Friday, 23 March 2012

Problem books

Lavie Tidhar's thoughtful post 'Shall I Tell You The Problem With Adam Roberts?' is an interesting thing. Some books (some writers) are not problems, of course: we enjoy them, or perhaps deplore them, straightforwardly. But if a book presents us with a problem, we may go one of two ways. We might say: 'I don't really get this book, and that fact says something about me.' Or we might say: 'I don't really get this book, and that's a problem with the book.' And actually the key, here, is often reputational. If a reader reads Proust (say) and 'doesn't get it', she is more likely to think [a]; if she reads a new writer and has the same reaction it's more likely to be [b].

5 comments:

Seamus said...

My main problem with that blog post is use of the word "problematic" as a noun.

Adam Roberts said...

Language is an evolving, dynamic system, Seamus.

mahendra singh said...

The idea of an shifting frame of reference nested within another shifting frame of reference nested within etc etc etc is one of the most essential constructions of SF (and all art) and yet it still seems to unsettle some readers … 30 years ago PKD was eschewed by most readers for doing roughly the same thing — and for not being literary enough — and now he's all the rage with the hipsters.

It's curious how a genre which is supposed to extrapolate upon reality is so resistant to extrapolating from itself …

Your time will come, Adam. But I know you have the good sense to skip the pink laser beam brain-shot business and go straight to the Hollywood success phase.

Adam Roberts said...

Thanks, Mahendra! I'd quite like the skip the 'dying of a stroke at 53' stage too, if it's all the same to you.

Nexis Pas said...

On the observations about our reactions to respected authors vs. unknown ones, cf. your post 'Shakespeare's Mercy'. Isn't the assumption there that it's Shakespeare, for god's sake it has to make sense? If the passage occurred in a play by Anthony Monday or some other forgotten Elizabethan dramatist, it would be 'another example of Monday's stretching of language past the breaking point'.