Monday, June 1, 2009

Me Too Charlaine

I was drinking my early morning tea, reading the New York Times, when I laughed out loud in recognition. It was a wonderful article on the delightful Charlaine Harris, and just like I often do, although not quite so eloquently, she felt the need to justify herself as an author. “Like many a commercial writer, Ms. Harris wishes the literary establishment would pay more attention. ‘I think there is a place for what I do. And I think it’s honorable’.”

I loved when she confessed that her two earlier series, despite being well-written, had never taken off. That sometimes it’s not the writer, it’s the timing, the market, the publishing house – nothing seems to align right with the stars and the books just don’t sell. And then, out of nowhere, it’s the Age of Aquarius and everything is shiny and new – and yes, you can savor it, my yes, you can savor the moment. Frankly, Charlaine’s explanation is so much better: “It was just a huge relief that I finally hit on the right character and the right publisher. I had this real neener-neener-neener moment.”

First, isn’t it amazing that even Charlaine Harris has these moments of doubt and still feels compelled to point out that what she writes is art and has value too. Forgive me, but there are times when I look at some national book award nominees and I’m convinced that they are sponsored by the manufacturers of Prozac. I mean if the reader isn’t thoroughly depressed by the last page of the book, then it’s just not art and not worthy of attention by “serious” readers.

The truth is I love books that let me escape the reality of laundry, bills, and dust bunnies the size of, well, bunnies, that litter my house. I don’t need books to get depressed. I can do that on my own, thank you very much.

A toast to Charlaine Harris and all the other writers who provide me a puzzle to solve, more than a few laughs, maybe a vampire sex scene or two (oy!), and characters I love.

Evelyn David


  1. As a wannabe author who is finally getting up the guts to try to find a home for some of what I've written, it's reassuring to see how other authors' persistence has paid off. Good for Charlaine, and all other authors who persevere and find a successful home for their work!

  2. I'm with you, sister. If I can be transported to a place where the dog doesn't have to be walked, I can laugh out loud and nobody cares, and the protagonist leaves his or her bed unmade and doesn't feel great angst, that's a great book for me. Great books? They are whatever floats your boat. (And yours float mine.) Maggie

  3. Besides being a good writer of books that entertain, Charlaine is a really nice person.


  4. "The truth is I love books that let me escape the reality of laundry, bills, and dust bunnies the size of, well, bunnies, that litter my house. I don’t need books to get depressed. I can do that on my own, thank you very much."

    This is EXACTLY how I feel! about books, T.V., movies.....

  5. I would only defend what we call "literary fiction" to the degree that not all of it is sleep or depression inducing, and sometimes when it is that is still a good thing and can be very moving, challenging, and enjoyable. To scorn it seems as unfair being dismissive of the writing that some call "beach reads" or "chick lit" or "pulp" or "romance" or, the focus on this site, "mystery".

    We have all these code words to categorize the quality of writing and of writers, and really most are pejorative. I do it myself. And, I shouldn’t. What a waste of time and spirit.

    Every genre has really, really bad and really, really good writing in it, and of course the majority lives around the equator in the middle. The writers who have talent and work hard and it shows? Those writers deserve some praise and respect and it doesn’t matter what they have written. The writers who really haven’t got the chops? They need some career counseling and might well find more fulfillment in another medium, but I still think it would be stupid and arrogant to tell them they can’t or shouldn’t write. [But, don’t get me started on that STUPID National Novel Writing Month thing!] When I pick up a book and read a couple of pages that make me roll my eyes and tell my husband that I cannot believe this crap got published, etc., I still don’t think that means the person who wrote it is nothing but a lucky jerk or should stop or—the most important part—that it has anything to do with me. I just wasn’t favorably impressed by the work. So what?

    Remember writing isn’t a cookie-cutter process and neither is reading. We can develop a level of consistency and we do have routines, but sometimes, that writer who did a fantastic piece of work a few years ago? This year, not so much. And, the words “art” and “artist” are tossed around too much and are actually fairly unimportant. Like the word “diva”—did you notice how over a handful of years the word got so over-used that anyone who could sing Happy Birthday even close to in tune was dubbed a diva?

    Escape from the daily grind is, thankfully, found in so many kinds of writing, painting, film, music, etc. that we’ve all got somewhere to turn for just the right kind and amount of escape we need at the time.