Thursday, December 9, 2010

Setting my Teeth on Edge

Literary Blog HopOh what fun it is to talk of our Literary Pet Peeves! (set to the tune of Jingle Bells, of is December after all.)  This weekend is sure to be full of more great book talk--go to The Blue Bookcase to see what everyone else is saying, or better yet, join the conversation!

And yes, the punctuation/spelling/grammatical errors induce immediate eye rolling.  But there is something else that, without fail, has me issuing dramatic groans and occasional shouts of disgust.  I don't know what to call it other than The Intrusive Author.

By saying The Intrusive Author, I'm not necessarily meaning those few times when the author interjects a thought into the narrative.  It is possible for that to be well done and enjoyable.  Nor am I talking about the narrator of the book, who is often a different personality than the author himself.  I'm talking about the times when the author's voice itself is so loud that it interrupts the story at hand.  Perhaps the best way to demonstrate what I mean is to give a few examples (links go to my reviews).

My most recent experience with this was with The Alchemist.  Of course, this was an allegory, so the author's voice is naturally going to be less disguised.  But did he really have to repeat his main point, word for word, quite so many times?  Even in allegory, one ought to be able to show the main point instead of telling it.

Before The Alchemist was Thirteen Reasons Why.  I felt that I never really heard the main character in the book, or any of the characters for that matter, only the author being all deep and dramatic.  The whole thing felt contrived, like the author's smug mug was in front of me the whole time.

Also this year was Chabon's Gentlemen of the Road.  Not a good introduction to Chabon (even the girl in my book club who chose the book based on her love for him started the conversation by apologizing.)  If you can read the first chapter of this book and not find yourself wanting to have a discussion with the author about thesaurus abuse, then I'm impressed.

When I read a book I want to get a little lost: in the language, the story, the characters, the setting, the ideas.  Whether it is fiction or nonfiction, adult, or junior, I want to think about the topic of the book.  If the author himself (herself) prevents that, then why on earth am I reading the book?


  1. Thesaurus abuse HAHA. now that sounds scary.

  2. It's something writers (well I least me) learn to control over time. In Franzen's Strong Motion, he does that a little and then leaves the floor to his characters. It's a learning process to make your message pass through your characters actions.

    Coelho made millions telling people how to live their lives, so I don't think he'll ever change

  3. Ingrid--very scary! Maybe I should start a NPO to raise awareness...

    Ben--It is probably one of those things that is difficult to pinpoint, especially in your own work. And I do find it more in books where the writing is not not quite so great overall. Good insight, and spot on w/Coelho.

  4. Oh Coelho... I'll be posting a review of him in the next couple of days. I never pinpointed that his voice was overwhelming, but now that you mention it I agree with you.

  5. I hadn't thought of Intrusive Authors when I was writing my post. Now that you mention it I can't think of anything more annoying!

    I can't wait to hear what you think of the Book Thief

    I'm a new follower

    Sarah @ LovingBooks

  6. L.L.--I've been looking forward to hearing your thoughts on The Alchemist. It was very much NOT what I was expecting, so it took me off guard.

    Sarah--I'm already dreading writing a review for The Book Thief as I'm not really enjoying it yet (*cringe* sorry!) But I have 400 pages to change my mind, maybe I'll get hooked yet.

  7. I actually enjoyed The Alchemist. Am not sure that I noticed the author's voice, or perhaps it didn't really bother me since the book itself was rather didactic. However, you do make a good point about The Intrusiv Author.

    Oh, and I have to mention this. I loved this sentence in your post - "The whole thing felt contrived, like the author's smug mug was in front of me the whole time." Ha ha!

  8. I read The Alchemist more than 10 years ago and I remember having mixed feelings about it. I wonder now if it wasn't because of that intrusive authorial voice.
    This is a really good point.
    I keep saying in my comments "I'll pay more attention to that" and I am starting to wonder if my reading process might suffer from this Blog Hop... Am I now going to think a bit too much of all these literary pet peeves I have been reading about?

  9. Haven't read either of those books, however I understand what you mean by the Intrusive Author. Really, unless we're talking about memoirs here, I think it ruins the story line and I end up asking the question, "Who really cares?!?"

  10. Risa--I think the biggest reason I disliked The Alchemist was my expectations: I thought it was literary fiction, not allegory. If I'd known, I probably wouldn't have read it. Expectations get me into trouble every time.

    Em--I know what you mean, I really don't need any more pet peeves. I'm hoping that I emerge from the weekend unscathed. :)

    Emily--Thankfully I don't seem to encounter it too often, but it does really disrupt the flow of the book, doesn't it?

  11. Oh yes, the last experience I had with this was reading Thomas Hardy. I want to like his novels, but he has a habit of butting into the narrative with his didactic opinions.

  12. Sometimes the author might as well have his/her message on a neon sign, it's so obvious! I'm late posting my response. I discussed tone, which ties in a bit with your discussion.

  13. Your comment regarding The Alchemist gives me one more reason not to read the book. The final paragraph of your blog is an eloquent statement to which I can only say, Amen!

  14. I notice intrusive authors when the characters find excuses to spout repetitive political rants that are obviously the author's opinions coming out of their mouths. The book is no longer a novel but a soapbox. There is a way to make a political point with a book. This is not the right way.

  15. Anbolyn--I don't have experience with Thomas Hardy yet, so that's nice to know! It can be exasperating to be interrupted with that stuff.

    Teacher/Learner--Good analogy! Neon signs blaring in your face are pretty irritating!

    James--If you already have reasons to NOT read The Alchemist, I'd say just cross it off and don't feel bad. Too many books, too little time!

    Susan--Yes, if it is done the right way, it doesn't have to be grating. I can appreciate an author's viewpoint/opinion much easier if they present it in a respectful manner.

  16. Good term. Intrusive Author. And, no, I don't like that either. Somehow has something to do with my pet peeve, smugness. As if this person has the handle on truth.


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