Does your best paragraph belong in your book?

Consider this paragraph from a well-known novel:

“It rained for eight days without taking a breath. No dank December drizzle this, but rain with attitude. The rogue progeny of some sweet-named Caribbean hurricane had come north, liked it and stayed. Rivers in the Midwest burst their banks and the TV news was awash with images of people crouched on rooftops and the bloated bodies of cattle twirling like abandoned airbeds in swimming-pool fields. In Missouri a family of five drowned in their car while waiting in line at McDonald’s and the President flew in and declared it a disaster, as some on the rooftops had already guessed.”

Do you recognize the passage? If so, you have a good memory. If not, it’s because it’s not usually one of those excerpts that reviewers and sites like GoodReads quote from the novel.

I noticed this paragraph recently because I’m re-reading the book. I smiled as I read it because it’s the kind of thing I would write for a satirical novel or blog post. Bits and pieces of it could even fit in a comedian’s stand-up comedy routine. For satire and/or dark humor, the paragraph is slick, well-written, and filled with sadistic puns and groaner double entendres.

However, the paragraph appears in a book listed as a psychological thriller that focuses on love, loss, family, and coming to grips with massive change. That being the case, I think the author should have cut this graph from the novel and saved it for another book because outside of comedy or satire, this is over the top:

  • taking a breath
  • rain with attitude
  • liked it and stayed
  • news was awash with images
  • abandoned airbeds
  • And then we end with the family drowning in a line at McDonald’s followed by the President declaring it (the flood or the McDonalds?) a disaster area

The passage gets “worse and worse” the farther it goes and becomes really dark with the Missouri family/disaster area juxtapositioning.

I believe most critics and writing professors would classify all this as “too much” in a mainstream novel. In context, the passage seems out of place at the beginning of a subsection in which a young girl is in a coma while her parents wonder if she’ll survive. Perhaps the novelist saw this as a transitional, “adding insult-to-injury” kind of paragraph. Or maybe he liked the contrast between the slick weather description and the horror of the girl supported by machines, tubes, and sensors.

In general, what do you think?

Does your opinion change one way or the other when I tell you this excerpt came from The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans?

Writers are advised to kill their darlings. I wish Evans had pulled the trigger or put these words into a drawer for later use.

Malcolm

My eight novels and numerous short stories fit into the genres of contemporary fantasy, magical realism, paranormal, and satire. Other than the Special Investigative Reporter, my storytelling focuses on magic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Woman ticked off at friends who won’t buy her a new washing machine

Junction City, TX, January 18, 2020, Star-Gazer News Service–Joyce Carlton admits she made a mistake when she sought help from her neighbors when she needed a Maytag 6.0 CU. PT. extra-large capacity top load agitator washing machine for $1,399.

“I got mixed up and told all my friends I was starting a crow funding event to raise the money and needed to know how to do it because I’m not Internet savvy,” Carlton said. “The response was tepid, presumably because a lot of people don’t like crows.”

According to Carlton’s husband, Bill, the 12-year-old kid, “what’s his face,” next door took pity on her and not only told her the correct term was “crowdfunding,” but showed her how to set up the event and announce it via e-mail and Facebook.

“Joyce said, ‘Don’t tell anybody this, honey, but I feel like a real ninny having all my Facebook friends thinking I was raising money to support crows,'” Bill Carlton told reporters after the house was covered with instructive graffiti such as, “Need a washing machine, get a job” and “How many men are you doing laundry for, slut?”

Carlton’s next-door neighbor Wanda James said that she had a heart-to-heart talk with Joyce over three cups of badly made coffee in Joyce’s kitchen.

“I explained that crowdfunding is generally intended as a way to raise money for a favorite charity or for a truly needy family that needs help,” said James. “She told me she was truly needy because she was struggling with an ancient washing machine without all the bells and whistles people need in today’s world.”

Police said they have yet to catch the person or persons who spray-painted graffiti on the white stucco of the Carltons’ house. An informed source, who is not authorized to speak for publication, said that everyone in the neighborhood with an old washing machine is a suspect.

“My daughters sell Girl Scout cookies and Joyce never bought any. My other next-door neighbor’s son sold band candy and Joyce never bought any. The homeowners association held a fundraising drive to help the Sweeneys after their house burnt down, and Joyce and Bill couldn’t spare a dime,” James said.

Joyce and Bill Carlton acknowledged that they were both cheapskates when it came to helping others, but thought that their beautifully appointed lawn–compliments of Hanson’s Lawn Care Service–would show the community that they were entitled to more respect.

“I guess we’re going to be chipping into to every clown who rings our doorbell whining for money for one dirtbag cause or another,” Bill Carlton said.

Story filed by Jock Stewart, Special Investigative Reporter

Excerpt: ‘LOCAL AUTHOR APOLOGIZES FOR MAKING VIXEN IN NOVEL TOO MUCH LIKE NEIGHBORHOOD VIXEN’

Here’s a brief excerpt from Special Investigative Reporter:

“When he got to the office, the clerk at the information desk told him Marcus wanted him to cover the Cane Molasses press conference over at the Main Street Book Emporium. He (Jock) would know that already if he bothered to answer his phone. Cash had, apparently, left for the day when a police officer located the pickup truck at his house. (The receptionist said she didn’t know whose house she was talking about.)

“After the press conference, he went home and slapped together a news story while waiting for a goat cheese and anchovy pizza to arrive:

 

LOCAL AUTHOR APOLOGIZES FOR MAKING VIXEN IN NOVEL TOO MUCH LIKE NEIGHBORHOOD VIXEN

Cane Molasses apologized at a hastily called press conference here this afternoon to “any and all women” who believe they are or might be the Judy Miracle character in his prize-winning 2008 novel Miracle on 35th Street.

Molasses called the press conference and book signing at the Main Street Book Emporium after an unidentified woman accosted him at his home this morning and accused him of basing the Miracle character on secrets she told him when they stopped for drinks on the way home from an AA meeting.

“I’m involved with dozens of women a year for research purposes,” said Molasses, “and all of them are well compensated. Miracle is a composite character based on Carl Jung’s reformed hooker archetype which is extensively described in his collected works.”

Molasses told the crowd of some 500 adoring fans and one heckler that Miracle is a beautiful fictional character who sees the light just in time to be buried in a high-brow cemetery on 35th Street. While many of his fans purportedly model their lives on Miracle’s story, it was not his intent to suggest Miracle is either every woman or any specific woman.

According to Police Sergeant Wayne Bismarck, nobody was seen leaving the Kroger Store on Edwards Street wearing a sack over their head “any time in recent memory.”

-30-

 

As he finished the story, the pizzeria called and apologized for not sending out the pizza he wanted. Apparently, everyone who tried to make such a thing got sick. He thanked them for their trouble, canceled the order, and ate two diet TV dinners with a glass or two (he lost count after two) of Cabernet.

It was the kind of wine a restaurant like the Purple Platter bought in 55-gallon drums, then used for filling bottles with an “estate bottled” Purple Platter label.

Copyright © 2019 by Malcolm R. Campbell

EPA to Implement Cistern Plan to Solve Rising Seas Problems

Washington, D.C., July 25, 2019, Star-Gazer News Service–The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will soon begin placing rows of used crude oil storage tanks, each capable of holding 16 million gallons of liquid, in the open spaces at solar farms, wind farms, abandoned military bases, and Alien holding cells at Area 51. These tanks will be linked to a vast pumping station and pipeline network that will extract seawater from the oceans to counteract rising sea levels.

At this morning’s press conference, EPA Deputy Manager of Oceans, Leilani Moana reported that while the agency has not reversed its position about the unreality of climate change and related rising sea levels, it recognizes that small, short term climate anomalies are causing a public panic about the future of states like Hawai’i and Florida.

“Since the EPA feels your pain,” Moana said, “our top scientists and engineers  have devised a system of pumping stations, pipelines, and aqueducts to remove water from coastal areas and store it inland until it can be safely released.”

Some of the pumping stations would be tied into desalinization plants that would reduce the pressure on river systems for potable freshwater during times of drought.

According to a NASA white paper, launching water into the sun on Saturn V rockets would be cost-prohibitive even though some experts said such a program would cool the sun slightly, allowing Arctic glaciers to reform to help stabilize sea levels.

“The world’s excess heat is primarily caused by heated arguments about climate change that are turning the entire issue into a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Moana said. She added that groups claiming that the weight of the water in the cisterns would push the U.S. deeper into the ocean are unfounded.

Scientists told reporters this morning that the water held in the cisterns would always remain available to be pumped back into the oceans should weather anomalies ever decrease sea levels to the point where cruise ships were scraping bottom trying to get in and out of popular tourist destination ports.

“The Earth’s water supply is a closed system,” said EPA Chief Oceanographer Porter “Po” Seidon. “The water we have is all the water we have. All we’re doing is improving upon the Creator’s design to better manage that water in times of weird high temperatures or weird low temperatures.”

“We think we’ll have the system up and running before we lose southern Florida,” Moana said.

Story filed by Jock Stewart, Special Investigative Reporter

 

 

 

This and that, including a cover reveal

  1. When out-of-town people threaten to stop by for a visit, we clean up the house. I just spent an hour cleaning the hall bathroom. Now, it smells like Clorox, Formula 409, Windex, and Lysol. If all that doesn’t give out an inviting aura of cleanliness, I don’t know what does.
  2.  One of the guests, and I won’t mention her name, drinks some kind of fru-fru white wine that can only be purchased in this area at Publix. Frankly, I think the stuff tastes like Kool-aid. But, I drove a hundred miles to the Publix to make sure we have the stuff in stock.
  3. My publisher and I are waiting for the printer’s proof copy of the paperback for Lena so we can figure out when the release date will be. Lena is the third novel in the Florida Folk Magic Series. The artist who did the covers for the first two books wasn’t available for this one. So, we’re quite pleased that our new artist was able to capture the look and feel of the series.
  4. We have fun watching the TV series “Who Do You Think You Are” that involves well-known people tracking down their ancestors. The TV show plus their fame gets these people access to archivists and historians around the world, and that makes us a bit jealous. What’s amusing is that the genealogist always starts the person out with a search on Ancestry.com, something the person seemingly could have done at home before they came on the show. That part ain’t that difficult.
  5. My last post on this blog taught me one thing. Nobody wants to read about James Joyce, much less Finnegans Wake. Okay, I guess I won’t be talking about that any more. <g>
  6. Anyone else here reading Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series about a wizard who runs a big city detective agency? In a way, once you’ve read one, you’ve read all of them. Nonetheless, they’re addictive: thrills, chills, gore, and humor.
  7. I look forward to the day when real-life politics stops sounding like satire. Jock Stewart, my alter-ego who satirizes politics from time to time on this blog has nothing to write about because “he” can’t come up with anything more outlandish than what the two major parties are saying and doing.

On that note, I think I’ll go back to cleaning up the house.

Malcolm

‘The Paramecium Papers’ Banned in All Fifty States

Parents in local school districts across the country have banded together to challenge a proposed new series’ inclusion in K-12 level school libraries and literature classes on grounds that the material: (a) is without Biblical foundations, (b) tends to teach evolution, and (c) scares kids by hypnotizing them into believing purported microscopic organisms in the water are controlling the way they think.

A new group called Ignorant Louts Against Science (ILAS) was hastily formed in Boston last night to provide funds and position papers to beleaguered parents who need legal help in fighting “this insidious new blogging niche.”

“My poor kid little Bobby got so thirsty, he had to be put on an IV to stay hydrated when he was led to believe the water was no longer safe to drink,” said Sue Smith. “My husband inadvertently got him drunk by giving him beer because ‘beer kills those little buggers in the water.'”

The American Civil Liberties Union declined to get involved in the case, arguing that paramecia had no Constitutional rights, except possibly in California,

“Of course, we’ve been drinking the water,” said ACLU spokesperson William Bryan, “so we’ll stipulate that if the paramecia in our drinking water are controlling our thoughts, we may not be thinking straight, legally speaking.”

According to ILAS officials, “Saying paramecia in the water might be controlling our thoughts is like yelling ‘fire’ in crowded theater. Better that we should die slowly over a long period of time if those little critters are real than to trample each other immediately while running like a crazed mob out of libraries and classrooms where bed-wetting liberal teachers are using ‘The Paramecium Papers’ as gospel.”

Sue Smith admitted that there as “an outside possibility” that “The “Paramecium Papers” might be true.

“If the papers are true, the threat from paramecia is like global warming. It’s only going to kill people in the future, so there’s no need getting our panties in a wad about it now,” Smith said.

Famed author and raconteur Malcolm R. Campbell, who created “The Paramecium Papers” as a prospective new blogging niche said, “The whole thing was a joke and certainly wasn’t intended as material for inclusion in school libraries and classes. I considered doing a Crowdfunding initiative to raise the $1000000000000 needed to fight the censorship plans of ILAS, but I didn’t want to be caught in the middle of the entertainment directors at CNN and FOX when they reported what they thought I meant.”

Malcolm

 

 

I’m finding satire harder to write these days

“We’re not a respectable network. We’re a whorehouse network, and we have to take whatever we can get.” – “Network.” 1976

I’ve been writing satirical news stories since the Nixon administration, poking fun at government stupidities that seemed so inane that the public should have run for the hills, escaped over the border into Canada, or gone flat nuts.

My wife and I watched “Network” a few nights ago. We don’t think it works now as well as it did when was released because in our view, all of the networks are whorehouse networks. That is to say, they all seem biased for or against President Trump.

I introduced my old-style reporter character Jock Stewart in my in 2011 in Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire after using the character in blogs as my alter-ego for poking fun at the major political parties for years.  “He” has appeared on this and other blogs since then as well as in several Kindle books of short stories.

The problem seems to be this: everything I read in the national news already seems to be satire. At some point, Peter Sellers and/or Oscar Wilde took over the world and everything has gone crazy. Since both of them are dead, you can see that the problem must be tangled up with karma and reincarnation.

The challenge for those of us who enjoy writing satire is this: People don’t think it’s funny because they think it’s true.

The Howard Beale character in “Network” said: “So, you listen to me. Listen to me! Television is not the truth. Television’s a god-damned amusement park. Television is a circus, a carnival, a traveling troupe of acrobats, storytellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, sideshow freaks, lion tamers, and football players. We’re in the boredom-killing business. So if you want the Truth, go to God! Go to your gurus.” If the movie were made today, Beale would include the Internet.

Yes, I know, “Saturday Night Live” and “The Onion” are still out there. But when I see them, they look like the real news, the stuff we’ve been told is fake news. Gosh, when real journalism is in the toilet, satirists have no place to go. In order to save satire, we first have to return journalism to the world of objectivity. Easier said than done.

But if we lose satire as an art form, civilization is done for.

Malcolm