Thursday, December 28, 2006

Real Humour and Random Awards

I am not a funny person. I never have been a funny person. Some might read my blog and beg to differ, but if you know me, you know my natural bent is to the serious.

I can be flippant, but that’s also different.

I’ve been struck by an observation in my recent reading. What is funny is truth. It’s the point where you smile a wry smile because, Damn. Isn’t that just the way it is?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what separates the good books from the great ones, and that’s part of it. Great books have those moments of truth that hit you between the eyes and you can’t help but smile because you know exactly what the author is talking about.

I’ll tell you what isn’t funny though. Over 600 spam emails this morning in one of my email accounts. Grrrr.

This is the time of year that a lot of people are doing top ten lists. I did send in my purchase recommendations for the Killer Year blog, sharing my thoughts on a few books I really enjoyed.

But I can’t bring myself to do a proper top 10 list and post it here.

Now, this is a bit different, but related. Every so often people will create the ‘greatest of all time’ lists. Best thrillers, best romances, best comedies, best whatever, of all time. And those lists drive me nuts, because they presume one thing that is almost certainly not true:

They presume that you’ve read every single book that falls into that category.

If you haven’t, then how can you declare anything to be the absolute best?

So, when people pick their favourites of the year it doesn’t rankle me. In fact, I find it interesting to see what books get mentioned, but only by readers I don’t really know.

You see, the problem I have with creating a top 10 list is that there might be the presumption that I’ve read certain books and didn’t find them to measure up, when in reality, I might not have had time to read everything I’ve bought this year.

Which actually is the truth.

And the second side of that is, I just can’t bear to think of excluding friends from the list.

But I am going to give out a few random awards.

Best Humour
Ken Bruen, virtually anything he’s written. There’s the one chapter in The Guards, about the woman upstairs and the flat tire, that completely cracked me up. But the truth is, reading Ken’s books there are so many points where I find that smile spreading across my face, and find myself thinking, Isn’t that the truth? And that’s part of what separates him out as such a great author – those very shrewd insights on life.

I’d mention Al Guthrie’s Hard Man as well, but that doesn’t come out until 2007… Still, parts that were laugh out loud funny…

Best Debuts
Cornelia Read and John McFetridge. Their books came at me in completely opposite ways. Cornelia’s had build-up and anticipation, although that was over for me early, as I got an ARC. John’s book was on shelves before I’d heard of it. Both are fresh new voices in the crime fiction genre and both bring their own brand of humour. I look forward to future offerings from both of them.

The Books That Haunted Me
Sometimes, you read books that stay with you well after you’ve finished the last page. One such book, for me, was Ian Rankin’s The Flood, which I talked about here when I read it, so I won’t bore you all again.

Another was Anne Frasier’s Pale Immortal. I think one of the things this book made me think about was whether or not we’re destined to a fate or free to choose our own path. Sometimes, we do seem to be pushed headlong down a dark tunnel…

I don’t want to comment on any books I have yet to run reviews on, or that won’t come out until 2007. So, I think it’s best to stop there. Really, when I write a review anyone can go read my opinion. In the new year I’ll try to be more diligent about doing a mini review here if I read a book I’m not reviewing for Spinetingler.

And that’s enough out of me. I have a date with Bruen.

What are you reading these days? I’m flying through The Guards and have Rilke on Black on deck. Kevin just finished Bust and A Field of Darkness and is now reading London Boulevard and Shotgun Opera and starting Hard Man. He has a different book at home and at work to read. I can’t fathom that. I like to read one at a time…

Thanks to Bill I discovered I was a literate good citizen, followed closely by obsessive-compulsive bookworm and book snob. Fad reader barely registered... but for some reason the chart wouldn't post here properly.


Anonymous said...

My mother used to say, "You're funny, but looks aren't everything." She would say that one thousand times a day. I'm thinking she never really got the concept of diminishing returns.

Here's the problem. Now I say, "You're funny, but looks aren't everything."

Is there help for someone like me?

Sandra Ruttan said...

I don't know Bill. There might be, but then again, you might be a lost cause.

Isn't it amazing what gets programmed in, even if we hate it ourselves? I find myself doing the same thing.

JamesO said...

I can't stand those 'top 100 of all time' things either. They always do them for music and the latest boy band comes in top. As for books, even genre fiction, it's impossible. Quite apart from there not being enough years in a life to read them all, and more being written in each of those years, opinions on books are way too personal.

But I always like to hear what other people rate and have enjoyed. Sometimes I've even heard of them.

Anonymous said...

I have a top ten list for just about everything. My wife likes to point out that each top ten list seems to have several hundred entries.

Sandra Ruttan said...

James, much of the time when I read those lists I feel hopelessly out of touch.

Bill, I gave up on top 10 lists. I mean, I have them to some degree, but formalizing them almost always puts me into a great debate with myself. Unless one thing is head and shoulders above anything else it's hard to really sift through the list.

And I read a lot this year. A lot more than last year. That makes it even harder to narrow it down.

anne frasier said...

giant hug, sandra! i had to dash to meet a friend, but as i was walking to the coffee shop i was thinking how fantastic is was that you GOT what i was trying to communication in PI. and what i find really interesting is that it was requested that i remove that weight of responsibility and lack of control element from the book. but i felt to remove it would destroy the foundation of the story.

totally unrelated to above comment:

you are very funny.

600 spam emails? wtf? that certainly beats my record of 50.

Sandra Ruttan said...

I suppose it's the best compliment when someone gets what you were trying to do, because it means you succeeded. So that means Anne is fantastic!

And I think what you did with the story was brilliant.

The volume of spam was unreal. It came in multiple languages too.

Jack Ruttan said...

Most of the absolute statements people make about themselves are wrong. So you're probably a good deal funnier than you think, and I'm much less honest.

I like some of your jokes, though.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Based on your statement should I assume you don't like the jokes, Jack? LOL.

Trace said...

Another awesome post, Sandra. Happy New Year to you and Kev!

Sandra Ruttan said...

Happy New Year to you as well Trace!

Anonymous said...

You're probably a whole lot funnier than you think. People laugh at me all the time. I often wonder, "Is it my nose?" But yesterday, a friend noted, "Ya know, you say really funny things and you don't even know they're funny!"

I can't decide if this is a good thing.

Anonymous said...

"Based on your statement should I assume you don't like the jokes, Jack? LOL."

Oh gosh, now I have to go back to my logic textbooks to figure that one out, and do a snappy comeback!

I'm sure that's a reductio ad absurdum, or maybe a modus ponendo ponens. Or maybe I'll just go "pbbbbbt!"