Way Better than the Novel

For some of us, the idea of reading an entire novel is about as engrossing as being stuck in traffic … at peak hour.

Or spending 10 days in quarantine.

Or worse still, watching the box set of ‘FRIENDS’.

Ok, apologize to fans of that utterly wretched television series but maybe point made. Wading through someone else’s verbose and so often, slow moving fantasy, one that focuses on trifling details your brain simply finds dull no mater how hard you try to give yourself to it, is going to be a deal-breaker for all but the most dedicated, if you’ll pardon the garnished term, literarian.

No matter ’cause help is at hand.

SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK has discovered something better than the novel. Something more focused and to the point than the short story. Something with more bang for your buck than even Antman-sized flash fiction.

That something is the always inviting, often intriguing and frequently misleading plot synopsis; otherwise known as the book jacket blurb. Why spend weeks of your life laboring like a hospital patient hooked up to a ventilator through the word equivalent of an oversized bowl of cold lumpy porridge?

Gin bullocks to that, right?

In a similar vein to the movie trailer’s ability to elevate what might impolitely be labelled fourth-rate witless sludge into, at least to the untrained eye, what looks for all the world to pass for dinky-di five star entertainment, so too the novel’s back jacket blurb, in the hands of a wordsmith handed the job of pulling off a transformative act of deceit on a par with passing a dud check – back when folk used to do that – can raise to the level of an artform unto-itself the ability to convince the would-be reader that going ahead and committing to fully reading the book they are weighing in their hands may in any way approach the experience of devouring the thrill-a-second ride of the plot synopsis that has just succeeded so cleverly in whetting their lit appetite.

So… you ready for a couple of these BETTER THAN THE NOVEL ITSELF summaries?

You better be… after a build up such as it has been! These flexy little gems are all from novels published this year…

“The Adler’s seem like the perfect family – successful, affluent, attractive. It’s easy to dismiss the eggs thrown at their house as a childish prank, not so much the smoke bomb on the front lawn or slashed tyres of Thomas’s BMW. As the assaults escalate, Thomas and wife Viv, son Eli and daughter Tarryn grapple with rising fears their shameful secrets could be the reason the family is being targeted.

Rebecca Buckfast is the new principal of St Oswald’s school, the first headmistress in its history. She is intent on tearing apart the elite world that tried to hold her back. She has just started to reap the harvest of her ambition when a body is found.

Victoria Ford died in the World Trade Centre on 9/11. She had been accused of murder and in a call from the North Tower, she begged her sister Emma to prove her innocence. Twenty years later, Emma is convinced that a tv host can clear her sister’s name. The host digs deep but uncovers a darker mystery.

And to round things out, here’s one I actually made a start on recently – baited, as it were – by the intriguing plot synopsis. I lasted all of two chapters (and a gleaming two chapters they were!) before skim-reading commenced and put it down for good about 40 pages in. Reviews I consulted HERE. after the fact seemed to largely confirm my feeling.

But the plot synopsis?

An absolute pitch-perfect little ripper.

Private investigator Trike Augustine may be a brainiac with deductive skills to rival Sherlock Holmes, but they’re not doing him any good at solving the case of a missing gazzilionaire because the clues are so stupefyingly—well, stupid. His sidekicks—Max the former FBI agent and Lola the artist—don’t quite rise to the level of Dr. Watson, either. For example, when a large, dead pig turns up on Trike’s floor in the middle of the night, none of them can figure out what it means. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking as the astronomical reward being offered diminishes drastically every day.

This LOST IN SPACE themed ‘shelfie‘ shows a section of my humble study-room bookcase. I’m particularly proud of the fact this ramshackle mini-display boasts a book written 124 years ago… namely DRACULA.

For the record, (’cause I just couldn’t resist a bit of unashamed namedropping) the autographed pics are Angela Cartwright (1952 – ) who played Penny on LIS and Francine York (1936 – 2017) who guest starred in one episode of LIS.

So how about you?

What’s your literary altar look like?

I would love, love, love to receive pics of YOUR home bookcase.

I’d like to feature an assortment of photos from readers on this blog in a future post. I’m asking folk to send their bookcase (or dvd collection ‘stacker’ if you’ve got one of those as well) happy snaps to my email address – glenavailable@hotmail.com If you can add in a couple of lines of commentary to go with it that would make it extra special.

75 Of The Most Creative Bookshelves Ever | Bored Panda
You too can become the ultimate armchair critic with this padded seat novelty bookcase.

The Red Carpet for Novels

Four names stand tallest in the world of prestigious accolades for writers: The Nobel Prize for Literature The Man Booker PrizeThe Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Awards.

The National Book Awards have been a thing since as far back as 1936. It’s open to U.S authors only and features prizes in five categories –

Finalists – of which there are five in each category – receive $1,000, a medal, and a citation written by the judging panel; winners gets $10,000 and a bronze sculpture.

The judging panel this year comprises six people, including a professor at the University of Illinois Chicago, the reader-services coordinator for the New York Public Library and an author who won last years National Book Award for Fiction.

Congratulations to the following titles and their authors who all made the longlist for Fiction. They include three debut novels.

(1) A story about children on the cusp of adulthood in worlds in peril. Dedicated to “The librarians then, now, and in the years to come.”

(2) Cast out of the royal court by Eleanor of Aquitaine, seventeen-year-old Marie de France is sent to England to be the new prioress of an impoverished abbey.

(1) Evicted from their trailer on New Year’s Eve, Henry and his son, Junior, have been reduced to living out of a pickup truck.

(2) Spanning an entire lifetime, this is an intimate portrait of the dreams that propel one tenacious woman onward and the losses that she cannot outrun.

(1) A young girl named Ailey must learn to embrace her full heritage, a legacy of oppression and resistance, cruelty and resilience.

(2) Tensions build on a plantation between slaves and slave masters.

(1) An interpreter goes to work for a former President accused of war crimes. Apparently one of former U.S President Barack Obama’s favourite ‘summer reads’.

(2) Short story collection from award -winning author Elizabeth McCracken.

(1)  An author sets out on a cross-country publicity tour to promote his bestselling novel.

(2) Astrobiologist Theo Byrne searches for life throughout the cosmos while single-handedly raising his unusual nine-year-old, Robin, following the death of his wife.

That’s fine. That’s dandy. That’s even, as the British might say ‘cracking’. But what does Scenic Writer’s Shack REALLY think?

Well… considering some of those stodgy and all-round snore-rendous plot synopses as well as the fact these awards have been criticized in the past for being irrelevant to average readers – favoring qualities like fragmented story telling that, though they be fancy shmanzy, in some cases actually put off many readers – and are of more interest to professional writers – I’d say SWS‘s thoughts may best be captured by the following cartoon –

The Winner of the NATIONAL BOOK AWARDS will be announced on November 17th.