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Damn, that’s annoying.

1 June 2012

So, my wife and I were sitting around the living room, like we do. We’re very much like old people — every once in a while, we’ll watch something on TV, but most of the time, we just sit around and talk. I know — my wife is pretty great. I’m lucky to have her.

Anyway, somehow we got on the subject of things that annoy us about each other. We each tried to list a top five, but we each only made it to three and a half, because we’re disgustingly cute. I realized that my list of things she does that annoy me (all minor) really say more about me than they do about her.

It’s the same with a lot of people, I think. The things we think annoy us, or make us angry, might have very little to do with those things themselves.

I’ll put it another way, and bring it back to books — a lot of people I know are annoyed by the Twilight series, or 50 Shades of Gray, or whatever’s selling billions at the time. They level all sorts of complaints about poor writing or transparent characters… but I doubt any of that is what really bothers people.

So there’s a badly-written book out there. So what? (For the record, I’ve never read either of the above, so I don’t actually know if they’re poorly written. Sake of argument.) How does that book or series existing impact your life in any meaningful way? Are you annoyed about the characterization, or is it something else? Something that has nothing to do with a book no one’s forced you to read, that’s become a movie no one is going to make you go see?

Hint: you’re not angry or annoyed about the book. Look at what it is that’s really bothering you, and move forward from there.

Also, have a great weekend!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 2 June 2012 0758

    “So there’s a badly-written book out there. So what?”

    Exactly! There have always been bad books out there with the good. When I hear somebody say a movie or book I like should be banned and they haven’t seen or read it, I get pissy. Just as I cringe at the thought of banning things — especially things the people calling for the ban haven’t seen or read — I cringe a bit when somebody proclaims something as bad, even though they haven’t read it.

    The bit of Twilight I read? I thought it was terrible. I’ve only read a couple excerpts from Fifty Shades of Grey, and it was laughable. But…I don’t think E.L. James has said — or will ever say — that she was out to write a great work of literature. She wanted to write something entertaining, and it seems by the sales that she did. Same thing with Stephanie Meyer. Even more, they at least put their backsides in chairs and wrote, instead of just talking about it!

    Sure, I’ve heard John Irving say that if he were starting out now, he wouldn’t make it because the industry and tastes are so different. And I think he’s right — he’d have a very tough time starting out today. At the same time, I think it’s cool being in a grocery store and seeing actual genre fiction (besides mysteries and thrillers) near the checkout lines. I don’t write much genre fiction, but it’s great seeing people who’ve been busting their asses doing what they love for decades finally standing firmly as mainstream authors.

    Nobody owes me a living as a writer. It’s what I’ve wanted for decades (making it full time writing stories), but I’m not owed a career. I think that’s where I (and you, I would guess) differ from those who rant about James and Meyer making it, while better authors don’t: I don’t take the success of others as a personal slight against me. I don’t see Stephanie Meyer making more than Matt Bondurant as a great affront, even though Bondurant is, at least technically, a much better writer than Meyer.

    Stories meant to entertain and be consumed have generally always done better than literary fiction. So of course Twilight is going to make more than Bondurant’s The Night Swimmer. Thing is, Bondurant’s books are out there. I hear people say, “There are no more good books out there anymore because of all this drivel!” and I want to slap them. In addition to The Night Swimmer, I’ve also read Alex George’s A Good American this year and I’m reading Jim Lynch’s Truth Like the Sun. John Irving and Ann Patchett are on bestseller lists. Stuff by Julian Barnes, Jeffrey Eugenides, and Haruki Murakami have prominent placement in bookstores I’ve been in. Good authors are still making it!

    What really seems to bother people who fume about Stephanie Meyer is she’s made it and they haven’t. Instead of shutting the hell up and writing another book, they go online and bitch about how unfair the industry is. To look like they aren’t complaining on a personal level, they toss out an argument that good writers aren’t making it anymore (which, I hope, I just proved to be false). But really, they’re just whining.

    I’m not a fan of Nicholas Sparks, but here’s the thing about him: he worked hard at a day job and writing on the side back in the day. He sounded like a busy guy at his day job and he wrote a book and it was rejected. He didn’t bitch — he sat down and wrote another book that was rejected. Then another. I can’t remember how many books he wrote, but I think it was 4 or 5 before he finally got an agent. Again, his thing isn’t my thing, but to my knowledge, instead of griping about how unfair things were to him, he kept working. He focused on the right thing (writing) instead of the wrong thing (being bitter because somebody he didn’t like as a writer made it, and he hadn’t). I think it’s wonderful that he has the career he has, and from what I’ve heard, he’s a nice guy who is nice to his fans.

    How the hell can I hate that a guy who worked hard and seems decent has made it?! That’s the kind of thing that should give a person hope — not resentment!

    Thanks for writing this entry. It’s obviously a topic I dig ’cause my reply is longer than your entry! The thing I like about writing: it’s not easy to break in, but it’s still an industry where someone who works hard — degree or not — has a chance of making it. Through hard work and a lot of persistence, that person alone in a room who works a crap day job and sacrifices their time to write (whether what they write is good or bad), has a chance.

    And if that’s not cool, I don’t know what is…

  2. 3 June 2012 0019

    A lot of good stuff here, well stated. I think you’re right in that a lot of people rag on the “bad” books because they think more talented writers (or they themselves) should be the ones selling umpteen trillion copies. But here’s the thing — Twilight being out there and selling tons does not make Alex George’s A Good American any less brilliant. Those mega-selling “bad” books simply existing doesn’t mean that the great books I find and read don’t exist. It doesn’t affect them in the slightest. John Irving and Dan Brown can exist in the same universe, even have crossover in readers.

    I know it seems like I’m picking on the Twilight and 50 Shades of Gray series here, but I’m really not. I have a lot of respect for the authors — they’ve obviously written something that resonates with people. I’ll never trash that, because anything that makes people read is a good thing for all authors. I stated that I haven’t read them, and that’s true — but it’s not because I think they’re automatically not good books. It’s simply that the subject matter holds little to no interest with me, so I don’t have any reason to pick them up and start reading. They’re simply not my speed, and I can say the same thing about classic “good” books like Little Women. It’s just not in my wheelhouse.

    Nicholas Sparks is another one of those for me. His books are popular, they sell well, they get trashed by tons of people… and I have no interest in reading them. I’m glad he wrote them, I’m glad they sell (that means people are reading), but they’re not for me, and I’m fine with that. I won’t make a value judgment on a book I haven’t read (and really don’t intend to, for the reasons I’ve just outlined).

    It takes a lot more talent and dedication than most people realize to just sit your ass in the chair and turn out a novel-length story, regardless of perceived quality. I respect any author who can do that, and I’m not going to piss all over anyone because I didn’t think the book was great. Just because I didn’t like something — a book, a film, an album — does not make it bad. It just means it wasn’t to my taste. Tastes are subjective, and while I like a whole ton of stuff, I don’t expect to like everything, just like I don’t expect everybody to like the books I write. I’m even fine with people trashing my stuff if they’ve read it, because they paid their four bucks or whatever, and that gives them license to say what they want.

    See, this right here? This is a podcast, sir.

  3. 3 June 2012 0354

    My wife has confirmed that the Twilight novels are badly written. (I’ve read one Nicholas Sparks novel. I didn’t think the writing was so bad, but the story was.) I don’t know so much that I’m annoyed by poor writing or great success. Good for them, I say. My own writing may be sappy and poorly done to a relative degree, but it’s the best I can do.

    What I think is annoying about the popularity of such novels (and movies with ‘splosions) is that they ARE popular. They are a sign of the low-brow tastes of the masses of humanity. The general dumbing down. (That may be unfair. It could be that many otherwise intelligent people are just having a guilty pleasure indulgence reading them.) Of course, the masses of humanity are entitled to enjoy whatever they like. And it’s encouraging to realize that To Kill a Mockingbird has been in continuous print for 50 years (though I think that novel is considered middle brow).

    end rant

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