Monday, August 28, 2006

That Topic Is the Focus of a Book?? And It Is Selling??

Today I was reading Mental Multivitamin (one of my favorite blogs) in which a book was mentioned which I had never heard of before. The book is "Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping" by Judith Levine. My first thought was "What is this book about?" so I read the description on Amazon and also some customer reviews.

I then got annoyed when I realized that Levine intentinally chose to not go shopping (for anything but the very basics) for a year and to keep a journal for the purpose of writing a book about it. Somehow the fact that it was done for the purpose of writing a book demeans it or lessens the respect I have for a person who endured the torture of not shopping (that was to be read as sarcastic if you didn't realize it).

First I thought, "Why didn't I think of that?" and "I could have written that!".

I then read that Levine had high credit card bills and this prompted her to have the idea to do the project. My respect dwindled at hearing that as it was not done out of a pure project idea but party of necessity. I've been there, done that, back when I was single, I ran up my bills to higher than my gross annual income, and had to work very hard and restrict my spending to next to nil in order to pay them off (rather than to declare bankruptcy which I could have done).

I plan to borrow Levine's book from the library to read, or to try to read, I should say. If it is worthwhile I'll finish it. If it is annoying and whiny I will stop reading it. I am not sure how empathetic I'll feel about reading her whine about not buying latte's from the take out coffee shop. I'll let you know what I think about it!

Perhaps I should write a book on what it is like to be living well as a happy stay at home mother who formerly had a fulfilling career, but left it to stay at home with her children, later to find her husband unemployed, and what a shock to my system that was. Or how about the not under my control reality of that unemployment stretched not to 6 months or 1 year or 2 but hitting 3 years and going beyond? Or how it feels to know that even if I were to go back to work full time that I could not even pay our mortgage let alone the property taxes and all the other normal expenses that we incur (such as grocery store food)? Shall I share my experiences with the world? I have a lot of bigger issues than skipping take out latte's and skipping Broadway shows and 5 star restaurant meals (which was a part of my former life). Perhaps there is a story that I could write, of living in Fairfield county where money is flung to and fro as if it is in an endless supply and where people love to flaunt what they have? Where we as a zero income family stick out like a sore thumb amongst my neighbors who redecorate for fun (with an interior decorator) and those who feel that using private jets is the only acceptable method of travel to their hot vacation destination? I no longer fit in with those living in my town and county. I didn't think anyone would want to hear about that type of stuff, but from the sales rank of Levine's book (today it is ranked #4833 in sales), people want to hear that kind of thing, at least Levine's version of it, when the non-spending is done more as a project than as a life necessity? What I mean is perhaps it is entertaining and fun to read a book about someone who chooses not to shop for a year as a project but perhaps it is not fun to read of real people struggling with life problems that force them to not shop for a year (or more), do you see the difference? The fact that the uncomfortable act is intentional and optional makes reading about it entertaining but if we were to read, for example, about the real life struggles of Hurricane Katrina victims who spent the last year not shopping, then that would not be entertaining or fun, would it?

This got me to thinking about the whole idea of "hey, I should do something that normal American's can't fathom doing that is uncomfortable or odd and then document it and write a memoir about it". Another book in this vein is the one about the woman who lives alone for a year, separated from her family, to try to find herself after her children have left the nest. Wasn't there also a book about a person who chose to not speak for a year or something like that--to just listen and to not communicate with others? And how about those who do things like climb Mt. Everest (a life threatening event) and brush with death and then write about it as a life changing experience?

I used to read books about people who left normal society to move to an isolated place to live off the land, such as in the Brooks Mountain Range in Alaska or in the woods of Maine. Those books were very interesting to me. I enjoyed reading how people could not just survive but they could thrive in remote wilderness areas. I was also curious about what they hated of typical American society such to drive them out and away from it to such an extreme. Finding satisfaction and fulfillment while living in conditions which are absent of the usual 'creature comforts' that suburban Americans have as well as doing very physically demanding work (splitting wood, hunting and preparing game to eat) left me awestruck. I respect people who do that and enjoy it and can write eloquently about it.

I don't think I'll have the same feeling while reading about Judith Levine's experience, but I'll give it a chance.

Meanwhile I need to brainstorm what I can write about that actually sell!

Perhaps I should buy this book: "Damn! Why Didn't I Write That? How Ordinary People Are Raking in $100,000 or More Writing Nonfiction Books and How You Can Too!" to get me started with some practical advice and some ideas?

1 comment:

the spouse said...

LOL! Don't underestimate the interest of outsiders in the view you could give from the inside of "normal" life in our neck of the woods here. You realize how not normal it is, but I think you may not realize just how not normal it is! An accurate peek into daily life here would read like a bizarre sci fi novel to much of middle America. You may very well find your bestseller there. (Can we get Meryl Streep to play you when they make the movie?!).

I too like the memoirs of people who have chosen (the operative word there, as you point out, is "chosen") to write about unusual activities that they have decided to undertake. There's a bit of "what if I did that" quality to all of that writing that interests us all. However, I've always wondered what kind of a book Thoreau could have written if he enbarked on recording his views of everyday life in the town of Concord after his sojourn at Walden Pond. That would have been a gem.

I've seen the author of "Not Buying It" interviewed. I thought I'd see her on every other news and talk show out there, but I only caught that one intererview. I thought that the interview fell flat, as did her reasons for embarking on the project and her tales of woe endured. But, I don't drink coffee so maybe the lack of latte is much more impacting than I realized? With no follow-up interviews scheduled though, I have a feeling that many other potential interviewers agreed with me. As you point out, one can only get so worked up about a woman deprived of her lattes while pictures of Katrina victims are still running a year after the event.