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An Open Letter to Gordon Korman - The Grand Knights of the Exalted Karpoozi [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
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An Open Letter to Gordon Korman [Apr. 26th, 2006|10:14 pm]
Grand Knights of the Exalted Karpoozi

exaltedkarpoozi

[wordling]
Dear Gordon Korman,
I would send you this letter but that would be mean. Better to write it and leave it posted online for you to stumble across while drunk-googling yourself when up too late with a sick child.

It's not a love letter, more of a note to let you know that the relationship, the long and passionate and polyamorous relationship, is a thing of the past. You sold us out. This is the nature of your kind. We had hoped that the rarity of child prodigies and idiot savants in literature meant that you simply held immense potential to be tapped for years to come. But apparently whomever said that most authors only know one story had it right. And when you decided to start writing stories you didn't know, it was over between us.

"This Can't Be Happening at McDonald Hall" wasn't your best book, but it was pretty damn good for a twelve year old when I read it at age eight, and even more impressive when I passed my twelfth (and then thirteenth, fourteenth, etc.) birthday still unpublished. I'm not sure about this, I'd have to go back and look, but I think you peaked in the late 80s. Strange, isn't it? A terrible time for so many aspects of North American culture, but for you, the highest height. "No Coins, Please" and "Don't Care High" and "A Semester in the Life of a Garbage Bag."

According to my calculations, your last good book was "Macdonald Hall Goes Hollywood" or "The Twinkie Squad" in 1992. "Toilet Paper Tigers" had its moments, but it also hinted at what lay ahead. "Radio Fifth Grade" was a clear advertisement to the (any?) powers that be that your soul had a price. It was the literary equivalent of putting a "for sale" sign on the lawn. And by the time your sports series and shipwreck series came out, you were long gone. Far enough from your original self that I had to check with librarians and the nascent internet to ascertain that this was, indeed, the same Gordon Korman.

In "Son of the Mob" you hit rock-bottom. It was the avada kedavra rebounding on you, reducing you to something barely recognizable as a once-promising Canadian writer. In it you plagarized your own writing, recycling jokes and scenes from your earlier, good books. And you didn't tell them nearly as well as the first time around.

I say all this as an old friend, someone who now values your health over the health of our friendship. You know I care about your writing; you're the first author I ever wrote to. I still pick up copies of your *good* books when I see them in thrift stores and garage sales. I recommend you (with caveats) to friends. You are at least a major dialect in the language I speak with my brothers, so immersed were we in your books growing up -- welding and briefcases and safety pins and bugs and RVs and tire pressure gauges. And just tonight my brother said "windmill" in the same paragraph as "Halloween" which of course developed into a conversation of Howard's dressing as "The Windmill" at the party and doing it as a dance and even before that, when he talked about Halloween contests, I thought of Ashley. And even early in the day when I was at the bank with my parents, my mother couldn't stop gushing about her banker, a ringer for Boots. She thought it must've been the influence of that George Wexford Smythe III.

See? We did love your books, all of us, mother and father and children, like a good American or Canadian nuclear family. I have tapes of me reading "Beware the Fish" outloud for my uncle on his drive to Florida thirteen years ago. It still takes conscious effort for me to remember that the world does not function according to the same rules set down in your writing, and that I should not use Bruno and Boots as models of community organizing.

Perhaps it's our fault for falling so hard for you. But the year I found out that there was a sequel to "Who is Bugs Potter?" and I waited months and months for it, it didn't disappoint. Nope. You saved up disappointment, decided to leave us with a flourish, with writing so juvenile, predictable, and inane that we couldn't believe it came from you. With no hope of a brighter future.

Gordon, if I were Bruno, I would long ago have been expelled by Mr. Wizzle for ranting about the sanctity of your books being threatened. If I were Bugs, my insappably blind optimism would be gone. If I were The Fish, you'd be dead of my steely glare. If I were Querada, more than just the curtains would have burned down. Of all your characters, I think only Jordy's agent would be on speaking terms with you.

We miss you. We mourn the death of a writer of great potential and his replacement by a robot, as Gramps would say. It's as if the poetry, not Gavin G. Gunhold, got runover by the trolley.

So this is it, Gordon.
Goodbye.
LinkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: tiferet
2006-04-27 03:22 am (UTC)
...um, okay.

Could we have an LJ cut and an explanation? You've clearly read some books I haven't read.
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[User Picture]From: biichan
2006-04-27 03:26 am (UTC)
Eh, basically what she's saying is that his new books suck compared to his old books. Which is sort of true, I'm afraid. Sigh. I wish it wasn't, though.

(Son of The Mob wasn't that bad, I thought. But it wasn't the kind of Korman I remember from the old days.)
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[User Picture]From: tiferet
2006-04-27 03:35 am (UTC)
Is there a new book? "The Half Blood Prince of Macdonald Hall" kind of bad?
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[User Picture]From: kleenexwoman
2006-04-27 03:40 am (UTC)
That would make an excellent crossover.
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[User Picture]From: marginaliana
2006-04-27 02:21 pm (UTC)
OMG! *adds to list of crackfics to pretend to think about writing in her spare time*
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[User Picture]From: hanfastolfe
2007-02-27 06:47 am (UTC)
A Harry Potter + MacDonald Hall crossover would be amusing and scary at the same time. Have a castle somewhere in Canada, and watch as Sidney Rampulsky blows up random things with his wand, while Bruno insists that the decor of the castle is impossible and strikes a committee to modernize it. Boots, meanwhile, frantically looks for an ulcer-healing potion as he wonders about all the ways Bruno can get himself expelled, including using a school broom to sneak across to the girl's tower.

:P
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[User Picture]From: marginaliana
2007-03-01 02:08 pm (UTC)
Eeee, that sounds amazing! I can see Elmer doing experiments in practical arithmancy and hippogryff breeding... Brilliant!
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[User Picture]From: biichan
2006-04-27 03:41 am (UTC)
No, not that bad! Or at least, not if it's like the book it's a sequel to. I'll read it in the bookstore tomorrow or Friday when I have time.

I think what happened to Korman is that as he grew up into a real live grown up his writing got a lot more polished in terms of technique, but a lot of the joy went out of it too. But I can't really blame him. When he wrote a lot of the good stuff he was in his teens and early twenties and probably had a lot more free time than he does now as an aforementioned grown-up.
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[User Picture]From: conuly
2006-04-27 03:49 am (UTC)
(Son of The Mob wasn't that bad, I thought. But it wasn't the kind of Korman I remember from the old days.)

Agreed. Actually, as a book, it's quite good. It's just not as... wild and hysterical as his earlier work.
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[User Picture]From: biichan
2006-04-27 04:20 am (UTC)
Exactly!

Sigh. Vintage Korman, mmm. His later books are so much less slashy too, damn it.
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[User Picture]From: twentyfivepast
2006-04-27 03:27 am (UTC)


It makes me cringe to see those little trilogies of "adventure" books sitting out on the tables on the bookstore, like, "No, wait, he is a good writer, really, but the good books are on the shelf over there."

I wrote to him c/o Scholastic when I was about 8, and it came back. That was one of the sadder days of my life.
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[User Picture]From: resplendissante
2006-04-27 03:55 am (UTC)
Gosh. That's so puzzling to me. I really liked Son of the Mob and especially Jake Reinvented. They're not MacDonald Hall, but as YA books go, they're actually well-developed.
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[User Picture]From: annnimeee
2006-04-27 04:45 am (UTC)
I love the part you wrote about Ashley. Whenever I think of something bad happening or someone talks about bad luck, I think about Jardine.
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[User Picture]From: eavanmoore
2006-04-27 04:59 am (UTC)
I actually found Radio Fifth Grade hilarious. I haven't read it in several years, but it definitely didn't disappoint when I was in middle school (early high? can't remember...)

But I do agree that his later books are sad. The Toilet Paper Tigers really wasn't funny.
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[User Picture]From: azurelunatic
2006-04-27 07:07 am (UTC)
That was the last book of his that I remember reading. I decided it was time to give up then. Though was that before or after the D- poems?
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[User Picture]From: anyeone
2006-04-27 04:29 pm (UTC)
I haven't read much of his newer stuff, the last one I read (forgot the name) was the one about the guys living in the brother's apartment that they MUST NOT LOSE and then running the restaurant for the annoying landlord or something. It was amusing but not as much as his younger works.

I just wish I could get a complete set of his early works but I only occasionally find an old dogeared copy at the local half-price books. The classics definitely deserve to be in print.
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[User Picture]From: shaleen
2006-04-28 12:53 am (UTC)
i agree with you about the books (except about radio fifth grade -- i love that book!! it's totally in the "vintage korman" category in my book "i hate this radio" makes tears well up in my eyes just thinking about it), but i can't hold it against him. it's not HIS fault his books stopped being so funny
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[User Picture]From: eavanmoore
2010-05-11 04:50 pm (UTC)
I just re-read this post, four years, later, and giggled out loud when you quoted "I hate this radio."
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[User Picture]From: shaleen
2010-05-11 04:57 pm (UTC)
hahahaha thanks for reminding me about this too. when i get home i might dig out my dusty old copy of radio fifth grade and read it again!
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[User Picture]From: lyredenfers
2006-04-28 05:11 am (UTC)
Word.
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[User Picture]From: nixitutta
2006-04-28 05:19 am (UTC)

Absolutely.

This entry totally spoke to me. I hate the way I stalk the shevles when I hear a new "korman" is coming out, just to discover it isn't a "korman" at all. (I think the books that most obviously speak of his low, capitalist point is his reality fiction/ dive stuff....sickening!)
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[User Picture]From: comme_un_buddha
2006-04-28 08:30 am (UTC)
I have to agree, the later works do lack that... SOMETHING... perhaps Korman's inner twelve-year-old has finally given up. But no matter what he does to pay the bills these days, he won my heart fair and square. Ah well. At the very least, he isn't going back Lucas-Style, into his own masterworks and remixing them to meet his new standards of entertainment value.* THEN, my friends, it will be time to throw rocks.

*We'll overlook that one tiny change to "I want to go home!" purely for the sake of manners.
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[User Picture]From: conuly
2006-04-29 02:28 am (UTC)
What change? Where? When? WHY?
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[User Picture]From: hanfastolfe
2006-04-30 03:50 pm (UTC)
He had the publishers who republished his Macdonald Hall and IWtGH books change some of the technology and prices to account for inflation and new stuff.

So now, instead of three bucks an hour in 1979 it's like five bucks an hour, or Wexford-Smythe has to get 50 grand instead of 25 grand, and there's a Discman instead of a Walkman in IWtGH.
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