24 February 2012

Fuck Originality; Or, Why Being a Pretentiously Judgmental Fuckwit Ruins Your Reading Experience


First up is the book I just finished, Shotgun Gravy by Chuck Wendig. I linked to it on G+ on the 23rd with a relatively positive note, which you could take as a sort of recommendation. It didn’t change my life, but then neither do most books. However, this is Not a Review Blog, so if you’ve been paying attention you’re now asking yourself where I’m going with this. If you haven’t, this is the time to start.

What I mentioned, and what may or may not have been taken as a positive, is that it reminds me greatly of the work of Stephen King, who is a rather subliterate sort of man but nonetheless quite brilliant at what he does. Relevant to that, the thing that I wanted to touch on was the overwhelming sense of King–ness that pervades it. It is impossible to miss, that sort of Kingian echo, and whiile one would perhaps not mistake it for King's work outright, it's still hard to deny the parallel. That established, we have to ask ourselves a question.  Can a work of literature borrow so heavily from its contemporaries and still be art?

I would tend to say yes, and while your mileage may vary (though if it does you are wrong) I’m going to tell you why. At the end of the day, what are we really doing here? We’re expressing. We’re taking people to emotional places that they wouldn’t go otherwise, whether remembered or imagined, and that fundament is not undermined by borrowed voices. Yes it would be better and more engaging if it had a more unique voice, and yes we could ask ourselves what impact it has on the blah blah blah, but that’s not the point. The point is that the book has something of its own to say, and the way in which it says it is not enough to overrule that. It can, perhaps, be distracting, at least for those of us who obsess over such things,but that's a problem which largely lays at the feet of the reader.

Meeting a work halfway, accepting it for what it is rather than what it could be, is the responsibility of all readers, and if we refuse to do that our experience will never be complete.