Quality?

I was going to begin by saying that you mustn’t all start writing romances after this blog, but then I thought that if you did, I’d most likely find myself reading some very good romances some time soon. (Well, not soon soon, publishing takes time. But soon.) It’s not the genre that is bad, it’s the quality of the writing. Just as I have a fondness for opera singers singing popular songs, really. It’s supposed to be really dreadful that they do, but I like popular songs, and I love them being sung by someone who really knows how to sing. Take Pavarotti singing Ti Adoro. Wonderful!

Anneli Rogeman who is editor of my favourite Swedish magazine Vi usually writes good editorials, commenting sensibly on whatever topic she has a go at. I tend to agree most of the time. I was just a little disappointed with her latest editorial, where she attacks light reading.

At least, I think she is. In the summer I blogged about what Swedes were reading, and mentioned the latest publishing phenomenon, Lars Kepler. He’s a pseudonym. Now he has been outed, and Anneli Rogeman is disappointed. Lars is in actual fact two very ‘proper’ authors, married couple Alexandra and Alexander Ahndoril (yes, really!), about whom I know virtually nothing, living in exile as I do. But they are good, I understand that much. Good as in serious, and promising to reach greater greatness in future.

Or they would, had they not stooped so low as to write for the man in the street who has little interest in literature. She moans that now we will lose years of real books from them, as they’ve been contracted to write eight books. But surely, they have the right to write anything they like? This way they will provide reading material for many more people than their ‘proper’ writing would. That’s not a bad thing, I feel. I don’t know what this Lars Kepler book is like, but assume it’s a well written novel; that they have written lighter, not badly.

AA and AA stand to make a lot more money doing this. I can see that this would be attractive. But it seems this is to be sneered at. You have proper literature for the few and possible financial hardship, versus ‘rubbish’ and authors who are well off. Hm. Tricky.

Apparently there are five reasons for writing under a pseudonym, according to Anneli Rogeman. To get read at all, if you’re a woman, say. To attract curiosity and attention. To joke with the establishment. To avoid ruining your ‘proper’ writing. To simplify your own name.

Bo Balderson

The reason I got a little incensed with the editorial was that an old favourite of mine was listed under the second reason, and was rubbished by Anneli Rogeman. I now feel that my earlier fondness of and appreciation for Bo Balderson* has been ruined in my mind. His crime novels from forty years ago are only mediocre, it seems. It was just the fact that none of us knew who BB was that made people buy the books. Really? I read them because they were funny, and I enjoyed them. The mystery was fun too, but even now that BB has been found to have been a mere primary school teacher (and I expect my Vi to be less scathing on the subject of being a ‘mere’ anything), I still like him. I wished he’d turn out to be King Gustaf VI Adolf, but this is OK.

OK, so let’ move back from mere school teachers to potential Nobel prize winners; they are still allowed to write what they want. And if they do a light genre well, then that is good and will give pleasure to many. Maybe one day they will sink so low as to write for children. No, surely not…

(*Footnote – Bo Balderson wrote crime novels about a sleuth who just happened to be a government minister. He was really only an affable, wealthy man with about 14 children, but he accidentally became a minister because his galoshes were too large. He is assisted in his sleuthing by his long suffering school teacher brother-in-law; a man with bad nerves. At the time almost every public person in Sweden was suspected of being Bo Balderson. I really favoured the theory that it was the King.)

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2 responses to “Quality?

  1. You articulate much of what I’ve been thinking about lately about the ‘high’ and ‘low’ forms of literature and the snobbism and reverse snobbism that sets in from every side. And I think that your comment, that surely writers should be allowed to write what they like should probably be the opening lines of some manifesto. I think even writers need to liberate themselves from some idea of what they ‘should’ be writing.

  2. It was strange to find myself writing this on the same day as the paper was full of Dan Brown’s latest masterpiece. I didn’t know, because I hadn’t got round to reading the paper. So it was clearly something in the air.

    I think we need to get away from what we ‘should’ do in lots of areas. When I cheat, yet again, on what to cook for dinner, I tell myself that my mental well-being at this moment is better for us all, than any memories of complicated gourmet meals will be in the future.

    So here’s to the literary version of ‘even more vegetarian sausages with pasta’! We all like it, and for variety we can do rice and falafels tomorrow.

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