The Streetside Book Shop

7:30 AM

They've got specialized everything nowadays. You go into a bakery and order a cake (blue flowers, yellow lettering - make certain the frosting's buttercream and, well, I guess some sprinkles won't hurt). You dial up the dressmakers and tell them what fabric you want - the print and make and all - along with the hem length and the kind of buttons, the pattern without the collar, thank you, and the little lace around the sleeves. You tell the sweet lady in the cute blue apron at the candy counter just what chocolates your daddy would like for his birthday, and she measures them out according to your specification of pounds and then wraps them up in ribbon and cellophane of your choice.

You should be able to order books the same way - buffet style, almost. You should be able to call up a variety of authors and put in an order for the book that would suit your fancy to a T. You should be able to pick out the characters down to their nose and hobbies. "Yes, I'd like a strong heroine, but don't touch the feminist mold - she can be pretty if you like but not stunningly pretty - she's a good sort of person but don't bother making her an angel. Let her get into trouble and hurt feelings and learn from them, like any other human being. Oh, and do you think she could write blog posts on the weekend?"

You ought to have the freedom to direct the general plot of the story - leaving room for little surprises and of course a spectacular climax that not even the author saw coming. "It needs to have a mystery lurking beneath an almost benign (but not boring) everydayness - something that will pop out in the middle of the twenty-first chapter and scare the daylights out of me. Not anything gory - just something devastating and unique, something unexpected. And don't constantly hint at it, either. Let me be naturally curious and make my own speculations without the crippling help of the narrator."

And especially, you should be able to regulate the Secular/Religious flow throughout the narrative. "Don't even think about moralizing the ending. Oh, don't let that stop you from putting in true Christians - a good number of them wouldn't hurt, the real, faulty kind that genuinely love and often don't know how. Some unredeemed characters would be nice too. And no cheap shots against true Christianity but have no worries of offending me by pointing out the ridiculousness of empty religion."

In short, the authors should be so talented and so at your disposal that they should be able to craft a masterpiece just for you. "Let it be like To Kill a Mockingbird - the Southerness, the kids running about, the drama will be nice. It has to have the wit of Jane Austen - a few drop-dead-hilarious passages here and there would be lovely. And the characters should have the depth of both Jane Eyre and Emma - you hate 'em and you love 'em at the same time. The plot, too, should be thick, complex and moving, like those I mentioned, and come out with a satisfying ending. Just jumble up those three and see what you come up with."

That would be heavenly.

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19 impressions

  1. The Jane Eyre books is my favorite from Charlotte Bronte. Villette and Shiley are must-read from her as well. :)

  2. Have you ever read anything by M.M.Kaye? If not, you should try her. She was a Christian and from the old school sect. She lived in the early 1900s and grew up in British India.

    Her murder mysteries are tasteful and full of nerve-tingling suspense, with a dash of (also tasteful) romance thrown in.

    Her historical novels make you want the book to never end...which is close to true. They are 700-1000 pages long and you are glad for the journey.

    Her autobiography is a stunning 3 book spread and convinces you that you need a time machine to go live with her. But I suggest not reading it until you've read some of her others.

    Please try one. May I suggest Death in the Andamans as a starting place? Or maybe Death in Cyprus? Most (all?) of the places her murder mysteries are set in are places she has lived or visited. They are delicious, but only if you love beautiful words. ;)

  3. In which your brilliant sister says,

    "I've never read any of 'em."

  4. I love Jane Eyre . ( It was a bit sad , though . But ended well :)

    I agree with you about books . They need to be interesting . Some books I'll start reading ... Find them boring , and promtly put them back in their proper spots . On the shelf !

    Would you suggest any good books that, I ,perhaps would like ?

    Great post ! Love you :)

  5. Wow. Maybe they'll have something like the system you descried in Heaven. Wouldn't that be blissful!!!

    As it is, I think the only way to meet all of the requirements you listed would be to write the book yourself! I've done that, but usually it makes me awfully critical of the story. ;-) There are too many faults for it to be just right.

    It's completely wonderful, isn't it, when you find a book that is exactly to your taste; one that leaves you perfectly satisfied in the end, and tingling to create a similar masterpiece yourself. There is nothing like a good book!

    Have you ever read The Last Sin Eater, by Francine Rivers? I really enjoyed that. I guess I don't know what sort of things you usually read, but maybe you'd like it too. =)

    I love to read, but I've read so many different books that I have a hard time finding new ones that are worthwhile. I would love to hear what some of your favorite fictional books are; maybe I could order them from the library. =)

  6. AHA: When you find an author who'll take your order, do let me know. I've got an order rather like yours that I'd like to put in. :D)

  7. Um, and that last comment was from "Anna." I didn't know that Kara was signed in. :)

  8. Chris - "but only if you love beautiful words." Sign me up. I've never read or heard of M.M. Kaye, but you have convinced me to start a summer reading list prominently featuring her books. Library, pleaseohplease have her.

    Floppeth - har har. I'll just make you watch the movies then. =)

    Julia - That's the problem with self-written novels. They never seem perfect enough. You feel as if you've offended the story. And you can't start a fan club for your own novel or argue over movie adaptations or whatnot.

    I haven't read any of Francine Rivers beyond a book preview on But I've got a best friend who regularly lobbies for Francine Rivers, so there go a few more books on my reading list. =)

    Anna, mysteriously disguised as Kara - I'll send you his address once I find him.

  9. As for book recommendations (for you too, Miss Sarah Grace) - I'm always hesitant to answer as my favorite books are classics anyway and generally get thumbs down from all my normal friends who aren't obsessed about big words and thick plots. DISCLAIMER: These suit my own fancy and are in no way guaranteed to keep you from yawning. But...

    O. Henry's short stories are amazing. The Importance of Being Earnest is a must read. I love Sherlock Holmes, anything by Charles Dickens (especially his funnier/ironic side - Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol. The Hiding Place. You can't go wrong with Shakespeare. Jerome K. Jerome and P.G. Wodehouse are hilarious. Mama's Bank Account is cute without being insubstantial. The real Peter Pan is an interesting read. Newbery Medal winners have always be interesting to me - Walk Two Moons, The Giver, The Midwife's Apprentice, Kate DiCamillo and I'm drawing a blank for the rest. I mention those and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society with a few major caveats...they're those books that would have been improved by scissors, if you know what I mean. So, sorry, ladies, I'm not the person to ask about good books. I haven't read that extensively in adult fiction. =)

    Anyone else who has recommendations - do speak up!

  10. first, let me state that the above? the ordering THIS dress in THIS material, THIS much of THIS chocolate - all that? it's been around for centuries, and in FACT, the fight has been to NOT LOSE THEM. [it costs about 10 times as much to have someone make you a dress as to buy the exact same dress ready-made. for good reasons, mind. but it's dying out, for everyone except the rich]

    second, there IS such a book industry. sort of. it's an industry where there are set stories, and you can personalize them [make the characters you and your husband/wife or girlfriend/boyfriend, with your quirks and hobbies, etc] and...

    it doesn't do as well as you'd think.

    because - and for the same reason people don't like watching the exact same tv show, the same script, year after year after year - books are supposed to transport you to a different place, with different things - and part of that is NOT KNOWING - if it's the first book in the series, part of the joy is meeting these characters and exploring this new world [that's ALWAYS part of the joy, in good writing - the characters grow and learn and change...]

    but the "put this in, and this in, and this in?" that industry is a niche that does ok, but not great, because of a lot of reasons [some i have alluded to]. and, really, writing is an ART - if you want something written to spec, you go to a tech writer. or, perhaps, an ad writer could do. but those are VASTLY different than writing fiction. fiction is an art. and by telling the artist [the writer] what YOU want, you leave no room for the artist.

    if you want that story [and this is the great thing about writing] WRITE IT. :)

  11. Denelian, you must be a new reader or a strict literalist. =)

  12. Bailey [my youngest sister's favorite name - i'm taking that as a happy sign :) ]

    Yes. to both. new reader, from Personal Failure's blog, and i thought it was literal.

    it seems i am wrong? i have bookmarked the blog, to come back and read it all [i love finding new blogs, and my mild snark aside, i liked the post :) ] but i had yet ANOTHER hellish pre-op appointment today. in fact, i'm just checking email before sleep [because i have prophyria, so i sleep "backwards" - bedtime is about 6 am, waking up about 4pm, and the length is due to meds... so i've been awake since 4pm YESTERDAY. i is a tired grumpy pained Liz right now. i hope i don't take any grumpy out on you, but if i do, PLEASE excuse. REALLY grumpy]

    erm... since i'm having surgery in just over a week [with TOO MANY appts in between] can you let me in on the joke i missed? or, if it's long, point me to the appropriate post that helps?

    i would like to say that it wasn't all, or even MOST, snark. i KNOW PEOPLE who complain about how the "new" industry of tailored clothing is too "rare" and too expensive and too *hard* - i know many people who.... let's just say that they think beef comes from the grocery store. if that makes sense. not that i think the OP or the commenters are stupid, i do not. i thought perhaps there was that same lack of knowledge about the history of how clothing was made [ye gods, some of the people i know - but understand, until VERY recently, many of the people i know were teens that i mentored. erm, many of them are still teens and i still know them, i just am no longer capable of mentoring]

    i fear i am digging myself a hole, instead of just explaining. too little sleep and too much pain and pain meds. sorry!!!

    but, seriously - what's the joke? i could USE a good laugh today! [other than the obvious "the new poster doesn't know WTH she's talking about" joke... that'll be funny in a month or so, when the embarrasment fades :) ]

    and thanks for letting my know i was being wrong, myself [i mean that.] you could have ignored me, or mocked me, or other things. so i appreciate that :)

    i'm gonna stop while i can A) still feel my hands and B) before i make this hole *SO* deep you might as well just leave me here...

  13. I've read a book by Francine Rivers. It's called "A Voice in the Wind". It was simply fascinating. I loved the heroine, and it was scary how much Ancient Rome resembled Post-Modern America.
    Have you (any of you) read "The Scarlet Letter"? That was an amazing read, because it had a VERY profound moral lesson embedded in it.
    I can't think of any more favorite books at the moment. Maybe I'll comment again later after I think of some.
    And Bailey and Julia, I completely agree about the difficulty of writing your own novel. I have an amazing story in my head right now, but I've only produced the major characters and a few disjointed scenes. I'm scared the novel would be less than amazing.

  14. Thanks for the booklist! I promptly ordered "Pickwick Papers" and "The Importance of Being Earnest" from the library. I can't wait to try them!

    I've read some of the other books you listed. I had to stop reading P.G. Wodehouse because I got to be annoyed with Jeeves. ;-) I guess I don't have the right sense of humor for that! I kept feeling dismayed that Bertie wouldn't stand up for himself!

  15. Denelian - thanks for being patient with me. I wasn't certain how to take your comment at first, so I'm glad we can be confused together without hard feelings. =)

    It's hard to explain this post - it's like when you have to tell a joke again. The punch is gone. But in this post, I was just fiddling with an idea (which I know won't work, as I considered myself a connoisseur of fiction until a few months ago). I complain all the time about how this book would be perfect if it weren't for that - so I was just toying with the imaginary idea of a perfect author who could come up with the most perfect story for me, combining all my favorites. Of course it won't work, but it's heavenly to think about. Sort of like taking out all the work of sitting down to write one's own story.

    As for specialized stuff...well, I can't explain anything behind that. You might catch my usual goofiness by reading some of my other posts. =)

    Another bid for Francine Rivers! I hated The Scarlet Letter, actually. All except the last few paragraphs. Pearl creeped me out. But I applaud you for liking it - a unique mind, indeed, and I say that admiringly. A scarlet book I do love is The Scarlet Pimpernel - a quick, easy substitute to A Tale of Two Cities.

    (Julia - agreed. Jeeves is annoying. =))

  16. ah-ha! gotchta

    what you NEED was envsioned by Stephen King in "The Tommyknockers" - it's a computer that hooks up to your brain while sleeping, and writes the book [ferfectly, naturally] while you're asleep.

    erm. except for the creepy OTHER issues in the book, i want one :)

    i seem to have vastly different literary tastes [i don't like anything from King that isn't sci-fi, so nothing in the past 20 years. just fyi] except i still read the Little House books, sometimes :)

  17. Oh, yes, "The Scarlet Pimpernel"! I loved that one, too. So did my little sister. We also love the movie with that same title.
    I wonder...could you do a post about your favorite movies?

  18. I - the above's little sister - love "The Scarlet Pimpernel." It's among my very favorite books. The movie is almost as good, too, which is saying a lot for a movie.
    "Mara, Daughter of the Nile" and "The Great and Terrible Quest" are thrillingly entertaining. "The Hiding Place" is powerful and inspiring. I liked "A Tale of Despereaux" (Kate DiCamillo; don't quote me on the spelling, please).
    And ... I officially can't think of any others. "Little Women" (although, I must admit, L.M. Alcott's theology is shaky at points).

  19. Interesting post; I agree with your above comment about Pearl from The Scarlet Letter being creepy.

    But here's my take on it:
    Literature is art. The purpose (and the true power) of art is to open up our minds so that we can think and feel things we've never thought/felt before, not to comfortably reinforce our preconceived ideas.
    Don't get me wrong, I have a 'type' when it comes to literature. I hate romance novels, for example; I typically find them shallow. But I find that the books I like the best, the ones that stick with me, are the ones that were not-quite-perfect for me, the ones that challenged my worldview and made me see things a bit differently. Sure, I can see the appeal of a made-to-order novel, just like a made-to-order meal. But if all the meals I ever ate were made-to-order, I would never discover new food. I would never try anything I didn't like, which is important in its own way.
    So, while made-to-order, 'perfect' books would be comfortable and pleasant, I think that they would also take away the core of literature and cripple the power of art to lead us in the exploration of new thoughts and new points of view.

    Just some food for thought. ;)


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