Thursday, June 24, 2010

Pooblished vs. Published

I started to read a summer novel I snagged at a retail chain (coupons!). I was hoping for a repeat of the pulp fiction extravaganza I went through last year with Charlaine Harris and her fun, not-too-deep Sookie Stackhouse series. Harris' books are like popcorn, you can't read just one. Those silly paperbacks got me through some rough shit last year, not the least of which was nearly bleeding to death in Harborview's ER.

(Leg humper).

Anyhoo, I plowed 350 laborious pages through Justin Cronin's "The Passage" and, sorry, it sucked giant sweaty ass. This novel is like a schematic for How To Sell Your Novel to Hollywood.

Step 1: Get Stephen King to blather on about it on the dust jacket
Step 2: Thank CAA on the Thanks Page
Step 3: Mention Ridley Scott on the Thanks Page
Step 4: Write a 800+ page rough draft

Yes, in that order. Because I think that's how it went down. Cronin humped King's leg at some book signing or publishing convention, got him to read a 10-page excerpt of his tome and then went and did the rest.

Allegedly Cronin won a PEN and a couple of other awards for a short story analogy called "Mary and O'Neil". Sadly, I don't think he even bothered to edit "The Passage" and I'm pretty sure no one at Random House did either. stupidly compared the first part of "The Passage" to Cormac McCarthy's "The Road". McCarthy's novel is an impressive and flawless read that will go down in sci-fi as one of the great ones.

But Cronin's book is by-the-numbers sci-fi/horror and there's few surprises. There's a pious, self-sacrificing black woman. There's a white trash 8-yr-old with vague mystical powers who gets infected with a vampire virus by evil government men. There's a long-suffering FBI agent who emotionally adopts the mystical brat ... even when she abandons him to die! Etc. This ain't King's "The Stand", it's not even a good knock off of "Different Seasons".

Vast, ruminating back story is given to every damn character. I knew what one security guard's favorite food was, I knew everything about his childhood ... SO?! His character becomes vampire snack food.

And as for Cronin's MFA and more literary-minded writing, I sure didn't see any here. The sentences were often long and clunky. He spends four paragraphs saying something that McCarthy could have said in one sentence.

My criticism (and everybody else's) are moot as Cronin has already sold the movie rights and Ridley Scott is in pre-production. In six months to a year, a smoldering turd will land on top of the box office.

In other news, I too am now a pooblished author. I'd like to thank all five of the readers of Black Matrix Publishing's periodicals. I'll post a PDF of my printed story just as soon as Black Matrix mails it to me and I get it scanned.

Hostile Horizons.


Anonymous said...

This review says far more about your publishing frustrations and your uninformed context for how the book was written than it does anything about the author. Cronin "allegedly" won the PEN and other awards? It's a fact. His first two works are quite good. And I wonder how your writing fares when compared to Cormac McCarthy's? I can guess. Most writers don't measure up to those on the short list for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Doesn't mean the writing isn't worthwhile. The main thing I see in this entry is that you think someone has to network to publish something and that this, irrespective of the quality of the work, determines the outcome. I guess it's easier to believe that than the alternative. You can dig through Blood Meridian and find a few crappy sentences, by the way, but that doesn't undercut the worth of the book. There's a saying: The dogs bark but the caravan rolls on. Have fun barking, buddy.

Mz M. said...

Wow, all this repetitive irateness and I don't even get an online handle.

I read most of "The Passage". Care to quote from this noble tome apparently so deserving of praise?

I said over a year ago: this novel was never edited, either by the author or anyone at the publishing house. There's no excuse for this. Period.

Having kicked around a few publishing conventions, workshops, etc. over the years, I don't think it was written to be a novel. I think it was a ploy to sell it as a treatment in Hollywood, which worked. But then that's the way of the publishing industry these days. Just ask Stephenie Meyer.

Mz M. said...

"you think someone has to network to publish something and that this, irrespective of the quality of the work, determines the outcome" -- Yes, absolutely true.