fiction and politics
I'm sure I have a million things to say about this, but while writing the book review below, the following paragraph popped up:
The author's politics are plainly visible, which wouldn't bother me so much if he didn't harp on them so much, and if he would do something other than harp on them. The longest speech the protananist gives is a tiresome rant on the evils of the United States, and it is given several times. The hero is a fully unformed character, a projection of what the author wishes he was, and the speeches are a straight channeling of the author's opinions onto the page, wholly unsuited to the book. I would say "a straight channeling of the author's opinions without respect to the opinions of the character", but the character dosen't have any opinions, or a personality on which to base them. He is simply a fantastical creation of the author's desires. I've read alot of books whose authors I would disagree with politically, but none have tried so hard to force their politics onto an unwitting character.
I cut that paragraph from the previous post because it didn't really seem proper, and it needed more explination.
Most of my favorite authors are Democrats, or at least lefties. Their work usually includes anything from an offhand remark to outright political criticism. Among these are Stephen King and Kurt Vonnegut, along with a whole host of others.
But the point is, their politics never lessened their writing. Even authors whose politics I would thoroghly despise and who included it in their writing still managed to engage me, to make me think, to entertain me, and most importantly, to keep their writing focused on the task at hand.
Stephen King has alot of characters toss off political remarks. But they generally don't affect the story heavily, because he dosen't really write about politics. He writes horror. And his politics don't distract from telling a good (and usually great) story.
Vonnegut writes heavily political novels that are designed as heavily political novels. I don't shut the book when he mentions politics because, for one, I expect some leftie propaganda from him, and for two, his books are intended to be fairly political. The sheer strength of his writing carries me through, even if I do disagree with him.
But if you are sitting down to write a thriller, having your main character go off on a two-page, unrelated tangent about wacky conspiracy theories probably isn't a great way to go. Especially if that character hasn't said ten words before and, really, isn't much of a character at all.
Focus on the task at hand: commiting your kooky fantasies to page is not the formula for sucess. Writing a good book is.
I've probably made my point, but I want to beat on this dead horse anyway. If I write a character that is, say, an ACLU lawyer that is known to fight for many left-leaning political causes, then a longish rant from him when faced by hard-nosed cops isn't really out of character.
By the same token, if I write a gun-totin' good ole' boy militia-type known for his anti-big-government beliefs, then a similar, if opposite response is probably authentic also. Neither of these characters have much love for authority, and when faced by an authortarian police force will tend toward anti-government rants.
But if I'm writing a book starring a character that has no known history, no beliefs, no nothing, nonexistant dialogue or actions to establish a character, really not a person at all, then I have him sit down and fire a bunch of stupid political stuff at a few cops, what happens? Well, the book goes in the toilet, as it was destined to do eventually anyway with a character with that. The author is dictating his politics through a non-character, a faceless mouthpiece.
This is worse than disagreeable politics, it's shitty writing. I don't want this to color my previous review of the book, it sucks on many more levels than politics. As I said, I can handle disagreeable politics in a good book.
But, unfortunatly, this is disagreeable politics shoehorned into a book that sucks really hard on its own.