Saturday, August 18, 2007

I have a cunning plan

"How cunning?" I hear you say.

So cunning, you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel. That cunning.

I noticed from the last post that not many people like Bryce Courteney. I'm one of the Anti-Bryce Club. I'm not entirely sure how Mr Courteney sells books, actually. My theory is that everyone thinks their mum likes him and buys the latest book as a Christmas gift. (Not a present, a gift. As in something contained in a gift shop.) Mums are too unassuming to say, "Oh for fuck's sake! Stop buying me this tripe!" so Mr Courteney keeps selling his over-adjectived tear-jerky bits of squiff.

As far as I can see, the only thing the guy has in his favour is that he's South African by birth. Being a Saffie means many sins are forgiven because most of the guys are extremely hot. Not Bryce, of course. He's a tool. And so is JM Coetzee. But most of the others are way hot.

Sorry, the cunning plan? Yes, it's very cunning. You'll love it.

As much as I loathe Bryce Courteney and his ilk, I adore a good literary hoax. I'm not sure what I love more: seeing one uncovered or seeing one perpetrated and then revealed by the perpetrators. I think it's probably the latter, since Ern Malley is my favourite literary hoax ever. "Sting them, my anopheles, sting them!" I didn't think it was quite fair to prosecute Max Harris and the Angry Penguins for obsecenity, but at least he ended up with the copyright to the poems for his trouble.

I've followed many a literary hoax with great pleasure. Helen Demidenko/Darville/whatever-the-hell-she-calls-herself-these-days was possibly my least favourite, largely because she won a prize and she just annoyed me with her superior attitude and Aryan blondeness. But that made me enjoy it all the more when she was found out, so I guess it's those swings and roundabouts again. I didn't really care one way or another about A Thousand Tiny Pieces or Forbidden Love because I hadn't read either of them and if people were shallow enough to buy a book only because they thought it was a true story, then sucks be to them. I have no sympathy. Sting them, etc., etc.

I think I take the greatest pleasure from the literary hoaxes perpetrated on the publishing industry. Stirrers have made very minor changes to chapters of Patrick White, Charles Dickens and, most recently, Jane Austen and sent them to publishers to see whether they would recognise and accept them. Naturally, most of the publishing people have failed to recognise the chapters and rejected them as being dated and not at all what they were looking for. Though I think one of the Jane Austen victims did raise questions over plagiarism, so more power to them. So well done, those people.

But I also rather enjoy playing Devil's advocate. So, in the publishers' defence, these books have been sent to them unsolicited and as a consequence, landed on their slush piles. Slush piles are often huge stacks of paper and are dealt with by people who are either quite junior or by the more senior as a form of penance. You know, like jamming red-hot pokers up one's nose. As I understand it, the slush pile usually contains dull-as-dust memoirs, shitful sci-fi and speculative fiction and barely disguised rip-offs of The Da Vinci Code or the other Latest Big Thing. Only very rarely is there gold in the slush and reading through the dross may be even more demoralising then covering local council meetings for a suburban newspaper or writing advertorial.

So, back to the cunning plan. It's my theory that writers like Bryce Courteney get away with twaddle only because of their marketable names. "Hey, he wrote The Power of One, right? No, don't edit it! No, don't read it either! Just publish it! At Christmas!"

I'd love to take chapters of Bryce Courteney, Jackie Collins, Dan Brown, Tom Clancy and Barbara Cartland and send them into publishers under a nom de plume. Well, I suppose strictly it would be a nom de guerre, as it is a war on rubbish writing. But I'd love to see the comments. Would they run to things such as, "Potboiler. Start again." Or even, "You can't write. Please learn what an adjective is and stop using so many! Oh, and make your blasted tenses agree." Or perhaps, "Turgid crap. Never contact us again." Or what about, "'Alternate' and 'alternative' are not interchangeable. That is all."

Oh Ford, I'd love to do it! Getting people to refuse White and Austen and Dickens is like shooting fish in a barrel in a way, because their styles are now considered to be dated and have too many commas. But taking down the big guns as decided by Anus and Robertson - now that would be fun.

26 comments:

killerrabbit said...

That sounds like an excellent idea Redcap, can I possibly suggest that we could add Steven King to the list of overrated, poorly written drivel. I know that this might be a controversial choice but I can never read his books without an overwhelming sense that there could b a good story hidden amongst all his adjectives and poor sentence structure.

redcap said...

And Ben Elton! I can't get more than a couple of pages into a Ben Elton book before I want to throw it across the room. But he just steals all his story lines from pop culture.

Milly Moo said...

Ooooh yes Red Cap! Great Idea!
Send in a few early chapters from Catch22 as well because THEY will really blow the wind up em

...agree with you re Ben Elton. If we had dared write such dreck it would barely make it to the bottom of the lowliest junior editor's budgie cage....

meva said...

Great idea! But a name is needed. Something with initials, too, so they'll know it's a 'serious' personage. Like X.F. Bennett or I. D. Oxymoron.

Rosanna said...

Redcap, you truly are a woman after my own heart. "Dead Famous' by Mr Elton made me want to hack out my own eyeballs a la King Lear.

I wonder how many literary events I can refer to in one comment?

Your idea is most wonderful, and I had a hearty laugh at Meva's suggestions.

The Blakkat said...

Love it - very funny! A number of years ago a my ex-sister-in-law gave me Byrce Courtney's 'Tommo & Hawk'for Xmas (because I'm a 'book' person)and I really tried to read it (cause it was a gift and all) but I couldn't even get a 1/4 of the way through. And somehow, after reading this post, I don't feel so bad about it anymore. The book exchange gave me a few bucks for it though, after I expunged it from my bookcase.

Nai said...

I like the idea, very funny etc. But I claim Ben Elton as my favourite, indeed only, trash fiction writer of choice. Sure you have to turn your brain off, his sentence structure makes JKR's style appear deft and fluid and he pilfers freely from his own catalogue of TV and Stand Up jokes, but I still like it. It's amusing and as someone who has never engaged with the detective/mystery genre, I am usually completely unable to work out whodunnit. But would I suggest one of his books as being worthy of book club review? Well, obviously not. I'd be equally horrified if anything by Bryce Courtenay, Steven King, Marion Keynes, Maeve Binchy, Dean Koontz, Kathy Reichs, Wilbur Smith, Dan Brown (and associated pretenders to his *ahem* glorious crown), Dr Phil or Tara Moss was ever suggested for this group. Times and places kids, times and places.

Nai said...

BTW, I don't read any of those other authors, Ben Elton is my one crappy pleasure. I did read the Da Vinci Code, but I had to - for Uni. Sad but true.
Also, can we add Maeve Binchy to the condemned list? I fucking hate her soppy, sooky, sentimental bollocks.

gigglewick said...

Okay, I have to admit that I like Ben Elton too. But those who have read my blog can see why - he writes in that "is there a point in here somewhere?" style that I do quite enjoy.

And I must second all of Nai's choices for excommunication (although admit reading The Da Vinci Code, more because I am an amateur art enthusiast than anything).

Maeve Binchy....*shudders*

And if anyone wants to read 'Mists of Avalon', can I sit out that month?

Yoffi said...

Oh my! If I was sure that I wouldn't be braking at least 5 laws of copyright and wasn't affraid of being sued for all that I'm worth (which isn't that much anyhow) I'd do this in a nano second.

kiki said...

i thought this was meant to review books?

Sakura said...

ehehehehehe *rubs hands in a conspiratorial manner* I like it, I like it a lot.

redcap said...

gw, Mists of Avalon definitely doesn't come under the umbrella of good quality fiction ;)

yoffi, I don't think any of the newspapers who've pulled this stunt have been sued. Yet.

kiki, it's to discuss books as much as to post reviews. But I'd love it if someone would post some reviews... hint, hint ;)

sakura, it's so cunning that it got a degree in cunning from the University of Cunning!

Ariel said...

Look forward to reading about it ...

And I agree with all the 'banned book' suggestions!

kiki said...

i have to wait until july '09

redcap said...

kiki, no you don't! Read the first post - In the beginning. You only have to wait to actually choose a book that the whole group will read. You can post reviews of books you're reading on your own anytime you like. This second, if you fancy. Or you can post anything you like about writers or writing or reading or books.

Earl said...

WE SUFFER AND THEN WE GET TO DIE.

redcap said...

earl, you know, I thought something rather close to that when the alarm when off this morning.

Scorpy said...

Ooooh red...we may have a problem. i actually like BC and Ton Clancy and a host of other 'packaged' writers :) I just skip their adjectives and look at the story beyond. I can lose myself in the landscape and the period of time...I suppose that is why I still read Wilbur Smith and have his entire collection..even though he uses the SAME formula, clich├ęs, metaphors etc in EVERY book. While on the subject of 'hoaxes' Mr Courtney's book 'White Thorn' is almost identical to his famous book 'Power of One'!!!
Do we as a group start off by being a little elitist? I hate 'period' books from good old England. Dickens and Austen do NOTHING for me!!! It would seem that most of the books on the 100 must read lists are NOT on mine. sorry but I'm with Kiki here. I promise not to make people read 'mass produced' material when I select my book....but I will possibly write a review on one of them :)
PS: I read three pages of JKR book and could not stand her style :)

redcap said...

scorpy, I think if we stick to good quality, contemporary fiction, we'll avoid most people's pet hates. My guilty pleasure at the moment is Tony Park books (thrillers set in Africa with lots of gun battles with evil poachers), but I wouldn't suggest the group read one. As for reviews, you can do anything you like, from Snugglepot and Cuddlepie to the Karma Sutra ;)

Weighing up everyone's thoughts, I think the safest course of action is if someone really hates a chosen author and simply can't cope with the book, then don't read it. Let's just aim for a nice wide variety and hope that most people will be able to cope with most books.

PS I still want to get Bryce Courtney good... >:)

Ariel said...

I'm loving the discussion here!

Chesty LaRue said...

Yeah, see I want someone else to go first with a random review. Because I could do a couple, but don't wanna be first and so keep them to my own blog.

Is there a spoiler policy for random reviews? I know for the 'chosen' book the assumption is that everyone who's going to read it has, but for other books, should we take a bit of care not to give away the ending?

redcap said...

ariel, and hurrah for discussion. I love a good barney, particularly if there's a drink involved.

chesty, well now that ariel's gone first, let's be havin' yer! Perhaps no spoilers for random reviews? After all, you want to encourage everyone else to go out and read the book.

Ariel said...

Yeah, come on Chesty! I'm waiting for someone else to d one now ...

Ariel said...

'DO' one now, I mean

Chesty LaRue said...

I'm in the middle of something that has come up more interesting than I expected, so as soon as I'm done with it ... I promise.

*runs and hides and resumes being way too lazy*