Saturday, October 5, 2013

Response to Liz Bourke at Strange Horizons

Normally when a negative review (which thankfully are few) for one of my books appears I just shrug. We all have different aesthetics, points of view, something the Internet has allowed us to share through social media.

So it was when I raised the very public hackles of Liz Bourke, reviewer for Strange Horizons, I merely allowed Ms. Bourke her opinion about my novel From Mountains of Ice and carried on.

It would seem, however, her review garnered the notice of another blogger at Pornokitsch, under the heading of Extremist Reviewing. The author of Pornokitsch found great humour in Liz Bourke's evisceration (the author's term, not mine) of my novel, enough to Tweet and generally share around the multiverse. That, also, is fine. Again, we all must find humour, entertainment, and share opinion in order to expand our horizons and understanding of life.

One of Ms. Bourke's strident objections read thusly:
But the first and perhaps the most severe of my problems with From Mountains of Ice is its lack of willingness to abide by the usual conventions of English-language punctuation. Particularly where it comes to commas.
a fluid list of titles and salutations, professions of greatest love and longing, veiled accusations of betrayal through Sylvio's absence, enforced though it might have been, earnest wishes to redress absence. Just the fact Carmelo singled him out was fraught with potential, none of it with hope. (p. 75)
Phrases, especially descriptive phrases, come tacked together with commas when it would be more comprehensible (and less horribly irritating) to use more than one sentence. Several sentences have more commas than they need. Several suffer from a mysterious dearth of commas, where a comma would have added to comprehensibility or to the ordinary flow of prose.
Carried by the outgoing tide they'd be swept out to sea, just as she. (p. 107)
Having laid that foundation, I would therefore entreat both Ms. Bourke and her followers to consider the following passage:
Also — for there had been more than a few migrants aboard, yes, quite a quantity of wives who had been grilled by reasonable, doing-their-job officials about the length of and distinguishing moles upon their husbands’ genitalia, a sufficiency of children upon whose legitimacy the British Government had cast its ever-reasonable doubts — mingling with the remnants of the plain, equally fragmented, equally absurd, there floated the debris of the soul, broken memories, sloughed-off selves, severed mother-tongues, violated privacies, untranslatable jokes, extinguished futures, lost loves, the forgotten meaning of hollow, booming words, land, belong, home.
The author of this passage is guilty, according to conventional wisdom, of egregious writing abuse. I remember clearly reading this passage a few years ago, and those which came before, and after, and the whole dizzying effect of this tumbling narrative. I sat stunned after closing the novel, aware I looked into the face of genius for the second time in my life. Suddenly all I had been taught meant nothing confronted with this monumental art.

I hear your disparagement even now. What kack, Lorina, you say. This is a run-on sentence, incomprehensible, nonsensical. Tripe, to be polite. Unmitigated shite if not.

So? Ah yes so.

The author: Salman Rushdie. The work: The Satanic Verses.

Something to give you pause, eh? A slight blush. Perhaps an ahem or two? I know the feeling.

Now, far be it from me to compare my work to Salman Rushdie's. But there is inspiration here. There is a great deal to study, to comprehend, to emulate. Think about the artistic and emotional effect of that passage by Rushdie.

It has long been said in order to create art you need to understand the rules. And then you need to understand how to break the rules.

And just as that work of art may not be everyone's taste, before slagging it, consider your own biases as a reviewer, whether you're reviewing painting, sculpture, music or literature. This is something I try to remember when I review literature. A review should not be a wholesale condemnation of the worth of a thing. A review is, and only ever will be, one person's opinion. Your trash may be someone else's treasure.

Just saying.

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