It’s not that I’m angry. I just don’t have time for this kind of “friendship.”

Kickstarter has done a lot of good. But it is also largely responsible for turning an entire generation of artists and writers into spammers. Same goes for ebook self-publishing platforms.

Using social media to promote yourself and your projects is not a bad thing in and of itself. Using social media clumsily and stupidly is the problem. Spam is spam, whether it comes from a multinational conglomerate, a Nigerian scammer, or Suzy Hipster who just finished her first novel, of which she is very ironically proud.

And spam doesn’t work. It is, in fact, one of the most inefficient promotional methodologies ever conceived. Those penis pill people do it because they can sell a couple of dozen units on a couple of hundred million emails, cheaply. If you’re not operating at that capacity, reaching that many people, you don’t have a chance. (And if you are, then you may be looking at a federal investigation, so I’d lay low).

Good, non-spammy social media promotion takes a light touch. It takes sincerity, and believability, and it has to go both ways. Make real friendships. Show genuine interest in your online friends’ projects too, for example — or in whatever else they’re sharing with you (their photos, their thoughts, their political rants). Don’t just collect a bunch of “targets” to push your stuff on. Again: not for any moral reason, but because it just doesn’t work.

In other words, good social media promotion takes a great deal of time — both in the sense of your butt in the chair working it, and in the sense of elapsed time — which is why so many fail. Everybody wants an instant fix. That’s the spammer’s mentality. You have to cultivate your relationships for years, and build strong and meaningful ties to the people you’re talking to online, before you can expect anybody to have any interest in your projects, especially if you want those people to turn around and promote your stuff to their own audiences — and even more especially if you’re charging money for your projects.

Sorry, but that is the way it works.

The Upper Echelons of Literature? Bah.

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People who complain about “the upper echelons of literature” being closed off to them, for whatever reason, strike me as a little bit old-fashioned, like they are trying to have a 1953 career in 2013. If I understand what they are complaining about correctly (they’re kind of vague), the “upper echelons” are the areas occupied by writers who publish in the New Yorker or Granta, get reviewed in the New York Times, and win the “most prestigious” literary awards and grants. To be in the “upper echelons” is to have the approval of a very small, very tony, very isolated and insulated group of upper-middle-class literati and publishing industry insiders. It’s a closed circuit: prestige comes from the approval of those in the upper echelons. The upper echelons have this power because they are prestigious. Their prestige comes from the approval of those in the … you get it.

In other words, the “upper echelons” are just another niche market, and not a very popular or vital one, especially now.

Back when a deal with a particular publisher, a positive note from a particular critic, or the engagement of a particular agent, could get you on The Tonight Show to debate ethics or economics or foreign policy with Norman Mailer and Charo, there may have been some value to getting yourself known in the old-fashioned back-patting boy’s club. Those kinds of appearances doubtless sold books. These days, you’re better off sucking up to reddit editors than New York Times editors — the former have more actual clout with more actual readers.

Comics That Aren’t Mainstream: What to Call Them?

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“Alternative” was the word for a while, but that fell out of use. There was (and suddenly there is again) a publisher named “Alternative Comics,” so it always sounded like you were talking about their catalog, for one thing. Besides that, everything is an alternative to something else – Spawn, Archer & Armstrong, and Judge Dredd are clearly alternatives to Batman and Spider-Man, but they do not represent the comics we want to talk about.

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Spawn is an alternative to everything that is not Spawn.

Art-comics” or “artcomics” took hold for a while, but calling a comic an “art comic” always seemed a). snooty, and b). repetitious, like calling a particular glass of water “wet water,” or a particular movie “filmic,” which people do, but people do all kind of silly things. Comics are an art form, so every comic is an “art comic.”

“Literary” was my personal favorite for a little bit, and while it’s a term that definitely describes a large and important subset of the kinds of comics we want to talk about (Fun Home is decidedly literary, for example), it does not begin to be usable for most of them (the stories in Johnny Ryan’s Angry Youth Comix, for example, are as literary as the Ramones were, which is to say not at all, but kinda, but definitely not).

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Great literary insight from Johnny Ryan

Most of the “graphic novels” that people talk about a lot aren’t “novels” — book-length works of fiction — at all. Maus and Persepolis and Fun Home are nonfictional, for example. Sandman books and Love & Rockets collections are episodes in an ongoing serial, more akin to DVD collections of great television shows like The Sopranos or I Love Lucy than to novels. And so on and so on and so on. Which is fine. Many of the comics we want to talk about are not in any way novelistic, easy enough to understand — so why force that expectation upon them?

“Comix” with an “x” has been promoted as a term by no less a figure than Art Spiegelman, but that word, when spoken aloud, is indistinguishable from “comics” with a “cs,” so we are only able to talk about the comics we want to talk about when we are writing. That eliminates this solution. In spoken conversation, it would be annoying to have to keep saying, “with an x” every time, you know? Though I do like to annoy, so maybe I’ll try that.


Elsewhere on the web:

I think Darryl Ayo might be trolling the fanboys a little bit with his thoughts on the nomenclature of non-mainstream comics:

I look at a lot of the so-called “alternative comics,” and–I don’t expect that I’m blowing anyone’s mind here–find that they are perfectly normal. They should be called “normal comics” and marketed as such. They should be called “normal comics,” and people can say “oh, are you into Spider-Man?” and you’d respond “nah, I only read normal comics.” Read more …

In the course of his obituary for the great Spain Rodriguez, Robert Boyd tries to make a case for the term “art comics” by using it to define works that are not created with commercial intention, which seems like a slippery slope to me (he immediately has to account for works that clearly were created for commercial gain but which are considered masterpieces of the form, like Krazy Kat and Little Nemo in Slumberland). Still, his distinction is close to what I am trying to get at when I talk about “comics that are not mainstream,” so if he’s guilty of oversimplifying his case, I’m as guilty as he is.

In Defense of Loose Language Like “Like” and “So”

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Written language is (should be) carefully refined, looked over at least once after completion and tweaked.

Spoken language is (should be) extemporaneous and loose, or else the speaker sounds like a liar or a robot or both. That’s why things that are not acceptable in written language — like using “like” or “so” as stalling tactics while your brain catches up to what you want to say — are perfectly reasonable, even effective communication devices, in the context of spoken language. (The unspoken but meaningful subtext is often: “I said ‘like’ or ‘so’ because the next part of what I want to say is a little difficult to formulate, and communicating that to you is part of what I am communicating overall.”)

I have a lot of friends and acquaintances, especially editors and writers, who expect spoken language to be as well-tuned and elegantly tricked out as a New Yorker piece. In particular they decry stalling words like “like” and “so.” Or at least they claim to. I don’t know if the use of these words in these ways really bothers them, or if, like most “pet peeves,” their complaint is just a convenient gambit to have handy in case conversation lags — a sort of intellectual tchotchke designed to make its owner look more interesting. I suspect the latter. I sometimes run with a fairly pretentious, persnickety crowd — and I love them for it! I’m a bitch, too, just in other ways.

The English language is not settled science, subject to the rules of logic and consistency that pedants wish to impose upon it. It is a performance, subject only to the context in which it is presented and the needs and expectations of the speaker and the audience. The pedant’s “proper English” is appropriate in formal contexts, even when speaking. Let’s say you’re addressing the United Nations. You’d want to avoid “like” and “so” as stalling words. But I’m not going to use subjunctive verb phrases when talking to my mom, though, nor will “whom” (nor “nor”) ever cross my lips when I’m hanging outside with a bunch of silly queens at a gay bar, unless I am making fun of pretension itself. I’ll use other words and speak in other ways at other times.

Like so.

Yesterday I Witnessed a Pedestrian vs. Vehicle Accident

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I was sitting in standstill traffic on Oak, the street I live on, a narrow two-lane near downtown that has been around for hundreds of years. Traffic coming toward me was flowing smoothly, but my side was the one headed in the direction of the Interstate onramp, and a lot of people needed to get to the Interstate after the Derby Festival parade, I guess. I wasn’t in a hurry. Had my windows down, my radio up.

Out of the corner of my right eye I saw a young woman running toward the street. She was a fat girl. I say this not to make fun of her or shame her but to impress you even more with what happened next. She maybe stood 5 feet tall, and probably weighed about 300 pounds. She was heading directly toward the gap between me and the car in front of me at a full tilt.

Out of the corner of my left eye I saw a car coming toward us in the other lane doing about 60 miles an hour, which is crazy for that area, a combination of low-income residential and retail.

All of this happened way too fast for me to do or say anything.

The girl didn’t stop. The car didn’t stop.

She did manage to make it almost across the street, though. The hood of the car (it was a low-slung Mazda sportscar type dealie) caught her in the right thigh as she was almost out of its range. She did a complete head-over-heels flip in the air and landed on her hands and knees, right outside my open window. I looked at her. Then, like a Hong Kong movie protagonist, she said, “Son. Of. A. Bitch.” Stood up. And walked into the liquor store which had been her original destination, without even so much as a limp.

She was gone before I could think to say anything. It was the weirdest thing to see her flip over in the air like that.

The car, of course, didn’t stop.

Everybody else in traffic started getting out of their cars at this point and yelling, “Hey, is she all right?” to each other. Turned out there was a Sheriff’s deputy in one of the cars, so he turned his lights on and did a U-turn and pulled into the liquor store parking lot, presumably to check on her.

Life in Louisville.

UPDATED: Google Reader Replacement Feedly: After One Month

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I’ve been using Feedly ever since I learned that Google Reader is going away.

feedly

I love it, with one important caveat: I had to trim my subscriptions down to 12 in order to fit within a free account. I used to be subscribed to hundreds of feeds. This turned out to be a good thing for me, since many of my feeds were ancient. Some had burned out years ago; others no longer interested me; some I didn’t even remember subscribing to, and couldn’t imagine why I had done so. Having to look at each feed and wonder if I really wanted it, and only keep the ones I really did, has improved the quality of my overall daily trawl, weirdly. Less is more.

You can pay to have more than 12 feeds, but I’m not yet ready to do that yet. I’ve heard rumors of other potential Reader replacements, from big, reputable companies, that are launching soon. It seems wasteful to spend money on something that has always been free for me until I’ve at least tried those, especially the one Digg is promising to launch. That one’s going to be fee-based as well, but I’m sure I’ll be able to try it out for free, and my mama always told me that you better shop around. You know?

Note that until Google Reader goes away you can still use a free Feedly account to access your Reader feeds, if you take advantage of the integration feature. That might be a good way for you Reader fanatics to test the UI and see if it does what you need for it to do.

[UPDATE: Feedly contacted me on Twitter to let me know that they do not have a 12-feed limit on free accounts. I guess I hallucinated that part. I'm still happier with my pared-down feed subscriptions, though!]

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