Monday, July 23, 2007

A Rejection Slip!

The literary event of the week, in terms of sales, must have been the arrival of the latest Harry Potter book. It's unusual to give a book five stars before having read it, but in this case, I think Miss Rowling deserves a medal for getting the kids away from their video games and televisions. As she is neither a moronic popstar or sports person, no doubt officialdom will overlook her for any honours award but the Royalty cheque will make some amends.
But the real literary news was that an author, fed-up with receiving rejection slips, submitted the opening chapters of some of Jane Austen's works to eighteen publishers. All rejected them as being unsuitable, only one spotting their true provenance.
This leads me to wonder just how many have read her works. I mean, have actually ploughed through them from cover to cover as opposed to having seen the movies and bought the book on the rebound. It seems not many publisher's readers have.
Personally, I can't blame them. Every time I try I feel an unutterable weariness stealing over me by the fifth or sixth paragraph. I'm told that I'm missing something and that Miss Austen is a real laugh, but to me, the characters move like pastel cardboard cutouts on a totally unreal background. Had they been around in the 18th. Century, Mills and Boon would probably have snapped her up.
However, I'm sure a good many other novelists might suffer the same fate at the hands of publisher's readers. They are, after all, looking for a manuscript that will sell in the millions and the opening chapters of Dickens, Thackeray and Dostoevsky hardly bring instant gratification to the reader.
After all, they weren't meant to.
But modern readers, conditioned by the immediacy of film and television, don't have the patience. They want action – or very short chapters that don't strain the brain, as practised by Dan Brown. And not too many long words either, thank you very much.
Which is, I feel, a great pity.
Thus it was heartening to read a minor carp of the Harry Potter book by one critic. They said that some parts of the book dragged, being almost Dickensian in style, apparently trying their patience but saying that avid Potter fans would probably struggle through it.
Well done, Miss Rowling. If you can encourage kids to read even the Dickensian bits, there may be some hope for the future literary taste of the next generation.
And so I'd better have another go at Jane Austen, I suppose.


Blogger Nej said...

I was thinking of writing a blog on this exact topic, as I read it in the paper a couple of days ago.

As a man who wrote a book but hasn't bothered with sending it anywhere, this certainly reinforces my point (that no-one would take it) to my wife!

2:53 pm  

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