James Patterson, Unscrupulous Black Lotus Ninja Without Honor

Here, read this first:

Australia presents us with a profile of novelist James Patterson as American hack and huckster.

I have never read one of Mr. Patterson's novels, and I do not intend to read one now. But his story -- his own PERSONAL story -- is pretty relentlessly interesting, and we can all imagine that he travels daily to deeper hells than those stenciled in raised print across his books in airport lobbies and the drug stores of hot, lazy towns where everybody wants to leave but can't figure out how to escape that joyless S&M ring called "small town ways."

We can all imagine what we want to about James Patterson after reading this article, which is one of the important hallmarks of a story that resonates. We can imagine Patterson as glamorous warrior for the underdog, as an illiterate buffoon, as a man seeking revenge who will crush everything good in his path in order to replace it with his own facile ideas, as representative of bad artistic choices that are increasingly prevalent in fiction but can also easily be ignored.

However, after reading this article, I personally started to imagine James Patterson as a dark and cruel warrior for evil, a member of an infernal ninja order who -- stripped of dignity -- must sell his services to the weak and brutal, investing his gains in more refined tortures, amassing a fortune for the sheer cynical hate of it.

In short, a worthy opponent who must be responded to point by point.

Patterson didn't discuss literary technique. He spoke of TV advertising and brand penetration and about how and where his books were displayed in shops.

"I'd never actually heard a product speak," says Deighton, recalling the lecture. "It was like listening to a can of Coca-Cola describe how it would like to be marketed."

First of all, a writer who is thinking about how his or her book will be marketed is already fucked if he or she wants to write a book worth reading. Marketing itself is an artifact of a bad world that we should all be fighting like the French Resistance fought the Nazis. Sometimes, the most attractive of us must seduce marketing to catch it off guard, but then we must always be prepared to turn around and stab it in the heart.

You see this level of comfortablity with fiction's profit motive in old men and women who have turned to writing later in life as a way to "do it all," to be successful in business, successful in marriage, successful parents, and successful as artists. They never are.

But maybe they are right about book marketing. They are certainly right that SOMETHING needs to be done to get people reading again.

But I don't trust them. I can't trust these safe, condescending fucks, and I think there can probably only be one James Patterson, like there is only one NASCAR.

I don't trust them because these late-life writer-fucks are the same people who never bothered reading or engaging with books the whole time they were "succeeding" in life in the first place. They never did the work of biting into the classics, and they are now flacking for the mindless crap that they enjoy for the sheer, sole purpose of aggrandizing and edifying a lifestyle that is not only impossible to respect, but is impossible for others to emulate due to the laws of economic scarcity.

The world of fiction is not a "market." The imagination is one last free place in a world increasingly made of interlocking prisons whose jailers don't even wear masks anymore or beg for absolution from the men and women they execute.

"...he produces at an average of three a year and sometimes far more, often working with collaborators in a back-and-forth process whereby he supplies detailed plot outlines, then edits drafts written by others."

You know what this means? James Patterson GHOSTWRITES his books. This is fucking, FUCKING SENSATIONALLY repellent. Tom Clancy does the same thing now, too. A writer of fiction who uses ghostwriters is someone whose books you should never read. The idea hurts me in the most raw and sensitive place in my ad hoc, experience-concocted code of writing ethics. The idea fills me with such a powerful fury that I could crack walnuts with my cock. I could spit through walls and split giants with my toenails. You know what? I might could even burn books. I might could even burn the books of the people who would do such a low, cowardly, dishonorable thing.

(No, I could never burn books.)

Ghostwriting fiction, however, should be illegal. Someone needs to sue this man. If you are a ghostwriter for James Patterson, you are better than James Patterson, and you should stop ghostwriting for James Patterson. He may tell you that he is the "brand name" and that he is the better writer as he lifts his penis into your mouth and starts bucking from his sun-tanned hips and fondling your pretty head. He may tell you that you are a "team" as he dips his fist in the vaseline and starts pulling apart your asscheeks to tease your anus with his big class ring.

But you are not a team. And he is only a "brand name" because he created "brand names" for a living before he became a fiction writer. Creating brand names comes natural to him, and you are the better writer.

Any fiction writer who GHOSTWRITES their books should not only never again win another fiction award, but they should have previous awards rescinded and the awards given to people who actually wrote their books in the first place. If you are a fiction writer, and you lost an award to James Patterson, you should sue him to get that prize money back. I'd like to see him fight it. Don't waffle, don't prevaricate: sue him immediately so that this practice will be stopped.

He writes ceaselessly, he explains, because it doesn't exhaust him. "These books are entertainments," he says. "It's a very different process than if you're trying to write Moby-Dick or The Corrections. That's painful. That's different from very simple, plot-oriented storytelling. If I was writing serious fiction, I'd want more rest time."

This is a lie. This is a straight-up lie that assholes like Patterson like to tell themselves and others, because it strokes their ego and the egos of their readers who often read them exclusively like a cult.

"What I read is fun; what you read is a chore. My writer takes it easy just like me; your writer suffers just like you will."

One of the reasons I still respect writers like Stephen King is that they don't tell this lie.

This is a lie in two ways. First of all, "Moby Dick" is a fun fucking book. So is "The Corrections." There are no distinctions like this in literature -- between entertainment and non-entertainment -- for the simple reason that the apparatus used to write is the same apparatus used to read: the mind. The mind of the reader and the mind of the writer meld in the shared space between dreams and oblivion, and that is what makes reading both a chore and fun at the same time. You are connected.

But more importantly, this is a lie because ALL writing is painful, and I guarantee you that it is painful for James Patterson. Otherwise he wouldn't be hiring ghostwriters, would he? WOULD HE?

In fact, writing a shitty book is often more painful and exhausting than writing a good one.

The catastrophe he describes as the defining event of his life struck a few years later, when his long-term girlfriend was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Her eventual death made him more relentless at work. "I didn't want to be by myself for 10 minutes," he says now. To escape his thoughts, he spent long days at the ad agency and by 41 he was the youngest chief executive in the firm's history - all the while producing a book a year.

And here is where your pain REALLY comes from, Mr. Patterson. Here is why you wake up at 5:30 every morning and reach for your pen. Here is your ticket to becoming a "badge" writer, to crawling out of the muck of your dishonorable evil ninja life.

Do you still miss her? Does your new wife compare? What does your new wife do when you talk about this "defining moment of your life" while you are being interviewed by reporters from Australia? Does she purse her lips and leave the room? Or does she smile and put her hand on your knee and encourage you to be strong?

Only the romance category caused him any difficulty. "For some reason, the couple of love stories I've done have been very, very hard," he says. "I don't know why."

Oh, Mr. Patterson -- do you wake up with dreams of her still fresh on your mind? Do you turn to your new wife and tell her you love her and kiss her deeply, and think about the son she has given you, and how one day it won't matter that your heart belongs to someone else?

Or have you forgotten why you write so completely (is it so mechanical now, and so perfect, and so lucrative) that your love is dead to you?

That love is certainly not dead to someone, even as that someone lies buried in the ground, a murder mystery without a solution, and without a hero.

The advertising stuff doesn't bother me about you, James Patterson. I don't care who you are or where you have come from: anyone has stories to tell, even former advertising executives. What bothers me is the lie: the lie that you can be a writer without sacrificing, without putting yourself into your work, without letting your pains and failures and miseries and joys poke through onto the page with jagged, ugly pen scratches too thick to erase or edit.

What bothers me is the idea that writing is just another thing for "successful" people to be "successful" at. Is this why Bill Clinton reads James Patterson? Is this why Patterson is the patron saint of the Baby Boomer Thriller Lovers?

Because you can't just BECOME James Patterson, folks. Execs, yoga teachers, car dealers: you have to give something up from your "successful" life. To be James Patterson you have to grow up dirt fucking poor in New York or have the love of your life be killed by God and a brain tumor, and never know why, and always wish things had been different. And you have to fail, to fail, to fail...to fail over and over again until it becomes a way of life, a way to be free, a way to imagine a world where you might have a fighting chance, and to wonder what that world might look like.

Is he bothered by sniffiness from the ranks of "serious" authors and reviewers? It is the only question during our interview that draws a flash of hostility. "These people who have monumentally unsuccessful lives and who are talented and bright and then somehow think that they're smarter than everyone else." He seems to mean the writers of bad reviews. "I question that a little, honestly. If you're so bright, why is your life so horrifying?"

I'll let you think about that one, Fiction Circus readers. If you are so bright, why is your life so horrifying? And why does this man have to fund television commercials for his books if they are so good? I don't remember any television commercials for the first Harry Potter book; just my little sister INSISTING that I read it, INSISTING that I have the same adventure that she loved so much, INSISTING that I connect with her.

And the answer to "why your life is horrifying even if you are bright" is so easy that I'll let you figure it out for yourselves.

I'll let you keep turning the pages.


Posted by miracle on Mon, 31 Mar 2008 17:59:13 -0400 -- permanent link

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