20.12.11

If I was an Editor...

Some ideas, while inoffensively unoriginal in concept, just don't need to be reproduced.
Do you want fries with that?


It is probably true to say that no idea is completely original; that most plots or characters are at least partially lifted from elsewhere. This we anticipate as readers, listeners, viewers etc. In fact, there is even the idea that there are really only seven kinds of stories that can ever be told (the Journey and Return, Tragedy, Comedy and so on). But regardless of this, I think I am at liberty now, being a fairly expansive reader, to say that some kinds of stories just need to stop being written.

And so here is my not-so-definitive-list of what those stories (the ones that
should just stop being told!) should consist of. If I was an editor at a publishing house, novels consisting of any of the following would be going straight into the recycling. (I may be a snob, but I'm not a deliberate polluter.):


1. BEING TOTALLY OR SUBSTANTIALLY SET IN VENICE.

Ian McEwan, Thomas Mann, Henry James, Daphne du Maurier, Evelyn Waugh - leave it out, yeah? We get it. You're beguiled by the dichotomous beauty/ creepy other worldliness of this city. At least Calvino had the politeness to at least
try and disguise that he's chatting on about bloody Venice the whole time.

Pick another city - what's wrong with Manchester, England's very own 'Venice of the North?' Just as romantic/ creepily Gothic. Canal Street for example?!



2. TWINS. ONE OF WHICH HAS MYSTERIOUSLY DIED BEFORE THE START OF THE NOVEL.


Don't get me wrong, I am a hugely nostalgic fan of
Jonathan Creek. But if I pick up one more book in Waterstones with a back cover that reads, 'When successful, happy Betty begins receiving cryptic letters signed from her deceased twin Hetty, her life is thrown into turmoil and her husband, happy, attentive, attractive, successful human-rights lawyer husband Mark, begins to wonder: is his wife really who she has been saying she is since they both said I do?'

It's enough to make you want to cut your own identical twin
in half with a buzz saw.


3: ANY RICH PEOPLE IN LONDON IN THE 20'S THAT WAS NOT ACTUALLY WRITTEN IN THE 20'S.


I imagine some novelists (seemingly predominantly blonde, middle-class, mid thirties-forties English women - OH, I said it!), think this was a romantic time full of ripping fun in motor cars and cloche hats, where one never had to worry about anything more than when was the more scandalous moment to break off one's engagement.

But these are the writers who, if I met without knowing their work, I would be smile at, and then walk away. I advice you to do the same to these novels. After all, you know Lady Ruth will end up marrying the handsome journalist AND inherit the forgotten fortune anyway, so why strain your eyes?



4: SEX SCENES ATTEMPTING MERELY TO BE SEXY.

I don't know about you, but the sex I've had, even when bordering on pretty fucking awesome, has had it's awkward and funny moments. I'm not saying there is no room in literature to offer your reader a subtle boner on the morning train, but really, if you're going to go as far as analyze sex enough to put it in writing, at least be honest about it. What about the thwacking sound? The moments of repositioning? The problem of
wiping it up afterwards??

A violent antidote for anyone who wishes to write a Racy-Steamy-Novel, would be Ian McEwan's
On Chesil Beach, the most excruciatingly awkward and protracted sex scene in literature. Amazing.


5: A HAUNTED HOUSE, JUST MOVED INTO BY THE PROTAGONIST, WHICH IS ACTUALLY A METAPHOR FOR THAT PROTAGONIST'S PAST.

Just. Don't. Write. These.


They. Suck. The. Biggest. Literary. Dicks.



6: HORSES.


Unless it's a children's book or you're Cormac McCarthy. Horse books are going in my remainder pile (later to be disposed of responsibly and ecologically). I don't care if there is an unspoken bond between Man and Beast through which Man articulates (silently!) emotions that he cannot share with his family or troublesome girlfriend.

Because it'll only end up like this:



That's Harry Potter ..... creeeeeppyyyyy!
(Hey! - was this set in Venice??)

2 comments:

David Thame said...

Your point about Venice... and Canal Street being potentially as gothic.... have you seen Canal Street Gothic (ISBN 9780956935403)? I got there already... there's a few philosophic nods in there, too. Try Waterstones or Amazon http://www.amazon.co.uk/Canal-Street-Gothic-David-Thame/dp/0956935400

HENRY FRY said...

Thanks David! Very amusing. One review poses this question, 'Is gothic the grown-up cousin of camp?' Amazing.