Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

It’s the End of the World As We Know It

with 8 comments

Well, okay, maybe not.

First, let me apologize to JEM–she was the one who posted about the multiple book “authors.”

And then let me note to Robert that I wasn’t talking about writers who do two books a year, but writers who do ten.  And I do know all about house names.  The latest phenomenon does seem to be putting out what seems to be a fiction that these are all the same writer.

Or not.  I don’t know.  I don’t get it.

I’ve just finished the Bruce Thornton, which is interesting on just about every level, especially since it makes a critique of environmentalism, Goddess feminism and the Noble Savage approach to American Indian history as essentially all one thing. 

And I’ve started Henry James’s The Wings of the Dove, which, interestingly enough–considering my love for all things James–I’ve never read.  But then, I’ve also never read The Turn of the Screw, although that’s deliberate.

I’ve got a lot to say about James and Dickens and the nineteenth century novel in English and the way it treats money–something that’s come up before, but that I think I have a better handle on now–but that will have to wait for tomorrow.

Right now I’ve got a half hour break between final exam periods and I’m losing my mind. 

It seems to me that a lot of the students I see need less in the way of remedial academics than they need to learn a new kind of cultural behavior–that a lot of the problem is a set of expectations and assumptions that not only do not do them any good in academic work, but that will make practically anybody they want to hire them back off in no time flat.

But it’s not the kind of thing we teach, or anybody teaches, as far as I know. 

Whatever.  I will go off to see the next set and find out how many of them have not done half their work, or don’t bother to show  up to make up work on this, the last possible chance to do it. 

And then I’ll go back to Henry James until tonight.

When I’m on a panel of writers at the New Milford Public Library.

I need tea.

Possibly spiked.

Written by janeh

May 5th, 2010 at 10:09 am

Posted in Uncategorized

8 Responses to 'It’s the End of the World As We Know It'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'It’s the End of the World As We Know It'.

  1. I think in every generation there are plenty of people who don’t have a clue as to how to behave in order to get, and keep a job.

    I once interviewed someone for work on an electronics assembly line (I was the supervisor of said line) who told me, in the first 3 minutes of the interview, that she “didn’t like people telling me what to do.” This was roughly 30 years ago.

    Now, perhaps she *meant* that she was self-motivated and liked working independently. What it made me think of, though, was “pig on ice” and trying to manage someone who was going to react badly at any direction.

    So she didn’t get the job. She probably still doesn’t know why.

    I think everyone needs to learn how to get and keep a job by doing it. You can lecture a kid all you want about proper behavior, grooming, attitude, etc, but they aren’t going to adopt it until life proves to them it’s the path to survival and success. There’s nothing quite as instructive as the loss of a paycheck. Well, unless it’s gravity. Gravity is very instructive.


    5 May 10 at 1:33 pm

  2. Patterson lists his co-author(that’s a misnomer in this circumstance) on his covers. He admits that what he does is give the other writer a plot sketch, characters, setting etc and that writer does the rest. I don’t know if he receives a fee, part of the royalties (doubtful) or what exactly. Not sure about Nora Roberts (J.D. Robb) or any of the others do to produce so much print. The result, to me, is popcorn for the mind. Just gotta have more, butter included.

    The “world owes me a living” (from Aesop to Disney’s ant and grasshopper and also Goofy’s theme song) attitude doesn’t just come from current students. Lots of people when I was in college (sometime before the Ice Age) were the same. Some got over it. Others either found someone else to support them or turned to crime or hard drugs or something.

    I’d like to hear more on Henry James and Dickens. I liked some of James’ short stories–Beast in the Jungle–and not much of Dickens except a Christmas Carol (awful admission for an English major). Maybe now in my extremely late 50’s I’ll try again.


    5 May 10 at 2:26 pm

  3. As for the instructiveness of losing a paycheck – it rather depends on whether one’s nearest and dearest immediately start blaming the employer, which rather short-circuits any impulse to self-evaluation. This is more a reflection on something Lymaree’s remark reminded me of than a response to what she said.

    It would be nice, although sometimes painful, to know why you didn’t get that job, but I’ve never had the nerve to enquire, even when I applied in places big enough to have a human resources office with staff I might have tactfully asked. Instead, I keep my ears and eyes open, and if I find out who got the job, try to figure out why. Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes not.

    I attended a workshop recently on cultural diversity, which I disliked intensely for several reasons, as fascinating as I usually find different cultures. One thing that strikes me rather belatedly was that there wasn’t much of an emphasis on the usefulness of picking up the ways of a new culture – and that applies here, because ‘culture’ was being used very broadly and specifically included aspects like social class (and sex and gender…). Anyway, some of these issues are class-related, which means they’re learned.

    When I was a student, we were all taught how to write a Letter of Application for a Job. One of my classmates, I suppose he’d be considered a bit of a diamond in the rough, claimed that this was a waste of time because he’d already gotten a job without one. The teacher pointed out that because we were in such a small town, the employer knew the student quite well, but in case he ever wanted a job where people didn’t already know him, he needed to know how to apply for one…I don’t think the student was convinced, because his method worked. And I expect some of Jane’s students have gotten through life so far with various habits most employers won’t tolerate just fine, and don’t see why they can’t continue to do so. Experience can teach otherwise but that takes time, a willingness to learn and the ability to correctly identify what must be learned.


    5 May 10 at 2:29 pm

  4. Looking forward to meeting you tonight. For some reason I was a little worried you didn’t exist. (We were supposed to meet at Crimebake last November.)


    5 May 10 at 2:57 pm

  5. The only people I know who really set out to teach a new set of cultural assumptions are the armed forces–and I don’t mean just getting them to shoot people. That’s relatively easy. Getting them to take pride in their appearance, be prompt, to show respect, to approach with enthusiasm something they’d rather not do at all, and to offer no excuses for failure is a whole new world for many recruits. Depending on how hard up the military is for bodies and how interested the recruit is in joining the new culture, it can get pretty brutal–but I suspect some of the prep schools or English-style public schools are equally wrenching.

    As for multiple books, I was responding to the statement as made. I don’t know of anyone who claims 10, but that could be my ignorance. Barring house names, I don’t know of anyone whose claimed SOLO output exceeds four titles a year–though there are a lot of cases of a “big name writer” in a much larger font than his lesser-known associate. And I could be missing someone. “Robb” has two a year and I suspect “Roberts” has a similar output. And while I enjoy some of them, I’m afraid the haste shows. But two books a year seems to be pretty common.

    By sheer coincidence, I read last night an interview with Samuel R. Delany in LOCUS in which he said that he warned “if you’re writing genre work, you have to write a minimum of three books a year to make any kind of living from it at all.” Heinlein said four pages a day for a freelancer–which, if he took weekends off, looks like pretty much the same pace. I would guess the difference between that and the common two books a year is that (a) there aren’t that many “pure” writers, and (b) there are a fair number of pen names and short stories making up the difference.

    Maybe a side note: I suspect there is a log scale involved, and many writers find it faster to write three unrelated novels of 300+ pages each than one of 1,000 pages. Not just character relationships but geography, chronology, sub-plots and what DID I name the butler five chapters ago? There’s a reason THE LORD OF THE RINGS took 15 years. At all events the writers I can think of with the highest page count per year mostly did it with short novels or short stories, which complicates comparisons.


    5 May 10 at 5:58 pm

  6. It’s called “implicit knowledge” for a reason. We expect kids to pick it up from the environment without explicit teaching, overlooking the fact that many of them come from environments that teach an entirely different set of implicit knowledge. We do teach it explicitly to kids with intellectual disabilities, but teaching it to kids from different social classes is “culturally imperialistic” or something. I think the schools should just teach it explicitly, since higher ed and jobs both depend on it. Think of it as learning a second language–you can still “code switch” back to your original class behaviors whenever you go home.



    5 May 10 at 6:56 pm

  7. Oh, and Robert is exactly right. The armed forces have been the best at making everything explicit with no assumptions about prior experience, and have therefore been a terrific leveller. If it weren’t for my considering it equivalent to slavery, I’d say a draft would take care of lot of this….



    5 May 10 at 6:59 pm

  8. Another language – that’s exactly it. My part of the world has been noted for strong accents – plural, actually, although most outside people say ‘accent’. These are much less noticeable now than when I was a teenager, due no doubt to the influence of TV and travel. Then, as I was reminded recently, some of us took speech lessons to eradicate our accents. No one I knew even considered such an idea. I must have been in second or third year university before it really struck me that many of us spoke quite differently in class – where almost none of our professors were local – and among friends and family. It was an extra skill, not an imposition! Similarly, when I first left home, I lived in a residence with mostly rural girls, and a few in particular came from .

    but but when I first left home, I lived in a residence with mostly rural girls, and a few in particular came from an area I didn’t know at all where the old accent was still very strong – or so I thought, until I overheard them talking among themselves and realized they’d been slowing and moderating their speech when others were around!

    It’s not a popular idea these days to be a multifacted whole person; you’re supposed to be in one category or another, not using whatever’s handy of several.


    5 May 10 at 8:03 pm

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Bad Behavior has blocked 737 access attempts in the last 7 days.