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2012/08/31

Stumbling Towards Mediocrity

James Patterson is an awful writer.
Anyone with any appreciation for the English language, anyone who has had any firsthand exposure to the human condition, anyone who has ever held a conversation with another human being, anyone who has ever spent time on the planet earth, anyone who has experienced a moment of reality, or anyone who has ever read a ‘really good book’, will tell you – James Patterson is an awful writer.  Possibly the worst.   Certainly one of the most successful bad writers of all time.
Put it this way – he makes Stephen King look like Charles Dickens.
I have worked my way through several of Mr. Patterson’s books.  They are a mind boggling mess: narrative voices that shift without reason, characters that do things that make no common sense, dialogue that sounds as if it was translated into English from some form of ancient Gaulish by a man who speaks only Mandarin.  Chapters are short, so you feel you are really making progress.  Plots?  Well, the word ridiculous springs into mind.  Mr. Patterson is the kind of storyteller with both eyes on the clock… the story ends exactly when it is supposed to, and he is not above throwing physics, common sense, or character development into a wood chipper in order to accomplish it.  Why?  Because James Patterson is more interested in writing a lot of books than he is writing a good book.  So his work probably ends up the way it does for any one or all of the following reasons: the author is disinterested, lazy, under a deadline, or needs to pay for that new deck he put on his house in Miami/the Hamptons/San Diego/Mars.
Why do I read books by James Patterson?
Because I, too, aspire to be a mediocre writer.
My ultimate goal is to have a book I write turned into a Lifetime Television for Women Movie of the Week, starring a string of C-List actresses well past their A-List prime.  What?  It could happen.  In a world where the SyFy Channel (is that what they are calling themselves these days?) exists, there is a need for product to fill the airwaves, and why couldn’t I be one of those people who write something that plugs up one of those programming holes?
Yes, I now aspire to stumble towards mediocrity.  No longer do I pine to bask in the glow of literary praise.  No longer do I practice my Oscar acceptance speech.  No longer do I wonder what I will do for a follow-up album after I win my first Grammy.  No.  I just want to be a schleb.  And not even a wildly successful schleb like Mr. Patterson.  I will happily settle for writing a book people sometimes see at rummage sales in the free bin that was made into a movie no one remembers ever seeing.  And what has brought about this change, this acceptance, this embrace?
Because I’m a realist.  I know that may be as good as it ever gets.  I’m not unhappy about it, nor am I rendered numb or immobile by this realization.  Rather, I find myself actually working on a book that I may actually finish writing (which also seems to be one of the hallmarks of any James Patterson novel: he typed his way all the way to the end!).   I’m on Chapter 20.  I’ve been working on it for a year and a half.  One friend has been reading it as I’ve been writing and is encouraging my pipe dream by acting as my cheerleader (which I really appreciate). 
I guess it was just a matter of time.  I mean mediocrity – it’s like McDonalds; found EVERYWHERE.  So prevalent is it in our society that one’s life cannot help but be touched by it, and, therefore, one cannot help but eventually succumb to it. 
It brings to mind a line from one of my all-time favorite plays (favorite, because it is a brilliant piece of writing), Edward Albee’s ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’  It’s something Martha tells Nick: “Relax!  Sink into it.  You're no better than anybody else.”  
And that’s okay.
Accepting one’s own eventual mediocrity is such a relief – a weight lifted from your shoulders.  You can then get on to the real important things in life… like watching Lifetime Television Movies and reading James Patterson novels.

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