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Posts Tagged ‘James Patterson’

Is it the choice of subject matter?  The genre?  The number of pages?  The use of big words?  Is a Margaret Atwood or Salman Rushdie book considered to be of a higher literary quality than Dan Brown or Stephanie Myer?  If so, why?

I heard an interview on the radio a few months ago with Jeffrey Archer and he described himself as a storyteller.  There’s an interview with Archer on The Browser website where he talks about 5 famous books.  It’s really interesting because in this article, as with the radio interview, he makes the point that Dickens isn’t considered a great writer, but a great storyteller, the same goes for Dumas.  It’s taken the French 200 years to recognise how good a novelist Dumas was.

So the question is this, in 100 years what books written from this current period will we consider classics?   What will they be reading in school?  Great Expectations, Pride & Prejudice or Harry Potter?  Will students be studying Ian McEwan, Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Sebastian Faulks?  What makes these authors more worth studying than Sarah Waters, Philip Pullman or John Grisham?  The latter 3 authors have all won literary awards so aren’t they as good as the others?

I wrote an earlier post asking if we’re aver embarrassed by what we read and I concluded that we shouldn’t ever be embarrassed, as everyone likes something different.  But I do notice that if people ask me what I’ve been reading recently I sometimes will say ‘just some crime novels’ in a dismissive way.  But if I’ve been reading something that’s considered literature I’ll make a point of naming the author.  Is that really pretentious?  I don’t do it all the time – now I sound defensive!

It’s an interesting thought as I personally much prefer a good story to an award winning literary novel.  The Booker Prize long-list was released on 26 July and, not surprisingly, when I looked at the list I had read none of the books.  In fact, I haven’t read any from last year’s list either!  But I have read a huge number of works that are classified as literary classics.  I’ve read every Charles Dickens novel and they are considered classic works of literature – but when they were first published they were the Victorian equivalent of Eastenders!

So what’s the key difference between a literary effort and popular fiction?  Personally, I don’t know how to describe the difference other than in many cases a good story is easier to read.  People criticise Harry Potter and dismiss adults reading these books, but I would much rather see anyone of any age reading Harry Potter or Dan Brown than reading nothing at all.  As I mentioned earlier, I’ve read every Dickens, I’m a huge fan and I’ll highly recommend Dickens to anyone. But why should you read Dickens rather than James Patterson?  There’s no reason.  They’re both great story tellers, though one does take a few hours longer to read than the other!

Maybe one difference between literature and popular fiction is that literature is what we’re told we should read, like it’s good for us!  Who says so, some critic in the Guardian?  Why should they advise us on what we should read?  I think I’m pretty capable of deciding what I will and won’t read.  I enjoy reading reviews, they provide me with ideas of books I might be interested in reading.  But I certainly don’t choose the books I read based solely on reviews or award lists.  At the end of the day surely the sign of a good book is how enjoyable it is.  That’s the key point of reading, isn’t it?  I wouldn’t read over 100 books a year if I didn’t enjoy reading and I wouldn’t enjoy reading if there weren’t so many darn good stories out there!  So I say, stuff the critics and the awards lists stick with what’s enjoyable.  100 years from now, that’s what we’ll still be reading!

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I’ve read a number of books recently that I categorise as the literary equivalent of TV’s CSI or Numbers. These TV programmes are easy to watch, the characters are familiar and the good guys win. To sit and watch these programmes is pure escapism with a bit of morality, emotion, drama, tension and humour mixed in. So what are the books I’ve been reading that fit this category?

They are Vince Flynn’s Term Limits, Robert Crais’ The First Rule, Harlan Coben’s Promise Me, JD Robb’s Fantasy in Death, and James Patterson’s Worst Case.

I’ve enjoyed them all and as I’ve read most of the author’s previous work it was like visiting with old friends; comfortable and familiar.

But that’s not to say the books don’t have literary merit. Despite my familiarity with these characters I still want to be drawn in to the story and engage with the characters. Just as you can easily switch channels if you’re not enjoying a programme, you need a reason to stay with a book. What I love about this type of book however is that you kind of know what you’re getting. You don’t need entirely realistic characters; you can leave realism behind at the first page and just go along for the ride. You want the characters to be larger than life, able to withstand beatings or the derision of others, you also want them to have fantastic insight into the criminal mind and although they may tread a fine line in terms of the law, they’re still solidly in the good guy’s camp.

For example, I also recently read Lee Child’s 61 Hours. Brilliant! I’m a big fan of the Jack Reacher series and this was one of the best. Quite often, with a book based on a character you’re familiar with, you might be tempted to skim over some of the descriptive elements of the book or feel like you know what’s going to happen.  But Lee Child created a story that captivated me and kept me involved until the final pages.  And the best part, I didn’t expect the ending.  It was excellent, there were a few surprises which kept me on the edge of my seat and left me wanting more.

This is definitely a book I would recommend and I really can’t wait until September for the next instalment! I think I’m going to have to go back and re-read some of the early Jack Reacher books.

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