Under no circumstances will I name this book so don’t bother sending bribes in the form of fresh baked anything or even exquisite cheese.
However, I will say this.
It was published in the last ten years. The author is a man. Or possibly a woman. Canadian. Lives east of Alberta. The book is a collection of stories. Some of which are pleasant enough reading. Too many are carbon copies of one another with teensy alterations of character or place or circumstance, which hardly disguises the sameness. Because we’ll never notice, right?
The women are ALL flakey.
Too many people are having affairs.
Most of the couplings have big age gaps, which is always highlighted as if it means something to the story but it never does.
Characters DO things but no one knows why. (In every story I have to ask this question: who are these people? In every story I have no idea.)
I swear that if you changed the main character in (any) story midway with the main character in (any other) story I wouldn’t notice this sleight of hand.
Nor would I care.
Have I mentioned voice?
EXACTLY the same. Every time. And worse than ‘just same’, it’s quirky-same. Different stories, different characters, different ages. Yet everyone speaks as one, adding to the sense of interchangeability. (If this were a theme or important to the overall vibe of the collection that would be great, but it isn’t.) A common trait many characters have is that way of speaking where the sentence is left dangling, meant as emphasis but when over-used is just plumb annoying. So awful you can’t. So awful you almost.
(And no, this isn’t some clever intentional use of sameness to make a commentary of ANY kind.)
Are you kidding? Oh… if only!
All of which to say this is a writer whose work I have admired in the past, a writer who knows how to write exceedingly well and who has received much attention for their work, and (and this is the unfortunate bit) is lauded for all of it as if all of it is equally laudable.
And, yes, of course, publishers need to survive and writers such as this one are integral to the industry and fans are loyal and will buy much and forgive even more while waiting for The Next Great Thing…
What’s sad is that there are so many others writing really good stuff, being innovative, taking chances, saying things that matter, that go unread, even when published. Sadder still, that a writer of this caliber can (easily I suspect) publish a book that would be rejected coming from an unknown.
And rejected for good reason.
I know very little about the economics of publishing but am heartened to know there still exist houses who respect the work of creativity and literature itself, enough to take chances more often than merely selling out with main stream names and less than fine work.
On that note…
& my lips remain sealed.