We live in an strange literary climate where books published by small independent publishers are held to a higher standard than anything published by one of the handful of major publishing houses.
I’m currently reading a book published by one of the major companies, and nothing happens. Well, that’s not exactly true. Stuff happens. Then more stuff happens. And even more stuff happens. But I am now three-quarters of the way through the book, and all I’ve gleaned from the story is that a lot of stuff happens.
But nothing happens to move the story forward. I presume all this “stuff” — murders, crooks double-crossings, political shenanigans, human trafficking — will lead to a cohesive ending, but I’m not sure if I will ever know what happens. For one thing, the story is too convoluted with at least a dozen point-of-view characters, mostly criminals, and I haven’t sorted all of them out yet. (A serious problem is that too many names are closely related, like Donnie and Danbury and Donaldson). So even if I read to book to the end, chances are I won’t know the whole of it. And for another thing, I’m ready to give up. I really don’t care to read about women (and men) crime bosses and gambling and prostitution and all sorts of other nefarious behavior gotten up to by the bad guys. There has to be at least an equal amount of action by the so-called “good guys,” but so far, I haven’t identified any good guys.
I do know that any such book written by an unknown and published by an independent company would have been panned by any readers, not acclaimed as “gripping,” and “raucous” and “unflinching” and “exceptional.” Though, come to think of it, those are rather namby-pamby words to describe a bestseller, as if even the reviewers had a hard time coming up with something good to say about this book. Actually, looking more closely at the reviews, they seem to be about the series as a whole rather than this particular book, so perhaps the reviewers couldn’t finish it, either.
Although it might seem like it, I’m not really picking on this book, just using it as an example of today’s literary climate. Another book I recently finished by a bestselling author who has been around forever, read like a junior high school kid’s attempt at writing a novel, with way too much repetition and explaining, and way too little in the way of characterization. Still, that book made some sort of sense. Stuff happened, but that stuff seemed to tie into the main storyline.
I suppose I have to take the reader (me) into consideration. I have read so many books (about one a day) for so many decades that I could be a tad jaded.
Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator