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Doing Something Right
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 3:45 am    Post subject: Doing Something Right Reply with quote

+IHS+

This is something that's been niggling at me since I read something on the really long Marriage Bed thread. I've hesitated to post it because the last thing I want is to talk about The Marriage Bed yet again Rolling Eyes Laughing , so now I'm just going to hope that we can keep that title, at least, out of the discussion and just have other examples.

Then again, if people do want to talk about it, then . . . Oh well! Razz

Someone wrote on that thread that when a book inspires as much discussion and controversy as The Marriage Bed has, then its author must have "done something right."

I really don't know about that. Confused It makes a novel sound like a means to an end--lively discussion being that end. I think that a novel can be "good" or "bad" whether or not people talk about it. Should controversy, then, be an extra criterion in judging a book?

I mean, the "doing something right" analysis could be said about Dan Brown's DaVinci Code, which, though it was an exciting page turner, had a paper thin plot and two dimensional characters. That is, The DaVinci Code can be judged by its own merits, by the enjoyment its fans derived from it, by the flaws its detractors saw in it, etc. But it's kind of a stretch to judge it by the Internet flame wars those fans and detractors started and took part in. (One can say the same for, say, the movie The Passion of the Christ.) When do we stop reacting to a book/movie and when do we start reacting to people?

I'm not saying authors with controversial have done anything wrong. I just don't think there's any extra merit in writing, for instance, a Thriller, which is supposed to keep the reader on the edge of his seat and guessing until the very last page, and which also ends up making a whole bunch of readers argue as well. I mean, when it comes to novels, to inspire discussion among readers shouldn't be the primary objective.

Thoughts?
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Linda in sw va



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
Posts: 4708

PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 6:31 am    Post subject: Re: Doing Something Right Reply with quote

Oh goodness Schola, The Marriage Bed yet again! I really must read this book! LOL

I think any book that encourages such a passionate response, either good or bad has definitely done something right. Perhaps the writing or the plot wasn't perfectly done but there is obviously something there that sets it apart from the pack and excites people enough to get them talking. I don't think it necessarily has to be controversial but there is something there that's out of the ordinary or that's simply exciting enough that it gets people going, gets them talking about it and heck...bringing up all sorts of discussions based on their reaction to it. *G* If everyone were to agree it was just a bad book, who would care to spend much time talking about it?

Linda
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 6635
Location: minneapolis

PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 9:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think it's a matter of individual opinion as to whether or not an author has "done something right". I suppose a book with controversial suject matter incites discussion and in that way an author has, at the very least, accomplished that. I suppose those books don't have to be world class literature, but a book that presses buttons making us think about it long after we've finished it. You mentioned The DaVinci Code and while I liked the book for what it was many readers were disturbed by the ideas in that book. Is that doing something right? Sure, I guess it is. It gets people talking.
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Marcella



Joined: 12 Jun 2007
Posts: 223
Location: Denmark

PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 9:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I too think that that's a good thing. People taking sides and choosing black or white, instead of staying in the 'grey', and discussing it. I love hearing other people's - opposite - opinion about something and sometimes they open my eyes to things I would never have thought of otherwise.
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 2498

PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 9:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

to schola: I don't think controversy about a book adds or detracts from the book itself. Controversy does, though, suggest that it's intriguing but flawed in some way: If it were not intriguing, no one would bother to defend it; if it were not flawed no one would bother to attack it. As linda in sw va suggests controversy does have the salutary effect of leading to closer examination of the book and the genre. And it probably increases the author's profit because of the curiosity aroused by the controversy--a curious irony for those who find it flawed.
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Tee



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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Location: Detroit Metro

PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 9:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

dick wrote:
If it were not intriguing, no one would bother to defend it; if it were not flawed no one would bother to attack it.

I can't disagree with that, dick; but I'm not sure we can generically say a controversial book (or whatever it is) is flawed, as much as it's pushed our (and others) buttons. We need to thoroughly look at those personal hot-button issues that have been brought to the surface by a particular piece and see how and why we have those feelings about those issues, IMO. After re-examination, our thoughts on those items may stand the test of time and we continue to maintain them against outside pressures. Or another option following reflection is to modify (or completely change) our way of thinking about them.

So, the book (or whatever) could contain true errors, or it could just be another person's feelings toward a subject matter different from ours that causes us to rebel. It's good to rethink things occasionally and try to figure out why our reactions were so strong. It doesn't automatically mean that we'll do a 180 turn every time. In the case of The Marriage Bed, it was adultery out in the forefront. In The DaVinci Code, it was information that the author deemed fiction that was taken by much of the public as fact, which caused distortion, consequently controversy.

Reminds me of that neat quote that someone once said--
The issue is not the issue; the issue is your reaction to the issue.
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 6635
Location: minneapolis

PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 10:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tee wrote:
dick wrote:
If it were not intriguing, no one would bother to defend it; if it were not flawed no one would bother to attack it.

I can't disagree with that, dick; but I'm not sure we can generically say a controversial book (or whatever it is) is flawed, as much as it's pushed our (and others) buttons.

.[/i]




Agree with you here Tee. A book, movie, music or pretty much any art form isn't wholly flawed if it is perceived to be controversial by some. To the idividual that sees the controversy...perhaps, but to another it may be a fantastic work of art. And I love your quote you posted because I think it explains the view of the reader or the observer.
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2008 3:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

xina wrote:
You mentioned The DaVinci Code and while I liked the book for what it was many readers were disturbed by the ideas in that book. Is that doing something right? Sure, I guess it is. It gets people talking.


That's actually why I have a problem with the idea. I'm sure plenty of people disagree with me, but I don't think books are supposed to get people talking--unless, of course, they're textbooks with "Discuss, class!" exercises.

What about books that we read more "quietly" and don't really discuss? Are they automatically inferior to books that make us chatty? I'm thinking of L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, which may have some controversial elements but has more to ride on than controversy.

Outside of a culture that takes note of best seller lists and computes average reader ratings of books, there is no way for "controversial" to automatically signal "good."

dick wrote:
Controversy does, though, suggest that it's intriguing but flawed in some way: If it were not intriguing, no one would bother to defend it; if it were not flawed no one would bother to attack it.


So it's like someone wearing an uncut and dirty diamond? Those who recognise the quality of the stone appreciate that and those who lean more towards good form can't cut the rock some slack?

If that's what you mean, it's actually a good way to think about it. Now if only we could get the diamond lovers to admit it isn't cut and the gem enthusiasts to admit it's still a priceless gem . . . Then again, both sides probably do see that and don't care anyway. Laughing

Tee wrote:
So, the book (or whatever) could contain true errors, or it could just be another person's feelings toward a subject matter different from ours that causes us to rebel.

[snip]

Reminds me of that neat quote that someone once said--
The issue is not the issue; the issue is your reaction to the issue.


Now, that's slippery ground. It will be very easy for someone to discredit a sincere critic by saying that. To return to the Dan Brown example, it's like telling someone that he can't be objective about the literary quality of Angels and Demons because he happens to be a Catholic.
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Elizabeth Rolls



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 1077
Location: Australia

PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2008 7:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh, dear. I think I might have been the person who made the comment about a book that gets us all arguing/discussing like this is doing something right. Possibly I need to clarify what I meant.

I referred to The Marriage Bed and To Have and To Hold. Both books had more than slightly controversial premises and heroes. From the discussions here at AAR it seems that both books have a love/hate effect on readers. My point is that unless those books were well written and the characters strongly drawn, we wouldn't have such a strong reaction either for or against. We simply wouldn't care if the books were weak. (Well, I wouldn't.) That's all I meant by saying the author was doing something right. While anything that makes us think and raises discussion has a use, I am not saying that being controversial automatically makes a book good.

Elizabeth
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Tee



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 4225
Location: Detroit Metro

PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2008 8:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Schola wrote:
Now, that's slippery ground. It will be very easy for someone to discredit a sincere critic by saying that. To return to the Dan Brown example, it's like telling someone that he can't be objective about the literary quality of Angels and Demons because he happens to be a Catholic.

Hey, Schola, I always enjoy reading your thoughts and feelings about stuff and things. Would you elaborate a bit more on the above statement that was in response to mine? I'm not quite clear in what you're trying to say, because I'm fairly sure I didn't mean what it appears you wrote. So, it could have been my not making myself clear enough when writing that post.
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2008 9:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Elizabeth Rolls wrote:
I referred to The Marriage Bed and To Have and To Hold. Both books had more than slightly controversial premises and heroes. From the discussions here at AAR it seems that both books have a love/hate effect on readers. My point is that unless those books were well written and the characters strongly drawn, we wouldn't have such a strong reaction either for or against. We simply wouldn't care if the books were weak. (Well, I wouldn't.) That's all I meant by saying the author was doing something right. While anything that makes us think and raises discussion has a use, I am not saying that being controversial automatically makes a book good.


Thanks, Elizabeth. Let me see if I've got it:

The controversy is something secondary--a sign that there is something of value in the book, which would still have value even if people pretty much agreed about the book?

Tee wrote:
Schola wrote:
Now, that's slippery ground. It will be very easy for someone to discredit a sincere critic by saying that. To return to the Dan Brown example, it's like telling someone that he can't be objective about the literary quality of Angels and Demons because he happens to be a Catholic.

Hey, Schola, I always enjoy reading your thoughts and feelings about stuff and things. Would you elaborate a bit more on the above statement that was in response to mine? I'm not quite clear in what you're trying to say, because I'm fairly sure I didn't mean what it appears you wrote. So, it could have been I not making myself clear enough when writing that post.


Well, Tee, it was a response to the quote "The issue is your reaction . . ."

When Dan Brown's Angels and Demons and DaVinci Code were at their controversial peak, most of the critics of these novels were, predictably, Catholics. Perhaps I was just in the wrong place at the time, but the consensus among Brown fans seemed to be that Catholic readers couldn't possibly be objective literary critics of books that portrayed the papacy in such a negative light. Facts or fabrications notwithstanding.

So if, say, Father A or Sister B were to read one of those books and say that the writing quality was pretty piss-poor, that opinion wouldn't be worth much because of where they were coming from.
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Tee



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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Location: Detroit Metro

PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2008 10:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Schola wrote:
So if, say, Father A or Sister B were to read one of those books and say that the writing quality was pretty piss-poor, that opinion wouldn't be worth much because of where they were coming from.

Yeah, I don't really want to agree with you on this; but I have to. It's probably similar to a reader of fiction who has a bias against romance fiction. If they would critique the writing of a romance author negatively, it would be prejudiced, or so it could be said, whether that would be true or not.

But there are errors in books; historical romance fans are telling us that all the time here. So those of us who don't know any better, just take those facts that some authors include and believe that things actually happened that way back then. What I was getting at with Dan Brown was that he stated his DaVinci book was fiction; but a good percentage of the public viewed it differently and didn't really bother to separate fiction from fact.

About the issue quotation, I still feel that a large problem with issues is our reaction. Whether statements are true or not, why do we over-react sometimes to them (or under-react)? If we can answer that question personally, then we'll have a better idea of how to handle the issue.

Oh, well, a lot of words here and still yet I'm not sure I'm totally getting my point across, so it's best to stop right here. (Stop cheering, Schola Laughing ).
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Tee



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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Location: Detroit Metro

PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2008 10:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

xina wrote:
And I love your quote you posted because I think it explains the view of the reader or the observer.

I always did like that particular quote because it makes you think more about where a person is coming when viewing their reaction in any complicated or confusing situation. For instance, look how many different responses we have to books around here. So all of us carry some baggage around and certain issues in books (or whatever) cause us to respond in one way or another. When that reaction is overly strong, especially negatively, then that's a good time to examine why. We don't have to do that, but we may find out more about ourselves if we do.
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 2498

PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2008 10:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

to tee: Well, perhaps "flawed" was a poor choice. Perhaps "disjointed" would have been a better choice, although that doesn't really change the point much. There must be something about the book which some readers read with pleasure while others read with dismay or the issue of whether it's good or bad would never arise, would it? Compare those books of the genre which most readers approve of, such as Kleypas' Dreaming of You or one or another of the Garwood historicals.


And I think the quote is a kind of circular truism: Without reactions, how can an issue exist?
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Tee



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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Location: Detroit Metro

PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2008 11:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

dick wrote:
Well, perhaps "flawed" was a poor choice. [....] There must be something about the book which some readers read with pleasure while others read with dismay or the issue of whether it's good or bad would never arise, would it?

True. That I agree with totally. The word flaw threw me because I associate the word with a defect and that isn't always necessarily true with an issue that draws controversy. Sometimes it seems that there could only be a right or wrong about it; but with both sides claiming right and wrong, that's not always easy to figure out. There are some basic issues out there that are clearly good and bad (IMO and please don't ask me to tell you what I think they are Very Happy ); but overall, I think many concerns are debatably more in the gray area.

Quote:
And I think the quote is a kind of circular truism: Without reactions, how can an issue exist?

Touché, dick!
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