Thursday, January 21, 2010

Books that make you hurl


Sometimes a book is so bad I want to throw it across the room. In fiction it is usually the amateur writing mistakes or lazy attention to detail or grammar or spelling. The stilted dialogue, the poor descriptions, the characters acting against type or out of character also drive me nuts. Or gratuitous scenes or elements that are there only because the author was not strong enough to kill of his or her darlings.

In nonfiction I tend to start tossing books that don't get it right. A recent read caused me to hurl (the book) when the author solved all of the world's problems in less than 200 pages including global warming, overpopulation AND the ongoing discussion of religion vs science. It was not at all what it was marketed as. It was in fact an old man's rant. An end of life attempt to get his say in while he could still say it. Yes that sounds harsh. I realize I should respect my elders and that some day I'll be where he's sitting. I want to be heard, too. I could have accepted it much better if he would have marketed it as what it was -- a rant!

Today I worked on a book review for a book of fiction where the author got it wrong. She, a perky, lean, blonde of unending enthusiasm wrote about a woman of obese proportions. Or as the author likes to refer to her character and all women of similar body types -- fat women. I keep thinking about (and grinding my teeth) the fight people with disabilities waged and continue to wage to be seen. Can you not see that is a man in that wheelchair? A father? A brother? A person who has been wounded and yet he gets out of bed every day and lives his life just like the rest of us? That is to say 'he lives the best that he can.' So why is this woman any less deserving of being seen despite the layers of fat that envelope her? Why is she first of all fat? Where is her heart? Her pain? Her motivation? The cause and effect of her situation and her image?

Yes, I'm royally pissed at the treatment of this fictional character because the author has chosen to make her inert and unloveable as a fat woman but suddenly transforms her into a loveable, interesting, selfless human being once she loses the weight. Stereotype! Perpetrating a myth to the detriment of all who must live it.

So, what is the author's responsibility to get it right. Should she have researched the causes of morbid obesity? Should she have delved into this character to understand what conspired, even in her childhood, to lead her to the choices that she made? Should the author have done more than talk to a bunch of women and conclude that she knew all she needed to know about the subject? Should she have written a solution to the woman's obesity was simply that she stopped eating? Would she have written a book about an anorexic girl who was saved because she ate more? Rather simplistic.

I'd like to write about alot of topics. But I want to get them right. I want to know everything I possibly can before I create a character and I hope to all the writing gods that I do not ever make such a pathetic one-dimensional character as I just read in this book that I shall not name because I don't want anyone to purchase the book or help this author make money on the backs of every woman of obese proportions!

Maybe painting people as freaks sells books. Maybe that is perfectly all right. But I pray never to be guilty of such a crime. And if I do include an outcast in my book, I intend to understand why she's outside of the norms of society and make sure my readers understand, too.

In all fairness, I will add that this novel does not suffer from the usual hurl-causing deficiencies. It is well crafted. Just not well thought out.  

1 comment:

Rebecca Camarena said...

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