Friday, October 30, 2009

Should Books Make Sense?

Does an author have the obligation to write in a way that readers can read and understand?

I thought so. But, then, I’m apparently wrong. Michael Turner’s latest book, “8 X 10,” is written in what is described as an “esoteric” style. That seems to be a euphemism for, I don’t get a rat’s behind if you understand me.

The National Post interviews him and then writes up the interview in the style of the book. Just reading the interview will raise your hackles. Here’s his explanation of why he wrote the book the way he did:
"You have to, I think, disrupt the reader somewhat to get them to think. It's a risk, but it's something I feel I just have to do. And it's not my own self-indulgence. It's a considered upset."
In other words, he’s not a bad writer. He did it on purpose. Here’s the interviewers take on the book:
It is a collection of fragments, echoes, whispers. We don't know the time or place, the year is a rumour heard then forgotten. Characters lack names, but are given professions: they are soldiers and stand-up comics and tailors and artists. They weave in and out of each others stories like spectres. Each chapter - or is it a scene? An event? - is prefaced by an 8 x 10 grid, with one cell shaded in, a map that guides us through the novel. There are eight characters and 10 events, or is it 10 characters and eight events?
Turner says he didn’t want to write a book with “proper noun-age.” He also seems to dismiss anyone who doesn’t “get it.”
"Certain readers don't want a lot determined for them, just as I as a writer don't want my reader to be ... fixed in what they bring to the reading of my work. If the first thing they bring is, ‘I don't want to read it because...' well, f--- them."
In case you’re wondering what press allowed him to publish with them…he’s published by Doubleday Canada.

I could be wrong. It may be a fascinating book. Based on this interview, though, I’ll pass.
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33 comments:

  1. I might enjoy the read as an oddity - if it's well written ... seems like a stream of consciousness sort of thing. But by and large I like a book to "make sense."

    Marvin D Wilson

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  2. p.s. - Helen, look at you - closing in on 200 followers - you GO, GF!

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  4. He does come across as quite arrogant, but I like the idea of challenging the reader by taking away the conventional narrative.

    I used to read a lot of whacked out New Wave SF back in the 80s though...

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  5. Think I'll pass, too. I heard No Country For Old Men was written really odd as well - no punctuation and stuff.

    Wow, almost 2oo! And I'm just one away from 100. What are you going to do to celebrate? Going to DisneyWorld?

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  6. If it's pretty short I'll give most books a try.

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  7. Wow. I will admit I'm intrigued. Especially about the grids. How interesting.

    But I also thought as I was reading the interview in the style of the book, "this is like texting and how the texting language is carrying over into emails..." Laziness?

    Still...Very interesting.

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  8. Actually based on that review I want to read the book simply to see how vague it is. Honestly. No character names? None? And how many pages do we have to bare with the author while being blindfolded? Still, I'd buy it to figure out the answers to my questions.

    So maybe it is a marketing gimmick?

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  9. I confess that it sounds to me like a book I would WANT to read and like (I sort of like being freaky) but in reality I wouldn't have much patience for it... like it would make a better movie--Naked Lunch comes to mind (though I SAW that and didn't read it--still I know William S. Burroughs seemed to hold a similar attitude). It DOESN'T strike me though as a superiority, so much as a 'not everybody likes the same stuff and I don't give a crap about pleasing the people who don't like THIS kind of stuff'

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  10. I don't mind the fact that he's tried something 'different'. But the contempt of his readers may bite him in the ___. His arrogance reminds me of the recent attempt by the CBC to interview Billy Bob Thornton while touring Canada with his band. That tact is being used a lot these days. Smells of publicity stunt.

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  11. I was just talking with a friend about how it's important to vary the portfolio, every piece in it can't read with the same tone, same voice. It's interesting to the writer and reader to mix it up a little.

    But, to a point. I don't have the time for nonsensical, off-the-wall interpretations. I'm with you on taking a pass on this one. His attitude in the last line clinched it for me too, but not for just this book, for all.

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  12. Oh, good Lord.

    While I embrace that there is a place for the experimental and disturbing, there is never really a place for an author to say "Hey, F-you!" to the audience.

    You have to allow readers, especially those who aren't your targeted audience, the ability to disagree with you without painting them as boneheads.

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  13. Here's the thing, when I want to sit down with a "good book" - I want to ENJOY it, not struggle through it. If I want to struggle through something, I'll go to the office. Ugh.

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  14. We seem to have mixed reactions to the book and the author. (That's good.) If anyone does read it, I'd love to hear your reaction. Way back in my younger days (ten years ago ;-) I did write some stream of consciousness stuff. I enjoyed it. I doubt anyone else could have followed it, at least not willingly.

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  15. I do not like to read things I don't understand, so I'll pass, but it sure is interesting to find out about the different kinds of writers and writing there is out there.
    Karen

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  16. If I find it at the library, I'll check it out. Maybe it's a little like poetry. Maybe it'll make me crazy. Won't know until I see it.

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  17. I, too, want to enjoy reading a book. And this seems like one I would want to check out for its novelty.

    But, the author turns me off with his f**k you to his readers. Without readers, he would be an "aspiring" writer.

    So charm us, amaze us with your clever way of standing out from the rest.

    But, don't piss us off...play nice.

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  18. I am all for doing things differently, but I do like to understand the different.
    Not sure if this would go on my wishlist.
    Interesting post.

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  19. Christmas is coming up for those who have an off-beat friend who likes to read (not me, though). ;-)

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  20. I'll probably pass on this one because it sounds like it could be a real pain keeping up with who's who if I have to refer to a grid for each scene. I am, however, interested in hearing more about it.

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  21. Until I read the last line of this where he tells readers to F-off, I was open to at least looking at the book before I decide not to read it. Now, I wouldn't help support an ego that big.

    This whole "bad-boy" arrogance seems to be a popular way of marketing oneself, and it may appeal to some people. Tucker Max comes to mind. But I find it crass and demeaning.

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  22. Thanks but no thanks! I'll spend my hard earned money on books that enlighten and satisfy.

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  24. I hadn't thought of it as arrogance, but I think y'all are right.

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  25. I'm in the "won't waste my time or money on a difficult-to-understand book by an arrogant author"camp.

    Lillie Ammann
    A Writer's Words, An Editor's Eye

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  26. Overall, yes. I love crazy stuff in the middle, but the ending has to resemble reality or some kind of norm. I think this helps bring closure to a story.

    Stephen Tremp

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  27. When I was learning French, our teacher said French authors liked to push envelop. And there was an author who wrote a book deliberately avoiding words with an "e" in it.

    My goodness, very difficult!

    In Quest of Theta Magic

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  28. No "e's" would indeed be difficult. I could manage a sentence or two without them, but not a whole book!

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  29. Reminds me of some of those art house films. Not my cup of tea.

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