Saturday, June 23, 2012

Bigger Than A Breadbox

Three are problems with large print books, I have found. I just waded through one that had just fewer than 900 pages. The damn thing weighed over five pounds. I am not a weakling, but that’s a lot of paper to wrestle with for an hour or so.

The book is “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. I guess it was an Oprah book, even though there was no child sexual abuse in it. It started out well, reminding me of one of my favorite writers, John Irving. However, it began to deteriorate after a few hundred pages.

I was at a children’s literature conference some years back and one of the authors/illustrators talked about the fun and necessity of research when working on the kind of book which requires that the writer knows what h/he is talking about. Then, he said you put the research in the background, confident that your story will reflect but not spell out what you know. Lately, I have found that some authors don’t know how to do that. The result is that some of the characters start spouting information in stilted, pedantic speeches or boring conversations that impede the narrative flow, all in aid of letting the reader know how much the author knows... Are writers being paid by the word now? Do editors edit? I looked in the back of the book to read the acknowledgements, and he had dozens of readers and editors helping him, he says, over a number of years. No one had told him the truth, apparently. I have no problem with wordy writers: Hardy and Dickens did wonders with words. This book, which I finally gave up on entirely, managed to bore the hell out of me. Repetition, repetition: people going over the same thing, and then disquisitions in the form of letters about dog breeding.

In spite of all the dog research, he has a female dog standing on three legs to pee.  I know it can happen, but he makes such a point of knowing all about dogs that I just lost all respect, if I had had any, for the so-called writer. I stopped halfway through, and, hey, that’s over 400 freaking pages. (I skipped to near the end and they were talking about the same stuff.)

It’s too bad, because there was the germ of a good story there.

And the damn thing hurt my wrists.
The one on top is the one I am writing about. The one on the bottom is a normal book.

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