I’m starting to wonder if well-written prose is enough to kill a book. A quote I’ve used here previously,
People do not deserve to have good writing, they are so pleased with bad. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
seems to be truer and truer all the time. If we look at the books that hit commercial success (Twilight) good writing seems to be the least of the requirements. I know others have been saying for years that ‘literary fiction’ doesn’t sell. I guess it’s true.
So, I was in Target yesterday evening, and thought I’d take a gander at the books that are the basis for the HBO series, True Blood, Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Mysteries. I had been thinking about getting them to try to wean a certain person off the Twilight series but thought, hmm, p’raps I should read them first and see if they’re worth it. I found the series, figured out which was the first one and started reading. I got through the first two pages standing in the aisle there, and put the book back on the shelf and walked on. Were these supposed to be young adult books? The writing was so juvenile, I was really confused. Maybe two pages isn’t a fair sampling to make a decision but dear dog, I thought the openings were supposed to be slam-bang these days? And I keep reading comments on various sites about how spooky these books are but it seemed more like humor.
If anyone has read them and would like to try to explain to me the appeal of a narcissistic cocktail waitress, have at it. I understand Harris spends a great deal of time describing the characters’ clothing in minute detail which is always a yawner. I’m going to quote Philip Athans again, because this is one of the things he mentions in the interview over at Clarkesworld Magazine:
Athans: One of the easiest ways to spot an inexperienced author is what former Wizards of the Coast editor Mark Sehestedt described as “weather report, fashion report, travel report.” This is when a book begins with a lengthy description of the roiling gray clouds traced with ominous flashes of lightning then slowly but surely moves on to what the character is wearing—exactly—and how long and what color his hair is, before finally resting into several pages of the history and customs of the realm and the difference between a flugle tree and a tizzleberry bush, so that you’re most of the way through chapter one before anyone says or does anything.
The fashion report. The excuse I’ve heard is that the characters in question are obsessed with fashion. They are apparently written in the first person and right there on page one the narrator, Sookie, tells you just how cute she is. I so wanted to like these books but I already hate Sookie.
I don’t think reading the series is going to change my mind much. And yet these books are selling like hotcakes and have spawned a tv series, much like the Twilight books and movies. Maybe I’m just expecting too much after just finishing Toni Morrison’s A Mercy.
I’m still reading through that collection of vampire stories by women. My favorite so far was by Freda Warrington, (who, by the way, lists an e-mail address on her page and invites readers to contact her) very nicely written. Not all the stories have actual classic vampires, some are simply humans who prey on others for various reasons which to me is kind of disappointing. Psychopathic murderers wasn’t really what I was looking for. I’m sort of flipping back and forth between that and the ghost stories by Edith Wharton which finally arrived in late July. Very subtle, the first story kind of lost me, I wasn’t quite sure what happened. I guess I’ll have to re-read it.
My own vampire story has slowed in its progress, but is still uppermost in my mind. I’m getting new ideas for where to take the story, plot twists and so on, so it’s going, however slowly.