Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Unknown celebrities

I've got a little secret.

You know Jodi Piccoult? THE Jodi Piccoult who wrote My Sister's Keeper (now a major motion picture- can't wait for the day I can say that about my novel) and a whole long list of other works?

Well, I didn't. Know Jodi Piccoult, that is. Until I was introduced to her last year, by facebook. That's right, if it wasn't for WeRead on facebook recommending her, I would not know who she is (or Marian Keyes or Jennifer Weiner).

Oh, but it doesn't stop there. Nopes.

Remember Interview with a Vampire? Of course I knew Interview with a Vampire. Even I'm not that bad. lol. And I'd heard of Anne Rice. But they had a connection? News to me!

Oh, but it gets worse. (Can it get worse, you wonder?)

You know Neil Gaiman? Yes, yes. That Neil Gaiman. I had never even heard his name til January! I didn't know he wrote Coraline til last month and I only discovered on Thursday that he wrote Stardust!

What rock have I been under? What huge literary rock?

Right now, I'd love to blame Japan. After all, you lose your Western focus out here. They don't overload you with pop culture like in the US. (With the exception of J-pop and anime.) I legitimately didn't know about Twilight because I was in Japan. I read Twilight because I was in JFK and bored. By sheer coincidence.

But Jodi Piccoult? Anne Rice? Neil Gaiman? Definitely around before 2008.

So how did I miss them? I guess it's a mixture of things. But the biggest is probably this:

I forget the names of authors I've never read, and I never noticed writers, screenwriters, directors, etc in movies. Just the actors.

That said, I notice all the actors. Case in point, last week my neighbour read somewhere that straight actors are more likely to be cast in gay roles than gays in straight. To confirm this, we tried pulling up a list of gay actors on wikipedia.

Me: Omigosh! David Odgen Stiers!
Colleagues: blank stares
Me: Cogsworth!
Colleagues: more blank stares
Me: The clock in Beauty and the Beast
Colleagues: You know the name of the clock in Beauty and the Beast?
Me: Yeah, don't you?

I know actors like the back of my hand. Off the top of my head, I can tell you who did the singing and talking voices for young and grown Simba, for example.

But yet, these acclaimed writers slipped through the cracks.

I realised something last week (as I was spluttering at myself for never realising that Neil Gaiman wrote Stardust). If I'm to call myself a writer, I have a certain responsibility- not just to know of these authors because someone I know happens to mention them, or because something they did crosses my path.

It's my responsibility to be familiar with them. To read something by each of the greats. To know how Stephen King's style is different from Toni Morrison's. (That is like the weirdest comparison ever...) To internalise them to the point that I know what I like in their writing and what I don't like. (Please lightning, don't strike me.)

And the biggest responsibility of all? To seek them out. Just because I've never crossed paths with an author's work, doesn't give me an excuse to not know them.

Reporters don't sit in the news room waiting for news to jump into their laps.
Avon ladies aren't relaxing in their living rooms, waiting for customers to knock on their doors.
Doctors aren't lounging around the hospital waiting for patients to... Wait a minute... :)

Point being, stay informed.

Could you imagine? Being interviewed by Oprah and she wants to discuss how my themes are similar to Neil Gaiman's and I'm like "Who?".


PS. Don't forget to check out my contest.
And stay tuned tomorrow for an interview with the author of Passing For Black, Linda Villarosa


ElbieNy25 said...

It's funny that you mention "Beauty and the Beast" which played a huge role in first MS. It's my all time fave Disney movie. On my honeymoon (we went to Disney) I screamed and practically knocked little kids down to get to Belle and The Beast in France.

Did you know the speaking voice for Simba was Jonathan Taylor Thomas from "Home Improvement", but the singing voice was Jason Weaver who played Jesse in the first two "Mighty Duck" movies?

Postman said...

That IS like the weirdest comparison ever. King and Morrison?

I'm pleased to hear that you know Cogsworth's name after all this time, though! Well done!

I tell you, you're getting me fairly interested in Neil Gaiman...what kind of stuff does he do again?

Excellent point: stay informed. I should at least be making an effort to know who my competition is, at least. Thanks for posting this.

"Doctors aren't lounging around the hospital waiting for patients to...wait a minute..."

Heh heh.

Cynthia Reese said...

Go easy on yourself ... there are so many great writers out there that you can't know them all. That's the beauty of the TBR stack!

Marsha Sigman said...

Just think how much fun you will have getting to know them!lol Must Know Stephen King. I mean really!!!! People either love him or hate him, there is no inbetween. You know what I have trouble with? The titles of books, I used to completely forget them afterward. Especially if its a long series of books, like Laurel K Hamilton and the Anita Blake series...vampire I love them.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

If you haven't read Gaiman, try Neverwhere. I also looooove to listen to Gaiman read--he is so good at reading his works on audiobook, like Stardust or the kids's collection, Wolves in the Walls. :D

Claire Dawn said...

Laura, I remember Jason Weaver from a series called Thea and from the movie Drumline, but of course I knew he sang Simba. I LOVE his singing voice. He still sings now, but he's singing that stuff that isn't really worth singing :(

Postman, I bought American Gods at the same time. It took me a really long time to get into it. Like 200 pages. But I did learn a couple things. Firstly, if I'm ever a world-famous NYT bestseller type, I hope I never think I have the liberty of writing 500 page books where 300 would have sufficed. Secondly, I really need to go work on my descriptions.

Cynthia, I'm thinking I put a little dent in the TBR's by buying American Gods (Gaiman), Gossip Girl (hopelessly addicted to the tv series, might as well read the books), Lightning Thief, Darren Shan and Roots. I got through the first 3 and really loved The Lightning Thief.

Marsha, I've had a Stephen King sitting in my cupboard forever and I can't get more than a few pages read. The first story in the book is Shawshank! I love it as a movie, but I can't get it read. I read and loved Desperation back in the day, though.

Tricia, I read American Gods. I took really long to get me warmed up to it, but I liked it in the end. Not freaking out, but liked.

I think when it comes to Gaiman and Stephen King, it might be a genre preference thing. I read just about anything YA or MG, but in adult books, I tend only to read hilarious women's fiction or fantasy.