Basking in borrowed glory
My father's cremains were laid to rest yesterday at the Dayton National Cemetery. The military ceremony was brief and moving, every movement scripted and solemn as befits such an occasion. My mother gave me the presentation flag and three bullet casings from the 21-gun salute to hold in trust for my younger son, who is an Airman with the U.S. Air Force. Dad was a Vietnam veteran and served 28 years in the Air Force and Ohio Air Guard. With this closure and other distractions over the past seven days, I did not write a blog for today. My usual Monday blog for LinkedIn was posted this morning. That will have to do for today.
Here's the link: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/basking-borrowed-glory-karen-m-smith.
Or scroll down to read the article.
A client whose manuscript I edited notified me that his book had been included in a list of best mystery thrillers of 2019. That made my heart go pitter-patter.
I'm happy for him.
In the course of my work, I come across many books that I would not otherwise read. The genres or topics are not to my taste. That, however, has no bearing upon the quality or merit of the content.
In these days of relativism when one's own standards and preferences are the measures by which everything else is compared, seeing the achievement or recognition of a client reminds me that my preferences are arbitrary. What best suits one's tastes does not determine the standards of excellence for anyone else.
Standards of excellence, therefore, must have a more objective and collective gauge for determination. The metrics distinguishing between poor, mediocre, adequate, and excellent require a broader spectrum of consensus. That spectrum shifts as popular trends change. What was once distasteful becomes acceptable or even desirable. What was once considered acceptable becomes verboten.
That's how banned books lists are built: something about a published bit of literature offends someone else.
Remember Laura Ingalls Wilder? Her autobiographical series, immortalized in television in the 1970s, has been added to those books that now offend today's delicate sensibilities. The list of banned books ranges from classics such as Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to modern literature such as J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. Reasons for censorship trend toward the general themes of profanity, sex, religion, and politics. According to the World Economic Forum, 49 percent of censorship action affects public libraries, with public schools and school libraries combined making another 50 percent of book challenges.
The American Library Association and Amnesty International celebrate the existence of censorship by sponsoring Banned Books Week. The ALA lists the top 10 most challenged books by year. The lists themselves make for interesting reading. This year, Banned Books Week will be held September 20 - 26. Sure, it's a long way off, but that list is long. Use that time to read some of those books.
Questionable material does not equate to standards of quality. Excellent writing cannot be confined to "safe" and innocuous topics. Great literature provokes thought and makes us uncomfortable by nudging readers beyond their self-imposed havens. Great literature, however, also does not necessarily comply with shifting standards of quality. In other words, great literature does not go hand in hand with excellent writing. Anyone reading James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans knows there's a wonderful story lurking amid the excess verbiage. The same goes for anything written by Charles Dickens.
As an author, I don't aspire to great literature. Most popular literature doesn't rise to those rarefied echelons of controversy and near adoration. I aspire to excellent writing which engages and holds the reader's interest by virtue of telling a good story in such a way that the narrative draws the reader through the pages. Sometimes a good book is just a good book, and one needs nothing more.
So, my client received a wonderful accolade regarding his book. I helped him with that. I didn't come up with the concept. I certainly didn't write the story. As an editor, I did help him improve the quality of the writing so that his story could be recognized for its creative merit.
I take pleasure and pride in that.
Every word counts.
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