In Which I Complain about Books

So, for work I’m supposed to be reading Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail, which is written in this tone that can best be described as “I am really happy to be writing this book for idiots.”  Maybe that’s not fair, but I kind of feel like I’m being talked down to a little bit. I’m also not sure how much more I can learn from the book than I did in the introduction.

But we shall see.

I just think you should write like you would explain something important to your friends. I feel like Anderson is lecturing to a class of freshmen.

I find that tone a little off-putting.

Edited to Add: It’s been a long time since I’ve though so much about writing, though, and that makes me very happy.

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14 thoughts on “In Which I Complain about Books

  1. I’m reading one right now that you would appreciate. William Least-Heat Moon’s “Roads to Quoz.” It’s a book for writers and word-lovers and backroad wanderers. I’m a dedicated philophile, and I had to read the intro with a well-thumbed Webster’s at hand. (The intro is an extended discourse on the letter Q.)

  2. Shouldn’t it be your boss reading that book? I’m pretty sure you’re not going to learn anything new from it.

    And I hope you didn’t actually pay for it. We have shit-tons of them laying around here.

    Also, this made me (literally) LOL.

  3. She’s reading Free and when she’s done we’re going to switch.

    I surely did not pay for it. Someone did, but not me. Ha.

    Kristin, I so want to read an extended discourse on the letter Q. My dad gets so mad about Q all the time, rants about it the same way he rants about Republicans.

  4. He literally thinks it’s taking jobs “k” could do and that the fact that it can’t do anything without “u” proves that it’s not a real letter, or at least that we should be suspicious of it.

    Yes, some people’s fathers rant embarrassingly about how illegal immigrants are stealing jobs from real Americans. My dad rants about how “q” is stealing work from “k.”

    But, honestly, it’s one of the reasons that, even though he drives me crazy, I keep him around. Because often, he’s fucking hilarious.

    In a nerdy way.

  5. Well, the guy got himself paid a lot of money to explain how content ought to be free. Except the content of his book, which he is perfectly happy to get paid for.

  6. I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, so I am not sure, but I am starting to think that condescension is required for nonfiction books that purport to explain how a/the system works to a general public (meaning, it will be marketed and sold in Barnes and Noble instead of just academics or specialists). This seems to be especially true of books by male authors that might be promoted on NPR and might have the word “zietgiesty” attached to them. And I don’t like it, either.

    I think it’s encouraged (rather than just incidental to this man’s writing, although probably that too) because that might make it inflammatory or controversial, but all it does it make me annoyed, and wonder what information is hiding under all of that bluster. I would not have read History of the American Stomach past the first blowhard chapter for that reason… except that it was the only book I had during a long tattoo session, so I ended up reading about hermaphroditic oysters and that was kind of interesting, but I couldn’t figure out whether I was more irritated by the persistent zingzingzing of the tattoo needles or by the persistent zingzingzing of that author’s faux teacher-voice. Is Chris Anderson kind of like that?

  7. Yeah, there is a kind of faux-teacher voice to it. And there’s also this tendency to say something in one chapter and then say it again in a slightly different way but with NEW examples in the next chapter and then the next chapter is a slightly different take with slightly different examples and then a NEW concept and so on.

    So it really comes across as kind of “I am repeating so you will learn it.”

    And it’s hard to switch gears when I, like you, am used to a writing style where what he’s managed to expand into a whole book would be a chapter of a larger project.

    I also think, and this is just me speaking–not my employer–that I’m not sure he’s exactly right. Or, even if he is right, that it’s directly applicable to us. Our whole sales pattern for every project is in the long tail.

    This idea that there will be all of these niche markets… well, we’re nothing but niche markets and we struggle to reach folks and we struggle to convince folks to buy our product.

    I don’t know. I think it’s one thing to say, if you can make as much as possible available, almost all of it will find a market, if you’re a distributor.

    I don’t think that’s the same as saying, you can find a market for everything you want to make, if you’re a manufacturer, but I don’t know.

    That’s just a suspicion I have and I don’t quite know enough about economics to know if I’m right.

  8. So it really comes across as kind of “I am repeating so you will learn it.”

    To me, it comes across more like “I have a small idea that I can turn into a big book and make lots of money selling to people.” Which is OK, I guess, but pisses me off no end when the idea is “content ought to be free.”

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