Monday, August 31, 2015

The Attack of the Literary Reviewer

      So the Guardian's Jonathan Jones has just thrown down the gauntlet. I must assume this was done to make a statement as to how amazingly special he is. He has never read Terry Pratchett, but he feels perfectly fine calling the man's life works useless and referring his work (and I assume genre works in general) as "ordinary potboilers." Actually, I believe he claims he did once, "flick through a book by him in a shop, to see what the fuss was about." Apparently the words he randomly scanned on a few pages did not immediately transport him to the very gates of Literary Heaven or send through him orgasmic waves of Prose Ecstasy.

      I'm sure I can experience the same lack of enjoyment if I lazily view a few pages of Shakespeare at his finest. 

      Allow me to disagree, sir. 

     The problem here seems to be that, for you, the only worthy works are written by people who manage two or three novels in their entire lives that are designed solely to wrench endless sobs from their readers while plumbing the depths of the human condition. The problem, as I see it, is that you are far too busy looking for Literature to even consider enjoying a good book. The vast majority of the literary greats were considered little more than the pulp writers of their time. Charles Dickens would likely have been far too popular for you to give him a chance. The aforementioned Shakespeare would likely have been contemptuous for you, as his humor was often a bit on the ribald side, and he wrote of the fantastic and didn't solely concern himself with "the complex real social world of regency England." Put simply: multiple thousands or millions of copies sold is not a guarantee that a book is unworthy. Rather, it is an indication that the writer just might have some merit. Not always, granted, but I find it a better indicator than a lack of sales. One might buy a book once for a pretty cover, sir, but after that one returns only to those writers who manage to satisfy with their words and their tales. 

      You claim, sir, that "Great books become part of your experience." And I do not disagree, but I will still counter that ALL books become a part of your experience. Some have a narrower impact, to be sure, but all of them add flavor to an otherwise often mundane existence. I would never deign to decide before I have even read a novel or a writer, whether or not the words that writer has used will move or affect me. You claim that you are not "a complacent book snob," and I agree. You, sir, are a pretentious book snob. For you, if the wine has not been aged in the very finest of casks and labeled with a name that requires a pedigree, there is no possibility that the wine is worthy. You will not even give it a proper taste, but will, instead, wrinkle your nose in disgust and set the wine (no doubt with a properly dramatic flourish) upon the tray of the closest server with instructions not to bother you with such ilk a second time. At the end of the day all wine is grapes. All books are words. The ability to craft a story is more than just the words, my dear fellow. It is more than a pretty sentence (though I do love a perfectly constructed phrase.). It is the culmination of months if not years of consideration and examination. A novel is a tale told in a unique way. Terry Pratchett and Ray Bradbury may not have been "titans of the novel" in your eyes, but they moved and touched untold millions with their prose. 

      How many books have you written, sir? I don't claim to know. But if the words you employed in your article are any indication, I suspect any novel you wrote would have all the literary merit of a mildewed Big Mac with a side of soggy fries. You could call it art all day, but I suspect said work of art would still remain unpalatable. 

lest you think I am alone in my derision, sir, allow me to point out a brilliant and properly scintillating article regarding your fine publication.  

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