Jenny Shank responds to Sherman Alexie over her negative review of his new YA title, Flight. I'm fine with Shank not liking the book and writing that in her review but I'm really puzzled by her comment on it being an original paperback, which seems to have set Alexie off:
"Unfortunately, Flight is disappointing, and the signs are that the publisher knew it - why else would a novel by such a major writer be brought out as a paperback original?â€�
Shank explains that she got clearance from her editor to run that comment although I can't imagine that anyone writing reviews (or editing a book review page) would think that paperback originals are a sign of desperation from a publisher. I see paperback originals from pretty much every major publisher every season (Scarlett Thomas comes most recently to mind). Granted, Alexie is a well known writer but he's not that hugely popular. And lots of much bigger authors have paperback originals or release new novels through small presses (Stephen King, anyone?) But here's where Shank really disappointed me:
But hey, I'm currently a stay-at-home mom writing book reviews for $50 a pop, trying to read and review as many books as I can during the few minutes when my 11-month-old deigns to nap, and I mess up sometimes.
Yeah folks, that's how professional those newspaper book reviewers are these days. We really must save all their jobs, right? We need this high level of professionalism to lead America to a higher literary plane.
In other news, Johanna dared to suggest that superhero comics are not written for female audiences and got body slammed for it from everyone and their cousin. Guys clearly are the main readers - or perceived main readers - for superhero comics but I don't like reading that they are not written for women. It makes me wonder if since I enjoy Detective (one of the main Batman titles) that I'm a strange woman. I mean am I enjoying it because I like a good mystery and how techno/smart/tough Batman is or because I have a slanted viewpoint on men and women? I mean I don't read the lame comics with the chick-in-torn-tiny-outfit titles, but the main capes? I love New Avengers (Luke Cage rocks although I'm major league ticked about Captain America); love Astonishing X-Men; and can't seem to shake my affection for Batman, no matter how hard I try.
So yeah, I'm a woman who loves superheroes - God help me.
Where things get sticky is when I start to wonder about Buffy, now clearly in comic book form and certainly not average. Is she a superhero? Was Xena ever a superhero? (What the hell was Xena?) Do characters have to be historically superheroes (dating prior to 1960 or 1950) to be considered superheroes at all? Must they be inaugurated as members of a team or clearly defined as superheroes by their creators? And what about someone like Jessica Jones, clearly one of the coolest superheroes in history who definitely didn't fit into the tiny costume cliche. (And she's married to Luke Cage! Bonus!) Jessica retired - she turned her back on the superhero life and her comic was about life after it. Is she still a superhero even though she didn't use her powers?
Who decides all this stuff anyway?
But Johanna has a very good point in all this - that maybe superhero comics are written largely for males the same way action movies are made largely for males. It's all about the person doing the writing not the one doing the reading (or watching). We are all just along for ride really - someone else's ride.
But that's what does not matter in all this though - who the book was written for, or whether it is in paperback or hardcover. It should only be about whether we like it. That's the single question here. I don't think I'll be worrying about any of the rest of it anymore.