You’ve Got Mail

Last night, instead of being a functional human being, I watched You’ve Got Mail on cable and over-analyzed it. I’ve seen this post-Sleepless in Seattle gem several times and I usually think to myself how underrated it is. I haven’t seen it in a few years, so perhaps my newly acquired publishing world knowledge has clouded my judgment. But let me just say – what the hell is up with the ending?

But first, a digression. I think it’s funny (though so much in a ha-ha sense) that a movie about meeting people in a new, digital age is already completely dated. If you’re still using AOL, you should probably re-think your life decisions, and if you’re still going into chat rooms, then chances are they are not ones you’d want your spouse or children knowing about. Still, this outdated comment on technology is twenty times better than the slightly modernized take on internet dating, Must Love Dogs, which is just plain terrible.

Moving on.

Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks are supposed to represent polar opposites. Big business gentrification vs. the local, independent underdog. However, the locally owned Meg gets her morning coffee at Starbucks while her typewriter-bound boyfriend chastises her for being dependent on modern technology. At the end of the movie [SPOILER ALERT], her beloved family-inherited, neighborhood favorite bookstore ends up closing. Barnes & Noble – er, I mean, “Fox Books” – wins again. But she finds love, so hey, everybody wins.

You see why I’m upset. Evil, impersonal chain stores still beat out the little guy and it’s a happy ending. Now, I know why Ms. Ephron did it and it actually does make sense. But, if this movie was made now, still using and promoting modern technology the way it does, I think Meg Ryan would have a fightin’ chance. That’s right, you heard me, cynical literary world of the late ’00s, I think the indie could win… or at least co-exist.

This is why I’m proposing (Nora Ephron, you out there?), You’ve Got Re-Tweeted, the inevitable sequel that is apparently only inevitable in my brain. Tom & Meg are still happily together, maybe even married, and are still fully embracing technology. Tom’s publishing diva ex now owns an e-book company and Meg’s anti-tech ex’s head has exploded. Meanwhile, Meg, who’s proven she’s fine with selling out (see Starbucks comment above), re-opens her Shop Around the Corner, cancels AOL, and uses her Twitter account/blog/Facebook fan page to gain more publicity for her store than that stupid Fox Books ever dreamed of. Independents win in the end! (Winning means “not technically losing,” right?)

If this gets made, I demand royalties. Or a chance to play the token sassy, brunette friend.

Editing Your Life

“The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof, shit detector.” – Ernest Hemingway

Since two of my favorite methods of relaxation are reorganizing my bookshelves and cleaning out my closet, it should come as no surprise that throwing away clutter fills me with a sense of accomplishment that, in turn, creates a very happy moment. I’m a “what’s next?” person, I think. In high school, all I could think about was graduating. And in the years since graduating from college, I’ve never once had a “if only I could go back for just one day” moment. (To the town of Ithaca, maybe, but not to college.)

So, this morning, after a weekend away from Google Reader, I saw 1000+ unread stories and I deleted, without reading, about 980 of them. This made me feel good about myself. I can’t explain why. But then I saw THIS pop up and immediately opened it. In case you have yet to click that link, I will just tell you that Boing Boing does, in fact, explain my elation over deletion. From the article: “The more I delete, the happier I am. It’s about learning to say no — learning to refuse things that aren’t contributing to my work or to my life.” Sums up my philosophy nicely, if I were to call my obsession with neatness and simplicity a “philosophy.”

Relating this to writing, since everything so often does, see the above quote by Hemingway. Now allow me to get slightly personal. In my final year and half in college, I became depressed over a very traumatic death in my family. I was fairly decent at hiding just how depressed I became because deep down I knew it was grief and not clinical depression, and grief eventually passes. Still. I took a writing seminar called Writing and Healing specifically to write about this event.

I’m not about to tell you a story where I was magically cured of my grief through the power of the written word, or anything like that. However, the class made me look at what I was going through in a different way – as a piece of literature. The same way we’d tell people in workshop, “This doesn’t really work here,” or “More of this, less of that,” my professor and peer group used the same workshop slogans on my pieces. In a way, they were telling me “If it doesn’t make for good writing, then stop worrying about it.” Pretty harsh lesson for someone going through a rough time as it is, but it helped. The actual writing I produced was still terribly emotional and unedited, but the idea of keeping only what matters, whether in writing or in life, stayed with me.

How do you edit your lives? Cleaning? Drastic hair cuts? Defriending on Facebook? (Which I LOVE on a whole other therapeutic level that can be saved for another day.) Think of Hemingway next time you sit down to write. What absolutely must be there, and what is just, simply put, shit?

The Secret Lives of Titles

Remember when it seemed every single title (fiction and nonfiction) in the bookstore claimed to be “The Secret Life of” something? Or when we were forced to hear about daughters of Gravediggers and Memory Keepers and Heretics and Calligraphers and so on and so on?

Working in publishing, I see a lot of similarities among titles just here at the office. Preparing our rights guides for the Frankfurt Book Fair this year, I noticed the children’s and YA titles usually told some kind of story involving The [noun or verb] Of The [noun]. Who decides on these trends anyway? What makes one type of title catch on over another?

In late summer/early fall of this year, it seemed magicians were staking their claim as the next cool title accessory with the release of The Magicians by Lev Grossman and The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo. I admit that the word “magician” does make a book sound more appealing, but I’m still hoping this trend doesn’t catch on. Trends in general put me off because I am the type of person who will say something like, “If I see one more novel claiming to The [scandalous career or quirky subject matter] Diaries, I’ll scream!” Hence, I will not buy the book based on something resembling a principle.

What would you like to see become a trend? Or, what title do you think will start a trend, whether we like it or not? For 2010, I’m making the prediction that Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue will begin a Going [blank] craze for a while. It’s already spawned the parody, Going Rouge, and if 2008-2009 has taught us anything, it’s these two things: 1) Publishing houses will cling to anything in order to survive, and 2) Sarah Palin cannot be stopped.