Tuesday, April 21, 2009

On Pandering and Patterson

I’m preparing a post on Hart Crane, because I believe in responding to the non-spam comments (and the occasional spam comments) on our blog.

However, my knowledge of Crane is nil. Consequently, I’m forced to rely on outside help. When my expert is ready, we’ll have some Crane talk. Consider these last two paragraphs a preview.

And, now, the continuation of the “pandering” discussion:

My objection to James Patterson is a simple one. The man doesn’t have stories he feels compelled to tell. He’s just a prolific writer who markets himself brilliantly. Is he smart? Certainly. Can he write? I’ve read worse. But he’s more interested in writing something popular than writing (or cowriting) something good.

Is there anything wrong with being a popular author? No. Hell, Shakespeare was a populist too. But Patterson cranks out three books a year, usually with the help of co-authors. He seems to be more interested in quotas than creativity.

I don’t begrudge Patterson his fans or his millions. I read “Along Came a Spider” in high school and liked it. I started reading “Violets are Blue” and thought it was the same book.

Patterson has a large audience, and I would never be presumptuous enough to suggest that I am smarter than any of them because I prefer Thomas Hardy to him.

Reading, like all entertainment, is subjective. Sure, some authors are better than others; but a lot more goes into taste than the quality of the prose. There are plenty of legendary authors who I don’t like. (Remember my diatribe on Dickens?)

However, suggesting we read James Patterson because he has a large audience ... that just might be pandering.

I haven’t read Nora Roberts or Mary Higgins Clark, so I can’t comment on them. They may be brilliant authors who deserve every iota of their success. They may be namebrand authors, churning out the same material for the last 20 years. They may be a little of both.

-Jason Lea, JLea@News-Herald.com

P.S. On an unrelated note, Hart Crane’s father was a candymaker who once held the patent for Lifesavers. Unfortunately, he sold it before it became the world’s most famous hard candy.

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