Friday, October 2, 2009

Sometimes I Have To Wonder What The Thinking Is

Every once in a while, I come across a book that is so mind-numbingly dull, so lackluster in execution, so obvious in plot, that it makes me want to heave it across the room in a fit of gall. No, I’m not going to name names, though I could. What boggles me is a question I have no answer to: how the bloody h-e-double hockey sticks do the things get published in the first place?

Yes, sometimes, I know, a title can be published on the strength of an author’s selling power. Yet I have to say that not every word that comes out of someone’s head needs to or should be published. Myself absolutely included. But, it’s my blo-og and I’ll write what I want to, write what I want to, write what I want to. You can blog too if it feels right to you… Ok. Enough of that.

I have talked to agents and other people in the business, and the talk is always about how quality is looked for. So much competition for so few opportunities. Impress, show them something different. Is just plain BAD so different that it passes for something new and interesting? Or is it that culturally we have become so dumbed-down that mediocre writing is the level expected? Some might say that writing to a “certain level” is fine because “at least they’re still reading”. Maybe, but I wonder if it keeps the culture from sliding any further down the road towards pond scum. Perhaps if expectations keep being lowered, it could send us cart wheeling all the way down that same road.

To be honest, I’m not impressed by books written to impress either. I suspect that some titles that have made the NY Times Bestseller list actually just spend a lot of time on coffee tables (note that I say some … I am not denigrating literary fiction, I happen to like literary fiction unless it is so self-consciously literary that it makes my nose bleed). Nothing “impresses” like a book neither the owner of the coffee table nor the guest have any intention of reading but can appreciate for the air of sophistication, sheen of “cool”, or cachet it gives someone who bought it. Personally I have better things to do with my book-buying budget.

So what do I want? It might seem like all I want are books that fall into my own defined sense of art and interest. Not true. I want well-written books. Books that enchant. Not in the Disney sense necessarily, one can be enchanted by a dark as well as a light tale. I want books that don’t send up flares illuminating the plot so that it can be seen 100 miles away. I want books that are not so ponderous and weighty that they make me seriously wonder if their real purpose is as a doorstop. I want books full of real characters, not carnival cardboard cutouts. I want neither heavy-handed fiction nor feather-handed. I don’t want to see the hand.

Most of all, I don’t want to read another piece of refuse book and marvel at how it exists in published form while I still toil to get it right so that I don’t throw my own book across the room before turning it into a doorstop.

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