The other day I just finished a book by this rather famous blogger-who-become-an-author.
I don’t really know what I was expecting – since I am not a big follower of this particular person’s blog. I had a nebulous idea perhaps – of a plot which spoke the same language, or situations, places and events which I had experienced, maybe some controversy, maybe some humour – something topical which I could relate to.
What I didn’t expect, was to be bored out of my skull.
Harsh? Well yes, rather.
But the truth was what would have been tolerable-interesting as someone's private blog just did not translate into a readable or engrossing or even passable novel. I found the plot loose, the writing mediocre, the humour contrived, the characters one-dimensional, and the predominant reaction at the end of the book, was relief that it was over.
Strangely enough, these are criticisms which one could level at dozens of blogs, mine included – but that has never stopped me from reading those blogs (or writing mine for that matter), and I don’t think I have consciously passed harsh judgement on the content, the writing or anything of the sort. I enjoy reading those blogs – even when the sentence construction is faulty, even if the odd post is not very interesting, but the sum total of the parts ends up being an enriching experience.
But when the same thing happens in a novel, it is different altogether.
So that brings me to a very interesting point, – are we as readers more willing to forgive mediocrity in blogging but not so in books (even if it is from the same author?). Do we have vastly different expectations and levels of what constitutes an acceptable blog versus an acceptable book? I would say, yes.
The question is, why?
The most obvious and no-brainer answer to that of course, is that authors get paid money and bloggers don’t. So perhaps, if someone is writing for a fee, is a professional writer, one expects a much higher degree of competence.
The authors I read, MUST be at an intellectual, linguistic, entertainment plane which is much higher than what I am capable of doing. Then, and only then, can I enjoy, appreciate and can revel in the books. It doesn’t mean it has to be an intellectual opus – a lot of light reading isn’t, but then there is this indefinable and intangible ‘quality’ in it which sets it apart from amateurs, which one respects. It could be the turn of phrase, the etching of the characters, the quirky humour which subtly tells the reader, that there is much more to this writing gig, then well, just writing.
Maybe it’s a sense of fellowship – a blogger is a fellow, someone you can interact with, mail, comment, and chat with. An author is supposed to be a celebrity – inaccessible, aloof, and with a halo which is larger than life. So I might not be willing to extend the same benefit of doubt as I would to a blogger-mate.
The other reason could be the fact that in blogging, one is exposed to minute quantities of the persons thought processes at any given point of time – thousand to two thousand words, one incident. In a novel, one is exposed to maybe forty times that quantity. Much vaster canvas to be critical off isn’t it?
And I think very personally, bloggers who turn bad authors, bring out the biggest conflict in me -a person who has always harboured hopes of getting a book published some day.
On the one hand it gives this perverse sense of hope – that if someone who is not-very-good can get published; I might have a fighting chance too. On the other, it gives rise to a lot of self-loathing and criticism for NOT having done anything about it yet – especially when I knows in my heart-of-hearts that I might not have the perseverance, or the talent to actually write a decent book.
And there is always the other conflict – that even assuming average authors get published, does one actually want to go down in the annals of history as being one of those average authors or is it better not to attempt the task at all? Is it better to be mediocre and famous, or know one’s limitations and rein in one’s ambition to what one is passably good at?
I just shared this post with Mo, and she had a very interesting point. Viz. that bloggers are commentators and they comment on the current state of being – they are not story tellers. Which is a hugely valid point in retrospect – because one of the problems I DID have with the book, was that it was like a collage of events – not woven together, but just jostling each other for space.
So in other words this static, still photograph technique of writing can be acceptable in blogs, or to use an analogy – in a home video, might seem very amateurish when you go to a multiplex to watch a movie where you want action, dynamism and movement.
What do you think?
(No, not Sidin, I have not read Dork (Though I plan to). I do not want the post to be misconstrued just because he happens to be the latest from the bloggers-turned-authors genre).