1. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    Is It Literary or Entertainment?

    Discussion in 'Insights & Inspiration' started by A.M.P., Apr 30, 2015.

    Article
    http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2014/07/goldfinch-donna-tartt-literary-criticism

    I stumbled upon this wonderful article that shows the divide between the literary critics and writers and the story-tellers/mainstream mass sellers.

    I never realized just how much controversy can exist over a single book which, ultimately, amounts to mere opinion.
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I thought of the Harry Potter reception a paragraph before I got to this:
    Makes me curious enough to take a look at the book. Have you read it?
     
  3. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    I haven't read a book in almost a year, unfortunately.
    Between work, hobbies, and writing short stories, I had little time or motivation to pick up a book outside of serials I follow (Which none are out currently)
     
  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Do you commute much? Audiobooks doubled my reading time.
     
  5. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    My commute is like 7 minutes, lol.
    I still have a Steven Erickson's Garden of the Moon to read, bought it like last year >.>

    I could create the time for it but I'd sacrifice something and currently, not willing to do so.
     
  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I didn't really enjoy The Goldfinch, but I found myself wanting to defend it against some of that snobbery.
     
  7. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    @BayView
    Would you believe I was just browsing a website and actually looked into your book without even realizing it was yours?
    lol.
    The Assassin Creed-esque picture caught my attention.
     
  8. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    And they say covers aren't important!
     
  9. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    ETA: Actually, I don't think anyone really says that. Which is good, because - covers ARE important. Yeah.
     
  10. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    Well, it actually was a negative impression.
    I thought someone actually took a AC promo picture and blured/smudged it >.>
    I thought the publisher was stealing artwork, lol.

    Looking closer at the picture I realized it was only similar.

    Either way, it got me to click on it, so hah! :p
     
  11. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Huh. I don't really know Assassin's Creed... so I didn't notice anything!
     
  12. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, google the name and you'll quickly see what I mean.
    White hooded figure, blades, red sash, fuzzy background.
     
  13. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    That could almost have been written by Harold 'Everything I personally don't like is Worthless' Bloom himself! I mean, I love Harold Bloom, but the man seems to get off on being controversial.


    As for this new book, I've not seen it around - or noticed it at least, and nor have I heard of it. I like the name - it's somehow evocative of something I can't quite put my finger on. Criticism should be fair, but I see just as little point in defending a bad book as I do see in praising a bad book, and defaming a good book, just because it has been dismissed by a few critics. Some critics are just ... hacks - and that's about the long and short of it. Some critics, though, are good and know what they are talking about - you need to find the good people and pay attention.

    And also, it's important to think for yourself too. Don't think one critic is the voice of everyone who reads literary fiction - because that's just silly. It is also ok to disagree with a critic you like, I didn't always agree with Roger Ebert, don't always agree with Harold Bloom (sometimes strongly disagree with Bloom) but I hear his opinion without dismissing it, but I also don't have to take it on board. I find this a much better attitude to have over most others.
     
  14. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I almost hope nothing I ever write is ever called "great literature", just so it stays under the radar of self-appointed guardians of high culture.

    Then again, negative attention is still attention, right? The first time I heard of The Goldfinch was during some debate or another that was set off by such a snob.
     
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  15. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Why?
     
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  16. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    It is not something I actually want; I was just making a point that being on a pedestal has its disadvantages because it gives certain people a perverse incentive to knock you off of it. Even if other people placed you there in the first place. Of course, that is nothing to worry about if they fail to knock you down.

    Also, I guess I was expressing a bit of contempt for the concept of literary merit. Maybe because that concept is on its own pedestal and I have a perverse incentive to knock it back down to the level of other concepts like "characters the reader cares about".

    EDIT: this might make it clearer:

    From the Vanity Fair article:
    I am starting to see "serious literature" as a genre just like "romance", because it carries a lot of information about readers' expectations. If I write a novel with a minor romantic subplot, then I am not sure if I would want people to go around calling it a romance novel. I mean, that might draw some attention from romance readers and result in a few new readers, but it would be misleading to an entire market -- a market with the capacity to be pissed off at something that was mismarketed to it.

    Likewise, while my WIP certainly dwells on issues we all face, the plot is fueled by a fairy-tale like curse and the ability for one character to travel back in time without any explanation. I am flattered if people read it and respect it as much as their favorite literary classics, but I am not sure if I want a label attached to it that misleads a market of potentially pissed-off readers who look not simply for a good story, or even a well-written story that gets the reader to think profound thoughts and feel profound feelings, but specifically a story not based on improbable premises, a story without stage-managing.

    Unless I am overestimating the clout of a vocal minority of readers. Which I probably am. But it is still interesting to note that "serious literature" can mean entirely different things depending on the context. It can be objective or subjective; it can refer to quality or to genre.
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2015
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  17. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Yeah, fair enough. I can respect that.
     
  18. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    These critics are terrifying :S
     
  19. SethLoki
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    SethLoki Unemployed Autodidact Contributor

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    What Daemon put... and also:

    Who was it that said.... one sec I'll fetch it verbatim:

    “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” – John Lydgate that's who.

    I'm one of the 'some' when it comes to what that which Donna Tartt has pushed out here. Cover to cover I read it, absorbed into, and by the scenarios set out – me, myself, I and that book; we were, was, one for the duration. Nigh on 800 pages; I spotted one typo and noted a couple of sentences I'd have reworded to my own personal taste – that's my only piffling criticism. If it didn't make the grade in the minds of those high priests of literature – well so what. For one to be or see one's self above that level of work; one has to reside in a lonely place. Maybe they (those ones) should stick to the realms of their own narcissism and wallow even more alone about their little golden pools of delusion.

    When it comes time for me to be published - it'll be those critics who I'll fear and ignore in equal measure. Unsure what will win out.
     
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  20. jannert
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    Thanks for posting that link, @A.M.P. Good article, whichever way you tend on this issue. I've not read The Goldfinch. The first book of Donna Tartt's that I read was her second novel, The Little Friend. It had a few flaws in it, but I really liked it because it was so original, and it did not go where I thought it would go. I was then compelled to read her first, most acclaimed novel, The Secret History, and found myself tailing off halfway through. It was one of those novels I found myself unable to 'get into.' Like Wolf Hall. I tried, I really did. I found the prose of Wolf Hall is what totally put me off the book, and made it unreadable for me. My problem with The Secret History was that I didn't actually care about any of the characters, or empathise with them. I think there was a reason Ms Tartt kept readers at arm's length, but for me that meant I was never fully engaged and lost interest.

    Of course literary critics get it wrong, and they also get up each other's noses. However, unlike Amazon reviews, they are obliged to spell out the reasons for why they think as they do about any particular book. I read these kinds of reviews, because they usually give me a good picture of what the book is actually like. I have often liked books that have been panned, and have not liked books (like Wolf Hall) that have been worshipped. Maybe I'm low brow? I don't care. I like to think I make up my own mind. And I accept there are many good, worthwhile books out there that I'm not fond of.

    One of those modern best-seller prizewinning books of literary fiction that I absolutely LOVED was E Annie Proulx's The Shipping News. I could not put that one down, and yet her prose was challenging ...and I don't normally like prose that makes me step back and marvel. I like straightforward storytelling, as a rule, and want to be sucked into the events of the story, not standing at the sidelines applauding every well-crafted line. But The Shipping News was so startling and its prose so apt, I couldn't fault it. Damn. I'm really sorry she's 'retired' as a novelist.
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2015
  21. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I haven't read The Goldfinch either, though I've heard the buzz around it and almost picked it up a couple of times. The types of critics discussed in this thread, however, are best ignored by writers. If you're writing based on what people who think that way might have to say about your work, you're almost certainly going down the wrong path :)
     
  22. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I haven't read The Goldfinch but it sounds like fun, actually.

    I'm a bit skeptical about this statement:
    A casual reader, someone like my parents, who aren't super avid readers or highly educated although they've got loads of life experience, aren't in the audience of "high literature", and most likely wouldn't be bored with The Goldfinch (I could actually buy it for Mother's Day to my mom and let her read it first before reading it myself), except maybe they'd think it's too difficult. I tend to buy Finnish bestsellers/critics' faves to my parents, and the comments I've gotten have been like "hey, this one was good 'cause there was a lot of dialogue. Long passages of narration is boring" and "it was ok. At times really complicated and artsy". They seem to respond positively to less complicated books, those that are not quite to high-brow although they've plowed through some serious critics' faves like Sofi Oksanen's The Purge.

    To me this "deep down" where adults feel bored sounds like something snobs want to exist, that'd justify their position, and the poorly veiled contempt they feel towards The Goldfinch and the like. I doubt they would quietly give up reading either, that too sounds like clawing for justification for snobbery. I think more down-to-earth attitudes from these stuck-up critics and editors would make their favorites more apporachable to the casual reader instead of bashing a book that's been selling a lot and pleased both the commoners and critics. Hearing that kind of almost bitter criticism makes me want to appreciate Tartt's efforts even more.
     
  23. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    The only time literary critics go too far, I think, is when they start yammering on about post-Marxism, posthuman conditions, and post-post-structuralism.

    Then I think modern lit theory is just taking the piss.
     
  24. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    I'll go a bit farther and say every lit theory has not only taken the piss, but are actively stealing all of the metaphorical portopottys.
     
  25. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I don't know, I can dance to New Historicism. And the Chronotope at times - as it can reveal certain things about character responses and emotions. Deconstruction is also good to think about.
     

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