Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Will Grayson Will Grayson: The Counter Counter Counter Post

"Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim." - George Santayana, the same guy who said those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.

Rock4ever95 has had the audacity to call me audacious in countering his review, and therefore I must counter it once again. Or through some form of skewed reasoning like that. Here is his post.

He says "The real way to push the envelope is to give readers a plot that makes them question things and is clever and new and edgy and progressive. If only someone had written a book like that. Oh, wait, someone has. It was called Boy Meets Boy and it was written by David Levithan."

Looking for Alaska, and Paper Towns did make me question things. Maybe they're not new or edgy or progressive, and maybe they are, but they succeeded in the questioning category. WGWG didn't so much make me question, but it made me think, but the things I am referring to are rather personal and probably don't apply to you/most other people. Maybe it's not progressive or new or edgy. However, I enjoyed reading it a lot. 

I loved Boy Meets Boy. I will not dispute its quality. But when did this turn into a competition between Green and Levithan? I agree with you that Levithan is an excellent author. You might remember that collaborating on a book is not a competition. They each wrote their own chapters about their own characters, but that doesn't mean they didn't work together on the character development or the plot. More on this later.

"If the characters are very similar,the style is the same, and the plots are really alike then why bother reading the new books? Why don't you just reread the old ones? Why bother writing anything new? What's the point? If a writer is just writing the same thing over and over then how can you say that they are still a good writer? I used to love Caroline B Cooney but recently she is basically writing the same plot over and over and over again trying to get a hit and she isn't very good anymore. A good writer actually, again not to be flippant, but a good writer writes. They create new things, they don't just reinvent the wheel. The stretch and create characters who are different from each other and different from the author. So if the author were, say, a gay man, he might write a book about two straight brothers. And he might call it Are We There Yet."

I never said that all of his characters and all of his plots are really alike. I said the plots of Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska are similar, and that Quentin and Uppercase Will are similar.
I will repeat my point that there are different lessons to be learned from each of the four books. Some elements are similar, but that does not mean that the books are.
As I said, sharing similarities does not mean they are clones. We share 97% of our DNA with chimpanzees, and 99.9% of my DNA is identical to yours. Yet we are very different people.
Before I Fall is the same thing written over and over and over again. That is why it is not a good book. (And for those who liked it, yes, it has its merits, but that is a discussion for another time).
A good writer is a writer who writes well. A good career novelist shouldn't write the same thing over and over. 

Now the "different from the author" bit. That is a good point. 

Yes, the gay man might write a book about two straight brothers and call it Are We There Yet. That book might be a very good book. That does not mean that a different book the gay man writes with someone else isn't also a good book in different ways.

"Elfarmy went on to write

""Nothing happens in this book." I guess it depends on what you want to happen. It's a book about teenagers doing stuff. There aren't any vampires, or evil governments, or parents who are Greek gods. There's nothing to make them unique. They're just people. Some like to read such books, and some don't."

Interesting thing about that, I do like to read those books but normally something happens, there is a point. And looking back at WGWG here is what happened: lowercase Will struggled with his sexuality and went out with this weird character Green created and fought with this weird girl. And that was about it. 
Uppercase Will had problems with the weird character who Green created and wanted to go out with a girl and a school play. So all of that could have been interesting if it had been done better."

First off: Don't diss Tiny Cooper.
Here is something the authors agree on: Tiny Cooper was raised by two dads. John's just the one that "birthed him." And that's almost a direct quote. Again: this book was a collaborative effort. Tiny Cooper was introduced in an odd-numbered chapter. That doesn't mean he belongs solely to the odd-numbered chapters.

What happens in The Catcher in the Rye? A guy leaves school, talks to some nuns, thinks about metaphorical ducks a lot, feels lonely so he calls people, but no one wants to talk to him, and he decides that he wants to spend his life metaphorically standing in a rye field making sure kids don't fall off cliffs. Not much happens there either. It's just that lots of people identify with Holden and get stuff out of the book.
Maybe there's nothing inherently special about WGWG. I quote from John Green: "My part of the book is only half the conversation." I agree that he didn't make Quentin and Will the same to show that everyone is the same. But guess what: that's something I learned. Something he inadvertently made me think about. Therefore even if the merits of the book aren't intentionally placed there, it is still a good book.
Now, if they aren't intentional, what does that say about the authors? You're going to say it's lucky chance and I'm looking for stuff to learn to prove my point. I'm going to say that in this case (Will and Quentin being similar), it was a lucky chance, but for some other things, it was subconscious skill.
Then, of course, there are the intentional ones, which can be attributed to conscious skill.

 "And I have to say, Uppercase Will is kind of a jerk. I mean, the way he treats his supposed friend is pretty shameful. If he had been nicer and gotten more involved in the school play the book would have become way way way way way way better. But no, John Green did not do that for whatever reason. He apparently did not realise that the school play could make for a really really good main plot and the other stuff could make for an acceptable sub plot."

Yeah. Uppercase Will is a jerk. You're a jerk sometimes. I'm a jerk sometimes. You can't say a book or an author is bad just because the main character (or one of them) annoys you. That just means you didn't enjoy the book. 

You keep blaming flaws within the book on John. David Levithan worked on this book as well, and you can't attribute only the good parts of it to him. 

The play could have made an excellent main plot. But that's not what the book is about. The book is about learning to deal with people, which is something Uppercase Will isn't very good at, nor is Maura.

"Elfarmy then wrote

"You can't give good author-cred to someone just because they mention musicians you like."

My response: Heck Yeah you can, and I just did. IN YOUR FACE!!!!!!"

That's complimenting the person, not the author.

"Also, on a side note, Eragon and Eldest are almost scene for scene rewrites of Star Wars. Think about it and you will see that I am right (I spent a lot of time thinking about this)."

I will think about this and most likely see that you are correct once I've written those short stories for my deadline. Who has author credit now? I do. In YOUR face. ;)

Yes, those of you who aren't in my writing group, I have a deadline. However, I won't be saying for whom or with what yet, since it's not official and I don't want to announce it online and then have it not happen. It's not for The Clockwork Experiment, though. I'll tell you that much. 
Those who do know, please don't leave details in the comments. Thank you.

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