Tuesday, July 25, 2006

MID-TERM EXAM (Summer Session)

Context is (pretty much) everything.

I've been hammering the POD (vanity press side) world a good bit in the last few months (due to the lack of supply of decent reads this year) and realized maybe it's time I turned the tables (a little). I suppose it's easy to sniff a pile of dog excrement and say, "See? Told you it would smell." Maybe I forgot the reason I started this blog: to elevate the self-published jewels above the aforementioned fecal matter.

But we know I can do it. The question is . . . can you?

Back to context. It's not too easy (most of the time) to distinguish the published from the self-published when the cover and price are removed from the equation.

It's time for your mid-term exam. Below you will find 24 excerpts from various novels. Some of these excerpts are from POD (self-published) books and some are from books released by major publishers (Random, Warner, Putnam, etc.) You must pick which ones are from POD novels and which ones are from commercially published novels.

Feel free to send your answers to my email, with "POD EXAM" in the subject line and tell me your name (real or otherwise) and your city and state. Folks with 100% grades will win the big prize (getting your name listed on my blog along with the ever-valuable pat on the back). I welcome all to give it a shot, especially all you agents, editors, and fancy-pants literati. Just number your email from 1 to 24 and put "POD" or "Commercial" next to each entry. The [sic] markers have been removed intentionally. The exam must be completed by 5:00 pm EST, Wednesday, July 26th. Answers will be posted Thursday, July 27th. Cheaters will be expelled.

Good luck. You may begin.

(1) This is where I came in. Not the beginning, but the middle. I've spent my life feeling like I was born at eight years old and I'm about to die at nine, living my life as one long 352-day experience, with all of the abuse and anguish of the year as though it just happened moments ago. But the reflection in the mirror reassures me that I'm actually thirty-nine.

(2) Francesca takes him, leads him, into the bedroom and opens herself like a rose. Michael stares at her flower and smiles, mounts her like an animal. His smile widens as her rose becomes his. His smile will fade in approximately two weeks when he begins to see the thorns.

(3) He walks back to our bedroom, muttering and moaning that life blows, in a scary-nervous voice. The idea of broads shoving bucks in my trunks excites me. Now I have a boner, standing at the bathroom mirror in my white underwear. Look at this fucking thing. I wish I knew how to get rid of them. I need to hit the library. Time to get my mind off the boner and back to the hair.

(4) He's got twenty bucks and a true dilemma: buy groceries or buy porn. Porn last longer; he goes with the smut. Kenny has never been considered impractical.

(5) So my friend, he buys milk and eggs and sugar and a carrot, all the ingredients for a carrot cake. And Vaseline. Like he's going home to stick a carrot cake up his butt.

(6) Harry locked his mother in the closet. Harry. Please. Not again the TV. Okay, okay, Harry opened the door, then stop playin games with my head. He started walking across the room toward the television set. And don't bug me.

(7) "And your point is what? I don't even care. If you do have a point, keep it to yourself." She pauses. "No, I do care, tell me." She pauses again. "No, never mind, just get out." He starts to leave. "Wait." He looks back. "Never mind, just go." He walks out the door and slams it behind him. "Wait!" she yells.

(8) "And the fact that you're not from the campus, that takes it over the top. Because there's nothing that excites me like the idea of perceptive, intelligent women living in a university town yet having no connection with the school. Just living in the same town, right there, not needing to have anything to do with it. The idea of the intelligent woman in the university town. What is she? Why is she there? It's a stimulating idea."

(9) Acid-induced cloud, I'm all out there, man. I'm feeling the love, the glove, the shove. Let's shove together. Shove off, man. We're falling now. You see? Never gonna crash. Slash. Trash. Take the stash. Dig it. Smooth, baby.

(10) Malcolm never made the same mistake twice; he either got it right the first time or he'd spend the entire weekend correcting some half-assed attempt at success, well into mistake eighteen or nineteen.

(11) His tongue, his tongue, his tongue, so wet and wild, like having a small animal in my mouth, a slithery reptile making its way, now, down my neck, down my body, down, down, down.

(12) No one's ever held my foot before, Ellie thought, blissfully. Her foot in his hand gave her an inexplicable feeling of safety and belonging that she had never before experienced. I think I love this man, she had thought as the two of them sat silently and her foot melted in his wonderful hand.

(13) The bird’s singing became so insistent that I began asking Michael to repeat every word he said. I was a bit annoyed, a bit amused and more than a bit surprised by the bird’s behavior. When I felt I could no longer act nonchalantly about the situation I said to Michael, using an appropriate New Yorkese expression, “What is it with this bird, anyway?” To which Michael matter-of-factly replied, “Oh, that’s George” as if that was all the explanation required for my understanding of the creature’s behavior. “What do you mean, oh that’s George?” I said. “Are you telling me you know this wild bird and that you call him George?” Michael did not offer detailed verbal clarification.

(14) The rubber met the road. Actually, the rubber was on me, and I was going down a different road: the Hershey Highway. Traffic was light. I hit the gas. I was home in no time.

(15) The bell rings, and it's an incredibly ugly-sounding bell, and I wonder why? Why don't they have beautiful tones ringing us on to our next class, but I doubt that anyone gives a shit so I'd say that's why.

(16) Melanie was hosting another Mary Kay party when I got home, and the ladies were all spread around the family room, evenly spaced like digits on the face of a clock, with that fat-assed Laurie blocking my wide-screen, right at twelve o'clock. Pissed me off something fierce. All I wanted was a little time with my man, Frasier. That Niles Crane? That's funny shit, man.

(17) "She took everything from you. Everything. Everything. All I wanted was a family. That's all. All I wanted. A family. A family." Saliva spewed from his mouth and mucus bubbled from his nostrils. Harder and harder he struck, ignoring the pain ripping through his head. "Why? Why? Why!"

(18) "Don't dick with me, cockface--or cock with me, dickface--or whatever the hell it's supposed to be. You no good dickface."

(19) He wished for the thousandth time in his life that he had a dog, a golden retriever, maybe, for travels like this and to keep him company at home. But he was frequently away, overseas much of the time, and it would not be fair to the animal. Still, he thought about it anyway.

(20) I feel all the longing of this earth tugging at my sleeves. All the hope that has vanished from every soul seems to pass through me on its way to another place, and I drift with it as it goes. I want to be here. I want to be there, too. All I want is a little omnipresence.

(21) "Don't cry for me. Don't remember me. Don't take anything with you that might bring an image of me to your mind. I want to be forgotten. I want to disintegrate. Move on and leave me behind. Just don't take the Mercedes when you go. Other than that, forget me."

(22) The next night I brought her flowers. I was hoping she would hit me again, call me names, tell me how worthless I am. I rushed home from work every day, hoping. But she wouldn't do it, not even when I asked. That's when she really started cheating on me. She said whipping me made her feel bad about herself.

(23) Hers contained a desire beyond sweetness and attention, it fed a longing, beginning to flower green and yellow into a crocuslike lust, the soft petals opening into her awkward adolescence.

(24) John, 18, hated his face. If his nose were smaller, his eyes a different brown, his bottom lip pouty . . . As a kid he'd been punched in the mouth and looked great for a couple of weeks.