“As usual, words fail him.”
Stephen King on James Patterson
Sorry about the title. I got hit upside the head by a 1980s art trend. We are all glad that those days are past us, right?
When James Patterson got busted for not writing his own books, it was a scandal. He still doesn’t write his own books. But now, at least, he does put the real author’s name down at the bottom of the cover in tiny print. He’s a poser. I refuse to read any of his offal.
If you want to gossip (I do!), even Stephen King takes him to task, in this case Patterson wrote the blurb for his own novel. It doesn’t get better than this.
However, in the process of the scandal revealed, we learned about “the Patterson way” of writing. If you want to use a comma, use a period. Short paragraphs. Short chapters. Move that story along super fast.
I liked it, it jived with what I was reading about how to write a blog. This all seems to be part of the hidden thread of a lack of attention by the readers. Give up small doses and make it an easy read.
The timing was amazing because at the time of the scandal, I was reading Mark Twain’s Letters to Earth. I was admiring his big block paragraphs with specific word-choice to describe a complex idea. “Those were the days”, I thought, when people sat down to go deep with no distractions of televisions and beeping phones.
So, my style became brief and short. Quick thoughts instead of deep thoughts and squeezing clever into a quip or snark.
But now, I am rethinking it and conclude that I was lead astray by that dastard James Patterson the Poser. Writers are still writing some good reading without the rush to race to the end but rather like a good meal enjoyed.
Let’s look at Salman Rusdie’s first paragraph of his The Little King:
There once lived, at a series of temporary addresses across the United States of America, a travelling man of Indian origin, advancing years, and retreating mental powers, who had developed an unwholesome, because entirely one-sided, passion for a certain television personality, the beautiful, witty, and adored talk-show host Miss Salma R., whom he had never met: an infatuation that he characterized, quite inaccurately, as love. In the name of this so-called love, he christened himself Quichotte, for the opera “Don Quichotte,” and resolved to be his “beloved” ’s knight-errant, to pursue her zealously right through the television screen into whatever exalted high-definition reality she and her kind inhabited, and, by deeds as well as by grace, to win her heart.
Man, oh, man. Look at all those commas and semi-colons! Two sentences! There is a ton of meat and fat and flavor to make this some juicy reading. One can’t help but want another bite and find out what happens next.
Now that is how you open a story.
There is room in the world for good writing. We are not vacant-eyed zombies mashing the buttons on the phone proving Skinner a genius. Not all of life is chips and a snacky read through a Patterson the Poser story, we can enjoy full meals of literature written today; here and now, by brilliant writers.