Twixt Thee and Me

It’s always interesting to me which posts get people’s attention.

Or their responses, at least. Which I tend to assume is the same thing and that may not be necessarily so.

But my last post stimulated quite a few reactions. Several people commented. More sent me IM or email notes. The general consensus among my support network is that I was grumpy and had been on the road too long. Reading back over it, I suspect it was my tone that came across grumpy more than the content.

Be that as it may.

It was funny to me yesterday, as I took my three plane flights home, wending my way back west, that the messages and comments on my blog post (including one from my mom showing that Barbara Kingsolver took seven years to write her latest) were comingled with a discussion thread on one of my writers’ loops regarding this article which trashes Dan Brown’s new book. And someone else contributed the Wikipedia link to Literary Criticism of The Da Vinci Code that trashes Dan Brown in general. And an address by Stephen King where he implies that Dan Brown is the intellectual equivalent of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.

Stephen King has been cutting a bit of a wide swath lately, as I’ve mentioned before. It’s ironic to me that he feels comfortable making pronouncements on who writes well and who doesn’t, when I’ve often heard King’s success held up as the perverted triumph of genre over literature.

I know you’ll be shocked, but I don’t have much of an opinion there.

I’ve read a bit of King and didn’t love it, but then, I don’t really read much horror. I have never read Dan Brown, but I liked the movie fine. I liked Meyer’s Twilight books — I thought she did interesting things with the stories and she kept me hooked.

What I see happening is the “win by putting others down” trend. Also known as, for those of us who labored under grading curves, “it’s not so much that you succeed, but that others fail.” We’ve all known people like this. People who attempt to pump themselves up by putting others down. If King can sneer at Dan Brown and Stephenie Meyer, then he’s clearly not part of their club. I remember a while back when Anne Rice was big on letting people know that her books were being taught in schools, as a way of legitimizing them.

Keena commented on my last post that it’s the genre writers who become literary giants in later generations and she has a point there. Think Jane Austen, Tolkein and Arthur Conan Doyle.

And we’re witnessing a battle now: the literary writers facing precipitously declining sales, fighting to assert that THEY are the true writers, and the genre writers, fighting amongst themselves for the best seat at the mad tea party, all the while pretending they don’t care what the literary types think, yet secretly wishing to have that level of validation.

In the end, I don’t think it matters if you take one month or ten years to write a book. Your process is your process. What matters is what you’re trying to do. If you want to bring in the money, ten years is a stretch unless you’re living on decent royalties. If you’re going for art, maybe you don’t believe a few months is enough for that to occur.

But I’m pretty sure you won’t sell more books by trashing other writers. Just sayin’.

2 Replies to “Twixt Thee and Me”

  1. I recently attended a lecture during which YA author Katherine Gilbert Murdock said this of the difference between academic/literary writing as opposed to the other kind (I'm paraphrasing here, so forgive me) "In the academy you aim your book at the four people who know more than you do, not the 40 million who know less." I found the remark strikingly honest.

  2. I find that honest, too. And I recall that you also paraphrased Elizabeth Gilbert, Katherine's sister, who also spoke at the same event about how she once wrote for readers and now she writes for “fans” and that’s an entirely different thing.

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