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View Full Version : Isabel Allende doesn't like mystery novels, so she wrote one as a joke.



Perks
02-14-2014, 09:05 PM
I might sprain a muscle rolling my eyes so much.

This either explains (http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/feb/14/isabel-allende-joke-crime-fiction-ripper?CMP=twt_fd) her true motivations or perhaps just her inability to deal with lukewarm reviews. Either way, she's really annoyed a few people.


"The book is tongue in cheek. It's very ironic," she said, adding that "I'm not a fan of mysteries, so to prepare for this experience of writing a mystery I started reading the most successful ones in the market in 2012".

"I realised I cannot write that kind of book. It's too gruesome, too violent, too dark; there's no redemption there. And the characters are just awful. Bad people. Very entertaining, but really bad people," said Allende. "So I thought, I will take the genre, write a mystery that is faithful to the formula and to what the readers expect, but it is a joke..."


But readers, booksellers and fellow authors were unimpressed with Allende's analysis of mystery fiction. Houston bookshop Murder by the Book had ordered 20 signed copies of Ripper – but sent them back after hearing the author's interview.

Torgo
02-14-2014, 09:06 PM
I was reading about this the other day. This is not how you market your book!

MookyMcD
02-14-2014, 09:07 PM
TBH, I have no idea who Isabel Allende is.

Torgo
02-14-2014, 09:09 PM
TBH, I have no idea who Isabel Allende is.

Hie thee to Wikipedia, Mooky. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isabel_Allende)

Calla Lily
02-14-2014, 09:10 PM
:rolleyes: :Headbang:

Perks
02-14-2014, 09:10 PM
I was reading about this the other day. This is not how you market your book!I'm sure her editorial and production team are thrilled to learn that it was all an experiment in irony. I imagine her royalty cheques may end up looking a mite ironic, too.

MookyMcD
02-14-2014, 09:17 PM
TBH, I have no idea who Isabel Allende is.


Hie thee to Wikipedia, Mooky. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isabel_Allende)

TBH, I still don't really care who Isabel Allende is. :e2poke:

Torgo
02-14-2014, 09:18 PM
TBH, I still don't really care who Isabel Allende is. :e2poke:

*slaps palm with nightstick*

RedWombat
02-14-2014, 09:44 PM
*shrug* I've started books as jokes. My agent's shopping one right now! "I'm going to poke fun at these genre conventions" isn't striking me as inherently worse a motive than "I will prove my high-school English teacher wrong!" or "Eh, it's money."

jjdebenedictis
02-14-2014, 09:49 PM
The problem with the fine line that exists between ironic art and trolling is that if you cross that line even by accident, you tend to rub it out completely.

Edit: The problem is not with the book or the method for writing the book, I guess. It's the disdain the author displays toward the audience for this book. She thinks the genre is crap, so she writes a book that is in that genre but doesn't respect any of the things that fans of that genre like.

What would be the point of doing that, beyond being able to congratulate herself for being superior to those dreadful people-who-like-stuff-I-don't-like? She's not likely to sell many books to an audience who enjoys the stuff she refused to put into the novel.

Phaeal
02-14-2014, 09:50 PM
The irony approach could work as a lure for her usual (lit fic) readers, but I imagine it will put off a fair number of mystery readers. And sellers, too, apparently.

JustSarah
02-14-2014, 09:54 PM
I'm still not getting why writing a genre story as a satire is an inherently bad thing. I think the line between this and trolling is pretty visible actually. And this is coming from a Mystery reader.

MookyMcD
02-14-2014, 10:20 PM
I'm still not getting why writing a genre story as a satire is an inherently bad thing. I think the line between this and trolling is pretty visible actually. And this is coming from a Mystery reader.

It's not! At least I hope not, because I write satire. But when you write and publish and market the book without mentioning it's satire, which is what apparently happened here, and the respond to people saying it sucks with "well, I was really just joking," that's a very different animal.

Filigree
02-14-2014, 10:26 PM
Her sin was apparently in admitting her disdain for the genre. Which she could have phrased in a much more diplomatic fashion, and been just fine.

When I read deeper into the article(s) and complaints, it appears to yet another literary-vs-genre-fiction scuffle.

The ultimate irony could be that Allende may have actually meant the irony affectionately, since she is married to a mystery writer.

veinglory
02-14-2014, 10:27 PM
The thing is I do not think the work is a satire offered to readers as a satire. It is a mystery that mugs can use to get their low brow mystery fix whle more clever people like her laugh at them -- or at least that is how she is coming across

Marian Perera
02-14-2014, 10:31 PM
It is a mystery that mugs can use to get their low brow mystery fix whle more clever people like her laugh at them -- or at least that is how she is coming across

Exactly. Here's another quote from her: "Mysteries and romance novels are fantasies, and their characters tend to be caricatures." She, on the other hand (http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/13/us-books-authors-allende-idUSBREA1C15W20140213), is into deep and meaningful characterization. How lofty.

Write a parody or satire? That's fine. Diss the genre? Not so fine.

gothicangel
02-14-2014, 10:39 PM
"I realised I cannot write that kind of book. It's too gruesome, too violent, too dark; there's no redemption there. And the characters are just awful. Bad people. Very entertaining, but really bad people," said Allende. "So I thought, I will take the genre, write a mystery that is faithful to the formula and to what the readers expect, but it is a joke. My sleuth will not be this handsome detective or journalist or policeman or whatever. It will be a … 16-year-old nerd"

If this is her analysis of crime fiction, she clearly hasn't read nearly enough to write a good satire in the first place (if she had, she wouldn't think a 16 year old nerd as sleuth was such a novelty.)

Not even worth getting the blood heated up over. Though I will make a mental note to avoid any of her work.

Jamesaritchie
02-14-2014, 10:39 PM
I know who she is, and tried reading The House of the Spirits, I think it was called. I couldn't get through it.

There's nothing wrong with writing a book as a parody, for the irony, or as a joke, but only the readers get to decide whether you succeeded. If readers don't get the joke, the writer is the one who screwed up.

If readers have complaints like this, just grin and take your lumps. Wake up that dog, and it's always the writer who gets teeth sank into his or her behind.

Torgo
02-14-2014, 10:42 PM
I'm still not getting why writing a genre story as a satire is an inherently bad thing. I think the line between this and trolling is pretty visible actually. And this is coming from a Mystery reader.

I don't think it is an inherently bad thing at all; the PR problem is just in the construction you can put on her words. And I'm mentally adding a caveat about newsworthy interviews conducted in other languages.

LOTLOF
02-14-2014, 10:44 PM
There is nothing wrong with writing a book that makes fun of an entire genre. That's called a parody, and it's a time honored and much loved part of literature.

I think what may have pissed people off is if this was being marketed as an actual mystery. If that's the case I could understand people being upset. Who wants to spend money on something the author treats with contempt?

Filigree
02-14-2014, 11:16 PM
Precisely. Allende makes some sweeping observations about mystery, science fiction, and romance genres that are outdated and incorrect. Oddly enough, readers pick up on that kind of patronizing attitude.

Perks
02-15-2014, 12:20 AM
Exactly. Here's another quote from her: "Mysteries and romance novels are fantasies, and their characters tend to be caricatures." She, on the other hand (http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/13/us-books-authors-allende-idUSBREA1C15W20140213), is into deep and meaningful characterization. How lofty.

Write a parody or satire? That's fine. Diss the genre? Not so fine.

Yep. I don't see where she ever said she wrote a satire. She said she wrote a mystery, adhering to all the conventions of the genre, as a joke. To me, it doesn't sound at all like she wrote a satire.

I'm a big fan of satire and wouldn't find that annoying at all. Ms. Allende has managed to come off as top-tier obnoxious.

alexaherself
02-15-2014, 12:27 AM
I'm sure her editorial and production team are thrilled to learn that it was all an experiment in irony.

To "learn"?! It was hardly a secret. ;)

Even the book's initial reviewers had no difficulty discerning that, simply by reading it. (It was widely described in terms such as "jeu d'ésprit", "far better written than it needs to be", and so on.)

Nobody's suggesting that it's another Lolita (as far as I'm aware, anyway) but the similarities in purpose/style/background are clearly there - and have been commented on. :)

Perks
02-15-2014, 01:04 AM
If it was always supposed to be a satire, HarperCollins picked a curious way to write it up everywhere.

From Amazon -


Isabel Allende—the New York Times bestselling author whose books, including Maya’s Notebook, Island Beneath the Sea, and Zorro, have sold more than 57 million copies around the world—demonstrates her remarkable literary versatility with Ripper, an atmospheric, fast-paced mystery involving a brilliant teenage sleuth who must unmask a serial killer in San Francisco. There's nothing from her publisher about it being a spoof or satire in any of the cover copy.

The critical reception has been lukewarm, with descriptors like "ungainly" and "feels somewhat like having been introduced to a celebrated ballerina in a bowling alley" and "Allende does conjure up a genuinely surprising twist at the end, but by then, most smart readers will be trying to cleanse all memory of this tedious romp" and "Crime writing may be the supermarket-checkout stepchild to ''real'' literature, but it's still a serious craft — one that Allende, alas, hasn't mastered."

But nobody mentions that it's a goof on the genre, just that it's not up to Allende's usual snuff. So that, for me and many, puts her comments in possibly a sour-grape shade of light.

Perks
02-15-2014, 01:13 AM
And now she is apologizing (http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Isabel+Allende+apologizes+saying+mystery+says+misu nderstood/9509175/story.html), saying that calling it a joke was a joke and that she has great respect for the genre, and that she takes all her writing very seriously.

Torgo
02-15-2014, 01:17 AM
And now she is apologizing (http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Isabel+Allende+apologizes+saying+mystery+says+misu nderstood/9509175/story.html), saying that calling it a joke was a joke and that she has great respect for the genre, and that she takes all her writing very seriously.

It doesn't look good, does it.

Perks
02-15-2014, 01:20 AM
Ahem, no it doesn't. I'll bet they're not too happy with her over there in the ol' publicity department.

Marian Perera
02-15-2014, 01:23 AM
"Sometimes my humour doesn't come through," Allende explained.

No?

Maybe she should write a humorous novel next.

Phaeal
02-15-2014, 02:05 AM
No, no, no! She should write spec fic that she says isn't spec fic because even though it has all the elements of spec fic it isn't because she wrote it and --

Wait. Never mind. Been done.

In the end, the lesson we can all learn is how easy it is for the Writer to make a Big Mistake, even someone as practiced as Allende. The good thing: That there are readers in all genres passionate enough to take offense when they (rightly OR wrongly) perceive their favorite books to be dissed.

Filigree
02-15-2014, 02:13 AM
Definite thumbs-up for the display of passion.

Perks
02-15-2014, 02:23 AM
The owner of Murder by the Book is a hoot.

Jamesaritchie
02-15-2014, 02:54 AM
I don't think it is an inherently bad thing at all; the PR problem is just in the construction you can put on her words. And I'm mentally adding a caveat about newsworthy interviews conducted in other languages.

I don't care what language it's in, she said some incredibly stupid things. There's no PR problem, there simply a woman who should have kept her mouth shut.

It sounds for all the world like she's trying to justify writing a really bad novel by saying it was a joke novel, and her real talent lies elsewhere, with literary type novels.

You just can't get any dumber than some of her statements.

eyeblink
02-15-2014, 03:05 AM
I know who she is, and tried reading The House of the Spirits, I think it was called. I couldn't get through it.

That is what it was called, and it was her first novel. I did get through it. I've read several of hers and liked them, though I haven't read her in a while. But her comments regarding this new novel (which I haven't read) are unfortunate to say the least.

Torgo
02-15-2014, 03:15 AM
I don't care what language it's in, she said some incredibly stupid things. There's no PR problem, there simply a woman who should have kept her mouth shut.

My inclination is always to give a fellow author the benefit of the doubt, especially as I haven't actually heard the interview, just read the link in the OP. She might have expressed herself poorly or it might be sensational reporting. I recall a Stephen King interview reported in the Guardian very unfairly in recent months.

I'd certainly hate to be her publicist, who could legitimately wish she'd not said any of this.

mccardey
02-15-2014, 03:40 AM
My inclination is always to give a fellow author the benefit of the doubt, especially as I haven't actually heard the interview, just read the link in the OP. She might have expressed herself poorly or it might be sensational reporting. I recall a Stephen King interview reported in the Guardian very unfairly in recent months.

I'd certainly hate to be her publicist, who could legitimately wish she'd not said any of this.

This, plus I have to say I'm weak with admiration at the thought of writing a novel as a joke. A whole novel? I've never managed to move beyond the prank phone-call.

Perks
02-15-2014, 04:33 AM
My inclination is always to give a fellow author the benefit of the doubt, especially as I haven't actually heard the interview, just read the link in the OP. She might have expressed herself poorly or it might be sensational reporting. I recall a Stephen King interview reported in the Guardian very unfairly in recent months.

I'd certainly hate to be her publicist, who could legitimately wish she'd not said any of this.

Yeah, I think I might listen to the interview at some point, because the unfortunate, sideways, stick-up-the-arse apology doesn't make it look any better. She sounds very pissy that her mystery novel wasn't well-received.

To be generous, it's probably hard to reap nothing but accolades for ages and get a "meh" for stepping outside your successful perimeter. I'm sure it hurts. And still you're not going to get away with a fluffy, Oh, I wasn't really trying, because it's just too big of a joke. Me? Writing a mystery? Ha! As if! I'm Isabel Allende!

slhuang
02-15-2014, 04:47 AM
For me as a writer, there would be a vast mental difference between satirizing something I love and satirizing something I have no respect for and think is worthy only of mockery.

I've loved a lot of SFF satire, but it's so, so clear that the creators are doing it with a deep love of the genre. Like Galaxy Quest! Perfect example. It's abundantly clear they're making fun of the genre they love.

On the other hand, some satire is incisively critical.

Being a SFF fan, I don't think I'd be interested in reading something that was mocking my genre not lovingly, but because the author thought the genre was crap (and by extension that the fans were deluded or unintelligent or what have you). I'd be insulted. Feel like I was being laughed at, rather than with.

jjdebenedictis
02-15-2014, 08:41 AM
No, no, no! She should write spec fic that she says isn't spec fic because even though it has all the elements of spec fic it isn't because she wrote it and --

Wait. Never mind. Been done.The Handmaid's Tale, right? :D

Sometimes you figure out that you have an unexamined bigotry when a boneheaded statement spills out of your mouth. It's what you do after that moment that defines the real quality of your character, rather than the boneheaded words themselves. Do you instantly apologize? Do you double-down on the sentiment to mask your embarrassment? Do you shut up as if you did nothing wrong but also quietly vow to uproot that bigotry and get it out of your thinking forever?

I'm willing to accept her apology. She didn't do anything worse than reveal a (rather benign) unexamined bigotry, and if she's regretting it now, then maybe she's also making an effort to change her mindset now.

What more can you ask of a human being? We screw up.

rwm4768
02-15-2014, 09:39 AM
If you're going to poke fun at a genre, you should make that clear right off. I have an idea for a comic fantasy sitting in my head, and when I get to writing it, it will be clear that I'm poking fun at the genre. But not because I hate it.

jennontheisland
02-15-2014, 10:20 AM
"Crime writing may be the supermarket-checkout stepchild to ''real'' literature, but it's still a serious craft — one that Allende, alas, hasn't mastered.
Joke's on her.

gothicangel
02-15-2014, 03:21 PM
The frustrating thing is when writers of literary fiction say things like this, they open the more level-headed literary readers/writers to accusations of snobbery. And lets not forget Lee Child's:


Last week I was in Britain and Ian McEwan’s Solar came out the same day, so there was this kind of “grudge match” thing going on — 61 Hours by Lee Child vs Solar by Ian McEwan, you know, the Good Guy vs the Bad Guy, the Smart Guy vs the Thug — and I was asked about it constantly in interviews, and I made the point, and I think this is a serious point actually, that the rivalry does not come from us — why would I care about Ian McEwan? — the rivalry comes from them, and it is not necessarily about the sales, it’s about something else, it’s about this: that they know in their heart that we could write their books but they cannot write our books. That’s what it’s about.


And they have tried, and they sometimes say, “Oh well, you know, I don’t want to,” and I say, “Well, why wouldn’t you? You could set yourself up for life.” In the paper in Britain last week, I deliberately said — I was trying to start a fight about it — I said, “Oh, I could write a Martin Amis book. It would take me about three weeks, it would sell three thousand copies like he sells.” And that’s what it is. They know they can’t do what we do and they are jealous of that skill.

http://kirstynmcdermott.com/2010/05/16/literary-vs-popular-fiction/ (http://kirstynmcdermott.com/2010/05/16/literary-vs-popular-fiction/)

Both sides are loaded with ignorance, but when Allende says something as dumb as this, she gives Child's argument more credence.

eyeblink
02-15-2014, 03:42 PM
If Lee Child could write like Ian McEwan (who actually sells quite a lot in litfic terms, 100k plus copies in UK hardback usually) then I would certainly like to read him.

Meanwhile, reviews of Ripper have been positive, at least the ones I've read so far: a solo review from last week's Observer here (http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/feb/09/ripper-isabel-allende-review-thriller) and part of a thriller review roundup in today's Guardian here (http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/feb/14/thrillers-review-roundup). John O'Connell, who wrote the latter, reviews crime and thrillers regularly for The Guardian, so I presume he does know his genre.

LOTLOF
02-15-2014, 03:50 PM
Well gee, that's not condescending at all. I'm sure none of the mystery writers out there, who love their genre and dedicate themselves to writing it well could possibly take offense. Since OBVIOUSLY their work is so simplistic a truly brilliant author could crank one out without even trying and be a huge success.

Oh wait...

Becky Black
02-15-2014, 07:27 PM
Man, I wish I could faff about writing a novel in a genre I don't like/read, as a joke. I'm sure that would be a really constructive use of my time and energy.

mirandashell
02-15-2014, 07:56 PM
So... I'm just wondering.... is she giving this book away for free? Seing as it's just a joke on the MTS reading public?

No?

Ah. Thought not.

Never be too snobby to take someone's money, eh?

Torgo
02-15-2014, 08:06 PM
If Lee Child could write like Ian McEwan (who actually sells quite a lot in litfic terms, 100k plus copies in UK hardback usually) then I would certainly like to read him.

Lee Child is really rather good. Or at least the first dozen or so were; recently they feel a little flat. I've had way more enjoyment out of Lee Child than McEwan over the years, in any case. They are both undeniably commercial writers, though, which neatly indicates that literary and commercial aren't mutually exclusive categories.

Perks
02-15-2014, 08:11 PM
Lee Child is really rather good. Or at least the first dozen or so were; recently they feel a little flat. I've had way more enjoyment out of Lee Child than McEwan over the years, in any case. They are both undeniably commercial writers, though, which neatly indicates that literary and commercial aren't mutually exclusive categories.He's one I haven't read yet, but I mean to. I did get to hang out with him several times over the span of a weekend conference and he's absolutely the nicest guy. Completely lovely.

alexaherself
02-15-2014, 08:29 PM
If it was always supposed to be a satire

I didn't suggest that. You seem not quite to be differentiating between "irony" and "satire"? Which do you think Nabokov's Lolita was, when that was published? ;) :D


But nobody mentions that it's a goof on the genre, just that it's not up to Allende's usual snuff.

We've read different reviews. (No surprise there: that's doubtless because I've been reading the British ones, which have been saying things like "jeu d'ésprit", "very much better-written than it needs to be", and so on). I haven't deliberately looked at any - these are just the turns of phrase I happen to remember from the normal places I read book reviews. They may even not be representative. Interesting, what's happened here, though. And presumably bad for her.


I've had way more enjoyment out of Lee Child than McEwan over the years, in any case. They are both undeniably commercial writers, though, which neatly indicates that literary and commercial aren't mutually exclusive categories.

I agree with this, certainly. I admit I've always instinctively thought of McEwan as "literary". But then again he's a Man Booker Prize winner, and that inevitably brings commercial success, which perhaps makes them all "commercial" by definition, in a sense?

Torgo
02-15-2014, 08:30 PM
He's one I haven't read yet, but I mean to. I did get to hang out with him several times over the span of a weekend conference and he's absolutely the nicest guy. Completely lovely.

As a digression: what's great about his books:

- the variety of plots and settings; the early ones are all very distinct from each other.

- there's at least one really nifty bit of plotting in each. They're fairly light on the mystery elements compared to the thriller elements, but when there's a mystery it's a good one. "The Visitor" ("Running Blind" in the US I think), for example, is a superior serial-killer story - Child slipping in to the genre effortlessly.

- the protagonist. Reacher doesn't have many flaws, really - he's the toughest, the most cunning, the best shot, a super-sleuth - but Child writes him interestingly, and in fact writes him from either third and first person depending on which novel you pick up.

Recently I feel the first two of those have been stuttering a bit; we've seen a couple of books with very similar setups and settings, and Reacher tends to do a lot of driving around, which is a sign Lee is spinning his wheels I fear. (I sort of worry that he's publishing a little too often.) The first half of the most recent one was excellent, but then it rather faltered; so I'm hopeful for a return to form with the next.

Torgo
02-15-2014, 08:34 PM
I agree with this, certainly. I admit I've always instinctively thought of McEwan as "literary". But then again he's a Man Booker Prize winner, and that inevitably brings commercial success, which perhaps makes them all "commercial" by definition, in a sense?

Pretty much. Hilary Mantel is hugely commercial, for instance. They're not the same kinds of category, so they can cut across each other. (cf also genre fiction: Hilary Mantel writes literary commercial historical fiction.)

Perks
02-15-2014, 08:35 PM
I didn't suggest that. You seem not quite to be differentiating between "irony" and "satire"? Which do you think Nabokov's Lolita was, when that was published? ;) :D

; :D ;) Wouldn't want to fail the test ;) :e2hammer: so, maybe you could just tell us the answer?

Perks
02-15-2014, 08:40 PM
Pretty much. Hilary Mantel is hugely commercial, for instance. They're not the same kinds of category, so they can cut across each other. (cf also genre fiction: Hilary Mantel writes literary commercial historical fiction.)

What I'm loving of late is seeing what's trumpted as crossover, especially in the crime, suspense, and thriller categories. Kate Atkinson, Ron Rash, Wiley Cash, and William Kent Krueger come to mind as celebrated for their writing as much as for their twisty plots. There are many more, but my brain is a little frozen from trying to dig out of this snowstorm.

Rhoda Nightingale
02-15-2014, 08:43 PM
Isn't a parody/satire supposed to be, y'know, funny? Humorous? Was any part of this failed experiment humorous? I'm just curious.

gothicangel
02-15-2014, 08:48 PM
Pretty much. Hilary Mantel is hugely commercial, for instance. They're not the same kinds of category, so they can cut across each other. (cf also genre fiction: Hilary Mantel writes literary commercial historical fiction.)

She also writes straight literary fiction such as Beyond Black and Fludd.

Torgo
02-15-2014, 08:52 PM
What I'm loving of late is seeing what's trumpted as crossover, especially in the crime, suspense, and thriller categories. Kate Atkinson, Ron Rash, Wiley Cash, and William Kent Krueger come to mind as celebrated for their writing as much as for their twisty plots. There are many more, but my brain is a little frozen from trying to dig out of this snowstorm.

Donna Tartt?

Torgo
02-15-2014, 08:53 PM
She also writes straight literary fiction such as Beyond Black and Fludd.

True.

Perks
02-15-2014, 08:54 PM
Isn't a parody/satire supposed to be, y'know, funny? Humorous? Was any part of this failed experiment humorous? I'm just curious.

In her apology, Ms. Allende retracted the failed joke that it was a joke and said that she had taken the project very seriously.

I can't see where it was ever earmarked as a spoof on the genre - not in the book's presentation to the sales world, not in her comments to NPR, and not in her subsequent retraction of those comments.

That she's a celebrated writer, and by accounts usually very good, doesn't support that her foray into formulaic mystery must be ironic, because she's just too good to do it any other way.

Perks
02-15-2014, 08:55 PM
Donna Tartt?Oh right! That's fifth on my to-be-read pile.

Hapax Legomenon
02-15-2014, 09:35 PM
Isn't a parody/satire supposed to be, y'know, funny? Humorous? Was any part of this failed experiment humorous? I'm just curious.

Parody is generally supposed to be funny, satire doesn't have to be but it has to make a statement. If she was trying to make any sort of statement, it was obviously lost on her readers.

bearilou
02-15-2014, 10:27 PM
And now she is apologizing (http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Isabel+Allende+apologizes+saying+mystery+says+misu nderstood/9509175/story.html), saying that calling it a joke was a joke and that she has great respect for the genre, and that she takes all her writing very seriously.

So...it was a 'social experiment', then?

eyeblink
02-16-2014, 11:02 AM
Pretty much. Hilary Mantel is hugely commercial, for instance. They're not the same kinds of category, so they can cut across each other. (cf also genre fiction: Hilary Mantel writes literary commercial historical fiction.)


She also writes straight literary fiction such as Beyond Black and Fludd.

Hilary Mantel's name came up in a panel at World Fantasy last year. Critic/writer Roz Kaveney (who claimed to be the person who found Mantel in the slushpile way back when) made the point that Mantel writes in a variety of genres. Only four out of twelve are historicals, and interestingly they're all historicals about characters who really existed. Beyond Black - much of which is set around the area where I live - and A Change of Climate, to name two I've read, are contemporary and/or period pieces, the latter being set in the 1970s.

Winning the Man Booker is certainly not a guarantee of bestsellerdom. I'm sure there are figures somewhere, but James Kelman's How Late It Was How Late famously bombed everywhere outside its native Scotland. Some past winners are no longer in print. On the other hand, Roddy Doyle's Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha was the bestselling Booker winner before Wolf Hall.

kuwisdelu
02-16-2014, 11:22 AM
Nobody's suggesting that it's another Lolita (as far as I'm aware, anyway) but the similarities in purpose/style/background are clearly there - and have been commented on. :)


I didn't suggest that. You seem not quite to be differentiating between "irony" and "satire"? Which do you think Nabokov's Lolita was, when that was published? ;) :D


; :D ;) Wouldn't want to fail the test ;) :e2hammer: so, maybe you could just tell us the answer?

..I'm with Perks on this. What do you you think Lolita was?

I'll take the opportunity to point out that "irony" isn't a genre, while "satire" is.

And no, I don't think Lolita was a satire.

Dawnstorm
02-16-2014, 12:55 PM
Yeah, I think I might listen to the interview at some point, because the unfortunate, sideways, stick-up-the-arse apology doesn't make it look any better. She sounds very pissy that her mystery novel wasn't well-received.

You should listen to the interview. I'm curious what you'd think.

Thing is, when I read the excerpt in this thread, I immediately thought, this sounds like "I have to write a book in this genre, but I don't like any of the characters in the books I read for research. They're entertaining to read about, but they're awful people. So how do I make this work?"

And sure enough, listening to the interview, here's the question to which this excerpt is the answer:

"Were there any, ah, you know the convention of, of this form that you found e-especially hard to adapt to, or anything that you had to rework to to figure this out." (I'm unsure about the transcription, especially the last part, but the drive of the question is clear.)

So: why is she writing this story at all then? According to the interview, she wanted to retire, and her agent panicked and suggested she write a story together with her husband, who is a mystery writer, but that didn't work out (he has a short attention span and writes in English; she writes 11 hours straight and writes in Spanish - She'd end up doing all the work...).

My basic impression of her is: a solid ego - she knows what she wants - but not arrogant. Practically everything she says is either straightforward or tongue in cheek. She's speaking slowly and clearly (easier to understand than the interviewer, I find, but then I'm not a native speaker either); but she has an obvious accent.

I tend to believe the content of her apology (that the novel is no "joke", in the sense that she didn't take writing it seriously); but I can also imagine that she's not too thrilled at having to apologise - going from the interviewers impression.

I admit, I liked her in the interview. She's been on my to-read list for years, now, but I haven't read her yet, since she's medium priority. But, yeah, my impression was she was talking more about incompatibility than from a position of superiority.

There is hot-button content: apparantly, she thinks having a geeky teenager instead of grown sexy woman is a statement on the genre. I'm not a big reader of the genre myself, but I'd think by foucussing on the bestsellers of one year, you're missing a lot of the interesting stuff that's going on in the genre (especially in the magazines). That's the same sort of genre-ignorance that tripped up Atwood, IMO.

She is probably guilty of looking down on the genre, but probably not in the way or to the extent that the article makes it seem. It does remind me a lot of the Atwood outrage, which (as a big fan of SF, and a more moderate fan of Atwood) I also found a bit overwrought. There are real genre bigots out there, but neither Allende nor Atwood strike me as such.

alexaherself
02-16-2014, 05:08 PM
I don't think Lolita was a satire.

Neither do I. ;)

The points I was trying to make, in my perhaps-too-obscure way, were: that even literary masterpieces (of which I'm not suggesting this will necessarily be one, though it's certainly had its share of glowing reviews) can easily be misunderstood when first published; that I think Perks was suggesting that Isabel Allende had actually written this book as a "joke", per se (and admittedly it seems that at one point she explained her motivation badly, misleadingly and inarticulately enough to lead some people who hadn't read the book to believe so) whereas that isn't actually so; and so on.

Maybe I've totally misunderstood the whole thing (and of course that's a risk one takes, relying on second-hand information), but her reasons for writing this contribution to the genre, and her intentions in doing so, seem to me to be pretty much the same as Nabokov's were, for writing Lolita.

Call me optimistic, but I'm suggesting that the book may still turn out to be very successful, for good reasons, and that it may be a little early to "judge" her, in spite of the confused and confusing messages she seems to have been giving out. :)

Torgo
02-16-2014, 05:27 PM
Winning the Man Booker is certainly not a guarantee of bestsellerdom. I'm sure there are figures somewhere, but James Kelman's How Late It Was How Late famously bombed everywhere outside its native Scotland. Some past winners are no longer in print. On the other hand, Roddy Doyle's Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha was the bestselling Booker winner before Wolf Hall.

Well, HOW LATE IT WAS HOW LATE shows more than 12K sales on Nielsen, despite figures only starting 4-5 years after publication. Compared to other non-Booker-winning books by Booker-winning authors, it's not an absolute bomb; it just looks like one of those years when the judges picked a very uncommercial book. In the years before they'd picked stuff like Paddy Clarke and The English Patient - a Scots dialect novel (and one that I struggled through) might have been a bit of a stretch.

One thing you can definitely say for the Booker is that Waterstones will order a lot of copies and put it out prominently. If they don't sell through, you still had every chance to shift a lot.

gothicangel
02-16-2014, 07:05 PM
Well, HOW LATE IT WAS HOW LATE shows more than 12K sales on Nielsen, despite figures only starting 4-5 years after publication. Compared to other non-Booker-winning books by Booker-winning authors, it's not an absolute bomb; it just looks like one of those years when the judges picked a very uncommercial book. In the years before they'd picked stuff like Paddy Clarke and The English Patient - a Scots dialect novel (and one that I struggled through) might have been a bit of a stretch.

One thing you can definitely say for the Booker is that Waterstones will order a lot of copies and put it out prominently. If they don't sell through, you still had every chance to shift a lot.

I would like to add that I had to read Kelman as part of my Scottish Lit degree, like so many other students. So I'm sure that it sells significant numbers still to the students at Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews, Aberdeen, UHI and Stirling universities (and anyone else who teaches Scottish Lit.)

Perks
02-16-2014, 08:13 PM
You should listen to the interview. I'm curious what you'd think.

Okay, so I did get a chance to hear it. It's only six minutes long and I thought I was going to have to block out half an hour. Anyway, I thought she was cute and funny and feisty and I still think the comments about her estimation of crime fiction were a bit obnoxious. But context always helps, doesn't it?

My interpretation of her comments has shifted somewhat, after hearing her, in that when she said her book was very tongue-in-cheek and a joke, it was because she'd read a couple of Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo books and decided that's what the whole crime fiction genre is about. She seems to think that her non-femme-fatale main character has never happened before on the suspense shelves and that's where she thinks she's tapped a vein of irony.

So, her disdain is more from a lack of imagination (that the genre encompasses more than gruesome Scandinavian bloodbaths) and that's snobbery to be sure. But, the kicking she's taking for it is probably more than sufficient.

kuwisdelu
02-17-2014, 12:15 AM
Maybe I've totally misunderstood the whole thing (and of course that's a risk one takes, relying on second-hand information), but her reasons for writing this contribution to the genre, and her intentions in doing so, seem to me to be pretty much the same as Nabokov's were, for writing Lolita.

I don't understand what you think those intentions were.

Rhoda Nightingale
02-17-2014, 01:57 AM
I'm confused about the Lolita thing too. I don't want to derail too much, but what were Nabokov's intentions writing it? I always just assumed it was a beautifully-written book about a horrible person unsuccessfully trying to pass himself off as a victim. Is that not what's going on there? Or did people assume Nabokov was going for something else when it was first published? (I haven't done much background reading on it at all--it's just in my TBR pile somewhere.)

aus10phile
02-17-2014, 05:48 AM
The biggest bummer about Allende's comments, regardless of how she intended them, is they're fueling the genre/literary fiction war, which I really wish would go away. I think different books have different strengths. Some make you turn the pages. Some make you think. Some entertain. Some bring understanding. Some do all of those things and more. I don't see why we have to dismiss one person or another's creation as less valid, artistic, or whatever. There's certainly room on my bookshelf for many different kinds of books.

Dawnstorm
02-17-2014, 05:54 AM
She seems to think that her non-femme-fatale main character has never happened before on the suspense shelves and that's where she thinks she's tapped a vein of irony.

So, her disdain is more from a lack of imagination (that the genre encompasses more than gruesome Scandinavian bloodbaths) and that's snobbery to be sure.

Pretty much that. Except I'm not sure I see much "disdain". My impression is that she's rediscovered the wheel and is a bit too pleased about it. Definitely snobby, but not hostile. (Maybe that's "disdain", after all? I've always associated the term with a bit more... rejection. Hm...)

In any case, if there's a difference between our takes on the interview it's not a big one.

Bartholomew
02-24-2014, 07:05 PM
She's one publicity faux pas from accidentally writing Atlanta Nights.

DanielaTorre
03-06-2014, 07:19 AM
This is the opposite of the Rowling approach to being relevant.

She's awesome though. She makes me proud to be Latino. :D

cmi0616
03-25-2014, 03:01 AM
I haven't read the book, but if what she's saying is true, there's nothing wrong with satire, which is what it sounds like she's writing. All genres have been lampooned, and it's only a matter of time before the increasingly popular "magical realists" (as per Allende's Wikipedia page, anyway) get theirs, too.

shaldna
03-25-2014, 01:47 PM
I might sprain a muscle rolling my eyes so much.

This either explains (http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/feb/14/isabel-allende-joke-crime-fiction-ripper?CMP=twt_fd) her true motivations or perhaps just her inability to deal with lukewarm reviews. Either way, she's really annoyed a few people.

Um, now, I may be wrong here, but not ALL mysteries are violent and full of evil nasty people. That's like saying all romance novels are full of pirates and corsets.

juniper
03-29-2014, 10:09 AM
I'm confused about the Lolita thing too. I don't want to derail too much, but what were Nabokov's intentions writing it? I always just assumed it was a beautifully-written book about a horrible person unsuccessfully trying to pass himself off as a victim. Is that not what's going on there? Or did people assume Nabokov was going for something else when it was first published? (I haven't done much background reading on it at all--it's just in my TBR pile somewhere.)

Yeah, mark me down as Lolita confused too. I hope the poster comes back to clarify.

~~~
As to Ripper - I checked it out from the library and will be reading it over the next few days. I read mysteries so am curious to see about this one.

I just watched on PBS an interview with her on a show called "The Artist Toolbox" and she said: "You have to put all the effort, all the passion, all your time and your dedication. Therefore I can't write about something that I'm not passionate about. Something that - I couldn't write a thriller, I couldn't write a book about the stock market, or about a tycoon. It doesn't do anything for me."

http://www.theartisttoolbox.com/index.php/theartists/Isabel+Allende

So - ? I'm not sure when that interview was taped, but I guess she's changed her mind about writing something she's not passionate about.

juniper
04-02-2014, 10:49 AM
I've read (skimmed a lot) 92 pages, and still haven't found an real plot thread. So much back story, so much history of the houses and buildings and etc. Overwhelmingly omniscient narrator who seemingly wants to tell the reader about everything that might have happened somewhere, sometime.

This is not a standard mystery novel. This is not a parody of a mystery novel. I'm not sure what it is.