I’m in the middle of writing a piece that’s technically a book review, but the book in question was written several years ago and, in my opinion, has become a sort of neo-classic of its genre. So maybe it’s more like a book report. I’ve owned it for years and read it more than once already, but I’m now in the process of re-reading it and writing up a criticism. While I don’t want to reveal the title of the book or the author, suffice to say that I own several of this author’s books and, at least until his last non-fiction work, liked everything a lot. Then that last one was released and I hated it. Completely hated it. It was unfocused, full of itself, and while I haven’t always agreed with all of the author’s opinions, I disagreed with so many of them in this particular book that I found myself hating the guy. So, when he released two novels after this last non-fiction book, I refused to buy them because I assumed that they’d both be just as pretentious and shitty as the last thing I’d read. Basically, I wasn’t over him yet.
I still haven’t read the novels, nor do I intend to purchase them. I guess maybe if the library has them available for Kindle I might read the first one, but that’s not until I finish the other two books on there, one of which is by an author I find endlessly engaging but who also tends to write volumes on historical topics, which aren’t typically fast reads.
Also, I was reading an interview the author did with someone about his second novel, and he says the below about the main character (I guess you could Google this if you really wanted to, I’m just trying to write a piece about a completely different book of his and not have that review tainted by my opinion):
“I suppose technically the lead character in this book is the antagonist, even though he’s the principle character. In the book there are no likable characters. The main character is self-absorbed, narcissistic, and controlling.”
Ugh. Really? What’s this new literary trend of writing terrible characters who only know terrible people, and nobody gets the lion’s share of the reader’s sympathy because everyone is always awful? I bought “Bad Marie” and it was like this, then someone recommended Gillian Flynn and everyone she writes is a shithead, too, and now this book and about a dozen others because it’s the thing now to make your reader decide if they should like someone or not because total apathy is apparently a strategy, and by “strategy” I mean “you’re a lazy fucking writer.”
Because it is lazy. Character includes both good and bad traits, and as the writer, it’s your responsibility to decide what those are. Writing only bad traits for every character isn’t an interesting or renegade thing to do, and you’re not challenging your reader by being a nihilist. I have no obligation to give a shit about anything in a book when the writer clearly doesn’t want to make me give a shit, and all of this is about as compelling as shoegaze, which was so named because it’s so boring that even the people playing it have nothing to do but gaze at their shoes the whole time. Let’s call the literary equivalent wristgaze, then, because I can hold onto the book all I want, but when everyone in it is the same kind of terrible until it seems like they’re cardboard cutout targets for the writer to take a dump all over, I’m going to glaze over and end up staring at my own wrists the whole time. Possibly wondering what it would be like to cut them. Because that’s what every single character in the book should do, anyway, so why not me.
And while we’re on the topic of how things are written, apparently there’s some surprise about how I could possibly be excited about the World War Z movie because the trailer (released a full 8 months before the film’s release, btw) looks nothing like the book. Um, yet. While I understand this, I’d like to point out that if the movie stayed strictly in line with the book, we’d be watching about a dozen 20-minute vignettes featuring characters that aren’t connected to one another in completely separate situations, with the only unifying factor being zombies. The story would start over again and again, it wouldn’t move forward in any noticeable way, and no emotional investment would occur (unlike in the book, where you can spend as long as you like on any chapter/situation/character). Perhaps if World War Z had been made into a film 15 years ago (or if Danny Boyle had never made 28 Days Later and just taken this), this kind of project would make sense. But it wasn’t, and it’s being made now, and why does everyone hate Brad Pitt so much, anyway?
I say, trust the movie. Trust that in 8 months, the parts of the trailer you’ve decided to hate (even though they’re not the entire film why would you think it’s the entire film?) will be cut and altered and made into another vehicle altogether, and the parts of the book you love (the hand in the Three Gorges Dam, Battle of Yonkers, the sub standoff, the paratrooper in the swamps) will be included in some exhilarating way and you’ll just have to deal with Brad Pitt justifying the millions of dollars spent on special effects to make the scope of the book worth telling.