Thursday, March 27, 2008

The First Time

First kiss, first time falling in love, first time… Cards for first communion, parents recording first steps and first words. Firsts are important to most people. I wonder how much of that carries over to how we feel about authors and books. Is it easier for someone to really impress us because we have no expectations? Are my assessments of some more generous because I have no frame of reference, and is it more likely that every subsequent book will fall short of the first in my mind because my opinion was buoyed by that first time falling-in-love-with-an-author high?

Bunny and I were talking about this recently. He (ahem) rated my books on a scale of 1 to 10. This begged an obvious question (because he’s a reviewer and I know how he’s rated other books). Why did “x” book get a higher score than one of mine? The answer was that “x” book was the first book he’d read by that author, and when you approached an author with no preconceived ideas or expectations it’s easier to be impressed.

I’ve heard it said – many times – you only get one chance to make a first impression. Some apply that to novels and caution authors about being careful about their debut. Personally, I think most of us make a first impression long before a novel is on the shelves, through short stories, reviews, contributing to forums, blogs such as this one. I can’t even say that the only people who could pick up my book and have true first exposure to me through it are people who don’t read online, because I review in print and have done some print interviews as well, and I’ve had short stories published in magazines. Undoubtedly there are many who will have their first exposure to me through a book… just not all.

And there are some who are fantastic short story writers who don’t do as well with novels (in my humble opinion) and others who excel at novels and struggle with short stories, as I do. I afford some allowances for the medium.

I’d prefer to be an author who gets better and better, moves from strength to strength, than come out with a bang and fades away, but even I can’t deny that some books remain special primarily because they were the first book I read by a new-to-me author.

So, I’m throwing the question out to you guys. Any books that remain sentimental favourites, simply because they were firsts?


Other Firsts

I realize the obvious thing for me to talk about now is Baltimore, my impressions and assessment after two weeks there. I had a lot of firsts during my trip – first crab cakes (thumbs up), fried shrimp (the non-seafood-eater is being converted), Utz crab chips (yum!), Berger cookies (oh my freaking gawd those are sweet – how did Bunny manage to eat two in one sitting?). Other firsts too… meeting the kids, the family.

I also got infected with the plague and – much to the pleasure of those around me on the plane – coughed up both lungs somewhere over Texas.

I’m thinking through what I can and will say about the trip, posting photos. I’m considering things like how much to say about my partner, how to handle references to the kids. Hopefully in the next few days I’ll have a clear head and be able to share more about the trip. For now, I’ll just say it was great.

First Day With The New Brain

The prize goes to the person who wanted to be on my flight from Dallas, who checked in without proper identification for customs. I’m still baffled by how you can buy an international plane ticket… and not realize that you need a passport. (We’re required to enter that info, even if we purchase online.) I’m not even apologizing for this, since it’s the (ahem) Bush administration that’s pushed for the passport enforcement between Canada and the US. (And since this was unfolding in Texas, well… just consider me unsympathetic to this person.) But somehow, she managed to do it, tried to get on the flight without acceptable ID. We spent about a half hour sitting at the gate before we were informed about the problem. Once it was then confirmed that Canada wasn’t going to let this woman enter the country because she didn’t have suitable ID they had to hook up conveyor belts and remove all the luggage from the plane until they found her bags, and then reload the plane.

My thanks to the woman who took an hour out of my life that I’m never getting back – plus an hour from the life of every other person on that plane.

(There’s more to it. I was in a position to hear the juicy details and she clearly made the situation more difficult and lengthy than it needed to be. Someone who didn’t understand that no means no. Although she’s right about one thing… Life isn’t fair.)

First Prize For Reducing Politics To What It Is… A Lot of Trash

Finally, a solution for the democratic candidate contest. Aussie town chooses mayor by drawing name from trash can.

No, I’m not entirely serious about resolving the battle between Obama and Clinton with a name drawn from a trash can (I have my preference between the two), but I am amused. After spending two weeks in the US I’ve had an earful about the candidates and I do wonder about the tolerance of the American public for political discussion. I wonder if Americans – in general – are more interested in politics than the average Canadian?

Or is it just that everyone loves a good mudslinging competition?


John McFetridge said...

Check out this on literary first loves:

And the biggest difference between US campaigns and Canadian campaigns is the length. We have six week campaigns and we never really know when the elections is going to be (although Ontario has bucked that trend with scheduled provincial elections, except in the case of minority governments).

So, our Ameican neighbours have years of campaigning to build up (or lose) interest in it and we have mere weeks.

Does it make one more interested than the other? I have no idea...

Randy Johnson said...

For me, the book I remember above all others is The Tunnel In The Sky by Robert Heinlein. I discovered it in the school library when I was twelve and it was my first SF. It actually colored my reading habits for a good many years. I've since expanded my reading tastes to include most genres. But it will always hold a special place in my heart, being the first book I mention whenever someone asks me about a good SF book they should read.

Sandra Ruttan said...

I have no idea either John. I'm interested in politics, but not so much in mudslinging, and I wish they'd keep to issues a bit more. Like fixing the American economy.

Randy, I'll have to check that book out. Your enthusiasm for it carries through. Bunny's probably read it, since he reads widely across the genres, something I intend to do more of.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I remember most loving The World According to Garp when I first read it.
This campaign is exceptional. First exciting, now humiliating.

norby said...

I think we've just learned to tune out the politicians. That's what I do anyway.

I have too many firsts to really pick just one I think, too many authors that I follow religiously, mainly because that first book just sucked me in.

Austin Carr said...


Sandra Ruttan said...

Patti, at least it's an interesting campaign. People will remember this one for a long time to come. Who was up against Gore? I haven't got a clue now.

Norby, maybe we just have shorter attention spans. ;)

Austin, I have a boyfriend I call Bunny. Don't ask.

Picks By Pat said...

The first time I read Patricia Carlon is something that will stay with me until my dying day. Her suspense novel, "An Unquiet Night" blew me away with its expert handling of a stalker pursuing a woman who may have witnessed him commit a crime. I will always judge my best work against this novel. And probably come up short.

And here's something I've never admitted before...I picked up this book because of its garish cover, which featured the legs of a good looking woman wearing fishnet stockings, and I thought to myself, "Hmmm, this looks interesting..."

Hey, I'm a guy. But it worked. And I've no regrets!