So I started my day by reading the Washington Post online in bed, which is not always such a good idea, since there is guaranteed to be at least one article that will set me off. Today it was author James Patterson’s announcement of a new book format which would present very short, sparse outline-like fiction in digital form for today’s busy readers. Now I’m not going to rant about Mr. Patterson and his work, because I’ve never read anything he’s written, but what I’ve read about him makes me think I would not, or could not, be a big fan of his. I know his background is in advertising, which to me, does not bode well for the creation of great literature.
I’m just trying to wrap my head around the idea of quickie fiction. Is this really what readers want? No character development, no splendid lyrical writing, no thorny issues or ideas to chew on…just plot, basically. Tell me a bedtime story, Mom. Is that it? Quick comfort reading, nothing too complicated and nothing even resembling real life, God forbid, which is just too messy, disconcerting, difficult and emotionally charged. And there we have it, the difference between ordinary ‘popular’ fiction and literature.
Now readers of Mr. Patterson’s brand of ‘lite’ fiction are never going to be reading this blog, so I don’t know why I’m even writing this. I know I’m preaching to the choir—and a glorious choir it is! But I feel compelled to cry out against the continuing erosion of American literature. Fiction writers have always been subject to the whims of a cruel marketplace, but come on…this kind of virulent mass-marketing of careless fiction is just a slap in the face to people who take their craft seriously. I just feel I have to make a feeble protest every now and then.
Mr. Patterson is a very, very rich man. Readers, I don’t want to put any burden on you, but think about how you spend those book-buying dollars. A few dollars will mean nothing to Patterson and his kind, but for a serious, struggling writer, particularly an independent writer, each dollar is a vote of support and confidence. And if you don’t know what a good book is versus junk, then start reading book reviews for heaven’s sake. The long-form versions that appear in blogs, newspapers and magazines, not the blips that turn up on Amazon and Goodreads. (And attention traditional newspapers and magazines: Start reviewing more independent work, you dinosaurs!)
That is all. You may now return to your summer reading. Something good, I hope…