Thursday, September 09, 2010

not worth the paper on which it was printed

The following quote was found on a footnote from Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine's online website, on the page devoted to recommending books:

I have morbid fantasies of turning a modern-day editor loose on Dickens. First to be sacrificed on the altar of "pacing" would be the regurgitated parliamentary white papers on working conditions in coal mines and woolen mills. Then the unfair and unbalanced caricatures of clergymen and other worthy members of society. Then the many pages devoted to the private joys, woes, and foibles of bit players who never appear again and in no way move the plot forward. And so on and so forth. The result would be tighter, cleaner, faster-paced, more disciplined writing…and not worth the paper on which it was printed.

I am an aspiring writer, and I have started to notice that the writing world, much like the music world or the business world or the political world, can be geared toward cookie-cutter methodologies with little substance and even less value. For this reason, the bright and shining star of any of these worlds is rare.

Most lazy readers in our society would balk at reading a Dickens novel from start to finish. I myself have read four of them and not without some difficulty. What the above reviewer says is true. Dickens' novels are riddled with extra information, ridiculous caricatures, endless soliloquy's with no bearing on plot or content, and yet, there is a priceless quality to them that the world has been unwilling to forget, even after all this time. I have often said that if Dickens were to begin writing in today's market, a publisher would toss his manuscript in the trash after a page. Just like so many other bright, shining stars of today's literature, he would find rejection after rejection after rejection until his mind went numb. Why? Because an editor wants a piece with today's pizazz. They aren't looking for works of art as much as they're looking for marketable goods. Just like a politician with standards, a businessman with sincerity and a singer with simplicity, a truly creative writer stands little chance of finding that big break without making some compromises first.

All this is not to say that I am in my own work anywhere close to the level of greatness attributed to the likes of Dickens, Hugo, Twain or Tolstoy. It is rather to say that the business is entirely screwed up, and I plan to keep at it, but mainly I"m just going to pray, because it seems only miracles can send the clouds away and open up the sky for all the stars to see.

1 comment:

CassieU said...

I love reading your writing. Keep at it.