January 3, 2006

Hostility for the blogger's novel.

Janet Maslin, in the NYT, gives a pretty bad review to Ana Marie Cox's novel, "Dog Days."

Writers who are not bloggers can have a hostile, exclusionary attitude toward bloggers, these people who just proclaim themselves writers and start writing, without any professional filtering. Then, when a popular blogger gets a writing contract, they might want to cry foul.

You got popular as a writer from blogging, and then you got a book contract because you were popular. No fair!

Cox never had to prove she was a novelist, so that makes her book-shaped-object seem like just a commercial scheme. She had to know this perception would make it hard to get good reviews from the traditional press. It's hard, for different reasons, to write a novel when you're a complete unknown. But at least there's a kind of romantic edge to the struggling-artist life, and in that struggle, you might find art. But to write with the contract and the expectation and the prospect of hostility, that can't feel so good. Cox had to translate the short bursts of humor that worked on Wonkette into something in long form, some story, with a plot. What a drag!

Should I read the book and give you a nontraditional, blogger-friendly review? Sorry. I can't. It's basically a chick-lit book, and I've never been able to get interested in those things -- even the ones that are reputed to be good. I just don't care about stories like that.

MORE: From USAToday:
The novel has a stripped-down story line and limited character development. The plot is predictable and matter-of-fact. But it does have a blunt, albeit tawdry, honesty.


Charles said...

Could just be a badly written book. The short quip about some event doesn't translate well if all your new content is just jealous sarcasm without new analysis or contribution. Cox would not have a current feed of events to work with, nor would her party narration of being out on the town without husband work when it is months old. Such is the requirement for being a popular party girl without a brain.

Sloanasaurus said...

Instead, I recommend Mao: the Untold Story. An amazing book. The amount of research and interviews that went into the book is astounding.

After you read that go and read the NY Times Obituary on Mao written in 1976. You will puke. It is so disgusting. The NY Times makes me sick.

Sloanasaurus said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mark Daniels said...

Whether the review is a knee-jerk reaction to Cox being a blogger or not, I don't suppose anyone can say.

But my take on her blog-writing is that it's occasionally witty, frequently crude, and generally unexceptional.

If the novel is as lackluster as the blog, then the review may have gotten it right.

Mark Daniels

Dave said...

I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of Maslin's critical take on the book, however, there very often is an inverse relationship between the quality of a book and its popularity.

I'm sure the book will do well, Cox will make out like a bandit, and Kate Hudson will star in the movie.

(Which movie, of course, you will blog about but not see.)

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Lars said...

Wonkette sounds sort of MoDo-ish. I wonder if JM reviewed Maureen's book.

miklos rosza said...

It seems as if the novel was written rather quickly, in a transparent attempt to cash in. I don't begrudge her this, not in a time when Bill O'Reilly is referred to as "best-selling author."

There's a lot of money here, and novels can be sold much more easily when a cult of personality can be established -- which leads to a successful book-tour -- Wonkette will be a guest in demand on radio and TV and many people will buy the book without needing to read it when they get it home.

Elizabeth said...

I read Wonkette a few times a week because I'm a fan of blunt and taudry. Satire is fun, and though she has plenty of misses, she hits her target enough to amuse me.

Cox is a writer, so it doesn't bother me when she branches out to other genres. It's actors I think should be kept from print: Ethan Hawke's poetry? Steve Martin's novel? Ugh. Johnny Knoxville recently said, "I’ve started writing a novel, but when you hear about an actor writing a novel, you want to shoot yourself." I'd probably read his, just to reward that bit of self-critique.

Thanks, sonicfrog for the Windows news. I have to do that to 150 machines at school. Fortunately, I do my personal computing on an Apple (hey, I'm not trying to restart that Mac/PC debate. But really, Windows sucks!)

vbspurs said...

"Hostility for the blogger's novel."

I'm confused.

Should I, as a traditionalist person on the Right-o-Sphere, decry her baseless attempt at a "novel", pitting her name with such luminaries as Brontë, Austen, Eliot and Wharton?

Or, should I as a pure blogger, same as she, support her efforts, despite the fact that I got tired of Miss Cox' schtick even before I saw a photo of her making out with a hot Asian chyck?

Should I read the book and give you a nontraditional, blogger-friendly review? Sorry. I can't.

Boo. Why tease us with the question, if you know the answer!

It's basically a chick-lit book, and I've never been able to get interested in those things -- even the ones that are reputed to be good. I just don't care about stories like that.

I've read two books in the genre, both forgettable.

One was about a personal assistant to the stars in Hollywood, by a character named Corky, which I didn't think existed outside of Candace Bergen's mind.

The other, The Devil Wears Prada, the reputed tell-all behind-the-scenes look at what a Vogue biotch Anna Wintour is.

They're not even guilty pleasures.

They're just guilty.


vbspurs said...

Sloanie, if you had gone to my blog a month ago, you would've seen the Mao book listed in my sidebar of books currently being read by moi.

I'm naughty enough to adore spying people's night tables IRL. It gives one a window into the other's tastes.

Wish Ann would have a book sidebar too.

But maybe she doesn't read that much.


knoxgirl said...

"tawdry" -- big surprise

Eli Blake said...

I don't get what the other writers are that upset about.

Maybe, if they aren't getting noticed, the answer is: Start a blog!

Adam said...

Oddly, Jessica Cutler's book got fairly decent reviews, including from the Times, and she's less of a blogger than Cox was/is.

Also, don't blanket-dismiss chick lit -- there's good and bad in the genre, as there is in any genre.

Sloanasaurus said...

Vspurs, you should read the NY Times Obituary. Its a great epilogue.

Here is the link

Ann Althouse said...

Victoria: I don't see why you would regard Steve Martin as less of a writer, prior to his novel, than Cox was. Martin wrote his own humor pieces for a long time, including many pieces published in The New Yorker and numerous screenplays. And his humor was highly original! The characters in his screenplays were reasonably dimensional.

The Washingtonienne's novel was considered decently good, for what it tried to do. I've read some of it. It's on an incredibly easy reading level, like a young adult book. Very young adult book.

Ann Althouse said...

Adam: I'm not dismissing chick lit. I'm just not interested in the material. I don't read thrillers either. Or mysteries. Or science fiction.

Elizabeth said...

Ann, I think it was me that dismissed Steve Martin's novel, not Victoria. It's the subject matter that turns me off--a thinly veiled fiction about himself, which in turn becomes a movie, starring himself, narrated by the voice of the novel's narrator but oddly in touch with the perspective of the character played by himself. It's a bit too recursive for me. I dislike Brett Easton Ellis for similar reasons.

Ann Althouse said...

Elizabeth/Victoria: It's those English queen names!

Bruce Hayden said...

Wait a minute Ann. Weren't you and your ex going to open a science fiction book store at some point in time?

vbspurs said...

Elizabeth/Victoria: It's those English queen names!

Oh great.

Elizabeth gets to be the grand virginal queen whose periwigs defeated a thousand Armadas, and I get to be the colossally old, butt-ugly wet blanket.

But talking of Queen names, ANN.

Victoria (I did wonder at first what that was about, whew)

vbspurs said...

Quoting from Mao's NYT obit:

Like many Chinese of the past 100 years, angered by the insults of imperialism, he wanted to tear China down to make it stronger.

Imperialism's insults.


Thanks for the link, Sloanie, but I confess, my stomach turns when I read stuff like this, so I'll stop right there.

I know when Fidel Castro dies, the NYT will make his life into Beach Blanket Bingo.


Ann Althouse said...

Is "Ann" without the "e" a queen's name? I don't think so. I used to feel bereft of the "e." Lately, I've come to like the e-less "Ann." It's modern!

vbspurs said...

Is "Ann" without the "e" a queen's name?

This is true. It is more American.

But the general point stands.

I don't think so. I used to feel bereft of the "e."

You and Ann B. Davis.

Lately, I've come to like the e-less "Ann." It's modern!

Modern = better? Hmm, hmm??

You iconoclast you.