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  #261  
Old 04-25-2013, 07:11 PM
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Originally Posted by EvilChani View Post
So props to Tor for making the binding on the hardcovers sturdy! Does that count as literary criticism? *thinks this thread needs a little levity*
You know, I think its funny, but the worst 3 books (written and constructed) in my series are the last 3 with Sanderson. Spines are splitting, glue is melting, whole chunks can come out... and they havent been read anywhere near as many times as the first half of the series... all original first edition hard backs... I find it apt that the very books are failing as hard as Sanderon's badly written jokes... I sure am glad Ive got some worthless side character to tell me those jokes are funny, or that the battle plans are brilliant, cuz I wouldnt have understood that without them telling me... anyway, my copy AMoL starting falling apart on my first re-read of it, I think that stands pretty accurate for Sanderon's literary talent...

I have always owned hardbacks, but I hear the paperbacks are even worse... might be the size of them, or might just be they dont make em like they used to...
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  #262  
Old 04-26-2013, 10:24 AM
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Originally Posted by EvilChani View Post
. So props to Tor for making the binding on the hardcovers sturdy! Does that count as literary criticism? *thinks this thread needs a little levity*


WHAAAAAAAAT? I thought it was universally accepted that the bindings on the books are CRAP and almost every one of us has had issues with them ripping/peeling etc. And yeah, the paperbacks have been even worse. Fires of Heaven I have had pages fall out/cover rip out of the paperbacks THREE FRICKIN TIMES. I bought one and don't read it just to have a copy that is complete.
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  #263  
Old 04-26-2013, 01:19 PM
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Originally Posted by SauceyBlueConfetti View Post
WHAAAAAAAAT? I thought it was universally accepted that the bindings on the books are CRAP and almost every one of us has had issues with them ripping/peeling etc. And yeah, the paperbacks have been even worse. Fires of Heaven I have had pages fall out/cover rip out of the paperbacks THREE FRICKIN TIMES. I bought one and don't read it just to have a copy that is complete.
I guess Im lucky in that I have all of my original hardcovers still undamaged *knock wood*
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  #264  
Old 04-26-2013, 01:32 PM
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I guess Im lucky in that I have all of my original hardcovers still undamaged *knock wood*
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Originally Posted by Ieyasu View Post
You know, I think its funny, but the worst 3 books (written and constructed) in my series are the last 3 with Sanderson. Spines are splitting, glue is melting, whole chunks can come out... and they havent been read anywhere near as many times as the first half of the series... all original first edition hard backs...

I have always owned hardbacks, but I hear the paperbacks are even worse... might be the size of them, or might just be they dont make em like they used to...
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Originally Posted by SauceyBlueConfetti View Post
WHAAAAAAAAT? I thought it was universally accepted that the bindings on the books are CRAP and almost every one of us has had issues with them ripping/peeling etc. And yeah, the paperbacks have been even worse. Fires of Heaven I have had pages fall out/cover rip out of the paperbacks THREE FRICKIN TIMES. I bought one and don't read it just to have a copy that is complete.
All of my hardcovers are in awesome condition, despite multiple rereads (except CoT, which I can't stomach again). Normally, I treat my books much better than that and am, according to friends and family, "anal" about my books (when I loan a book, I loan a bookmark as well, because if I see a bent page, I will smack the stupid out of someone for it). But, as I said, tFoH and LoC survived me throwing them across the room, lol. The paperbacks are crap, though. I loaned the first three to someone (perhaps that was my mistake!) and when I got them back, complete sections were falling out of them.

Perhaps if they had made the larger paperbacks (I'm not sure what format that's called) instead of the mass market paperbacks, they would've been sturdier. At first, I thought the problem was that the length did not lend itself to mass market paperback format, but, oddly, my aSoIaF paperbacks are fine and they're just as long as the WoT books. I hate reading little paperbacks, anyway, though. Gives me a headache and I end up squinting at the print because I don't want to wear my glasses (mainly because I can't see anything farther than arm's length with them on, lol)!
  #265  
Old 04-26-2013, 06:14 PM
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Hey! Doesn't it make you grateful it wasn't one big book after all?
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  #266  
Old 04-27-2013, 07:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Zombie Sammael View Post
If it's so easy to tell, then state what makes it so. What are the criteria?
Ooh, I like you. I agree. What ARE your criteria, Suttree?

I think the best criteria are

Good characters
Narrative Focus
Good World-building
Good action/humor/romance/drama
Strong prose.
  #267  
Old 04-27-2013, 08:45 PM
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Ooh, I like you. I agree. What ARE your criteria, Suttree?

It's not "my" criteria and the faulty points raised have been addressed in thread already.
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  #268  
Old 04-28-2013, 11:12 PM
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It's not "my" criteria and the faulty points raised have been addressed in thread already.
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It's not "my" criteria and the faulty points raised have been addressed in thread already.
But you see the point, don't you? You've been asked the same question several times and in each case you've found a way to artfully avoid giving a straight answer.

To be clear, yes there is a difference between Cormac McCarthy's The Road and a book written in the Forgotten Realms universe but that difference alone is not proof that one is superior to the other. To be even more clear, no I am not a fan of Forgotten Realms books. So, this is not intended as a defense thereof. But I understand their purpose. Forgotten Realms books are designed to entertain young people who have developed an interest in Dungeons and Dragons and who want to read about that universe.

As such, the standards by which we would judge a Forgotten Realms book are different than those that we would use to judge say... a Harlequin Romance. And therein lies the issue. I'm of the opinion that we need a unique set of standards for each genre. The ones that I've listed above should not be applied to something like Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Not all of them anyway. World-building and action are certainly not applicable in that kind of novel. The standards I've listed are what I believe should be applied to original epic fantasy and as far as I'm concerned both the Wheel of Time and Brandon's cosmere books fall into that genre. So does the Prince of Nothing series - which is a subject that I won't touch with a ten foot pole.

So, the question I'm asking you is "what standards do you think should be applied to original epic fantasy?" Original epic fantasy means that the author has created his own world. Forgotten Realms and Star Wars books do not fall into that genre. The criteria for judging them is slightly different and includes things like "Conformance to the source material."

And if you're going to compare something like Alloy of Law to something that isn't in the same genre, then it's really an apples to oranges comparison.

And finally, I didn't want to mention this but since you insist on bringing it up over and over again: I hold two degrees, one of which is a Master's of English Lit and the other a Bachelor's of Education. I was a teaching assistant for two semesters. I haven't brought this up thus far because I do not subscribe to the philosophy of credentialism, which - for anyone who doesn't know - is the notion that one must have a degree to have a valid opinion. As far as I'm concerned, everyone in this thread has offered intelligent, well-spoken comments and if a person's field of study happens to have been physics, that should not disqualify him or her from participation in a discussion about epic fantasy.

Yes, I could talk to you for hours on end about deconstructionist thought or feminist perspectives on post-colonial literature but - and I know this will shock you - none of that is applicable here. This is a discussion about the quality original epic fantasy, which is designed for entertainment purposes. That does not mean it cannot be deep and that does not mean it cannot express some fundamental truth about the world we live in but the purpose of books in this genre is to generate revenue by appealing to a broad audience. That means that many of the experimental modes employed by authors with higher academic appeal will not work in the epic fantasy genre. Let me state this clearly. A publisher's goal is to make money and when he publishes fantasy, one of the biggest factors between whether or not a manuscript is accepted or rejected is how accessible it is to a large audience. And most people will take one look at something like Our Sister Killjoy and put it back on the shelf.


So please, stop mentioning your professors or the fact that you went to school to learn about literary theory; it's crass. Telling Zombie Sammael that you'd like to show his post to one of your professors in no way addresses his point. And it really is nothing but a thinly-veiled ad hominem. "I went to school, so my opinions are better than yours."

And how much should I bet that you're about to ignore everything I just said and reply with "But it's not an opinion!"

Again, list your standards.

Providing examples of what you consider to be good writing is not the same as explaining the standards by which you judge them. You think R Scott Bakker's Prince of Nothing series makes for good fantasy? Explain how. Which of your standards does it meet?

Telling me that Mat's use of the phrase “saidared it” was blunt does not give me a clear picture of why this is an example of bad writing. I see an author playing with language in a way that is very similar to some of the critically acclaimed masters of dialogue.

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Explain to me what you think ought to be the criteria for a good piece of original epic fantasy. Your list need not agree with mine. And if you won't do that, then in your own words, bow out and stop arguing for the sake of argument.
  #269  
Old 04-29-2013, 03:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Garak View Post
I think the best criteria are

Good characters
Narrative Focus
Good World-building
Good action/humor/romance/drama
Strong prose.
I think I'd add "Relevance" to the list you provided Garak; but for the rest, it's a good summary. By Relevance, I mean how the piece of work relates to our world - sometimes it doesn't at all but that in itself can be taken as a commentary on reality. However, most Speculative Fiction is an escape from reality, and deals with issues - by omitting or emphasizing the themes - that the society is struggling with. For instance, I loved the Robin Hobb Solider Son trilogy particularly for this reason. I understand that the general fandom rather hated it though, partly because they wished she'd sticked to the Six Dutchies universe but also - I suspect - because the body image and identity issues are too acute in reality. The trick is to address the topics in a timeless manner; because, really a book is meant to be read and thought about not only in the year it comes out but *hopefully* for centuries. Hence, Thomas More's Utopia is a brilliant piece of writing (even though there are no real characters - the relevance is just so strong), as is Goethe's Faust and most of Shakespeare's plays. On the other hand, something like a Harlequin romance set in the jet-setting high-power world of the corporate '80s is usually not relevant at all. Which is not to say that it's bad writing, necessarily - it might have really strong characters to balance the overall quality out.
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Last edited by yks 6nnetu hing; 04-29-2013 at 09:43 AM. Reason: added the bit about Hobb
  #270  
Old 04-29-2013, 01:44 PM
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Lots of words that funnily enough ignore many of points that have been made by myself and others such as Fionwe(did you even read what my points were?). Funny considering what you accuse me of. Lastly if you see how the conversation played out it was clear who was crass from the start. You have written out a ton of words while mainly ignoring my two points(ironically doing much of what you falsely accuse me of). If you will not address them why spend that much time on a post and then suggest I will do the same to you? Also I never said or implied someone who holds a degree has an opinion that is worth more so please don't put words in my mouth.

Before I ask a few questions let's touch on a couple things from your post. "Intent" and "genre" matters little when judging the quality of a literary work so let's do away with that myth from the start. Further since you have those degrees, not that one needs one to enter the discussion, you know very well that there are objective technical measures when judging writing quality. Why would you pretend otherwise?


Let me ask you a few questions and we can go from there?

1. Do you agree that personel enjoyment says little about literary quality(you don't find it rather ironic that you try to use one of MY main points against me)?

2. Do you disagree that there are objective measures both technical and otherwise when judging works of literature?

3. Do you agree that Brandon can be overly blunt in his writing.

Edit: As an aside that is cool that you went down that course of study. Would you mind if I asked where you went to school?
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Last edited by suttree; 04-29-2013 at 04:55 PM.
  #271  
Old 04-29-2013, 01:46 PM
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Originally Posted by yks 6nnetu hing View Post
I think I'd add "Relevance" to the list you provided Garak; but for the rest, it's a good summary. By Relevance, I mean how the piece of work relates to our world - sometimes it doesn't at all but that in itself can be taken as a commentary on reality. However, most Speculative Fiction is an escape from reality, and deals with issues - by omitting or emphasizing the themes - that the society is struggling with. For instance, I loved the Robin Hobb Solider Son trilogy particularly for this reason. I understand that the general fandom rather hated it though, partly because they wished she'd sticked to the Six Dutchies universe but also - I suspect - because the body image and identity issues are too acute in reality. The trick is to address the topics in a timeless manner; because, really a book is meant to be read and thought about not only in the year it comes out but *hopefully* for centuries. Hence, Thomas More's Utopia is a brilliant piece of writing (even though there are no real characters - the relevance is just so strong), as is Goethe's Faust and most of Shakespeare's plays. On the other hand, something like a Harlequin romance set in the jet-setting high-power world of the corporate '80s is usually not relevant at all. Which is not to say that it's bad writing, necessarily - it might have really strong characters to balance the overall quality out.
An interesting point. I'll mull ot over. I'm leaning toward agreeing with you.
  #272  
Old 04-29-2013, 02:37 PM
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Suttree, I don’t even know what point you’re trying to make; so, if I’m ignoring it, it’s because I’m unclear on what you’re trying to say.
You’ve stated several times that there are objective standards by which one can judge the quality of a piece of writing but you refuse to elaborate on what those standards are; so, unless you give me more information, there’s really nothing I can say. If these standards are indeed objective, then you should be able to list them.

Now, perhaps you feel that I’m ignoring something that you said in one of your earlier posts from several weeks ago. If so, please draw my attention to it and I will respond. You need to be specific.

The question that I feel you are ignoring is: “What are these so-called objective standards?”

Now, I will reply to your three questions.

Quote:
1. Do you agree that personel enjoyment says little about literary quality
No, I do not agree with this statement. Certainly not in the case of Original Epic Fantasy, which is designed to have a broad commercial appeal. Personal taste will always be a factor but nevertheless, there are certain guidelines that publishers follow to ensure that the books they put out are enjoyed by as large an audience as possible.

These guidelines include:
Strong characters
Narrative Focus
Good World-Building
Good Action/Drama/Humor
Strong Prose.

Personal enjoyment is the whole point. Publishers want their readers to enjoy the books they put out so that those readers will come back and spend more money. It may sound crass but that’s capitalism. Now, does this mean that Epic Fantasy is devoid of artistic merit? Certainly not. It just so happens that many of the things that draw in a large crowd also happen to be the criteria that make a book into a better piece of literature.

Quote:
Do you disagree that there are objective measures both technical and otherwise when judging works of literature?
Let me tell you what I remember from my college days. Of the fourteen professors that I had throughout university, no two agreed completely on the standards of good writing. Many of my second and third year professors called the books we read in first year rubbish and my first year professors defended those books with about as much passion as we’ve put into this thread. The first class I took in university was called “Topics in longer fiction.” The professor of that class analyzed everything from a feminist perspective and books that she praised were those that accurately depicted the struggle of women.

In third year, I took a class on British Literature and the professor of that class was very interested in books that employed experimental narrative techniques. Books that diverged from the norm, if you will. Some of these novels felt like 200 pages of stream of consciousness where the author just rambles around a very thin plot structure. And yet my professor insisted that they were stylistically bold. Did I think they were well written? Not really… In my opinion anyone can ramble for pages on end but it takes real talent to focus your words into a tight story. But I knew what I had to write to come out of that class with an A.

Some academics have their heads up their own asses.

So, do I agree that there is an objective measure for judging the quality of literature?
No.

I do believe that there are guidelines that most people will agree with. Most people will agree that a work of fiction should have strong characters but they may disagree on what makes a character strong. Most people will agree that an author should avoid using too much description but they may disagree on just how much description is “just right.” You cannot take personal opinion completely out of the equation.

Quote:
3. Do you agree that Brandon can be overly blunt in his writing.
I don’t even know what you mean by that. I’ve asked you several times and you won’t tell me; so I can’t really agree or disagree.

But if I were to use my personal interpretation of the word “blunt,” then the answer would be no. Brandon Sanderson is not overly blunt in his writing. He doesn’t have a clear political agenda that he tries to push with his novels – unlike say, Terry Goodkind. He doesn’t seem to be trying to force any message on his audience. So, no; he’s not blunt.
  #273  
Old 04-29-2013, 04:13 PM
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An interesting point. I'll mull ot over. I'm leaning toward agreeing with you.
Maybe as an alternate parameter in case one of the others isn't present? For instance, if there's no world-building?

I also think it's interesting how our perceptions change when we read a book at a certain point in our lives. I think if I read Moll Flanders again now instead of as a teenager, the relevance factor would be much stronger and I'd like it more. Sadly the opposite would be true of Tarzan.

Part of why I like WoT so much is that every time I read it, it resonates with me differently, in some ways with more relevance because I know the story arc, and so a small detail that I might have overlooked at first instance suddenly comes to life with vivid meaning.
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  #274  
Old 04-29-2013, 04:28 PM
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I am slightly nervous about weighing into this debate, but WTH. Here are some thoughts that have been bugging me for a while.

I don't believe there are entirely objective grounds for deciding what is great literature and what isn't. It seems to me that the books defined as such change too much over time. Yet, I do believe that there is clearly a spectrum of skill that can be seen in the different parts of literature (plot, structure, character, prose, etc). I would also choose a different list of qualities than Garak has, but for the moment I thought I would focus on strong prose.

I don't claim that Robert Jordan was a great prose stylist,which I think is the quality that most people who prefer the 'literary' genre seem to value most highly. But I think he is decent. I don't think Brandon is, for several reasons I'll get into below. As a side note, I think Robert Jordan's real mastery lay in (1) the intricacy of the structure he created and the allusions he wove into that; and (2) in his use of the third person subjective POV. He consistenly plays with our perceptions of characters through POV in a way few comparable fantasy authors have managed.

On style, I find it helps to talk in terms of specifics. Here are a couple of examples which, to me, are glaring instances of bad prose on Brandon's part. I've picked examples from a Gawyn POV and an Androl POV as we can be pretty sure these were written by Brandon. I've also pulled out a few RJ examples to illustrate the contrast.

Gawyn:
Something moved in the shadow just down from Egwene’s doorway. Gawyn froze. There wasn’t much of a dark patch there, only a shadow a few inches wide made by an alcove. But as he studied that patch, he had trouble keeping his eyes on it. His gaze slid free, like a dollop of butter on a hot turnip. TOM, ch22
Seriously? A dollop of butter . . . on a turnip. Ok, it is an era appropriate simile, but in all other ways this fails. It doesn't fit his character: Gawyn is a Prince; turnips are a poor person's food. It doesn't feel like something he would think of. His sister cooks ridiculously intricate meals based on the food from the Palace kitchens even when she is travelling (FoH). Admittedly, Gawyn has been on the road for a while, so perhaps has been eating basic rations – but when I have to think this much about a simile, it fails. Worse that that though, it doesn't work for the atmosphere Brandon is trying to create: how as I supposed to be nervous/scared/anticipating trouble when there is a turnip simile around? Turnips are funny. Not only that, but it sounds horrible.

Androl:
He felt like a multilegged nachi trapped in a dried-up tidal pool, waiting desperately for the water to return while watching a group of children work their way down the beach with buckets, gathering up anything that looked tasty . . . AMOL, Prol (Androl)
To me, this is like the death of similes. How long is the damn simile here? How many clauses do we need? How much explaining is needed to make this entirely random crab (?) an appropriate example of feeling trapped? How the hell is this nachi creature sentient anyway? How does it know what the children think looked tasty? But, you reply, this is Androl imaginging he is the crab . . . in which case my reply is that it's still an awful simile that requires too much explanation to work and, again, entirely kills the mood. I'm not scared or sympathetic. I'm wondering why BS seems to be obbsessed with crabs (see Way of Kings). If it reveals anything about Androl's character it's that he's already been driven bonkers by the taint or, that he's a very weird man who talks too much . . .

Now, I'm not trying to argue that Brandon always writes badly, just that I found too many similar examples. With RJ I rarely noticed his prose. In contrast, I kept noticing Brandon's in a negative way. A couple of RJ examples show what I mean.

Ituralde:
Even Dart's saddle felt cold, as though the white gelding were made of frozen milk. COT, Prol (Ituralde)
Short, precise and meaningful. This makes me think Ituralde is a bit poetic, which is an unexpected thing for a general (but plays out in his courtly and somewhat baroque character). It also conveys that the day is hideously cold. I also like the image it creates, the smooth, icy white horse against the snow.

Lan:
The blackness in the sky was just beginning to fade, the thousands of stars like the thick-scattered dust of diamonds slowly dimming. New Spring, Prol (Lan)
Again, very short and to the point. A nice use of alliteration and a beautiful image. A night of stillness before the confrontation and fighting to come.

I could give other instances, such as the way Brandon tells us whenever someone is doing something clever, or is a genius, or is a great manipulator (could cite lots of Elayne examples), while RJ just leaves us to see and judge for ourselves (my favourite is the way Cadsuane talks Rand down from suicide via power in KOD by reminding him of Min – showing how subtle she is and how she uses the appropriate approach).

I'm not writing this to be down on Brandon. I think he did a good job with the allusions and character symbolism. But I find his prose painful to read, over stated, over elaborate at worst, mechanical and blank at best. I'm also not suggesting that my analysis here isn't subjective – but, I hope my subjective examples show that there is an objective difference is style between the authors.
  #275  
Old 04-29-2013, 04:46 PM
fionwe1987 fionwe1987 is offline
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Originally Posted by Garak View Post
I'm of the opinion that we need a unique set of standards for each genre.
The problem with that is it assumes these genre segregations have some actual meaning.

Exactly what differentiates a book set in a created world that shares features of our world, from one set in a created town in our world? And how are both these really different from a book like Harry Potter, which is in our world, but not really?

These features of various genres don't really create new ways in which to evaluate them. Take characters. Can any author really get away with saying that all his characters are insipid simply because there's a feature of his constructed reality that makes all people insipid? Unless this feature is really well explored, the mere presence of one "genre crutch" or other makes no real difference in how you evaluate characters. And the idea that the presence of any such feature necessitates consigning a work to a particular genre is ludicrous. Genre exists for shelving and marketing convenience. It has no place in criticism. Because if it does, then we need to say that the best book in the chick-lit urban fantasy genre is as good as the best book in the epic fantasy genre, which is as good as the best magic realism genre. I hope you'll agree that that is flat out wrong.

When evaluating books objectively, the core fundamentals are the same, no matter which genre the book comes from. This does not mean everyone will have a uniform opinion of a book. Far from it. What it does mean is that there is a toolkit for critiquing works, a lose framework, a common language, based on which you can have an informed discussion about your response to a work of art.

The same is the case in reviewing grants to the NIH, or a journal article in Nature. Peer review isn't objective enough that a computer can take over the task. But it is objective in that personal feelings are not supposed to enter into it. That they usually do is not an argument against there being objective standards to evaluate scientific research.
  #276  
Old 04-29-2013, 06:11 PM
Garak Garak is offline
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Originally Posted by SamJ View Post
I am slightly nervous about weighing into this debate, but WTH. Here are some thoughts that have been bugging me for a while.
Please do join in, SamJ. Always good to hear a new voice. I'm going to reply to specific parts of your post, but please understand that I did read it from start to finish and if you want me to address something, just let me know.

[/quote]I don't believe there are entirely objective grounds for deciding what is great literature and what isn't. It seems to me that the books defined as such change too much over time. Yet, I do believe that there is clearly a spectrum of skill that can be seen in the different parts of literature (plot, structure, character, prose, etc). I would also choose a different list of qualities than Garak has, but for the moment I thought I would focus on strong prose.[/quote]

[quote] On style, I find it helps to talk in terms of specifics. Here are a couple of examples which, to me, are glaring instances of bad prose on Brandon's part. I've picked examples from a Gawyn POV and an Androl POV as we can be pretty sure these were written by Brandon. I've also pulled out a few RJ examples to illustrate the contrast.

Quote:
Gawyn:
Something moved in the shadow just down from Egwene’s doorway. Gawyn froze. There wasn’t much of a dark patch there, only a shadow a few inches wide made by an alcove. But as he studied that patch, he had trouble keeping his eyes on it. His gaze slid free, like a dollop of butter on a hot turnip.
Yes, Brandon is a little too fond of similies for every occasion. Though, I think it's less a problem of "Gawyn wouldn't think that" and more a problem of "Nobody would think that." It fails because you can tell the author is trying to find a simile for something that doesn't really need one. It ceases to be Gawyn's voice and becomes Brandon's.

The Androl example is similar so I'll just say you have a point in both cases.

Quote:
Ituralde:
Even Dart's saddle felt cold, as though the white gelding were made of frozen milk. COT Prol
This, in my opinion, is also a horrible simile and for much the same reason. It feels like an author trying to come up with imagery.

Quote:
Lan:
The blackness in the sky was just beginning to fade, the thousands of stars like the thick-scattered dust of diamonds slowly dimming. New Spring, Prol
This one is pretty good. As I said in an earlier post, When RJ is good, he's excellent and when he's bad, he's terrible.

Quote:
I could give other instances, such as the way Brandon tells us whenever someone is doing something clever, or is a genius, or is a great manipulator (could cite lots of Elayne examples), while RJ just leaves us to see and judge for ourselves (my favourite is the way Cadsuane talks Rand down from suicide via power in KOD by reminding him of Min – showing how subtle she is and how she uses the appropriate approach).
I won't retype the scene, but I will give you Cadsuane's words verbatim from the instant she finds out Rand is holding dangerous amounts of saidin to the instant she finds out he let go.

Cadsuane (To Min): What does he feel? Don't toy with me, girl. You know the cost of that. I know that he bonded you and you know I know. Is he afraid.

Min replies that Rand is never afraid except for her safety.

Rand points out that he's standing right there and that they should ask him if they want to know how he feels.

Cadsuane: Well?

Rand replies that he fells as well as rainwater and orders Cadsuane to never threaten Min again.

Cadsuane (To Rand): "Well, well, the boy shows some teeth. Just don't show too many. And you might ask the young woman whether she wants your protection?"

Exactly what about this counts as talking Rand down from suicide? Threatening Min? I sincerely doubt she would do Min any serious harm and Rand seems to know that. Besides, threatening the woman he loves is more likely to induce a violent rage than it is to make him calm down. In my opinion, Cadsuane did the worst thing anyone could possibly do in that situation.

So, what about this counts as subtle? Cadsuane is one of the most blunt characters I've ever seen.

Finally, a general reply to the body of your post. I also notice the moments when Brandon stumbles; prose is definitely his achillies heel. But I also noticed those sorts of things from RJ as well. Particularly when the man threw grammar out the window.
  #277  
Old 04-29-2013, 06:43 PM
Garak Garak is offline
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[QUOT
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Originally Posted by fionwe1987 View Post
The problem with that is it assumes these genre segregations have some actual meaning.
They do.

Quote:
Exactly what differentiates a book set in a created world that shares features of our world, from one set in a created town in our world?
The question is too general for me to give you an absolute answer, however, genres are differentiated by the purpose of the book. You're right that there is an element of subjectivity but the fact that you can walk into a book store and find different books in different sections is proof that people generally group stories into genres.

When you walk into the fantasy section, you're going to find WOT, Song of Ice and Fire, Brandon's Books, the Diskworld, the Night Angel Trilogy, etc. When you walk into the Hard Fiction section, you're going to find the Jason Bourne novels, Michael Crichton's Disclosure, various books by Tom Clancy. When you go into the Horror section, you'll find authors like Steven King and Dean Koontz and so on.

The reason we need different standards for different genres is that books in different genres are trying to accomplish different things. Is the book intended to get you excited or is it trying to make you scared? Is it trying to evoke those memories of your first love?

You're right that there isn't a hard and fast, black and white definition of whether something is hard fiction or fantasy and some books ride the line but that doesn't mean we cannot develop loose groupings of similar kinds of stories.

Bookstores do it all the time.




Quote:
These features of various genres don't really create new ways in which to evaluate them. Take characters. Can any author really get away with saying that all his characters are insipid simply because there's a feature of his constructed reality that makes all people insipid? Unless this feature is really well explored, the mere presence of one "genre crutch" or other makes no real difference in how you evaluate characters.
You're right. Strong characterization is a universal standard that applies to almost every genre. World-building, however, is not.

Quote:
And the idea that the presence of any such feature necessitates consigning a work to a particular genre is ludicrous. Genre exists for shelving and marketing convenience. It has no place in criticism.
I disagree. Different books are designed to give the reader a different experience. You read horror because you want to be scared. You certainly wouldn't expect to get nightmares from a romance novel.

In order to talk about whether or not a book did its job, we must first define what job it was trying to do. Sometimes this necessitates sub-genres. For instance, in my analysis of Alloy of Law, I pointed out that perhaps A Song of Ice and Fire had to be held to different standards than most epic fantasy. IF you think of that series as a political thriller that happens to be set in a fantasy world, then action becomes less important.

However certain things remain universal. Characterization, Narrative Focus and Prose will show up on just about every list of standards.

Quote:
Because if it does, then we need to say that the best book in the chick-lit urban fantasy genre is as good as the best book in the epic fantasy genre, which is as good as the best magic realism genre. I hope you'll agree that that is flat out wrong.
It is flat out wrong but only because it's an apples to oranges comparison. We can compare certain aspects of the book (Which author has better prose) but overall, the two are not on the same scale.

Let me show you an example with movies because the same rules apply. Two of my favourite movies are Good Night and Good Luck and V for Vendetta.

Good Night and Good Luck tells the story of Edward R Murrow, a news reporter who challenged Senator McCarthy. It is shot in black and white with flat angles that approximate the kind you would see in an actual 1950s newsroom. There is very little action and most of the conflict revolves around a point, counter-point argument between Murrow and McCarthy.

V for Vendetta is science-fiction piece set in a dystopian version of England. It is shot in colour with lots of clever camera angles. There is a moderate amount of physical action and most of those scenes are artfully shot. The conflict revolves around one man's attempts to bring down a fascist government and since that kind of story will inevitably bring him face to face with the agents of said government, most of that action is necessary. Both movies offer a political message but use different means to do it.

So, which is the better movie?

The answer is that they are both excellent films because the film-makers used appropriate techniques for the story they were trying to tell. How we judge a piece of fiction (whether in print or on film) depends a great deal on what that piece of fiction is trying to accomplish and whether or not the artist used the correct techniques for that genre.

Quote:
When evaluating books objectively, the core fundamentals are the same, no matter which genre the book comes from.
Some points of criticism are universal and some are specific to certain genres.
  #278  
Old 04-29-2013, 06:54 PM
fionwe1987 fionwe1987 is offline
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So, what about this counts as subtle? Cadsuane is one of the most blunt characters I've ever seen.
You may remember that it was Cadsuane who warned Rand about the voices in his head:

Quote:
The woman looked at the battered tea things as if she had all the time in the world. "Now you know," she said at last, calm as ever, "that I know your future, and your present. The Light's mercy fades to nothing for a man who can channel. Some see that and believe the Light denies those men. I do not. Have you begun to hear voices, yet?"
"What do you mean?" he asked slowly. He could feel Lews Therin listening.
The tingle returned to his skin, and he very nearly channeled, but all that happened was that the teapot rose and floated to Cadsuane, turning slowly in the air for her to examine. "Some men who can channel begin to hear voices." She spoke almost absently, frowning at the flattened sphere of silver and gold. "It is a part of the madness. Voices conversing with them, telling them what to do." The teapot drifted gently to the floor by her feet. "Have you heard any?"
I think the argument SamJ is making is that Cadsuane was probably thinking that Rand holding enough saidin to kill himself is part of the voice-induced madness. She deliberately threatens Min to make Rand want to defend her, which makes it easier for him to decide not to kill himself. Remember that LTT wasn't really a separate person, but a part of Rand himself.
  #279  
Old 04-29-2013, 06:55 PM
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Bookstores do it all the time.
As was said.

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Originally Posted by fionwe1987 View Post
for shelving and marketing convenience.
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  #280  
Old 04-29-2013, 07:14 PM
Garak Garak is offline
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And why do these genre groupings make things more convenient, Suttree? Because people who walk into the horror section are looking for a different kind of reading experience from prople who walk into the romance section.

Horror novels are supposed to make you feel scared. Therefore, the novel's ability to evoke fear is part of the standards by which we judge it. Why would we care if a romance novel made us feel afraid? Why would we want that?
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