George Washington "Werewolf Poacher!" WHA' ??????
When it comes to literature this is doubly true as I’ll read most anything once. It may seem that an aspiring author should be a bit more selective in taste than the average book consumer, but I think the opposite holds true. If you want to write you should read everything you can that gets published to 1) figure out what you like and hone your style around that, and 2) understand what the average book consumer is reading. Publishers, after all, aren’t in the business of putting out stuff that people won’t read. If they are, I’m afraid they won’t be in any kind of business for long.
YES, I DO THINK YOU CAN MAKE COMMERCIALLY VIABLE WORK THAT HOLDS LITERARY VALUE.
That brings me to the point of ‘ye old diatribe’: when I saw Seth Grahame-Smith’s latest work Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter perched on the shelf at my local Target like some kind of consumer-minded vulture something deep within my writerly soul cried out and died.
Most of you are familiar with, having seen if not read, his other works including Pride And Prejudice And Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Oddly enough, when I first viewed those bastardizations of high literature, I laughed. What a great way to capitalize on the recent boom in interest of all things supernatural (thank YOU Stephanie Meyer!) I thought. I even carried that out a step further and dared to think that some teenage kid might pick up a book about zombies and learn enough about Jane Austen to seek her out in the school library. I didn’t immediately purchase those books, but I did file them under things to read later.
Why then, did seeing old Abe holding a bloody ax make me want start an old fashion book burning? Cut me some slack, I grew up in a tiny religiously conservative place. Where I come from Book Burning & Morale Outrage was just the class you had right after PE in elementary school.
Maybe it’s because I’m a history buff, and the thought of mixing such an important icon in U.S. history with the stuff of bad movies was more than I could bear. Maybe it’s because I tutor middle grade history, and I know it’s only a matter of time until one of my students asks, “How many vampires DID Abraham Lincoln kill?” (Don’t kid yourself, they are that impressionable.) Maybe I just thought that, unlike Mr. Darcy, Abe was a real guy that did important things and shouldn’t be blended with such fluffy subjects as the undead. Regardless of the reason, I was somewhat appalled... O.K., so I threw up in my mouth a little.
Not trying to sound like an angry grandpa, but it’s a book like this that makes me acutely aware that the level of creativity in art may indeed be becoming extinct. There are fewer and fewer ‘fresh’ ideas and the reasons for that are many. However, I’m reminded of Einstein’s quote: "The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.” And that C.C. Colton famously said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” So before I despair too greatly over the condition of modern art, I have to consider that we are all treading in the footsteps of those who’ve come before.
To be clear, I haven’t read any of Mr. Grahame-Smith’s work. I will, and when I do I’ll be sure to share my thoughts. Furthermore, I'm not denouncing his abilities as a writer (I found a thoughtful article by Time here that chronicles the author and how he's helped to create a new genre). Kudos to him for finding a niche, but man I hope I never see Gandhi – Pirate King! in m local bookstore.