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 – email@example.com If you can add in a couple of lines of commentary to go with it that would make it extra special.
4 thoughts on “Way Better than the Novel”
Ooh, such a good idea!
I’ll snap a shot of Colossus very, very soon. (our nickname for our bookcase)
Sorry you got baited and switched by those blubs and the books ended up being less than amazing.
Did you ever read A Simple Plan by Scott B. Smith? You might have seen the movie, in which case the slowly building mystery of the novel will be ruined, but still… it’s a really good read. No extra words/ chapters/deviations (as I recall), building up, up and up, then ends, short but sweet.
I think you might like it.
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Would love to meet Colossus.
I’ve just checked my local library’s catalogue and inexplicably they don’t have the 1993 novel A SIMPLE PLAN. I will be on the lookout for it by other means, as by all indications it looks like the sort of fiction read that I could stay with. I see the film starred Bill Paxton and Bridget Fonda – two of my favorite actors – so I’ll be sure to see that some time as well.
Thanks very much for the recommendation Stacey and… bring on ‘Colossus’!
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Ooh, cool, hope you find it one day.
I take it you will never be a Michener fan, then….?
Here’s something from an article that I found, and thought of you: “As a writer, he liked to celebrate the all-American virtues of patriotism, frugality, common sense and courage and to enrich his episodic, educational fiction with the geological origins and prehistory of the territory he staked out as his subject.”
I can just see you trying to wade through one of his novels where he starts going into the “geological prehistory” of the state before he even starts the story, LOL
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That reminds me of a radio program I was attempting to listen to yesterday. It’s called BOOKSHELF and runs once a week on our national broadcaster here in Australia, called Radio National. It’s a one hour show that discusses the latest fiction releases and has interviews with best-selling authors.
Unfortunately for my tastes I found it all too highfalutin and kind of intellectually pompous – like it’s aimed at people who have an MFA or PHD in creative writing/textual analysis or some other such thing. The hosts seemed to almost be showing off with how many four syllable meta-words they could pack into a sentence when discussing a book’s plot or theme.
I’m attracted to a little more substance and intellectual rigor than say maybe a tabloid newspaper serves up but at the other extreme rampant intellectualizing and endless academic style pontifications leave me cold.
Regarding the American author James A Michener (1907 – 1997) a New York Times article painted him this way –
“In his novels, Michener assumes the same distanced manner. As the literary critic Leslie Fiedler says, ”Some writers are read because they have a voice like that of an old friend; Michener doesn’t have that. His is as close to a neutral or non-style as you can get.”
Next time I’m at the library I think I’ll pick up one of his novels and judge for myself.
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