Sunday, 8 November 2009
Mistress of her craft
I have been resisting the urge to write about celebrity novelists but can hold back no longer. Literary agent Charlie Campbell wrote a brilliant guest post recently on Scott Pack's Meandmybigmouth blog, here: http://tinyurl.com/ykeabm6
He describes the publication of Martine McCutcheon's novel The Mistress as perhaps "the final straw, that wonderful Ratner moment, where the public feels they've had enough of this particular brand of patronising rubbish."
I love that "Ratner moment" and I wish I could believe Charlie Campbell was right. I heard Ms McCutcheon talking about her book on Woman's Hour not long ago and felt quite sorry for her. She is clearly a nice but dim sort of celebrity, who at least did write her own book, unlike so many, but she is also clearly not a reader.
Now, The Mistress is not aimed at readers like me, so why should I worry that the extract she read out was so painfully cliché-ridden? Again, I can't put it better than Charlie Campbell: 'Agents and editors are supposed to act as gatekeepers, to stop writing like this from ever being published.'
I think it matters more to me now that I hear of good writers having contracts cancelled and advances more than halved. There has always been rubbish but now it seems as if it's published at the expense of the good stuff.
I also heard Tracy Chevalier and someone else talking about the same phenomenon on the Today programme and good old Tracy said she was tired of hearing the argument that the sales of celebrity books financed the publication of better books with smaller markets. She said something like, 'they just finance the advances for more celebrity books' and I think she's right.