Friday, November 21, 2008

Bad writing

"At last, she could no longer control the world around her, her five senses seemed to break free and she wasn't strong enough to hold on to them. As if struck by a sacred bolt of lightning, she unleashed them, and the world, the seagulls, the taste of salt, the hard earth, the smell of the sea, the clouds, all disappeared, and in their place appeared a vast gold light, which grew and grew until it touched the most distant star in the galaxy."

That's Paulo Coelho, in an extract that's nominated for the Literary Review's Bad Sex award. Personally, I think it's patently unfair to let Coelho be in contention for any bad writing award - these awards should be restricted to people who are amateurs at bad writing.

Oh, and speaking of 'literary' awards, the results of the Caferati-Live Journal Contest are out. With the single exception of the amruta patil story (which is merely overwrought) the rest of the winners are uniformly awful, the shoddy writing being matched only be the cluelessness of the judges. You're probably better off reading the bad sex nominees.

12 comments:

Szerelem said...

Wow, some of the extracts on the Guardian page are even worse!
Coelho writes such trite and the passage here seems totally in keeping with that. I have never understood his popularity.

km said...

I have never understood his popularity.

Szer, you have clearly not heard of the "quality/success inverse-proportion" rule?

//but that was some seriously bad sex: "seagulls"?

Lekhni said...

Hmm.. and here I was trying to figure which one of yours figured among the winners ;)

Falstaff said...

szerelem: Yes and no. There are certainly worse extracts, but they are all worse in interesting ways. Coelho is just boring.

km: I know. One is tempted to cry 'Albatross!'

lekhni: No, no. This thing was supposed to be for Indian residents I thought. Also for amateurs. I'm certainly not the first and I'd like to think I'm not the latter.

Lekhni said...

No, then they said all u need is an Indian address where they can mail the check.

I am less sure as to what makes a writer an amateur versus a pro. Getting published? In which case, are some of those amateurs now pros?

Anonymous said...

amateur readers.

Aakriti said...

you, my good sir, should try looking into your own writing sometime before you poke around into some people's entries.

honestly, some stuff wasn't even close to being pretty, but you left some real winners out of your beautiful condescension and, sigh, you *generalized*.

and really, look back into your own writing sometime. fawning idiocies come and dance by your blog, saying they're in love with you and goodnessonlywhat, but really, my favourite character out of my favourite shakespearean play, leave your writing in a corner burning by the fireside and try working on your *critiquing*.

because, you were once the best of them i ever knew.

Falstaff said...

Lekhni: True, but it's the spirit of the thing, isn't it.

And I was using amateur purely in a competence sense.

anon: Yes.

aakriti: Oh, but I'm not generalizing. Of the stories in the top 6, the only one I think worth reading is the amruta patil story. That's a claim I'm happy to stand by, and would be glad to provide specifics for why the other five are bad writing (it just seemed unnecessary, I thought the flaws were entirely obvious). It's true I haven't bothered to read anything beyond the top 6 and the Jury special prize, on the assumption that if the 'best' were this bad the rest must be even worse. It's possible that there are some 'real winners' outside that sample of 8 that I've missed, in which case I'd love to know which ones you think they are.

Aakriti said...

haha. you stopped at the point i thought things got interesting.

http://livejournal.caferati.com/contests/winners/?contest=qt&action=show_entry&entry=948

:)

Now there's a good one.

And please revive the criticism. I was a BIG fan of momus. I miss what you used to do. This.. it doesn't cut it. Maybe we expect too much from a Falstaff. From THE Falstaff. Hence the eruption.

Cheers.

Lekhni said...

@Aakriti: Yes, that IS a beautiful story, and Judge #2's remark is completely befuddling. The choice of tense is "unbearable"? Wow.

Anonymous said...

Yes the one linked by Aakriti is pretty good. But would have to agree with the judge 2..the "tense" used was indeed a bit off putting.

Different people different opinion.

Falstaff said...

aakriti: Hmmm...that is a lot more promising. Not exactly brilliant, perhaps, but at least engaging and competent, and certainly better than any of the 'winners'. It makes you wonder what other decent pieces there might be in there.

I have to say I'm disappointed with the judges for this contest - I'd hoped for more intelligent judgment, particularly since at least one of them (Ms. Hasan) can actually write.

As for returning to criticism - I'd certainly like to, but I'm afraid all I'm likely to have time for in the near future is quick posts like this one - writing a proper review of a book takes too long. Still, good to know that you liked Momus and I will try to do more lit crit if I can.

lekhni: I don't know about befuddling. The choice of tense does seem a little unnecessary. Though compared to what some of the winners get away with it seems a trivial point. In any case, that's one of the first round judges.

The comment I found really curious was J2_1's - I'm not sure why, or even how, Mr. Soni should reconsider the ending. If he did end it differently it would a) change the story entirely b) make it hard to fit the story into the word-limit. Also, well, just saying "reconsider the ending" without providing any explanation is hardly useful, is it?