Monday, August 13, 2007

Literary Novel

The Great Pursuit

In Stephen King's review of the final Harry Potter book, he writes

But reading was never dead with the kids. Au contraire, right now it's probably healthier than the adult version, which has to cope with what seems like at least 400 boring and pretentious ''literary novels'' each year.

King makes a good point. While I think most popular authors would prefer favourable reviews from critics (or in some cases, to not be ignored by the important book reviews), the novelists who actually move books off the shelves are ones who don't care about being considered literary, who don't care about being typecast as a genre writer.

The writers who pore over every last sentence in attempt to provide some majestic image often write incomprehensible prose that is rendered meaningless because nothing ever happens in the novel. Sure, these are real life novels, but why does real life have to be boring? Yes, it's easy of me to make this accusation without the support of an example but I haven't read a book that would exemplify the type of book I'm railing against. And I doubt most people have read these types of books, but there are dozens of reviews of them each week in the Times, Globe and Mail, etc.

In sum, a great story needs a plot. J.K. Rowling failed to write wonderful prose, but she did have plot; at times, the plot took shortcuts and meandered, but at the end of the day, she told a story. That is the measuring stick after reading a novel: has the author told a story? If not, then the book is just a waste of time.


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