Monday, May 6, 2013

What We Tell and Hear

Ripper Street: from my screen to yours
I fell asleep reading Pride and Prejudice last night.  Upon awakening I had to wonder what's wrong with me.  I mean, it's Jane Austen, after all.  Who doesn't like her?  Tonight I went to Blockbuster and looked through the movies about her or her novels thinking maybe a visual would help.   Imagine my surprise to find Becoming Jane starred James McAvoy as Jane's love interest and Mr. Darcy was none other than Matthew Macfadyen.  (how could I not know this?)  Surely I could stay awake for Professor X and Tom Quinn. 
An hour later I realized I'm just not a fan, no matter how much I like the leading men.  In researching I discovered I'm not alone.  I found this article:  The Author and the Austen plot... I know there's probably more to it, but even agents weren't so impressed by Ms. Austen. 
It goes back to the age old question:  what makes something good?  Popularity?  The author?  Critics?  Who gets to decide?  Does longevity make a difference?  A novel or story standing the test of time?
 I look at modern novels as compared to those like Austen, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby is once again being reinvented. What is it about that story?   Technology has had a leading role in what we read, especially e-books and novels made into movies.  I can't help but wonder, would the 50 Shades trilogy had such a following if it hadn't been a Twilight fanfic and had a male author?  And, well, the Twilight series is a whole other matter all together. I'm still trying to understand that one and yet even women my age camped out the night before for the new releases and movie tickets.
As writers, we can't forget there are two people in the story telling relationship:  the teller and the hearer. It's all about telling stories in a way that resonates with the listener.  The experience is going to be different for different people.  I can have the best story in the world but if someone doesn't like it, they just don't like it.
I'm generally not impressed with the best sellers in movies or novels.   I'll probably never finish watching Titanic, or reading the Twilight and 50 Shades series.  If I haven't done so by now, I may not work through my Jane Austen induced narcolepsy. But, then I also don't expect others to be huge fans of the authors and series I love.  Stephen King, Cormac Mccarthy, Val Mcdermid, Michael Crichton--they aren't for the faint of heart.  How many people can say they know Eugene Tooms?

Eugene as leading man?
Eugene Victor Tooms
I'm watching Ripper Street now. To me, Edmund Reid and Tom Quinn are far more complex, interesting characters than Mr. Darcy, even though the same actor portrays them all.   I know someone is going to say I can't compare TV characters to novel characters. Why not? Some like ink and paper.  Some like e-ink.  Some prefer big or small screen.  But it's all about the tale.  What is being said and who's doing the telling?
That's the heart and soul, the beauty of story telling:  there's something for everyone.  If you love it, whether you're the teller or the hearer, who cares what other people think?


  1. I have never read Pride and Prejudice so I suppose I'm not a true Jane Austen fan, because although I enjoy the movies, I am not inclined to read the books. Maybe one day I will, though!

  2. Personal connection to art is such a fickle thing. I do think the very best art, though - the stuff that survives over centuries - can win you over at a different point in life. I enjoyed Shakespeare well enough in high school but coming back to it now as an adult/teacher/parent has been quite an eye-opening experience. I've never read Jane Austen myself so I can't speak to it with any authority. But maybe it's worth trying again in a few years.

  3. Thanks for the comments. Art is a fickle mistress. Brings up another question to my mind: Is it art or a fad/novelty? Or Both? Is that a subjective question or can there be collective agreement?

  4. I'll say it outloud. I cyberspace where no matter what you think you may's already out there...I HATE JANE AUSTEN. I tried to like her, I really did. I mean, what "real" writer doesn't? Or is it all The Emperor's New Clothes" and no one will admit that she's kinda boring? Sigh. I have an eclectic taste in books, and I can't really define what it is. I'm either sucked into the story, or I'm not, and then I don't waste my time reading it. I love JD Robb, Elizabeth Lowell, Sandra Brown, and Michael Crichton - Deception Point is one of the best books I'e ever read! Could NOT put that thing down!
    So to answer your question, writing is like art: beauty is in the eye of the reader. We're all different, and some things appeal and some things don't.

    Tina @ Life is Good

    P.S See you on the Road!

  5. I agree with you re: Jane Austen. I was forced to read her in university. She's a very effective soporific.

  6. I knew I wasn't the only anti-Janite. Andromeda Strain Rocks!