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Doing Something Right
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 6635
Location: minneapolis

PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2008 12:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tee wrote:
xina wrote:
And I love your quote you posted because I think it explains the view of the reader or the observer.

I always did like that particular quote because it makes you think more about where a person is coming when viewing their reaction in any complicated or confusing situation. For instance, look how many different responses we have to books around here. So all of us carry some baggage around and certain issues in books (or whatever) cause us to respond in one way or another. When that reaction is overly strong, especially negatively, then that's a good time to examine why. We don't have to do that, but we may find out more about ourselves if we do.




Personally, I discovered so many more hot buttons when I first started reading romance. Oddly enough, I could accept just about every situation in general fiction, but when it came to a romance novel I couldn't believe the behavior of a hero or a heroine as being realistic. I suppose that came from starting my reading with Catherine Coulter and Diana Palmer but I quickly discovered the meaning of "wallbanger"...not that I ever actually threw a book at a wall Embarassed , but I did throw some away in the garbage can. Stopped doing that too after I discovered I could donate them or sell them or give them away to my 2 RL romance readers. I've since learned what to stay away from in my reading even if many posters love a book. Case in point...The Marriage Bed. Why get my blood pressure up? I just stay away from a book I know will annoy the heck out of me. It's not like there's nothing else to choose from. Ah, I've learned so much in the past 8+ years of reading romance novels!
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Elizabeth Rolls



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 1066
Location: Australia

PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 8:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Thanks, Elizabeth. Let me see if I've got it:

The controversy is something secondary--a sign that there is something of value in the book, which would still have value even if people pretty much agreed about the book?


Yes; the controversy is a side effect if you will, of the book being well written in the first place. If it wasn't well written then Sebastian and John wouldn't draw such powerful reactions from readers.

This is not to say that a badly written book ( and yeah, they do exist) won't get a strong reaction from someone, but it will not be a reaction about the characters as people we want to hit and/or murder. Just my thoughts which may or may not be intelligible.

Elizabeth
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 8:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tee wrote:
So all of us carry some baggage around and certain issues in books (or whatever) cause us to respond in one way or another. When that reaction is overly strong, especially negatively, then that's a good time to examine why. We don't have to do that, but we may find out more about ourselves if we do.


As you can see, Tee, I'm not quite ready to let such a great conversation partner slip away! Wink

When we were in the thick of the Marriage Bed debate, there was something I kept being reminded of. When I was teaching Literature in high school, I used Mary Leonhardt's Four Reading Paths a lot, to explain to my students that just because they don't like a certain text, it doesn't mean that the text is bad. It was often the Path 3 (Action-Adventure with SF and Fantasy Elements) readers who clashed with the Path 2 (Relationships with Realistic Elements) readers--for obvious reasons!

Anyway, what I often thought during our exchanges was that everyone who loves The Marriage Bed must be squarely in Path 2. I just never shared it because I thought it would sound as if I was dismissing their opinions.

dick wrote:
to tee: Well, perhaps "flawed" was a poor choice. Perhaps "disjointed" would have been a better choice, although that doesn't really change the point much. There must be something about the book which some readers read with pleasure while others read with dismay or the issue of whether it's good or bad would never arise, would it? Compare those books of the genre which most readers approve of, such as Kleypas' Dreaming of You or one or another of the Garwood historicals.


I think "disjointed" is a great term. I certainly think that The Marriage Bed dislocated itself out of the Romance genre--and that was probably the most unpopular opinion I've ever voiced. Laughing

How ironic if the reason it got so many people riled up was that it was, like the book it was criticising, not flawed, but "disjointed."

The first time I ever read the "doing something right" assessment was in a review for Madeleine L'Engle's House Like a Lotus. The reviewer wrote something to effect of: any author who can piss off both conservatives and liberals has got to be doing something right. I didn't agree with his line of reasoning then and don't agree with it now, for the reason that I don't think novels are supposed to piss people off.

So the fact that The Marriage Bed (which I had promised myself not to mention anymore!!! Crying or Very sad ) has had that very effect on about 50% of its readers--a figure estimated by a fan rather than a "hater"--makes a stronger case for saying that it has failed as a popular novel. (If a Romantic movie angered 50% of its test audience, no producer would release it as is.) That doesn't mean it doesn't work as another kind of literature.
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"To be in a romance is to be in uncongenial surroundings. To be born into this earth is to be born into uncongenial surroundings, hence to be born into a romance." (G.K. Chesterton)
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Tee



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 4209
Location: Detroit Metro

PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 10:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Schola wrote:
When I was teaching Literature in high school, I used Mary Leonhardt's Four Reading Paths a lot, to explain to my students that just because they don't like a certain text, it doesn't mean that the text is bad. It was often the Path 3 (Action-Adventure with SF and Fantasy Elements) readers who clashed with the Path 2 (Relationships with Realistic Elements) readers--for obvious reasons!

Schola, although I am unfamiliar with this particular book of Leonhardt's, I'm not surprised at all about reading groups. I've often said on the boards, where it appeared to be appropos, that how a book is viewed depends so much on reader preferences--how one enjoys getting his information and in what style (author's writing style included). If there isn't a fit, the book may be fantastic for the vast majorities; but it will be difficult for some people to relate to it positively because of those certain other factors. I've tried googling Leonhardt's four reading paths, but only her book keeps coming up and not specifically listing those four paths. I'll get back on the Net later and search further because it does interest me.

For instance, I prefer the cut-to-the-chase method in most cases. Unnecessary words or flowery words or overly long sentences distract me. In fiction, I prefer that the scenario is a possibility, even if it's a bit of a stretch. If the plot or details surrounding it don't seem plausible to me, the book usually doesn't work (kind of shuts out SF and fantasy for me, as a rule). However, if The Marriage Bed would be considered reality, it was one book I didn't like (so obviously one of my gut buttons was pushed there). In addition, I also didn't gel well with Gurke's writing technique. To be somewhat fair, I tried another book of hers; and we were definitely not a fit.

I'm fascinated with discussions such as these; because, on the surface, reading appears to be cut-and-dried. But, of course, it's not, as we can see from the various reactions to the same book by diverse readers.

At the author's end of it, though, they pour out their heart and soul into their work. (Warning, Schola, here comes another quote. Laughing) Sportswriter Red Smith, of some time ago, was attributed to saying, "Writing is easy. You just sit down at the typewriter and open a vein." Sounds tough enough to me.
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Elizabeth Rolls



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 1066
Location: Australia

PostPosted: Sat Oct 18, 2008 8:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Sportswriter Red Smith, of some time ago, was attributed to saying, "Writing is easy. You just sit down at the typewriter and open a vein." Sounds tough enough to me.


Yeeees . . . BUT! Something a singing teacher once said to me about communicating emotion that I think holds true for writing, at least for me; the important thing when performing is to make your audience feel the emotion. The singer has to remain in control of the performance enough that it doesn't become self-indulgent. (Can you tell I was classically trained? Razz )

I guess you have to open the vein, but control the bleeding so you don't make an unholy mess of everything. Again it's often a matter of different strokes. Everyone has a different way of approaching things. There have been times for me when the vein has been open and I haven't realised until after the blood is on the page.

Elizabeth
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 2476

PostPosted: Sat Oct 18, 2008 10:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think it was T.S. Eliot who posited that the critical and the creative functions rarely reside in the same person. Thus, I think that whether an author "opens a vein" or not has only a little do with how the product should be judged. The critic/reader, whether he likes the product or not, should ask "why" the book, in his mind, did or didn't work in the particular niche the author intended it to--in the case of The Marriage Bed, romance fiction.

When readers of romance fiction explain why they read the genre, numbers of reasons arise, but the one mentioned most often is that they are assured of an all's-right-with-the-world outcome, that the feelings generated by it are (slightly overstated) "warm and fuzzy." The discussion of The Marriage Bed, suggested that, for a great number of readers, the book didn't accomplish that, in some instances even for those who defended it for other reasons.

Even though reading romance fiction may be about feelings or emotions, the assessment of whether a book generates those "good" feelings when one has finished reading it, is a judgment, not a matter of taste or preference or hot-button issues. The judgment is actually a coldly objective one, in the same way one most often knows he is angry or sad or indifferent.

to Elizabeth Rolls: But contrast Callas and Sutherland. With Callas, one could never be sure she wasn't being self-indulgent, letting the blood flow all over things; with Sutherland, one could almost be certain she would never be. But it's a toss-up, in my estimate, which presented the greater performance. The same is true with Wordsworth and say Keats. Wordsworth's poetry is sometimes almost maudlin. Keats' more controlled.
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Tee



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 4209
Location: Detroit Metro

PostPosted: Sun Oct 19, 2008 7:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

dick wrote:
Even though reading romance fiction may be about feelings or emotions, the assessment of whether a book generates those "good" feelings when one has finished reading it, is a judgment, not a matter of taste or preference or hot-button issues. The judgment is actually a coldly objective one, in the same way one most often knows he is angry or sad or indifferent.

When you say that it's a judgment, dick, not taste or preference or hot-button issues, I'm assuming that you're talking here about the four reading paths that were being discussed above. But, without any specific expertise in this area, I still readily believe that certain styles will turn off some people before and even while reading the "greatest" book in the world.

I can give a few examples of what I'm trying to say here. I loved Sugar Daddy by Kleypas, as did many others. But some readers were so turned off by first-person text, they could not get past the first chapter (if even that far). I think Linda Howard did that with a few of her books also and received similar negative reactions. To be fair, the readers may have ended up not enjoying the book for other reasons even if they did get all the way thru. But that preference stopped them from getting far enough to judge. Regarding hot-button issues, we know from posters here and elsewhere that some topics appearing in books will inhibit them from even buying or opening a book whatsoever.

Sometimes I feel like the Lone Ranger when people begin discussing Judith Ivory or the Curtisses (especially The Windflower). Their writing styles are examples of ones that don't flow easily for me and are totally distracting. Consequently, their stories may be wonderful, but the style is a block for me.

Sorry if this is not what you were referring to. If that's the case, then I misunderstood what you were attempting to say in your post.
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 2476

PostPosted: Sun Oct 19, 2008 9:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

to tee: I know nothing about the four reading paths schola mentioned. I suppose my post can be applied to the four paths business, but only because I wrote about response to a particular genre. The post was a general response about reading romance fiction, about whether one should care that authors throw their heart and soul into what they write, and the discussion about The Marriage Bed---again!

I agree, actually, that style, point of view, and so on can turn a particular reader off. I'm one of those readers who is turned off by first person in romance fiction. In my opinion, depicting a relationship with only one half of the story is incomplete telling and, in a way, illogical. I'm not sure, though, it's simply a matter of taste on my part, for that preference applies only to romance fiction. I think some books in lit fic and mystery work better with a limited third person or first person point of view, so it's not simply the point of view I dislike.

Writing styles are a matter of taste, though. Over-writing will make me quickly put a book aside as will prose that is simply dull. Joann Ross, whom you mentioned on another board, is one of those. Her prose is, in my reaction to it, "stodgy," too "full."
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Sun Oct 19, 2008 10:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

dick wrote:
I agree, actually, that style, point of view, and so on can turn a particular reader off. I'm one of those readers who is turned off by first person in romance fiction. In my opinion, depicting a relationship with only one half of the story is incomplete telling and, in a way, illogical. I'm not sure, though, it's simply a matter of taste on my part, for that preference applies only to romance fiction. I think some books in lit fic and mystery work better with a limited third person or first person point of view, so it's not simply the point of view I dislike.


For what it's worth, that's why I have such a problem with Jo Beverley's Arranged Marriage. I don't think we see things from Nicholas' point of view enough, and that is why the ending was so unsatisfying for me.

dick wrote:
Writing styles are a matter of taste, though. Over-writing will make me quickly put a book aside as will prose that is simply dull. Joann Ross, whom you mentioned on another board, is one of those. Her prose is, in my reaction to it, "stodgy," too "full."


Well, Dick, now I have to ask about Stephanie Laurens. I know that you like her books, but I find that that the style-related problem Tee has with Ivory and other readers have with Laura Kinsale is exactly why I have such an awful time reading Laurens. I particularly remember slogging through A Rake's Vow, where everything seemed to have been written twice. There would be two adjectives instead of one, two phrases instead of one, two clauses instead of one, two sentences instead of one--when it seemed that one would do in every case.

And then there were metaphors that seemed to come out of nowhere, like Vane stepping over the threshold of Patience's bedroom and calling it "his Rubicon." My mind immediately jumped to Caesar and I had to stop reading to wonder whether Vane's "crossing" was going to start a civil war! Laughing

Anyway, I have to wonder whether you don't find that Laurens novel, in particular, "overwritten."
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"To be in a romance is to be in uncongenial surroundings. To be born into this earth is to be born into uncongenial surroundings, hence to be born into a romance." (G.K. Chesterton)
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Cora



Joined: 12 Mar 2008
Posts: 1127
Location: Bremen, Germany

PostPosted: Sun Oct 19, 2008 8:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

dick wrote:
I'm one of those readers who is turned off by first person in romance fiction. In my opinion, depicting a relationship with only one half of the story is incomplete telling and, in a way, illogical. I'm not sure, though, it's simply a matter of taste on my part, for that preference applies only to romance fiction. I think some books in lit fic and mystery work better with a limited third person or first person point of view, so it's not simply the point of view I dislike.


It all depends on the story being told. For example, neither Jane Eyre nor Rebecca would work, if the reader had an insight into Maxim de Winter's or Edward Rochester's head, because the whole narrative hinges on the fact that neither the heroine nor the reader knows what both men are thinking and what secrets they are keeping. Hence, first person is an excellent choice for any story where it is important that the reader does not learn certain facts about one character.

That said, I have read otherwise fine heroine first-person POV books where I would have loved to get a POV scene from the hero.
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Mon Oct 20, 2008 4:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Elizabeth Rolls wrote:
Quote:
Thanks, Elizabeth. Let me see if I've got it:

The controversy is something secondary--a sign that there is something of value in the book, which would still have value even if people pretty much agreed about the book?


Yes; the controversy is a side effect if you will, of the book being well written in the first place. If it wasn't well written then Sebastian and John wouldn't draw such powerful reactions from readers.

This is not to say that a badly written book ( and yeah, they do exist) won't get a strong reaction from someone, but it will not be a reaction about the characters as people we want to hit and/or murder. Just my thoughts which may or may not be intelligible.


As you see from how long it has taken to reply, Elizabeth, I've mulled your answer over for a while.

I definitely see how it applies to characters, so I give grudging kudos to Guhrke there. Confused

What about other elements of a novel, though? I remember that another novel which inspired a discussion thread many pages long, most of those pages because of a single scene. I mean Jo Goodman's If His Kiss Is Wicked and the infamous hairbrush scene! Twisted Evil (Does anyone else remember that thread?)

In that case, I was one of those defending the scene and saying it belonged perfectly where it was. Others seemed to be saying, if I remember correctly, that the hero became less heroic in their eyes because of it. That kind of reaction is similar to what The Marriage Bed made me feel towards its own hero.

Do you think it's possible to acknowledge a character for being well drawn or a sex scene for being powerfully written, while simultaneously saying that their inclusion in a book is actually a disadvantage?
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"To be in a romance is to be in uncongenial surroundings. To be born into this earth is to be born into uncongenial surroundings, hence to be born into a romance." (G.K. Chesterton)
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 2476

PostPosted: Mon Oct 20, 2008 9:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

to schola re Laurens' style: Oh, the perils of contradictions.
You're right. Laurens' style can be seen as over-written at times, but its not usually "dull" nor "stodgy," although at times it can get a bit breathless. I like Laurens despite that, primarily because I enjoy the fictional world she has created, where already known characters move in and out of nearly the same milieu.


I don't see much wrong with the Rubicon metaphor, by the way, thinking she used it to mean the character has chosen his fate. Isn't that the usual metaphorical application?
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Tee



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 4209
Location: Detroit Metro

PostPosted: Mon Oct 20, 2008 9:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

dick wrote:
Writing styles are a matter of taste, though. Over-writing will make me quickly put a book aside as will prose that is simply dull. Joann Ross, whom you mentioned on another board, is one of those. Her prose is, in my reaction to it, "stodgy," too "full."

Interesting. I would never have "thunk" it about Ross' style. I know she can get deep into characters, which I really enjoy when it's done well; but I don't find her stuff dull. That's not to say that I've loved every single one of her books, because that's not true; but when she's on, she's on.

No disagreement, though, with your statement that writing styles are a matter of taste. When a person's reading style matches well with an author's writing style, that's such a big bonus. I have a few authors where we do very well together. When one of their stories don't match up occasionally, I'm disappointed because I have come to expect great reading times from them.
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 20, 2008 9:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

to cora: I'm not sure whether we agree or disagree.
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 20, 2008 9:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

to tee: About Ross's style: I may be speaking from insufficient evidence, for I've tried only No Safe Place. I got to about the middle of the book before setting it aside, blaming the prose more than the story. Is that one in which she wasn't on, in your opinion?
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