Apocalypse Wow!: Books wallowing in the chaos of disasters at sea, in the air, on earth, intergalactic, or by fire, dust or frozen water, set now or then, fake or real. I feel betrayed when they're faked, as Sebastian Junger's "The Perfect Storm"apparently was, and first agitated, and then bored when they're real. Leave us to our inevitable nightmares about drowning and write about something that means something.
How I Did Run!: Self-congratulatory as-told-to-future hall-of-famer memoirs. Heaven is the NFL, or so believe many men, among them my male Temple University creative writing students who won't work on their manuscripts on sacred Sundays, "bye week" excluded. The power of professional football as a spectacle is undeniable, as is the sight of Deion in flight on the football field. Nor am I likely to complain since as long as football reigns, the days of the wolf-woman are numbered. Yet these non-books commemorating the glory days of athletes might find a happier home not between cloth covers, but in a resurrection of the old Action Comics.
Nutrition Is Life!: Books which insist that eating right, of course a "good thing," leads directly to healing. Eat well and live forever! seems too optimistic. As they posit nutritional cures for cancer, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, diverticulitis, the genre of the miracle cure book pales by hyperbole. And no, those tiny white pills dispensed by the homeopath will not cure pulmonary disease.
Wall Street Is Life!: Books which ensure that you'll make lots and lots of money and here's how. The bull market lives; the bull market is suffering its death throes, or it isn't. The plethora of books taking both positions suggests that how you invest depends on your personality type, not on any objective conditions of the market, the economy, the solar system, or the universe.
Multiculturalism Is Life!: Books preaching that diversity redeems. Diversity in fact revels in division. Self-esteem is well and good and necessary, and nationalist expressions of cultural uniqueness are an essential stage along the evolutionary path to a democratic civilization; they are not, however, particularly conducive to upholding the increasingly fragile social contract. Those wary of the ill-effects of separatism need not apply.
Naughty! Naughty!: Teeny- bopper memoirs of incest and sexual abuse. I'm suspicious of placing the nonfictional imprimatur of truth and respectability on "The Kiss" and its multiplicity of all-too-many cousins. Memoirs, like poems and plays and novels, are ornaments of our literary culture, and memoir as a form with rich potential should not be rendered suspect because of these current green practitioners barely into their salad days who aren't even very good at inventing the purported atrocities they ostensibly endured. Maybe some of them are closet virgins! "The Kiss" itself, with its flat, dubious prose, reads as if Daddy kissed daughter, and she was so aroused that she rushed home to her frilly pink bedroom to invent the rest.
As for what I'll read in 1998, I'm looking forward to Russell Banks' new novel, and to my biennial visitation of "The Golden Bow," even as I stand in wait of the unpredictable, the strange, the well-crafted, or simply the eminently sensible.
Joan Mellen is the author of 13 books, and is currently completing a memoir, "An Enemy In the House." She teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Temple University in Philadelphia.
Pub Date: 12/28/97