I think it was Alanis Morisette who sang the lyrics, ‘Isn’t it ironic?’
As it transpires, for those who’ve heard the song, Morisette’s examples aren’t particularly ironic. Rain on a wedding day. A black fly in white wine. A free ride when you’ve already paid. These things don’t genuinely demonstrate irony. They are more indicative of annoying stuff that pisses us off.
Which brings me to Wanton Writers by Rae Clark.
Wanton Writers is a ‘sizzler edition’ title from Renaissance E Books. I took comfort from the fact that no trees were harmed during the production of this novel. And I’ll hold my hand up now and say I haven’t read all of this book. More accurately, I couldn’t read all of this book: I have standards.
I might sound as though I’m being disparaging. The truth is I am. Wanton Writers is written in a style that foregrounds the author’s lack of technical craft and makes the willing suspension of disbelief impossible.
Stella De Palo's eyes hardened as she waved a single sheet of paper in the air. "Here is the proof in depressing circulation figures for the last quarter per kind courtesy of the executive of this organization – I don't think." She cast the report back on the desktop where it slid away and fell to the floor. "Leave the friggin' thing," she snarled as Roger Cruikshank made to pick it up. Flushing, he retired to his chair.
This is from the second paragraph of the novel, where the virgin reader is still trying to come to terms with the reality of the fiction and willingly suspend their disbelief.
I’m not sure what Stella De Palo is saying in her first piece of dialogue. There is something about circulation figures, an errant word ‘per’ and a final negation. I suspect this inciting incident might be integral to the plot. As I say, I couldn’t bring myself to read all of this book. The paint on my garage walls won’t watch itself drying.
Or, selected randomly:
"Stella. Call me Stella." She gave an evil laugh. "You don't want to know what my enemies call me. Ha-ha."
"I didn't know you had any enemies, Stella," Roger chuckled.
"Everyone's got enemies in this magazine publishing dog-eat-dog business. You should know that, Roger. Now take a seat please and you too, Derek. Well, firstly, everyone, on behalf of WHAM, I'd like to officially congratulate Rachael on winning the WHAM's Inaugural National Short Story Writing Competition. Well done, Rachael..." She led a round of enthusiastic clapping.
The dark-haired seventeen-year-old paraplegic blushed and nodded her thanks.
In some ways, I find I’m almost drawn to ghoulishly leer at Stella’s dialogue in the same way I observe events every time I drive past a car wreck, aesthetically decorated with mangled bodies. If there really is a person on this planet who speaks like Stella I suspect the individual is a badly programmed robot impersonating a human being.
And then there’s this paragraph from the opening of Chapter Eight.
Charlie thought Stella had never looked so happy, and why shouldn't she? The editor-in-chief sprawled unladylike across her leather recliner, one bare leg casually cocked over an arm of the chair. The fact that a good deal of thigh was displayed to the world – well, the staff of WHAM – didn't worry her one bit. Then again, Charlotte mused, who had ever classified Stella De Palo as a lady? One of the most successful editors in the country? Yes, absolutely. Ruthless in the dog-eat-dog business of magazine publishing? Undoubtedly yes. But then again, you had to be to succeed, even to just survive in that circus.
I must admit, by this point of random delving, I’m beginning to suspect that magazine publishing might be a dog-eat-dog business. Or a circus. And, without being facile, I have to say that I think the text is expository (flouting the writer’s maxim of show don’t tell), the dialogue is unconvincing (making it difficult to empathize or even believe in the characters) and the combination of fragmented sentences with convoluted subordinate and interdependent clauses makes the whole thing (for me) inaccessible.
I found this book annoying for three reasons.
Of course, you have to smile at the idea of a book about writers being a book that is badly written. On some level this could have worked as a satire with a heavy-handed dose of mocking wit. And, under those circumstances, I’m sure that even Alanis Morisette would have asked, ‘Isn’t it ironic?’