Sunday, March 14, 2010

I doubt that James Patterson can actually write


Promise me you will not think badly of me. This is something I've been wanting to write for a long time, but certain things has kept me from doing it. Everything is in the eye of the beholder, right? And I am also pretty sure that we all agree that one person's trash is another person's gold. Reading Suey's (of It's All About Books) post True or False: 90% of Everything is Crap gave me the final push to do this post.

Suey writes an excellent post about how and why some critics hate and bash very popular books like The Twilight Series. Can it really be true that 90% of Everything [we read] is Crap? There are a lot of great comments to that post, and in my own comment I write that bashing of Twilight (and Dan Brown and Harry Potter etc etc) is the same when I hear people (in Denmark) bash a phenomenon like Facebook, and still almost half the population is on it - there must be something about being on FB when so many people are on it! Its also like how its become a popular sport to bash Stieg Larsson's Millenium Trilogy - not so many years ago everyone I knew loved it. Now they simply hate it.

Anyway. I digress a little here, plus I am basically just copying what has already been said on Suey's site. I just want to stress that:
  • I read many books which without a doubt is considered complete crap by this undefined group called book snobs.
  • I reserve the right to consider whatever books I want crap, even though its popular, and fully accept that my crappy reads are another reader's gold.
  • I'm not into hate. This post is meant as more of a pet-peeve thing.
That said, I can return to my headline: I doubt that James Patterson can actually write. This has been a pet-peeve of mine for ages. Taking a tour on my blog will reveal that I've read some of Patterson's books. Here is what I wrote in 2006 about the book London Bridges:
I usually enjoy James Pattersons' Alex Cross stories. I am not a die-hard fan, but I have always found myself entertained when reading most of the previous novels. But London Bridges hit rock bottom almost from the very beginning. The story is made from the same formula the past 3-4 Cross-stories has been, and you can almost guess what will happen in the super-short chapters.
But I have actually read many more in my pre-blogging days. I used to like the Alex Cross-series, and actually found the first ones to be rather good and entertaining reads. Then something happened. Perhaps it was Mr. Patterson's collaboration with an endless stream of other writers, perhaps it dawned on me that James Patterson is a bad writer. Because he is still (presumably) writing the Alex Cross-series on his own.

Okay, then. Maybe his books are not deeply literary. I usually couldn't care less about that. James Patterson's books are not meant to be that, and the main part of the books I read are not considered literary anyway. But his writing is bad. His style is non-existent. His co-authors equally bad. The plots are bad. Everything about his books is bad, bad, bad.

Come on, I hear some of you saying, we read for our entertainment and enjoyment, and if nothing else, Patterson's books are easy and entertaining. Nope, I say, they are not even that. At least not to me. I have serious doubts that any author is able to write 5-10 books a year, no matter how fabulous a writer they are and no matter how many co-authors they have, and still keep an acceptable quality in their writing. That is mission impossible. I guess James Patterson is laughing all the way to the bank, and that is absolutely fine by me. How I wish I had come up with his ideas and how I wish I could make a living writing (less than mediocre) books. Oh yes. I wouldn't care what critics said about my books if I made gazillions. I don't think James Patterson cares.  So what exactly is my problem with this rant? I even admit that I could easily be found reading another James Patterson any day - and I can definitely be found reading "crap" any day. I don't know. I just don't like his books and I honestly think they are of less quality than most other things I read.

Maybe it is that I feel so alone with this. Okay, glancing over reviews on Amazon, I see a lot of readers complaining about Patterson's books and their lack of quality and his endless co-authors. But every time I see one of his books, I feel annoyed and I feel the need to bash the book, and it seems all others are loving it. I guess that is what pet peeves are all about.

This is a post made for the Blog Improvement Project # 2 which was about pumping up post titles. Now lets see if this post will generate any interest or discussion. I would welcome that.

Also - I am trying to go after the ball instead of the man. James Patterson has done a lot to get people to read with special programs and fundings, and I applaud that. He is also just one out of several "pet peeve authors" of mine, whose work I can't stand whose work I sort of get a kick out of bashing a bit.

14 comments:

Megan said...

I, like you, actually did enjoy a James Patterson novel every now and again when I was younger. By the time I was in college, and his collaborations with other authors had become his thing, every time I'd pick one up, I'd end up putting it down again in disgust. In the earlier days, it seems that even if the writing quality wasn't top notch, Patterson really knew how to tell a story. Now, it definitely seems as if the writing is deteriorating yet more and he's even sold out the storytelling for a buck (or uh, a lot of bucks!). There are plenty of people still reading his stuff and enjoying it (and good for him - life is good for some, I guess), but I think there are also a bunch of us who used to be fans that he's alienated with his continued emphasis on quantity over quality.

bermudaonion said...

I do enjoy some of Patterson's books, and know that they're not great fiction by any stretch of the imagination. They're just a fun diversion. I agree with you that the quality of his work has taken a nose dive since he's taken on all of these co-writers to churn out his ideas.

~Jennifer~ said...

I don't love James Patterson's books, but I do read and usually enjoy them. I think they're easy and comfortable to read. Like TV Dinners, nothing fantastic, but the appeal is in the convenience.

As for the bashing of "crap", I think it's the hype that makes these books a disappointment to some. You hear obscenely fantastic things about a book and you don't absolutely love it. It makes the book seem worse than if you had read it without hearing all the praise.

Well, that and I think a lot of people think of themselves as unique and special. When millions love a particular book, I think some people want to hate it. They want to be different. They want to have their voices heard and it's much easier to heard if you're screaming something different than everyone else.

Vivienne said...

What irks me most about James Patterson is that I am completely convinced that he does not write any of his books anymore. No one can produce so many books is such different genres in such a short space of time. I really think the real writers whose names appear on the books should be allowed to stand alone in the limelight and have Patterson endorse them rather than say he wrote them.

Penelope said...

I agree completely! I have, in the past, enjoyed some of his books. But even when I was enjoying them, I could not get past the fact that I did not like the writing. I finally stopped reading his books, because I realized the annoyance was not worth the thrill of the story. GREAT post!

farmlanebooks said...

I'm afraid I haven't read any James Patterson so can't comment on the quality of his writing. I have enjoyed several books where I know the writing quality isn't amazing (Dan Brown is an easy target) but as long as I'm enjoying the story I am willing to tolerate it.

Dorte H said...

I have never tried to read James Patterson, but you confirm the idea I have that he began well but has forgotten everything about quality along the road.

If he was the only one, I guess it wouldn´t matter, but I think several of the recent Scandinavian crime novels are sheer pageturners, and yet their books are sold all over the world. It scares me a bit that so many good writers have to struggle for recognition while others can write trash and turn into millionaires over night.

heidenkind said...

I've never read a book by James Patterson. To tell the truth, I didn't even know who he was until a few months ago. So I have no opinion on his writing--but he does sound like a publicity-hound, I'll say that much.

caite said...

I have read some Patterson books in the past, but never again. They used to be just OK but then...

In a recent interview (which I wish I had saved) he admitted that his 'contribution' to these co-authored books is that he supplies the idea for the story and the co-writer actually writes the book. What is more shameful...That the publisher is just using his name on the cover to sell books or that people keep buying them?

Sharon said...

Great post! I have wondered about the two names on so many of his books. I have read one book outlined by James Patterson so I can't compare the writing to others. I don't mind him promoting other writers, but it sounds like he needs to be pickier about who he chooses to write out his ideas.

NotNessie said...

I have wondered about this myself...

Mel (He Followed Me Home) said...

I can't believe how many books with his name hit the shelves each year & often wonder if this is more a name franchise type thing. I consider his books beach reads: fun & quick :)

Care said...

I think I've read something by Patterson but who has time to go through the list and find it... I guess I prefer more 'literary' stuff but don't exactly know what that means. I've been accused of being a book snob so be it. But I don't mind fun diversion 'beach' reads - I just don't go out of my way to read them.

writelevelzero said...

Oh, please. James Patterson is dreadful - neither good for readers or writers. It's a disgrace that this style-less, graceless crap generates so much revenue, and that this becomes its own tawdry justification.

It's a credit to you that you don't want to be judgemental about other people's reading habits, but really... what you're doing is stretching tentatively for a level of discernment that allows you to critically justify what you know in your heart - that what James Patterson produces is worthless. It's a confidence trick perpetrated on undiscerning readers. It's disgusting that this man gets any credit for promoting reading. What kind of reading are we talking about here? Functional, uncritical literacy? Enough to consume the crap churned out by JP and his ilk, or to read The National Inquirer?

I don't mind him making money either. I do take exception to him dishing out advice on writing. How to scam your way in writing perhaps! He's certainly proved very successful at that. Truly awful.