I grapple with jealousy daily. I spend almost 94.8% of my time grappling with jealousy. The things I’m jealous of would take up way too much space on the page so I’ll keep it very, very specific for the purposes of this post.
Jealousy threatens to consume me whenever I pick up a book written by a person barely out of puberty, a book hailed as a “triumphant debut” (aren’t they all?), a book that shoots instantly onto the New York Times best seller list. I turn the book over in my hands and stare at the photo of the author. I want to scratch her doe-like eyes out.
But the single biggest thing that makes me go batshitcrazy is when the pre-pubescent prodigy can’t write. In my humble, unpublished opinion, a basic requirement for publication should be…let’s see…good writing. How does bad writing end up on a bookstore shelf? I can almost (it makes me gnash my teeth to write this) forgive over-sentimentality in writing more than I can forgive shit writing. Just saying.
There is nothing more heinous than a badly written book. It’s like a mouthful of sour milk. What really gets me? When the horrendous, gobsmackingly bad book has a banner printed across the top saying, “New York Times Bestseller!” Seriously? It’s bad enough that someone published it; it’s worse yet when thousands, perhaps millions of people bought it. Studies should be done on the brain damage inflicted by bad books.
Please don’t think me a literary snob. I am quite the opposite. Classmates of mine go on interminably about reading this highbrow tome or that and I literally fall out of my chair snoring. I don’t have time to ponder the hidden, mystical meaning in a book. I like straightforward, well-written stories with interesting plots and characters who aren’t self-indulgent whiners. There are as many different opinions on what constitutes a good book as there are people in the world. I get that. But I would think there would be certain basic requirements for publication. Good sentence structure, perhaps? A story?
I just put down a book (read: hurled across the room) purported to be about a young woman’s search for balance and happiness in a large, anonymous city where such searches can be difficult. Oh, the potential there! There was a subplot (allegedly) about her love for dogs. I love dogs. I was prepared to be hooked. By page 30 I was skimming. Maybe, just maybe, things would improve in a few pages…after all, it took me well over a 100 pages to get truly drawn in to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Some books start slow like roller coasters.
The book about the big city girl never improved. Every chapter was like a bad re-write of the one before it. The girl whined incessantly. She didn’t even own a dog. By page 73, I wanted her to be chased out of the city by big, snarling, rabid dogs. The book would have been better if it had been written from the POV of the dogs.
This miserable excuse for a book was a “best seller,” this book so utterly devoid of charm. I want to write a letter to the author conveying my bitterness and dismay. I would tell her the main character should be eaten by dogs. She wouldn’t lose one moment’s sleep; after all, she is a “best-selling author” now.
I think of other bestselling authors I loathe. It is a frighteningly long list. There are some very, very popular authors with enough earnings from destroying the brain cells of innocent readers to buy themselves entire islands in the Caribbean. Their formulaic, treacle-doused stories have weighed down countless bookstore shelves. I think of all the trees these books killed. I get very sad. I get very angry. I fear I might be having a breakdown because in my darkest hours, I wonder if I should be attempting to write books like such as these..
Badly written but wildly successful books pose moral dilemmas (making them that much more hateful). I agonize over every sentence of The Novel. I try to ensure my characters have life and the plot moves. I want the reader to want to turn the page not to see, goddamn it, does it ever get better but because they can’t wait to see what happens next! I lie awake at night and worry that the whole thing is as flat as a pancake. Why should I worry? Why shouldn’t I just grab one of these lowest-denominator reads and imitate the hell out of it? If I sell my soul to the Devil, maybe I won’t be dogged by the Green Monster anymore. An island in the Caribbean would be…