Friday, July 10, 2015

What Is In A Title May Be In Your Dirt

An unknown author wrote a novella about a widowed, childless man redesigning and restoring his storm damaged backyard into a wonderfully landscaped, mini-park. He begins to do the work by himself.  Later as the story goes on his once complaining, doubtful neighbors join in to assist him. Some more people from the local community lent a hand to the project, donating food and supplies to the workers. From the beginning, it is a filthy and messy job for this one man on his own. Because for him there was a lot of mud, dirt, rock and dust to dig, remove and redistribute in that medium-sized backyard. Therefore, the novice woman author decides to title her book 'Dirt.' In a critical review of the author's first-time novella, a book critic complained about the title. "I know there is a lot of dirt in the story. The characters talk about it. But why call the book 'Dirt'? Dirt is dirt, what is the meaning of it?! It is a lame title for a boring book. I am better off watching for hours my neighbor dig up his back yard than reading this nonsense. It is a waste of time, don't bother!" Other critics easily agreed in panning the short book for the same-like reasons. It seems to be a major issue with the first book critic-that bland, unambitious title. Does it matter to you as a reader?
Against the critic's disapproval a child's parents purchased the novel and read it with their son. Because the youth delightfully shares in gardening with his mother. They recalled when their son was younger he loved playing in the mud with toy bulldozers and construction loader trucks. Was the 'awful' book a loss of their money of the price of $5.99 plus sales tax? The child sent a letter to the book critic. "You have a lot of trouble with the title. I can help you with that mister. I know why it is called Dirt", the 9-year old explains in his letter. "It is because 72 percent of the book is about dirt." The boy continues in his letter. "You missed the part when the old man found an unusual jewelry belonging to his late wife in the dirt. And how it helped him be closer to his neighbors. Some of them also knew his wife. It was a thrill to read how the old man got up in the middle of the night and yelled, 'I am the dirt's menace. I will get control of my yard!' The pie-making lady told the old man that 'dirt can be our friend too, it gives us good things to eat.' The writer did not give the man a name, but she made him so real to us! I almost see him sitting next to me writing this letter to you. He sits tired from his hard work, having his favorite ginger tea and poppy seed crackers. But I feel him watching me, he waits to give me advice like my grandpa." 

"The story is very moving; it made my mother cry. I told my older sister what the old man said to make her feel better." The boy's letter was much longer than the critic's capsule review of the book named Dirt. "A week later " he relates, "we all heard my sister say out loud in her bedroom, 'I am my cancer menace! I will get control of my life!' For the first time, I saw my dad cried since my grandma died. He told me real men can cry because Jesus did. So I cried with him, he hugged me and then my sister and my mom. We all cried together. This moment looked so silly of us. But I felt really good. My father said the old man reminded him of my grandfather. I think they are two different, old men. My grandfather lost my grandmother two years ago. I miss her so much. My grandfather lives by himself and always argues dad and uncle Ralph that he can take care of himself. But he needs friends just like the old man in the story to help him be happy. I remember now what the ebony black man said to the old man, 'why do you keep me from helping you? We are brothers of different colors and ethnicity, we who descended from Noah, from Adam, who was being formed out of the dirt you are wrestling with.' I am glad the old man listened to the African immigrant neighbor."

The boy did not stop writing yet. "We were surprised that the old man did not marry the pie-making lady. She was a sweet woman like my Aunt Ollie. My mom said they should have fallen in love because the old man is lonely. We sent the book to my grand father as a gift." The boy then asks the book critic, "so why did you hate this book? Why did you tell us not to read it?" The boy's mother wisely advised him to use good manners in writing letters and not to expect an answer from the book critic. Was there more to the story than dirt the boy saw and the critic did not? My realization there are errors in my book 57 Pages which should be re-addressed and corrected. The obligation is on me as much as a mechanic should without cost repair the mechanical faults he unintentionally caused in his customer's car. My viewpoint is that the title is not one of those problems a book critic recently found himself contending. The following is an except from his review dated June 19, 2015, it is the book' product page:

"There was zero humor. There were numerous grammatical errors. In fact, I have no idea why it was even called "57 Pages"! Yes, there were 57 "chapters", some of which had 1 cartoon, some of which had several, but within the chapters there was no continuity between the cartoons, either aesthetically, topically, or otherwise. Nothing made sense at all."

The critic spoke truthfully in saying there are unrelated cartoons in the sections. The book did indicate each drawing gives attention to a varying theme or subject matter. The book did not specify there would be stories within the chapters. Also the book never conveyed on the cover, the book's product page and introduction section it would address a primary subject in the sections. 
The sections are numbered to 57, yet are not titled like television series' episodes. For example, I felt it was wise to separate the two cartoons about suicide, rather than place them in the same chapter. Why? Because each of those cartoons has a varying theme on suicide, having different angles of viewpoints with various, cartoon people. In between, before and after these line drawings about suicide are other, non-suicide themed cartoons that help us to appreciate the gift of life. 
My other book, Curtis on the News: The Unfinished Chronicles, 2008-2013 (Book One) have both numbered and titled chapters. That book's introduction explains book's title using 'unfinished chronicles'. Yet the two books are listed in different genres. Let us consider this specification some more. The reviewer did complained about the title of the book having 57 sections or chapters. The title he read also include 'a collection of' cartoons. With a collection of humor drawings on various themes there is no obligation to have a central theme, a complete story or include principal characters. 

The book genre is also of art in cartooning and comic books, good or wrong you may find it. Nook Press and Amazon have the book listed as fiction because the cartoons are not documentary or based on actual accounts. Amazon and Nook Press also list the book as a graphic novel because in two, separate chapters there is comic book-like panels showing the same, cartoon people. In one section of a doctor and his client, there is a trace of continuity as the two, same characters interact in different scenes. In the current edition of 57 Pages, there are no more than three cartoons in one chapter, not 'several' as the reviewer claimed.
The book critic also stated there was no continuity topically. This assertion is obviously not true just from the previous reference to suicide. The purposeful, end-of-life choice is not old news either. Because these self caused deaths have increased in Japan and the United States at alarming rates. According to US and World Reports journal, the US suicide rate has leaped to 2.4% since 2012, the highest in 25 years. 57 Pages have also touched on other, current subject matters as noted on the book's product page.
For the book critic to prove his point he needed to explain how or why 57 Pages does not relate to current conditions in the world. The book critic does not provide any explanation why as he stated, "within the chapters there was no continuity between the cartoons, either aesthetically, topically, or otherwise." In fact, the critic does not describe a single drawing or give his readers a unique quote from the book to support his one-star review. His readers are unable to grasp his argument why the cartoons are not "aesthetically" related. Why?
Because the critic held back giving a description or example from the book, perhaps assuming that everyone reading his review will instantaneously accept his statements. What an weak approach of book reviewing because writers still desire to improve their craft. They may be humble and willing enough to listen to critical reviews of their books and re-evaluate their work for the better. Readers may wish to learn from book reviewers what are examples and aspects of good and bad literature.

The answer could be basic, but it is truthful. There are 57 sections or chapters. So it is named 57 Pages. It is as simple as pie, almost a no brainer without having to 'fall off a log' in comprehension. In the conclusion I did explained a little more about the title, referring the number 57 to a travel route. Somewhere on route 57 or route 13 something could happen that might impact the drivers. Likewise there may be something within the 57 sections that might affect the readers. I am not saying the choice of the title is non-essential. Yet a book title is not required to be mind-boggling, thought provoking or significantly earth-shattering. A author has the freedom to employ a generalized title like 'The 39 Steps', '12 Angry Men' or like...the book named Dirt, if it relates to the overall book content. Many may agree it is what is inside the book that matters more. Since the book critic found little to understand about 57 Pages. Maybe it will be another 9-year child who sees it differently. Or it may be you (or someone else) who realizes there could be life in a handful of dirt.

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