Tuesday, April 29, 2008

One gets inspired by the darndest of things

From here, about the still-enigmatic A Prayer for Owen Meany:

"A lot of the book falls prey to Irvingisms: he digs his own pits -- incest, New Hampshire, freak accidents and amputations, untimely death, ironic sexual shame -- and falls into them in nearly every book. That doesn't matter: any Irving fan reads his books for precisely these flavors."

Too, too true. But before I go on, I'd like to apologise sincerely to Bryce Courtenay for all the invective he most likely didn't even notice he was getting from me.

Just to restate: it's true. No matter how crappy and ridiculous you know it is, you just keep coming back to it because, let's face it, you like it and
you don't care what the literary snobs say. (Are you reading this, English teacher?)

I haven't read a Bryce Courtenay book for years, though I'm forever grateful to the dear man. You see, he was my bridge from trashy fantasy to the so-called 'real literature' that I read today (and enjoy a lot more). I totally lost any respect for the guy when he advertised his latest book, Sylvia, on Australian TV. I mean, what self-respecting author would do that? People read Bryce Courtenay, so friggin' put his books on a specials table at Big W already! Don't advertise on TV!

I'm not being clear and/or coherent, I know. What I'm trying to say is that Courtenay is a prime example of someone who repeats the same themes again and again and again. Some of his books are so similar you can basically substitute one major war for another and find that otherwise, they're the same. I told myself this was the
reason I stopped reading his books at the age of 10 or whenever. But fuck that! It's not that I didn't like his repetition, it's that I got sick of his themes! I had had enough of maudlin sentimentality, cardboard characters and impressively unbelievable plots! And go me for that! And I don't begrudge Courtenay at all, good on him for finding a winning formula! If only I could do the same! And it would be nice to stop using exclamation marks at the end of every sentence, too!

My epiphany on this matter was nudged into position by the afore-quoted quote, and cemented by the fact that I just reread Howl's Moving Castle for about the tenth time. I realised that I keep reading Diana Wynne Jones, and will probably keep reading her, until my already-battered copies fall to pieces. I read her for exactly the reasons my friends hate her: her rueful, mistake-making, irrepresibly modest characters who almost without exception never realise that they actually have stronger magic than anyone else in the world; her really, really cool parallel universes; her perpetual happy endings; her lovers who love with no sex; her idealised, imaginative, funny books that I will be reading aloud to my children and grandchildren if indeed I ever have any.

So yes. I hope I have got my point across, albeit in a rambling, uncoordinated way. My point is, possibly, that no one should feel bad about reading stuff that is ad nauseumly repetitious, as long as they enjoy it. And nor should they necessarily criticise the authors too much (cough cough: SORRY!!!) - one has got to make oneself a buck, n'est-ce pas?

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