15 September 2009

Publishing Apocalypse

Dan Brown's THE LOST SYMBOL comes out today. OMFG. No one will ever buy or read another book again!! Let's panic!!!

In lieu of reading the actual spoilers, I'm sticking to my prediction from four months ago. I didn't use the Slate Dan Brown generator to come up with that, but it's fun to play with anyway.

I hope everyone associated with Brown's publisher, agent, assistant and movie franchise is taking the day off to drink Hypnotiq in a bubble bath.

But to plug a book that I will actually read -- Jon Krakauer's long-awaited WHERE MEN WIN GLORY: THE ODYSSEY OF PAT TILLMAN hits shelves today. Such is my confidence in the author, I pre-ordered this book; haven't read a word, but you should all go out and buy it anyway.


8yearoldsdude said...

I am never sure what to make of Krakauer. Coming out of the wilderness community, I was raised to be a bit skeptical of Into the Wild and Into Thin Air. (this may be a natural reaction to the perceived betrayal of an author getting famous telling obvious truths about a somewhat insular community and its lifestyle). His books are fun, fluid reads, but a little self-involved. they read like overgrown magazine articles for obvious reasons. but i always read them. I guess I regard Krakauer sortof like Graham Greene and maybe Tom Perrotta, not trash, but not altogether serious either. but this is very valuable. The world needs beach books and books to read before bed that aren't written by Dan Brown.

Ellen said...

I'm not touching your Greene and Perrotta analogies but I sense someone else will.

I agree with you that Krakauer's style is reflective of his magazine background, but I disagree with you about its source. I think he adopts it on purpose because his real strength is in reporting, and the further away he gets from the personal angle of INTO THIN AIR, the more clear that becomes. With INTO THE WILD, which I still think is his best, he spent years tracking down people who didn't really want to be found. And with this book he takes a further step away from his own experiences, where he can really show off his monster chops. On that note I didn't find UNDER THE BANNER... to be self-involved at all -- but if you did I would like to know what made you think that.

8yearoldsdude said...

I think this might be the angriest I have ever made you in the comments, but i will soldier on.

It sounds like Into The Wild is where we diverge. and again, this may be cultural. I think he reads Alex wrong, and I think the big reveal ("he wasn't as incompetent a woodsman as originally thought!") doesn't actual change much of anything (Alex is still an incompetent/unprepared woodsman and that is why he *spoiler alert* dies). I also think ITW is self-indulgent (moreso that Into Thin Air, because in ITW, Krakauer so clearly shoehorns the long narrative about his own climbing trip into Alex's story).

I must concede your point on Under the Banner of Heaven. It is his first book that isn't about him. and it is better than the others. As with ITW, I don't feel that his reconstructed portrait quite rings true, and Mormon's are, frankly, easy targets. but i learned a lot about the under-reported culture of fundamentalist Mormons. Much as I might in a long expose in a high brow magazine.

I concede that the Greene analogy was petty and false. But the perrotta one i like. They both write highly readable stories that show an alarming degree of similarity is style, character and plot. Perrotta writes about suburban discontent. and Krakauer writes Turnerian pieces about the relationship of american males to the closing of the frontier.

Ellen said...

I'm not angry, this is fun! I've read accusations of Krakauer as self-indulgent and (where INTO THIN AIR is concerned) exploitative before, especially as they resurfaced with the recent movie adaptation, and I can see how you would get there. I haven't read INTO THE WILD in years and it's quite possible that what seemed to me to be fascinating and moving at 17 would come off as indulgent and offensive now that I'm... older. So you could be right. It didn't inspire me to go off into the woods without a map or anything, so you can pass that along to the wilderness community.

Clearly I liked UNDER THE BANNER... more than you as well, but I think Krakauer was very careful to separate the doctrine and practice of LDS from the fundamentalist groups that call themselves Mormons but behave in ways disavowed by LDS leadership -- whether you call them sects or FLDS or what. I think Mormons or Mormon-identifying groups have become more of a target recently, because of the compound raids and the stream of memoirs that have come out about those (only read one, but it was wrenching). But I can see why he would pick the faith, and its splinters thereof, as a subject given the American obsession with things that are wrong with other people's religions. (Wouldn't have Rhode Island without it!)

I didn't start on your Greene/Perrotta claims because I'd simply never thought of putting all three authors in the same plane. I don't have a great base in Greene but I shall roll up my sleeves on Perrotta: I agree that both him and Krakauer have the same thesis that runs through their books -- but a lot of authors do that and most not as successfully.

Where they depart on that point, I think, is that I think Krakauer is expanding his world with each book and by extension mine when he dips into things I don't know a lot about, like the military in Afghanistan or the inner workings of the NFL. And he could keep writing INTO THIN AIR over and over again, and people would read it. Perrotta's novels don't have that kind of sameness to them, but when I was reading THE ABSTINENCE TEACHER I was very conscious of it fitting into what for lack of a better term I'll call Perotta-world. Even when he stepped into the arenas of evangelical Christianity and university and bar-band-ery (not even close to a word), they all felt of a piece -- the way Douglas Coupland's characters all live in a sort of hypercultural Silicon Valley of the mind. At some point Perrotta may write a book that takes place in the slums of Bombay, or in the future in space, and completely negates this point. But this might be that book for Krakauer, that puts him beyond being a wilderness writer; I don't know, but I'm curious.