Famous Authors and why they Suck

Yesterday afternoon a very close friend of mine (who for her sake will remain nameless) sent me a very interesting article that she thought I would find interesting. The article, which can be found here, is a criticism of Eric Arthur Blair or, as you probably know him by, George Orwell. Orwell is widely considered to be one of the most influential writers of all time, being placed second on The Times list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945,” yet Steven Poole, author of the article, accuses Orwell’s “assault on political euphemism” to be what he describes as “righteous but limited.” He also claims that what Orwell “perceives to be bad style [is] often outright ridiculous.” While the article continues from there to further criticize and blame Orwell, the theme of the article got me thinking. Are there any authors who are generally considered to be “incredible” and “revolutionary,” that you simply cannot stand? Personally, I find myself wishing I could stomach the writing style of J. R. R. Tolkien, as I absolutely love The Lord of the Rings. Obviously it’s not his concept that doesn’t agree with me, but his unnecessarily long-winded descriptions that seem to plague every other page of his writing. The only book of his I enjoyed was The Hobbit.

What I ask of those of you, who will take the time to read this, is to take a moment to think about some authors who are extremely well regarded, that you find yourself hating. What is it about their work do you not like? Why don’t you like it? More importantly, what does this dislike say about you as a writer? Has it influenced the way you’ve grown as a writer? I think this mental exercise could be extremely beneficial to all us, or at the very least, it’ll be very interesting.

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Inspiration: A Unique and Extremely Personal Phenomenon

In an interview with The Guardian (found here), Kevin Barry, author of novels such as the Impac Dublin literary award winner City of Bohane, discusses a lot of interesting topics; though none of which peaked my interest as much as where he derived the inspiration to use famous musician John Lennon as the topic of his latest fiction novel, Beatlebone. Barry talks about how his “initial spark of inspiration is always place,” and how for this latest novel he was inspired to write about how “John Lennon is looking for his private island and can’t find it,” when he was “cycling around… Clew Bay” and “remembered that John Lennon owned one of the islands there.” At reading this I began to think about inspiration and everything that influences us when we, writers, are either writing or even just trying to come up with something to write about. In this interview Kevin Barry attributes any time he was inspired to his physical location at the time, but what really stuck out to me about the concept of inspiration is how extremely unique and different it is for every single person. Take myself for instance, being someone whose primary focus in their writing is in their dialogue, most of my inspiration comes from the daily conversations my friends and I have about utterly pointless things (such as if we can make this potato cannon fire beer cans), but I am willing to bet that every person in this class has a different answer. It also wouldn’t surprise me if some people couldn’t come up with an answer, because their inspiration comes from so many different aspects of their lives. I’m very curious as to what everyone thinks. Try discussing it here on the Blawg; and even if you don’t want to actually comment here try taking the time to at least think about it. Who knows what you’ll learn about yourself, and even your writing for that matter.

Multiple Narrators… How do we Feel?

During my habitual perusing of the information sharing website known as reddit, I stumbled across an interesting thread (found here) that was questioning the use of multiple narrators (i.e. multiple point of views) in books. This reddit user, who goes by the name of veryveryminty, shared that when reading a book they, more often then not, prefer it only to be written through the perspective of one character, because they find it “easier to sympathize with the main character if I can only see the same world they do.” After casually running over some of the other comments in this thread, I began thinking about this through a writer’s mindset. What are the benefits of choosing to use multiple perspectives? Why do some authors choose to do this, while others do not? Do some genres (yes, I am choosing to talk about genres even though I denounced them in my last post) benefit from the use of P.O.V.s more than others? Being someone who very rarely writes in the first person, I myself do not have any real experience using multiple points of view, but it is something that I am very curious about and will probably try writing like this in the future.

What I want to know is, similarly to the original reddit post, why all of you, my lovely readers and peers, choose to write in the perspectives that you do? And if you don’t know, or can’t think of any substantial reason, maybe try writing in a form that is less, for lack of a better word, “traditional.” Stray out of your comfort zones. See what happens, and talk about it here. You may be surprised by what happens.

“Genre Snobbery”: What we as Writers, and even Readers, Should Avoid

In this article found on Wired magazine’s website, author David Mitchell, whose body of work includes novels such as The Bone Clocks, Slade House, and most famously Cloud Atlas, discusses something very common that exists among writers, as well as just fans of literature, and the issues that he has with it. What Mitchell, is calling out is the notion that every piece of literary work written needs to fit neatly into one of the many mainstream genres, and that even if a piece does happen to fit into one of these genres (which he admits is perfectly okay), neither writers, nor readers for that matter, need to limit themselves to, or exclude themselves from, any of those genres as a result of personal bias. This “gene snobbery”, as the article’s author describes it, is a trend that is extremely prevalent in the consumers and producers of essentially all expressive mediums; whether it be fiction writing, music making, filmmaking, or even visual art, this trend exists among it’s user base. When someone decides they don’t like a genre, they are more than likely going to go out of their way to avoid the consumption of anything in that genre or, if said person is a writer, the production of that genre. An example: for arguments sake let’s say that I have decided that I do not like science fiction novels, because I just didn’t enjoy Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy (I know, a completely ridiculous and unbelievable example, but bear with me); as a result of deciding I dislike all Science Fiction because I didn’t enjoy one book that exists within its incredibly expansive genre, I am excluding myself from the enjoyment of a countless number of fantastic literary works that I could very well enjoy, yet I will never get to experience them because, in this hypothetical scenario, I have made the rash decision to forsake anything connected to the broad category of “science fiction.” In the article, Mitchell refers to this trend of “cutting yourself off” in this way as a “bizarre act of self-mutilation,” and, in all honesty, I agree. By classifying our work into these suffocating little “genres,” we are binding both our readers and ourselves to a strict formula, or schematic, for how we produce consume different forms of artistic expression. Consequently, we as writers will never be able to grow and develop to our fullest potential, all because we simply won’t let ourselves. David Mitchell attempts to fight this by working to just “[write] the best books that he can,” and choosing not to worry about whether or not the book he is science fiction, a mystery, or any other generic genre. He simply writes the story in his head.

Now I’m not a hypocrite- or at least not in this specific situation- I admit that I am just as guilty of this as any of you who are actually taking the time to read this class blog may be, but after reading this rather short article I couldn’t help but really think about the concept of genres and how they influence both our writing (as in the final product) and our actual writing process. That being said, what I am going to start applying to my every day life, whether it be in my writing or even just my enjoyment of expressive media (such as what music I listen to), is the conscious effort to ignore any and all genre classifications. They are not important, and the most they will do is give me an inaccurate and overly generalized opinion of whatever it is I am reading/watching/listening to/writing/written/about to write. I challenge you, my extremely small audience, to do the same. The next time you sit down to write something, anything at all, throw away all notions you have, or have ever had about genres, and just write the piece in your head. Don’t limit yourselves to any “rules” or restrictions posed by one set genre. If you’re work is good, that’s all that will matters. If you want your piece to be about a time traveling crime solving robot named Sylvester Dorkathamon, who is stuck in Victorian England and also doesn’t know that he is a time traveling crime solving robot, then by all means do it. I’m sure it will be awesome. This goes for what we choose to consume as well, because nothing influences us more then the work of others. So if you don’t like mysteries, go read a mystery; and if you don’t like period pieces, go watch Pride and Prejudice; and if you don’t like heavy metal music… well then you’re fine because heavy metal music sucks (joke). Hopefully through the loss of what I am choosing to call “genre goggles,” we will all be able to flourish as writers, in ways that we would have never thought possible.

Long Hand V.S. Typed: Author John Irving Shares Some Insight

In his interview with author John Irving (embedded above), which took place on the November 3rd episode of “The Late Show” that aired earlier this week, host Stephen Colbert raised a very interesting question and potential topic for discussion, all the while still retaining the lighthearted and humorous tone that both he and show have become known for. To be more specific, Colbert brings up how Irving is known for writing his novels in long hand, avoiding typewriters and computers at all cost. He explains to Colbert that he choose to write by hand because it is significantly slower paced then typing, which he claims is a more conducive to his writing style. Furthermore, Irving says that due to the slow and systematic pace that writing by hand forces him to work at, he is able to write more comfortably and with fewer mistakes.

My question is this: While the reasons put forth by John Irving, an extremely successful novelist, are interesting in their own right, what are some other benefits of writing by hand? And while we’re at it, what are the benefits of typing? Which do you prefer and why?

With regards to typing, I’m curious to know reasons other then the obvious ones (such as “you can save”, “easy to distribute”, etc.). I want you to think from the perspective of a writer, not just a computer user.