Sunday, April 23, 2006

Get your Jilly Cooper out and wave it in the air!!

In looking around the lit/writer blogs today, I find that there are many whingers out there and I'm afraid that I am going to have to join them.

My good friend Petrona (who must have a reading age of 101 judging by the number of words that scuttle by her eyes every day) must have books for breakfast, lunch and tea. Analysing them in her sleep and then letting blog readers know of her highly regarded thoughts and recommendations from lit right across the board.
Having just completed a survey on The Publishing Contrarian I find, horrifyingly, that I am filled with BOOK ENVY. I slathered over the titles that were offered up but I have since found out that a few people on the survey have been telling porkies! Whilst they filled the comments box with their highbrow tastes they ommited to say that they did indeed enjoy the odd, dare I say, trashy novel.
And what's wrong with this?
Are we supposed to be embarrassed by our gutter tastes, is it dreadfully common to say that we have not only read, but enjoyed books, from the bestseller lists. The Da Vinci Code came in for a right drubbing - why?

As usual I have my own theories and I'm going to compare with my well-known thoughts on the state of football in England.
We Brits live in small country, a sometime world dominationg country it has to be said, but nonetheless a small island that would fit inside many others with ease. France and Germany had a million more in acreage in which to grow their players and yet when was the last time you heard 'Well, they do quite well considering.'
Why do we find it so difficult to give praise where it is due? The so-called pundits/supporters of the game seem to enjoy putting down their teams especially those struggling in the lower leagues. Where is the support in that? (And yes, I do know the offside rule!).

So what am I saying in the world of readers and critics?
I am saying that we are not all the same, nor should we be. If writers produced all the same kind/standard of lit then half the country wouldn't be reading. My bookshelves groan under the equal weight of the good, the bad and the ugly - all of them brain food. I like burgers but I also like steak and I'm telling the world. So please give the poor (no pun intended!) writer credit for providing sustenance for all!

And envy, where did this come in? Ah yes, I am in fact jealous of those who manage to read six books a week - I couldn't do it if I tried, and why not?
I am a writer (of possibly trashy books!) and I walk around all day with an on-going novel in my head. I cannot go to the cinema without plotting, planning and structuring the next line, paragraph or chapter. I drive my family (and me) mad with bits of crucial paper stuck all over the house and the endless hours I spend tapping away in the corner.
Whatever the style or genre of a book, whatever its audience, credit should be given where credit is due. These are published authors, somebody liked them and believed in them enough to market them and you don't have to read it unless you want to!
So the next time you are reading your trash with a torch under the bedclothes, smile. It may be one of mine!


Anonymous said...

It takes me about a fortnight to get through one 55,000 word romance and at least another week to get through a 90,000 word book. It's all the bloody analysing I keep doing. I honestly envy those who can just read it, shut it, say "that was good" and then move on to the next one. But no, it's all: "why did she choose that word?" and "I wouldn't have written that sentence like that, I'd have..." blah blah blah. Drives me potty!

Anonymous said...

Depends what you call trash. I have a friend who considers Raymond Chandler trash, because they are detective stories and not lit fic, but it is entirely unjustified, as I find Umberto Eco, ( a favourite of his) almost incoherently wind filled and verbose, Chandler's genius is in the fact that not a single word is unnecessary, everything is terse, to the point and crafted perfectly, whereas longer winded lit fic or pop fic does not have to craft their sentences in the same way, because the publishers want four hundred thousand words rather than sixty eight thou.

S. Kearney said...

i am of the school that preaches that anything that someone has put energy and time into should be considered and give attention. it may not be to my taste all the time but i try to see where the person was trying to come from and where they were headed ... and that is the key - the writer put energy into the work, and surely the aim was to go from a to b. maybe i'm too tolerant and understanding. i would probably be a hopeless reviewer, but at least i'm in for a fun ride and fresh perspectives!

Unknown said...

Am I just preaching to the converted then? Maybe all writers have this perspective because we know the blood, sweat, tears, agony, self-mutilation etc that goes into our work.

Maxine Clarke said...

The reason I have a reading age of 101 is becuase I am 101 ;-)

Seriously, though, I can only get through about one book a week at the moment. I have a tedious, maddening, hideous commute to work and that forces me into inactivity and listening to crappy tinny stuff coming out of people's ears. Before all this computery stuff I did piles of work on the train (editing mss and writing to authors) but these days we do it all onscreen at work. So I tend to read on the train -- if not work docs then a book. (in the morning I scan the paper and aim to get through the crossword and those damn s*****s before getting to the other end.)

At home there is always "stuff", mainly my bit of time to see my lovely girls and when they are otherwise occupied domestic rubbish that piles up because I don't do it.

I used to read a bit more until I discovered this blogging lark. Now it is hard to fit it all into my half hour window of "personal time" I get in the evening.

One piece of advice to readers -- don't watch TV. I never watch live TV, and watch DVDs only very rarely. This helps a lot on the reading/blogging front, both of which are far more useful than watching TV.

Sorry to ramble and rant on so much. However, at least I can honestly say that when I did the Publishing Contrarian's survey I did not say I was reading a highbrow book but put down the crime-fiction one I was actually reading at the time ;-) (Don't konw if I can do highbrow any more.)

Anonymous said...

I'm with Maxine on that one! Switch off the TV and read/blog instead. A friend of mine thinks I'm strange because I never know what she's talking about when she says "what do you think of the music to that new Nescafe advert" or "ain't the bloke who drives the car in the new Nissan advert fit?" How the heck would I know? I'll have to start asking her opinion of such and such a book cover.

Carla said...

I did the Publishing Contrarian's survey too. I didn't dare to go back and say that I had been honest about what I was reading in the first place!

And I agree about not watching TV. We probably watch a couple of hours a week, and we're thinking of moving the computer into the living room instead of the TV because there's more interesting material on it.

What's your science fantasy, Minx?