One-Minute Book Reviews

November 30, 2007

Do We Need Awards for Brand-Name Blight in Fiction?

Designer labels fester in fiction despite the critics’ complaints

By Janice Harayda

Do we need awards for brand-name blight in fiction?

Critics have complained for years about novelists who tell you about their characters’ designer labels as a substitute for character development. But the problem keeps spreading. In many novels you read about more than the labels on characters’ clothes and shoes. You learn the brand names on their cars, appliances, baby gear and more.

The most egregious example I’ve reviewed was Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho (Vintage, 1991) www.randomhouse.com, a novel about a young Wall Street serial killer, who “describes his designer lifestyle in excruciating detail,” as Nora Rawlinson wrote aptly in Library Journal. But Ellis at least seemed to be trying to develop a theme — that our culture views products and people as equally disposable and that consumerism fosters violence.

Many novels, though less grotesque than American Psycho, have no such core. Their authors use designer labels as a shortcut to meaning. Brand-name abuse is a sin that I consider in giving out the annual Delete Key Awards on this site. But books can go wrong in so many ways that the prizes don’t focus on label blight. Should I give separate awards for Brand-Name Blight in Fiction (maybe in the summer after I’ve had a few months to recover from naming the winners of the Delete Key Awards on the Ides of March)? Can you suggest candidates?

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

October 30, 2007

Why Do Children Like to Read About Witches and Other Scary Things? Halloween Quote of the Day (Agatha Christie)

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 7:14 pm
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Agatha Christie, the mystery novelist, loved playing frightening games in childhood. Here she tries to explain why:

“Why did I like being frightened? What instinctive need is satisfied by terror? Why, indeed, do children like stories about bears, wolves and witches? Is it because something rebels in one against the life that is too safe? Is a certain amount of danger in life a need of human beings? Is much of the juvenile delinquency nowadays attributable to the fact of too much security? Do you instinctively need something to combat, to overcome — to, as it were, prove yourself? Take away the wolf from the story of Red Riding Hood and would any child enjoy it? However, like most things in life, you want to be frightened a little — but not too much!”

Agatha Christie in Agatha Christie: An Autobiography (Ballantine, 1978).

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