I've been thinking a lot about the war that is being fought between story and language.
It shouldn't be a war. Language and story should work together. But people don't seem to want to let them, and so they fight.
But if you have a look at the kind of books that win the Miles Franklin and the Booker, it seems pretty clear that the literati don't agree. Literature needs to be dense, beautiful and obfuscating.
I love beautiful language. Writers like Margaret Atwood (pre-Oryx & Crake), Jorge Louis-Borges and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. And of course the beautiful-language YA writers Ursula Dubosarsky, Margo Lanagan and David Almond. But as well as having a truly magical control over language, all these writers also know how to tell a cracking good story.
Making stories is an art. It's difficult and complex and there are rules and structures, and if you don't want to stick to those rules and structures, then fine, but you'd better have a damn good reason. In my four years of studying creative writing at Uni, not one class mentioned the importance of structure, except of course, for my screenwriting class.
But that doesn't mean they can't be art, too. There is often more thought, care, craft, put into an episode of The West Wing, Six Feet Under or Veronica Mars, than into a feature film of the kind that our intellectual elite favour.
Yes. There is bad chicklit. And bad fantasy novels. And books like The Da Vinci Code.
But here's a revalation: there's a lot of bad books, full stop. Some of them have won prestigious literary awards.
You will judge a book by its cover - everyone does. I certainly do. But I try not to judge books by what section of the bookshop they are shelved in*.
Send in the peacekeepers! End the war! Give story a chance.