Saturday, 15 December 2012

Attention Novelists!

Test 1

Have you written a dreary middlebrow novel set in a part of India, the Orient, or a sundrenched third-world nation? Is your novel about postcolonial struggles and skirmishes faced by impoverished nations during a specific period in history? Does your novel dwell upon the emotional turmoil at the root of a persecuted community, and does it focus on a stoic native whose trials are shown at their most heartbreaking and humourless? Well done! Your novel will be popular with middle-aged divorcées and airheaded beach readers who want the covers of their novels to reflect the places in which they skim them. Your novel probably looks like this:

Test 2

Have you written a shameless, tearjerking piece of third-world issuetainment after a moving trip to Nigeria in an attempt to “spread the message” to readers around the world about suffering, poverty, and the first-world’s indifference to famine, drought and oppression? Was your intention originally to donate all profits to charities, but now that you’ve written the novel, you need the money to pay for your mortgage and car insurance? Is your book told from a child’s point of view in insultingly simple prose that approximates how a Nigerian would speak, since you didn’t attempt to transcribe dialect during your trip, you simply made concerned faces and wept in your hotel room? Well done! Your novel will be bought at airports and remain unread for months until the reader has the guts to skim a few pages before he puts it down for being too depressing. Your novel probably looks like this:

Test 3

Have you written a sentimental, nostalgic novel romanticising the past in a dreary Irish, Scottish or Northern English ex-mining town? Is your novel stuffed with lazily specific references to things that happened in the past so people think you are “evoking” a certain place in time wonderfully, rather than simply ransacking your own bland childhood cynically for profit? Does your novel have extremely tame romantic scenes and po-faced attempts to depict the bigotry and racism at the heart of these backward communities in the form of hokey “literary” metaphors and stand-alone paragraph-sentences? Well done! Your novel will sell like spangles to the over-sixties market, desperate to redeem their miserable childhoods by misremembering every bad thing that happened to them as a good thing that didn’t happen to them. Your novel looks like:

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