Tyson Adams

Putting the 'ill' back in thriller

Archive for the tag “Steve Hely”

What the author meant

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I’ll admit it: I did English Literature in high school. I wasn’t particularly good at it. I’ll exclude all my other excuses as to why I didn’t do well in Lit – like my general lack of motivation in school and desperate need to complete the final level of DOOM – and blame my poor grades on the above graphic.

Obviously not the graphic itself, that would be silly. I mean the message that the graphic is trying to relay, and not just that the curtains may be blue. In school and even now, I find that literature is often over-interpreted. I remember clearly one example of this when we were forced to study Shakespeare’s MacBeth. Studying a play by reading it already had me wanting to throw stuff at the teacher, as plays are meant to be watched, not read. But I remember the teacher being adamant that there was a very important juxtaposition and allegory in the comedic scene of the drunken porter.

If you can’t remember this scene in MacBeth, suffice to say it is one big joke about how being drunk makes you pee and ruins erections. Dick jokes never go out of fashion.

Apparently there is a lot of deep and meaningful stuff going on….. Dick jokes can be deep and meaningful. I always thought that MacBeth chucked in that joke scene because the rest of the play was so dark, and it gave his actors a chance to change costumes before the next act. Essentially, I thought that it was just a necessity and the master playwright had made it fun for the audience. My teacher disagreed.

But that is the thing, unless Shakespeare wrote down his intentions, or there are some amazing insights recorded from his time, then it is just conjecture, or playing with themselves. Occam’s Razor would have us take the simplest answer that fits and not try to overcomplicate things.

That isn’t to say that there isn’t deeper meaning in any artistic work, far from it. But a lot of the deeper meaning is about the reader’s projection as much as what is/was written. Take as an example the list that the wonderful Mental Floss put together:

http://mentalfloss.com/article/30937/famous-novelists-symbolism-their-work-and-whether-it-was-intentional

Many famous authors, many misinterpretations.

Now some authors and genres love to go overboard with the hidden meanings, or at least like to make it seem deep and meaningful (see Steve Hely’s satire on this). Some authors just do it accidentally as part of including various themes and ideas in their work. But literary analysis really does take that interpretation to another level.

Essentially, why can’t people just enjoy a book?

Book Review: How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely

How I Became a Famous NovelistHow I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Satire is always fun. There is something so rewarding about taking the piss out of someone, something or society. The problem with satire is either that the target often doesn’t have much of a sense of humour or that the joke is just dragged out too far. One of the greatest works of satire, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, is a great example of how writers can sometimes labour a joke/point too much, whilst being absolute geniuses.

Steve’s satire of the literary industry is right on the money. From the biting examples of literary drivel, to the examples of writers and the claims by industry figures that no-ones knows anything about books, Hely has hit the mark. I’m sure if I actually read much literary fiction I’d even recognise the books and writers who were satirised.

So it pains me to give this book only 3 stars, but I really had to. There were bits I had to skim over, especially in the second half of the book. Some of the literary satire pieces were too close to the truth for me, essentially making for boring reading. And, as I have already alluded, the book relies on one joke. This is still very well done, an enjoyable read, but it does suffer the fate of many pieces of satire, hence only 3 stars from me.

View all my reviews

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