Tuesday, February 16, 2010

We are not amused

By Queen Be

I hear the clip clop of the horses’ hooves as they pull the tumbrel closer. The guillotine’s blade is shining brightly, ready to separate the next victim’s neck from her head in one clean and swift stroke. I do hope today’s splatter is kept to a minimum. Ah, here she is now…

Christina’s blog is thoughtful and well-written. It makes you think of overeducated people sitting around with tiny glasses of sherry discussing existentialism in the works of Camus. Or parallel feminism in Antigone and A Doll’s House. Or, watching C-Span.

So why in the name of holy fuck did she submit here?

Maybe she thought the name, Stacked, would be so attention-grabbing that we would award stars based on that alone. I will admit that it worked ever so briefly. Until I actually clicked onto the site.

Stacked is a book review blog. Not the kind of paperbacks you buy at the airport, but the kind of serious literature that I only pretend to read. But I won’t be reading about any of these because each and every entry held my admittedly short attention span for about 30 seconds.

Christina, please don’t despair though because this is clearly a case of “it’s not you, it’s me.”

I’m a queen. I’m shallow. All my life people have done things for me…they work for me, they cook and clean for me and when someone asks me to do something that requires a few brain cells, well, I often bail.

You’re a nice person. It seems that the only rule you’ve ever broken is not returning a library book on time and your biggest secret is that you were in a sorority in college. And this one I actually liked.

Not so much this, though. I had to read nearly 600 words of this thousand-word review before you even got to the book at hand. That over-long intro describes your strolls through Brooklyn:

“Other days I prefer Prospect Park with its many paths leading to new discoveries and the calm or chaos that comes with different weather, people, a zoo, and fences that get in my way.”

I know that you can make that sentence more entertaining. Look at all the potential—zoo, chaos, fences—tell me about just one of them—in 200 words—and you’ve got me sucked into your review.

Here’s another way to do it—and I chose this example because it’s written by a woman in New York. She is part-time teacher and this is how she describes a few moments at Starbucks:

“So, there I was at Starbucks, grading papers and trying to ward off an Overused Comma coma with a Cranberry Bliss bar, when Tiny Bladder at the next table asked me to watch his stuff for the millionth time. I rolled my eyes, stuffed a chunk of Cranberry Bliss into my mouth and said, “Dude, I don’t care how cold it is outside, no one wants your dollar-store notebook and the ratty goddamn trench coat your mama obviously dressed you in.” Somehow, through the crumbly brown sugary goodness that fell from my mouth he heard, “Sure! No problem!” Then he dashed off.”

Dingo could’ve just as easily written “I went to Starbucks this morning, graded papers, ate some breakfast and chatted with the guy at the next table.” Instead she made me taste and see and care about what was going on.

If you make me care about what’s going on in your intros, I might care about the books. Otherwise I’m just going to shine my guillotine blade and mop up the blood splatter.

Christina, you’re obviously smart and you know how to write. However, just because a sentence is grammatical doesn’t make it interesting. Maybe you’re trying too hard to impress your readers. Maybe you’re trying to get a gig at a serious journal or newspaper. Just lighten up.

This is a blog—have some fun with it. Let your hair down. Eat a Cranberry Bliss.

Until then, the best I can do is:


  1. I don't understand why she's recycling. That post was only meh when first posted, and the way it is current posted, it makes zero sense.

    If a blog is that muddled on the first post, I'm enough of a princess that I'm not going further. I know that makes me shallow, superficial, and everything else, but I suspect that also makes me pretty much like any other standard issue blog reader.

    Bloggers: You have at most 2-3 posts to hook a new reader on your blog. Most of you are failing, miserably.

    And, don't even think about bitching that we don't go deep enough in your blog to get to the good stuff. Your blog shouldn't be HIDING the good stuff deep in its guts, dammit.

  2. I think some people confuse entertaining with simple or dumbed-down.

    If I am reading the 2009 Intergovernmental Report on Climate Change, I expect to be informed not entertained. If I am reading a book review, even a literature review, really any optional reading, I expect to be entertained on some level.

    I was not entertained and something about this blog felt very affected, but I love her header.

  3. "The goal of Stacked is to inspire you to read, to find the joy in books."


  4. I haven't been that bored since watching the figure skating last night. Harp music does not belong in sports.

  5. Proper is only fun when it's not proper. When I get a sense of an undercurrent that could bubble up and start slinging shit all over the place or silence the entire room at any moment. Not that it WILL, but that it COULD.
    Wonderful review!

  6. I need to share something, and this seems like a good opportunity. I finished reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest last night. Great book. I was afraid I'd be disappointed because I loved the movie so much, but the book was just as good. Now you can continue talking about the sexy but tragic Antigone.

  7. Never read it. I'm reading the Cement Garden and it's fuckin creepy.

  8. The movie is awesome though.

  9. I would obviously never be able to review books as the only words that come to mind are creepy and awesome, or fuckin creepy or fuckin awesome. Or fuckin lame.

  10. From her About:

    "Whenever possible, we’ll let you know what a book has lead us to try and suggestion things you can do to create a richer experience of your own."


  11. Matt Stratton, the dude I said is the hot nerd version of Mark Ruffalo is the web tech, that's probably how she found us to submit.

  12. I would rather read about the parallel feminism in Antigone and A Doll's House than her mentioning that she wrote about it once.

  13. I invited her to come read her review.

  14. Also, if you've never read Dingo, take a look. Ugliest template in all of blogdom, but funny as hell.

  15. I am feeling Stackedenfreude

  16. God I love a good Portmanteau.

    Who's an uppity smarty pants now??

  17. The author of the Ice Storm(not Icestorm) is Rick Moody, not Rich Moody and if you weren't sure, you could look at the book cover you posted beside your review.


  18. I quite like her. But then I'm wordy, academic and a bit of a pedant.

  19. Free Man,
    You might be wordy, academic and pedantic, but you're also interesting.

  20. Blues, did you know beginning of Madonna's What It Feels Like For a Girl was taken from the movie Cement Garden??

    Is the book creepy good or creepy bad??

  21. Creepy in a I-want-to-fuck-my-siblings-and-bury-my-mom-in-the backward kind of way.

    So far so good. Although, I don't actually read books, I listen to them, and I find this narrator a bit creepy too so that may influence the entire creepy feel of the book. No, nevermind. The story is creepy on it's own.

  22. Oh I had no idea about the connection to Madonna.

  23. You say you have a big pedant, free man? Well, that's something.

  24. I didn't read much of the blog in question, but if I am gathering it correctly, this is someone writing about reading?

    Can't see how that would be very compelling for long.

    I guess that's why I stopped at a BA in English and never went for that MA or PhD. That, and I'm not that smart.

  25. Blues, that was what you were listening to in the bathtub with L???

  26. Posol,

    Particularly when you read the boring shit she does.

  27. Miss Missives, no, I was finishing Never Let Me Go. Which was also creepy.


Grow a pair.