Monday, August 06, 2007

Somewhere over the striped apparition

I don't read much contemporary fiction, unless it has Montana or Wyoming roots, but I am wasting the summer reading "Absolute Power," a potboiler of a political thriller that was made into a movie starring Clint Eastwood and Gene Hackman.

The only thing worth mentioning is that the author, David Baldacci, has sold 40 million books. Forty million. And he can't write a lick. Maybe he learned something after writing "Absolute Power," which was his first novel, but this one has clunkers on every page. The New York Times called it a "mountain of thudding prose" -- and that was the film critic. I can imagine what the book critic must have thought.

You'd think a guy who wants to write novels for a living would bother to learn the craft. But if he can sell 40 million books, maybe it doesn't matter.

I won't waste your time by quoting from the book, except for this brilliant bit: In one strained metaphor, he refers to "the pot of gold at the end of the striped apparition."

OK. I'm ready to die now.

UPDATE: 6 Generations asks, sensibly enough, why waste time reading a poorly written book? Several reasons:

1. Bad habits. I finish bad books for the same reason I eat everything on my plate. There's some poor kid in China who would give anything to have a badly written book.

2. Some poorly written books are worth reading. Exhibit 1: David Halberstam. Terrible writer, in my view, but a terrific reporter who must be read. He is the example I use when journalism students go into despair that they can't write well enough to make a living at it. This particular novel has an premise interesting enough that I still want to know how it turns out (although I have been reading very ... very ... slowly).

3. You can learn a lot from poor writing. The trouble with good writers is that they are so skilled I can't figure out how they do it. With bad writers, I can see all of the seams between the joints, all the badly fitted boards and missing nails. I think: I could do better than that. The good ones just intimidate me.

5 comments:

jcurmudge said...

I recently got some advice on writing which now seems useless. I.e. "Writers write. If you want to be a writer, write." Is that "striped apparition" the rainbow or the American Flag?

The Faux Intellectual said...

"The pot of gold at the end of the striped apparition."

Actually, that line was lifted from Thomas Pynchon's "The Crying of Lot 49."

David said...

It wasn't in "Gravity's Striped Apparition"?

6 Generations said...

Why waste your time with a poorly written book? Unless the reading is a class assignment, just stop reading!

Mark T said...

I shoulda known that behind that lousy movie was a lousy book.