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  #241  
Old 04-22-2013, 10:17 PM
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Nah, not going to be baited. If this is your argument go ahead and grab passages from any one of your favorite Forgotten Realms books and say Don DeLillo's Underworld. Make a case for the literary quality being comparable. If you truly believe it to be true and make an attempt I'll discuss it with you. As is you know very well you are being ridiculous.

For the last time, personnel enjoyment does not necessarily make statement either positive or negative on literary quality.
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Last edited by suttree; 04-22-2013 at 10:30 PM.
  #242  
Old 04-22-2013, 10:27 PM
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Let me get this right: to be able to objectively evaluate art, there has to be a perfect example of that art?

That is complete nonsense. There's no perfect painting or music either. Doesn't mean no one can critique those.
  #243  
Old 04-22-2013, 10:41 PM
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Let me get this right: to be able to objectively evaluate art, there has to be a perfect example of that art?

That is complete nonsense. There's no perfect painting or music either. Doesn't mean no one can critique those.
Well there are ways that one can objectively evaluate and analyze art. Say in poetry. One can objectively analyze the meter, the grammar, and the syntax, but if you evaluate the style, the content, and the word choice, therein lies subjectivity.

There are I suppose certain objective criticisms that one could make of BS' novels within WOT, such as say inconsistencies in the personality of Mat, or errors such as the killing of Carlinya prior to the fulfillment of Min's viewing. But stylistic and word choice issues would be subjective. Suttree's criticisms seem more of the latter than of the former.
  #244  
Old 04-22-2013, 10:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Kimon View Post
Well there are ways that one can objectively evaluate and analyze art. Say in poetry. One can objectively analyze the meter, the grammar, and the syntax, but if you evaluate the style, the content, and the word choice, therein lies subjectivity.

There are I suppose certain objective criticisms that one could make of BS' novels within WOT, such as say inconsistencies in the personality of Mat, or errors such as the killing of Carlinya prior to the fulfillment of Min's viewing. But stylistic and word choice issues would be subjective. Suttree's criticisms seem more of the latter than of the former.
There are objective ways of evaluating style too. Word choice by Brandon in WoT can obviously be evaluated objectively. How is it subjective to say that use of the word "telegraph" is wrong in a world without telegraphs?
  #245  
Old 04-22-2013, 10:54 PM
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There are objective ways of evaluating style too. Word choice by Brandon in WoT can obviously be evaluated objectively. How is it subjective to say that use of the word "telegraph" is wrong in a world without telegraphs?
Word choice and syntax are both somewhat gray areas. Use of words like telegraph are anachronistic, and hence could be a source of objective pique, yet whether or not it bothered you would fall more into the realm of subjectivity.
  #246  
Old 04-22-2013, 10:59 PM
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Word choice and syntax are both somewhat gray areas. Use of words like telegraph are anachronistic, and hence could be a source of objective pique, yet whether or not it bothered you would fall more into the realm of subjectivity.
A mistake is a mistake, whether it bothers one or not.
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  #247  
Old 04-22-2013, 11:07 PM
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A mistake is a mistake, whether it bothers one or not.
I disagree. The neglect of the Carlinya viewing was an objective mistake. Arguing that the word telegraph is anachronistic is an objective observation. Arguing that the use of that word is clumsy, careless, or a mistake is subjective.
  #248  
Old 04-22-2013, 11:10 PM
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Nah, not going to be baited. If this is your argument go ahead and grab passages from any one of your favorite Forgotten Realms books and say Don DeLillo's Underworld. Make a case for the literary quality being comparable. If you truly believe it to be true and make an attempt I'll discuss it with you. As is you know very well you are being ridiculous.

For the last time, personnel enjoyment does not necessarily make statement either positive or negative on literary quality.
One could be forgiven for thinking that the reason you aren't replying to my questions is because you simply don't have an answer.

To set the record entirely straight: I do not argue for the sake of argument and never have. I argue to test theories or to refute assertions I believe to be incorrect. I also argue to learn. I argued furiously with Terez for over six months before I began to see her way of thinking on numerous points and began to agree with her. You are not allowing me that opportunity, as you seem to have decided you simply can't be bothered to respond to me. It's a shame, as I'd imagine there is potential enlightenment there for one or both of us, but like so many others, you're not interested in a civil discussion. When things descend to this point and people aren't willing to respond properly my heart actually sinks when I see a new post. I reply only out of a misguided sense of duty. I'm not here looking for rows. I'm here to discuss WOT.

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Originally Posted by fionwe1987 View Post
Let me get this right: to be able to objectively evaluate art, there has to be a perfect example of that art?

That is complete nonsense. There's no perfect painting or music either. Doesn't mean no one can critique those.
Well, in painting and in music there are certain standards which we can use to evaluate the work: whether the music maintains a consistent key, and how it uses key changes, for example. Or in painting, how close the image is to reality, or how well it conveys the appearance of something unreal. Even here, though, allowances need to be made for style, and for genre, and for intention. A person making a technical drawing may be capable of great artistry, but at the end of the day that drawing serves the purpose of being essentially a blueprint and does not carry with it the same artistic merit as the comic book artist who sets out a double page spread of hundreds of brightly coloured character all dynamically arranged in combat, who whilst certainly drawing from certain principles of surrealism is not attempting to convey the same emotion as Salvador Dali. A piece of music might be considered to be of poor quality if it is repetitive and lacks synthesis between melody, rhythm, and voice, yet this principle disregards the entire movement of minimalism and genre of rap.

To stick with the musical analogy, music for video games is typically composed under commission and the rights retained by the producers of the game rather than the composer. This does not render its quality necessarily any lower as it is often very successful in evoking certain moods and ideas in the player, and it can become very closely entangled with strong feelings in memory, to the point that symphony concerts where the orchestra plays video game music are popular both with musicians and with fans of the games. Is that work necessarily of a lesser quality than a piece intentionally composed for an orchestra? Is John Lennon any less of a genius than Mozart?

Suttree's example of Forgotten Realms books is a poor one because I haven't read them, and nor can I be expected to have read them. We have all read WOT, and yet whilst considered a shining example of the genre WOT does somewhat lack for mainstream recognition either in the form of awards or commercial licensing. And yet only one person seems to be saying that Robert Jordan's writing is bad. So why doesn't it acquire that recognition? If it's good, it should, right?

We all know that mainstream reviewers and academics have prejudices against the fantasy genre, to the point that creative writing students are often barred from creating such works as part of their courses. Yet there seems to be no rational reason for this; magical realists don't suffer the same prejudices and the line between the two is often very blurry indeed. So it certainly isn't genre that makes a piece of writing good or bad.

What is it, then? It seems to me that it comes down to what one is writing for. If creating a technical manual, simplicity and clarity are probably the best markers of quality, and diagrams may be helpful, yet illustration in works of highbrow literature is at best unfashionable; use of simile and description to create imagery is much more highly thought of there. Is such a simplicity of writing preferable in the sort of licensed works Suttree holds in such disdain? The purpose of such writing is simply to entertain, but is that so different, really, from the work of award winning writers? Is their work better because it has purpose beyond that?

To bring it back to WOT, the purpose of Robert Jordan in writing the series is to entertain, certainly. Does he have a purpose beyond that? Certainly he has some commercial motivation, but what professional author doesn't? It seems to me that he does; he has a desire to express the world he has built within his head to others, to inform and to guide them to whatever extent he presumes to, but above all to express himself and demonstrate his skill, such as it is. We can assess the quality of his work based on how successful he is at doing that.

What, then, is Brandon Sanderson's purpose in his writing on the series? It certainly is not Robert Jordan's. His task is to finish the series; put another way, his job is to express RJ's ideas as best he can. We can assess his success in doing this but can we compare his writing to RJ's within the same body of work, or is it unfair to do so given that his work on the series serves a quite different purpose to Robert Jordan's? It's certainly true that there are areas in which both are stronger writers than the other within writing that is unarguably their own, but where there is an overlap, then how do we assess it? Do we compare Brandon's writing to RJ's and find it wanting even though his purpose is different, or do we compare it to his own?

One person's clumsy metaphor is another's stroke of genius. It is harder by far, in my opinion, to assess writing on an objective scale than it is with any other art form, simply because the act of writing defies scale. Writing is about communication, not about marks out of ten. What matter is how well it succeeds in its purpose, regardless of what that purpose might be.
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Master of the lightnings, rider on the storm,
wearer of a crown of swords, spinner out of fate.
Who thinks he turns the Wheel of Time,
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Light is held before the maw of the infinite void, and all that he is can be seized.

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  #249  
Old 04-22-2013, 11:21 PM
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One could be forgiven for thinking that the reason you aren't replying to my questions is because you simply don't have an answer.

To set the record entirely straight: I do not argue for the sake of argument and never have. I argue to test theories or to refute assertions I believe to be incorrect. I also argue to learn. I argued furiously with Terez for over six months before I began to see her way of thinking on numerous points and began to agree with her. You are not allowing me that opportunity, as you seem to have decided you simply can't be bothered to respond to me. It's a shame, as I'd imagine there is potential enlightenment there for one or both of us, but like so many others, you're not interested in a civil discussion. When things descend to this point and people aren't willing to respond properly my heart actually sinks when I see a new post. I reply only out of a misguided sense of duty. I'm not here looking for rows. I'm here to discuss WOT.
Good God mate, you purposely misrepresented me from the very first post and now you are trying to flip things around. All that and you have the gall to claim the above. You don't lack stones I'll give you that. My posting history both here and at DM speaks for itself so do away with this nonsense(especially given how I've seen you comport yourself in the past). This "woe is poor innocent me" act does not go over well.

For the last time if you truly believe what you are arguing and are looking for "enlightenment" make a serious case for the average Forgotten Realms novel being comparable in literary quality to DeLillo's Underworld or McCarthy's Blood Meridian. Otherwise give over and stop responding. You know your point claiming it is impossible to objectively discern literary quality has no basis in reality.

Lastly more than enough fantasy/scifi has crossed over to main stream reviewers to make your point invalid(McCarthy wone the Pulitzer for a scifi novel and famed critic Harold Bloom has praised many works such as John Crowley's "Little Big" just to use a couple examples). It may have been the case at some point in the past but it is no longer true overall. Saying there is an inherent bias against fantasy even if it is well written does nothing more than hold the genre back.

@Kimon

Using the world telegraph in a world in which they don't exist is a simple objective mistake. Same as when Brandon said Elayne was rallying the "Red Lion" of Andor or when he referred to Darlun as a hamlet, village and town in different chapters.
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Last edited by suttree; 04-22-2013 at 11:32 PM.
  #250  
Old 04-22-2013, 11:32 PM
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@Kimon

Using the world Telegraph in a world in which they don't exist is a simple objective mistake. Same as when Brandon said Elayne was rallying the "Red Lion" of Andor or when he referred to Darlun as a hamlet, village and town in different chapters.
The Red Lion is an objective mistake. The other two are petty criticisms. Now, can something be petty and yet still objective. Sure. Nonetheless, those two strike me as being more in a gray area between objectivity and subjectivity. The issue is do either of these really rise to the level of a mistake. Certainly referring to a location at one time as a hamlet, and at another as a village, is of no consequence. There is a greater stretch in meaning from those two to town, but that seems more a trifling observation than a mistake. Likewise the issue with the use of the word telegraph.
  #251  
Old 04-22-2013, 11:43 PM
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Certainly referring to a location at one time as a hamlet, and at another as a village, is of no consequence.
Well the definition of village says:

Quote:
1. A small group of dwellings in a rural area, usually ranking in size between a hamlet and a town.
Three different sizes there.

Again it matters little what you think is trifling(certainly using a word for something that has not been invented yet doesn't fit that). It's still an objective mistake. Would you care for more examples? How about flip flopping the old and new city in Caemlyn during the trolloc attack or Elayne just burning a random assortment of towns in Sheinar, not ones actually in the path of Lan's retreat. Are those too "trifling" to be objective mistakes?
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Last edited by suttree; 04-22-2013 at 11:47 PM.
  #252  
Old 04-22-2013, 11:58 PM
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Well the definition of village says:



Three different sizes there.

Again it matters little what you think is trifling(certainly using a word for something that has not been invented yet doesn't fit that). It's still an objective mistake. Would you care for more examples? How about flip flopping the old and new city in Caemlyn during the trolloc attack or Elayne just burning a random assortment of towns in Sheinar, not ones actually in the path of Lan's retreat. Are those too "trifling" to be objective mistakes?
The nuance in meaning between hamlet and village is minor, and between village and town is minor. The range in meaning between hamlet and town is more alarming, but still so minor as to, at least in my opinion, be too insignificant to be worth calling a mistake. The same issue applies with telegraph. It's minutely clumsy, but not worthy of designation as a mistake. If you searched long enough I'm sure you could find similar examples within the RJ written books. Hardly something worth fixating upon, or using as an example of the potential deficiency of Sanderson.
  #253  
Old 04-23-2013, 01:22 AM
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Good God mate, you purposely misrepresented me from the very first post and now you are trying to flip things around. All that and you have the gall to claim the above. You don't lack stones I'll give you that. My posting history both here and at DM speaks for itself so do away with this nonsense(especially given how I've seen you comport yourself in the past). This "woe is poor innocent me" act does not go over well.
Your posting history here speaks to the fact that you aren't half as smart as you think you are. I couldn't care less if you're the bees knees at Dragonmount because I don't post there specifically to avoid individuals like you (obviously it isn't working). I wrote my first post in a humorous tone to show up what I felt was a ridiculous statement. You claimed from the first that I resorted to straw men, and yet all you have been able to provide in response is ad hominem attacks and absolutely no refutations or reply to any of my points. Hence why I had to do the work for you in my previous post. If you have a serious problem with the way I have "comported" (is that even a word?) myself in the past then maybe you should have brought it up with a mod at the time. No-one ever has.

And don't call me "mate".

Quote:
Originally Posted by Suttree
For the last time if you truly believe what you are arguing and are looking for "enlightenment" make a serious case for the average Forgotten Realms novel being comparable in literary quality to DeLillo's Underworld or McCarthy's Blood Meridian. Otherwise give over and stop responding. You know your point claiming it is impossible to objectively discern literary quality has no basis in reality.
I am not the one who brought up Forgotten Realms, Underworld, or Blood Meridian. I haven't read any of those (nor have I claimed to) so I'm not going to start talking about the relative merits or demerits of books I haven't read. I am here to discuss the Wheel Of Time. If you are so anxious to prove your point perhaps you ought to compare those books to Wheel Of Time and point out what strengths of those books have led to them winning awards while Robert Jordan didn't.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Suttree
Lastly more than enough fantasy/scifi has crossed over to main stream reviewers to make your point invalid(McCarthy wone the Pulitzer for a scifi novel and famed critic Harold Bloom has praised many works such as John Crowley's "Little Big" just to use a couple examples). It may have been the case at some point in the past but it is no longer true overall. Saying there is an inherent bias against fantasy even if it is well written does nothing more than hold the genre back.
The fact that an African-American actress has won an Oscar for Best Actress does not mean that there is not still an institutional bias against African-Americans. Much the same applies to fantasy and sci-fi; that's why it still exists in its own genre niche. It is not holding the genre back to level that accusation when it applies. Once again, if mainstream success is a measure of quality perhaps you'd like to explain how that applies to WOT. Otherwise you are simply attempting to divert the discussion because you simply don't have a reply.
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Sa souvraya niende misain ye

Master of the lightnings, rider on the storm,
wearer of a crown of swords, spinner out of fate.
Who thinks he turns the Wheel of Time,
may learn the truth too late.

Light is held before the maw of the infinite void, and all that he is can be seized.

The one who Death has known
  #254  
Old 04-23-2013, 02:08 AM
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Good God mate, you purposely misrepresented me from the very first post and now you are trying to flip things around.
Calm down dear; I'm sure if he misrepresented you he did so accidentally. It seems to me that your anger got in the way a few posts ago and you're not really making good arguments any more. As the discussion goes on DM, it's been pointed out before that while there is an objective set of standards for literary criticism, it's only objective because that standard is so widely-accepted, and even then only in a general sense. The problem of art criticism is a very thorny one, even in music where certain objective standards can be determined from the mathematics of music itself. It's like the Mozart-Lennon comparison Zombie made; if one looks at their music from the perspective of (mathematical) functional counterpoint, then not only does Mozart win, but Paul McCartney also wins; this was not Lennon's strongest suit (or something he particularly cared about), but McCartney is extremely talented at counterpoint. Is it the most important thing about music? Well, that depends on the person. It's certainly one of the most important things for people who have a natural affinity for counterpoint (a.k.a. talented musicians), but for others, not so much. Is one standard better than the other? Despite what would seem to be the obvious answer, it seems to be a very subjective question. Of all the Brahms-and-before classical composers, I think three stand out as being gifted counterpoint artists, in this order: Bach, Chopin, Mozart. (This is something of a consensus view among important music theorists.) And yet Chopin does not have quite the same level of popularity as the other two. Part of that is because he wrote only for piano, and did not write nearly as much music as the other two; part of it is because he wrote 'salon music' which carried connotations of femininity and amateurishness—connotations which don't hold up to scrutiny as they concern Chopin's music but which nevertheless affect its reception. Meanwhile Beethoven, a clumsy counterpoint artist in comparison (something that is objectively demonstrable) is hugely popular.
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  #255  
Old 04-23-2013, 07:47 AM
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This argument has resorted to esoteric philosophy and base insult.

And Beethoven was a terrible film, agreed.
  #256  
Old 04-23-2013, 08:33 AM
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Originally Posted by greatwolf View Post
Brandon can't channel. He's no gleeman. And he's liable to cut off his foot with an arrow! There was never much hope for it unless you gave him time to understudy what RJ had done over the course of a lifetime. Maybe six months to understand channeling alone. How long for the great game? How to be a general, much less a great one?

Its done. All that's left now are edits. BS can't change much now and most of this criticism is years late to do the series any good. We can hope though, that the ending won't be too bad. Can you imagine Demandred being clobbered by Leane? Or even Sorilea with an angreal? Lets just hope.

This was post no 85 here just before amol came out. I thought then it was too far fetched to happen, noone would do that. But I was definitely shocked by the manner of demandred's death. Very negatively so.

It was bad enough that I considered sabotage! But that, apart from being uncharitable, is wrong becuse team Jordan and Harriet are also a part of it.

I think part of the problem is that BS and RJ were very different and they appealed to a very different set of fans. Possibly BS tried too hard to shock us with the ending. And ended up bungling much of amol.

Lan? But then why not? It was obvious to me BS was avoiding channeling in amol as much as he could.So Demandred had to be bested by a non channeler rather than the pattern spring a suprise from one of the stronger light side channelers in the series.

It made the whole thing very unsatisfactory for me, but I don't think I(we) should have expected more.
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  #257  
Old 04-23-2013, 09:51 AM
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Please refain from attacks of a personal nature, and attempt to stay on topic - namely the literary critique of Brandon Sanderson as it relates to A Memory of Light. Moving the conversation offline is something that should be considered at this point, if you cannot agree to disgaree.

This is the last time we'll ask nicely.

Sincerely,

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  #258  
Old 04-23-2013, 11:33 AM
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Now let's try and rewind this and get to my actual points.

1. Personal enjoyment(and popularity) says very little either good or bad about literary quality.

2. It is possible to objectively compare literary quality between two pieces of literature. Do you dispute this? Careful now, are you ready to just toss entire portions of what they teach us Lit majors out the window and claim that line of study is invalid?

So care to point out what the ridiculous statement was?

Edit: Whoah, so that was chopped to the point that it bears zero resemblance to the original. Not sure what was against forum rules with much of it?
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Last edited by suttree; 04-26-2013 at 01:16 PM. Reason: Post moderated by Chosen to align with Forum Rules
  #259  
Old 04-24-2013, 07:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zombie Sammael View Post
Well, in painting and in music there are certain standards which we can use to evaluate the work: whether the music maintains a consistent key, and how it uses key changes, for example. Or in painting, how close the image is to reality, or how well it conveys the appearance of something unreal. Even here, though, allowances need to be made for style, and for genre, and for intention.
And with similar limitations, there are standards to evaluate the written word as well. Grammar is an obvious standard on which writing can be evaluated. So is internal consistency in plot, lack of unexplained contradictions in characterization, etc.
Quote:
A person making a technical drawing may be capable of great artistry, but at the end of the day that drawing serves the purpose of being essentially a blueprint and does not carry with it the same artistic merit as the comic book artist who sets out a double page spread of hundreds of brightly coloured character all dynamically arranged in combat, who whilst certainly drawing from certain principles of surrealism is not attempting to convey the same emotion as Salvador Dali. A piece of music might be considered to be of poor quality if it is repetitive and lacks synthesis between melody, rhythm, and voice, yet this principle disregards the entire movement of minimalism and genre of rap.
None of this is an argument against objective evaluation of art. All these things say is that those objective measures can't be too constricted and inflexible.

Take surrealist painting. You can make an entirely objective statement about these painting being lacking in certain technical aspects, while not saying anything at all about its worth as an art form. That's because the point of objective evaluation isn't to score the worth of a piece of art in general. It is instead to evaluate the work in terms of certain specific standards. Whether the work's failure to meet those standards is reason to dismiss it for everyone is not part of objective evaluation. That resides entirely in the realm of opinion.

Therefore, it is entirely fair for Suttree to say Brandon's writing is too simplistic. Whether that aspect makes you dislike the books is entirely up to you.

Quote:
To stick with the musical analogy, music for video games is typically composed under commission and the rights retained by the producers of the game rather than the composer. This does not render its quality necessarily any lower as it is often very successful in evoking certain moods and ideas in the player, and it can become very closely entangled with strong feelings in memory, to the point that symphony concerts where the orchestra plays video game music are popular both with musicians and with fans of the games. Is that work necessarily of a lesser quality than a piece intentionally composed for an orchestra? Is John Lennon any less of a genius than Mozart?
The issue with your video game example is that you're arguing that music that can be enjoyed, or that has worth, in the context of another art form, and in this context only, should be compared to music that is enjoyed and has worth entirely on its own, devoid of special contexts. If you say that the majority of video game music is such that it can be enjoyed by someone who has never heard of, let alone played, the game for which it was created, then great, I see no reason it shouldn't be compared to Mozart. But most of it needs for you to have played the game first, why should it be compared to Mozart? How can you be certain it is the music that enthralls you, and not the memory of what you felt while playing the game that this music is only triggering?

The same is the case with movie sountracks. The great ones are not those that require you to have seen the movie to enjoy in full. The best ones are good music devoid of the context of the scene with which they're paired.

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Suttree's example of Forgotten Realms books is a poor one because I haven't read them, and nor can I be expected to have read them.
I haven't read them either, but that doesn't necessarily make them a poor example. They have a reputation for poor writing that is almost universal. I choose not to challenge that because I have no incentive to read poorly written drivel in a shared world that doesn't sound exciting anyway.

Quote:
We have all read WOT, and yet whilst considered a shining example of the genre WOT does somewhat lack for mainstream recognition either in the form of awards or commercial licensing. And yet only one person seems to be saying that Robert Jordan's writing is bad. So why doesn't it acquire that recognition? If it's good, it should, right?
Who said WoT even has a shining reputation in the genre? I enjoy the series immensely, because certain features of it appeal to me. And in certain objective ways, WoT does decently well. That hardly translates to it being the best in the genre in any form. WoT has many aspects that RJ could have delivered better on. That's why it doesn't have wider recognition.

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We all know that mainstream reviewers and academics have prejudices against the fantasy genre, to the point that creative writing students are often barred from creating such works as part of their courses. Yet there seems to be no rational reason for this; magical realists don't suffer the same prejudices and the line between the two is often very blurry indeed. So it certainly isn't genre that makes a piece of writing good or bad.
Firstly, even if this were true, this isn't an argument against there existing objective ways to evaluate writing. It only points to bias amongst critics in one area. Let us not generalize that to say they are always biased.

Secondly, the point I made previously about context applies here too:

I think it would be fair to say that all objective evaluations of literature ultimately hinge on the question of whether the work reveals something about the human condition, and how it does so. The problem with the majority of the fantasy genre is that certain plot-hooks and objects end up being too important to the resolution of the story, pushing to the background the characters, their motivations and their thoughts.

Take the case of last minute surprise reveals. Even WoT and Harry Potter, two very well-selling fantasies, fall prey to these. There's the cheap, one moment surprise of knowing Rand/Harry/whoever had this awesome way to solve the main issue of the book. Sometimes these last minute reveals are even set up well (WoT) so it isn't even a total asspull. But ask yourself this: if the point of the story is to reveal something about humanity as it faces the end of the world, isn't that aspect being totally being kicked in the nuts just so some suspense can be maintained? Wouldn't a book that had similar plot and fantasy elements as WoT, but focussed instead on the actual effort of coming up with the solution and gave up on the cheap suspense work better and have a more lasting impact?

The issue with most fantasy works is that the fantastical elements overtake the human elements. When they don't, like in "Jonathan Strange and Mister Norrell", say, fantasy works have been recognized by mainstream critics too. And these same mainstream critics have no issue praising ancient myths like the Mahabharatha or the Illiad, which are works of fantasy too.
Quote:
What is it, then? It seems to me that it comes down to what one is writing for. If creating a technical manual, simplicity and clarity are probably the best markers of quality, and diagrams may be helpful, yet illustration in works of highbrow literature is at best unfashionable; use of simile and description to create imagery is much more highly thought of there. Is such a simplicity of writing preferable in the sort of licensed works Suttree holds in such disdain? The purpose of such writing is simply to entertain, but is that so different, really, from the work of award winning writers? Is their work better because it has purpose beyond that?
Great literature isn't better just because it aims to a purpose greater than entertainment. How well those works succeed at that purpose is what counts. And that doesn't mean the writing can't be simple. Take "To Kill a Mockingbird", for example. It is immensely complex in scope, but the writing can hardly be described that way.

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To bring it back to WOT, the purpose of Robert Jordan in writing the series is to entertain, certainly. Does he have a purpose beyond that? Certainly he has some commercial motivation, but what professional author doesn't? It seems to me that he does; he has a desire to express the world he has built within his head to others, to inform and to guide them to whatever extent he presumes to, but above all to express himself and demonstrate his skill, such as it is. We can assess the quality of his work based on how successful he is at doing that.
Really? That's it? Entertain and express a built up world? I don't know if that really was all he wanted, but I don't see why there's great merit in expressing a built up world, unless that world has something to say about our own.

Personally, I do think Jordan's world had something to say about our world. Some of those ideas aren't bad at all. But its not like those ideas were given center-stage. In the end, the entertainment was more important, and that's fine. RJ is a very entertaining author. But its hardly a surprise he isn't compared to an evaluated on the basis of great works of literature that try to do more than entertain.

Quote:
What, then, is Brandon Sanderson's purpose in his writing on the series? It certainly is not Robert Jordan's. His task is to finish the series; put another way, his job is to express RJ's ideas as best he can. We can assess his success in doing this but can we compare his writing to RJ's within the same body of work, or is it unfair to do so given that his work on the series serves a quite different purpose to Robert Jordan's? It's certainly true that there are areas in which both are stronger writers than the other within writing that is unarguably their own, but where there is an overlap, then how do we assess it? Do we compare Brandon's writing to RJ's and find it wanting even though his purpose is different, or do we compare it to his own?
An author's purpose matters, but only to an extent. Its hardly the sole basis on which you can judge a work. If Brandon's purpose was to finish the series well, he certainly didn't do an unquestionably good job of it. What we, as readers who wanted the story finished well, can do is evaluate how well Brandon's work in WoT stayed true to WoT as written by RJ. Were some of the drifts avoidable? I think so, and those are precisely the aspects we're discussing here.

Quote:
One person's clumsy metaphor is another's stroke of genius. It is harder by far, in my opinion, to assess writing on an objective scale than it is with any other art form, simply because the act of writing defies scale. Writing is about communication, not about marks out of ten. What matter is how well it succeeds in its purpose, regardless of what that purpose might be.
The same exact thing can be said about music or painting.

If I write a work with the (not explicitly stated) purpose of making everyone throw it at the wall and declare it the worst thing they ever read, I suppose I can feel personal satisfaction when that does indeed happen. But since readers have no idea what my purpose in writing is, they will only evaluate it in terms of those objective standards, and on the standard of whether they were entertained. I don't see why a reader has to take into account authorial intent unless it is explicitly stated. I take into accound RJ's statement that he wanted the start of EotW to be like LotR. I judge him successful at that, and don't criticize the start of the book, accordingly. If Brandon had motivations beyond bringing WoT to a close while keeping to the spirit of the rest of the series, I don't know of them, and have no obligation to take those into account while judging his work.

Last edited by fionwe1987; 04-25-2013 at 06:52 PM.
  #260  
Old 04-25-2013, 05:34 PM
EvilChani EvilChani is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fionwe1987 View Post
If I write a work with the (not explicitly stated) purpose of making everyone throw it at the wall and declare it the worst thing they ever read, I suppose I can feel personal satisfaction when that does indeed happen.
I always wondered if RJ wrote tFoH and LoC for this reason, because both of them hit my wall with a huge thud. When I realized Lan was going to Myrelle and thought he didn't care about Nyn, there went a tome of a hardcover against the wall (until I was convinced to keep reading). When Rand got locked into a box and tortured, I threw LoC at the fireplace then stomped on it for good measure. It remained there until two days later when I was convinced to keep reading. Perhaps RJ wanted this response...

I did such a thing with only one other book. The physical quality was nowhere nears as good as WoT because the poor thing fell apart on impact. 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*
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