Sunday, October 02, 2005

Just Because Atwood Does It Doesn't Mean You Can Too

{{{182 words}}}

I'm finally out of my Reading Slump, and am happily reading Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. I'm really enjoying it.

Of course, I'm reading as a writer as Karen so well noted, so I pay attention to writing techniques and methods (without the joy of reading being spoiled though).

First I noted that Atwood wrote the novel in present tense which is by itself different from your usual run-of-the-mill novel. Then I noticed that Atwood used other writing devices not often found in mainstream. Somewhat experimental writing I would say.

What if this was Atwood's first novel? Do you still think it would have been published? Would it have been published as it is now, without being butchered?

I think that what established writers can "get away" with is very different from what a first-timer can. I think that if this was someone's first novel, they'd never publish it. Too risky. Too experimental. At most, they'd "edit" it completely.

(Please don't take it as an attack an Atwood, quite the opposite. It's more of a criticism of the publishing world).

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Cavan said...

Actually, I think it's a bit of a double-edged sword. An unpublished writer can write whatever they want. Published writers, especially a successful ones, often seem to be pushed by the publishing houses to keep to the style and content that made them successful in the first place.

I loved Oryx and Crake, by the way. Actually, I'd say it qualifies as one of my favourite books.

Melly said...

I think Atwood is brilliant, and I love Oryx and Crake (what I've read so far).
You make a good point, but I still think that experimental writing is the domain of established writers these days. It may have been the case once that publishers looked for that uniqueness, but I'm not sure it's the case today.
I hope I'm wrong though.

easywriter said...

I haven't read that one yet although I've passed by it often enough, maybe I should, :o)

I totally agree with you melly I do think that some established writers probably are given some leeway, especially the ones of the calibre of Ms Atwood, although I'm sure that somewhere out there, someone has written something just experimental enough to make it as a first-time published author.

rdl said...

I've been in one of those slumps for awhile myself. But luckily a friend sent me a gem of a book that I just started... The Atonement by Ian McEwan.

Melly said...

easywriter, so far Oryx and Crake is brilliant. Rally.

I think that it used to be that publishers looked for that new thing and then a few first time 'experimntal' novels were published. But I'm not sure if that would be the case now.

rdl - I had the worse slump. A couple of months at least. I'm so happy it's over.

Lance said...

It is interesting that once you have credibility that allows you to express past boundaries and to expand them for others.

Melly said...

Credibility. Exactly the word I was looking for.
Thanks Lance.

Jennifer said...

I started reading it (just got into it) but I've liked some of her other books and I think you can get away with more if you're established. You've proven you CAN write and hence if you try something new, what's it going to hurt the publisher to try something new. Chances are the books going nto get sold based on the authors name rather then the writing anyway. I know I by books by authors just cause of the name. I liked one or two of their books and so I end up reading new ones. Sometimes I like more or less, but I still buy and read.

Melly said...

Jennifer, exactly my point :)

Stranger Ken said...

Some of Atwood's much earlier novels dealt with provocative and less easily marketable subjects, too, "Bodily Harm", "Surfacing" and "The Handmaid's Tale", for example, but they were all published, even though her reputation alone might not have been enough to sell them back in those early days.

Maybe the problem is that publishers have become nothing more than corporate book-packagers with no real interest in anything that might be slow-burning or dangerous to the bottom line. Some books take years to build up a momentum, but what's the shelf life of a new novel these days, when titles are heavily discounted even before they're launched?

Melly said...

"publishers have become nothing more than corporate book-packagers with no real interest in anything that might be slow-burning or dangerous to the bottom line" - I think you nailed it bang on, Ken.