The other day I ran out of stuff to read.
So I did two things. I got on the internet and ordered something with an interesting title off one of those promotional sites we writers know and love (at least, we love them when they feature our books) for 99 cents.
Second, I dug out a moth-eaten paperback by Ivan Turgenev which’d been sitting in the back of my bookshelf for millennia.
Obviously, I started the 99 cent wonder first. Five pages in, I had to give up. It was like eating a potato fritter fried in stale oil. Like wearing a Kmart cast-off in fluorescent pink. Like watching Justin Bieber sing Yesterday. You get what I mean.
So then I got out Turgid Turgenev, and found that it was anything but. Fathers and Sons is a beautiful exploration of the tensions between ‘the younger generation’ and their confused, loving parents. It doesn’t help that, like all Russian novels, everybody has three completely different names – but hey. It was good stuff. I finished it.
The horrifying thing is that the lady who authored the 99 cent tome obviously viewed herself (judging from the foreword and author bio) as a writer of quality prose. Why horrifying? Because if she can be wrong, so can I – and so can any other writer.
How do we know if our cherished output is really worth the computer we wrote it on, or meaningless drivel clogging up the interwebs? Course, if this author (and people like her) are making sales, then maybe that’s all there is to be said about it. We can say sour grapey things like ‘people don’t know the meaning of quality these days’ and ‘readers wouldn’t know a grammatical fuckup if it sat on them’ – but in the end of the day, the reader is King (or Queen).
Standards are not something I’ve pursued with enthusiasm in any other area of life. They’re just something that stops you having fun – like some censorious school counsellor saying things like ‘You’ll never be an artist – so why paint at all!’ and ‘If you can’t do a job well, don’t do it at all.’ A one way ticket to a boring old age.
But writing’s different. I feel like words are entitled to respect – like rare automobiles, they shouldn’t be driven about by reckless learner drivers and whooping hoons. Not that there’s anything I can do about it – other than polish my own fenders, that is.
What do you think?
For Fallacious Rose’s (EXTREMELY high quality) books, visit www.fallaciousrose.com/books