Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Gauche and Unsophisticated List: Where I Earn the Scorn of All English Majors and Professors, Bluestockings, and Book Critics

Now, I love to read. I've even been known to read decent books on occassion - I highly recommend The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and I swear at some point I will finish Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. However, there is one whole genre of novels I cannot stand, and that is novels about Suburban Lives of Quiet Desperation. Here's a few examples: Empire Falls, A Spot of Bother, The Corrections. I hate them, and find them pretentious yet dull.
"But why, Miss Royalturkey?" you ask, "Such novels reflect gritty realism, and they're so edgy." Well dear readers, I don't find them edgy, and all that "grit" is so damn repetitive. Here's a list of tedious plot elements:
* Middle aged man suffers crisis, or has some small life decision to make that takes at least three hundred pages for him to decide
* Said middle aged man is so distant from his wife or significant other and the couple can no longer relate to each other
* Wife is having an affair because distant, minor crisis ridden husband no longer relates to her because they have been married for thirty years, and husband has worked outside the home for the entire time they have been married, and the wife was supposed to be submissive, so she never told him what she wants. Of course during this affair she finally has an orgasm for the first time in her life.
* Quietly dysfunctional couple also has quiet dysfunctional relationships with their children.
* Characters may have a hobby, but they don't really enjoy said hobbies, they just do them because it has become so tragically routine.
* Characters contemplate their bodily functions and/or genitalia, so authors can prove how "edgy" they are.
* Lots of cursing! Because edgy!
* Lots of long supposedly creative metaphors, which may involve discussion of genitalia or bodily functions (a two-fer)

Now I don't mind repetitive plot points. I'm always a sucker for quirky characters and wacky hijinks, but these plot points are so dull. I don't need all plot points in books to be huge or momentous, but these books never even depict the simplicity or every day routines of these characters lives in an interesting way, so I am just bored. I realize that everyday life is not that exciting. But if you insist on writing about everyday life, authors, you still have to make me care. However the authors of these books never do.

Further, the authors think it is enough to explain what is going on these characters lives, but they never really give me a reason to care about these characters. These characters are merely stock types that are really not that different from one book to another, their minor crises are just a bit different. Further, not only are they stock characters (because two-dimensional wacky characters still amuse me), these characters are miserable, and the only other character trait besides being miserable is that they are unable to communicate with those they love. I don't want to read at least three hundred, if not four hundred, pages of characters being miserable and unable to communicate and therefore becoming more miserable. These characters are just as two dimensional as their more entertaining counterparts (The wacky grandma! The nosy neighbors! The overly intrusive family! ), and even worse they are not even entertaining or interesting.

I really do not understand why these books garner such acclaim. Is it really that interesting that authors use the words fuck and penis, write overly involved metaphors, and explain the everyday minutiae of life in a step by step way? Is it supposed to be innovative that not one character is happy or at least has some interesting character traits? I hope not.

1 comment:

sapience said...

Well speaking as an English major, future English professor, bluestocking (seriously: I was a member of a group called Bas Bleu in college), and book critic: I wholeheartedly agree with you.