A Ten-page Description of Curtains by Jodie Rhodes

Hello, the robots have left and the humans are back running the asylum. And here is our first guest blogger, Ms Jodie Rhodes, talking on her specialist subject, The DANNY Quadrilogy. What she doesn’t know about DANNY hasn’t been written yet. In the following masterpiece, she manages to insult best-sellers, people who read best-sellers, people who write ‘message’ fiction, probably people who read ‘message’ fiction, and dogs. Okay, maybe not dogs, but that’s only because she hasn’t started on them yet. Anyway, her sister has a dog and she’s scared of her sister (with good reason). All told, a perfect start to the guest blogging season. Roll on her analysis of Why Gossip Girl is the New Vanity Fair…

DANNY is very different from other books; there are many reasons for this but I think they all come under the heading of fearlessness. Every aspect of DANNY is fearless. It doesn’t pander to its readers and it doesn’t follow the rules of best selling (in other words bland) fiction.

There are many works of fiction, but in my opinion they can all fall into three categories. One category is fiction that has no point whatsoever, it has no message to send, nothing to make us think, it is written for writing’s sake. This type of fiction has so many convoluted concepts in it, both in narrative style and story, that it confuses people into thinking it must be an excellent work of art. Really these are big books of nothing; it’s a slight-of-hand trick. The authors seem to say; look how many words I know, look how many story lines I can control at the same time, look how many characters’ names I can throw at you, and I can fill my book with the minutest research into a fraction of the book’s subject. They do all of this because if you look closely they haven’t a clue what their actual story is.

The books don’t have a point to them so they try to camouflage this fact with bucketfuls of literary ‘stuff’. Detailed description, exotic character names, annoying cardboard cut-out characters, convoluted story lines. In my opinion, these all add up to bad writing. Books that fall into this category are poison; there is no need for them to reach anyone’s eyes. A work of fiction that has nothing to say to its readers should be passed over at the first glance; unfortunately these books seem to be the majorities that fill the best sellers list.

They rely on the general stupidity of the masses, to confuse them enough so that they believe they have enjoyed the book without having a clue what it was about. As most people do not want to think for themselves it usually turns out that if a few people decide it is a work of genius then apparently it is. People will jump on the band wagon in a re-enactment of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

The second category is a million miles better than the first, but it has its flaws. These are the fiction books that have a point to make and choose to shove it down the readers’ throat. The good thing about this category is obviously that they have something to say, it’s not just meaningless drivel for the author to have something to publish. If the point has merits, these books are sometimes worthwhile. If they express open-minded opinions and highlight controversial issues. It’s better to suggest that people be a little more racist for the good of the country than actually have nothing to say at all.

The bad aspects of this category are that the points are made so extensively that it is repetitious. It’s as if the author, again, assumes the reader is stupid and needs to have things spelled out for them. This category also provides the reader with the correct opinion on the books’ themes. The books tell the reader which side of the fence they have to sit on in an argument; basically, it thinks for them. These books invent a question and then tell you the answer. They are more like leaflets on a subject than a way to challenge anyone’s opinion. It’s the same principle as the first category, but instead of exploiting the readers stupidity, by fooling them into thinking a book is interesting when really it’s just boring, they pander to the stupidity and overemphasise the point. I think this is because they are scared to write subtly as they may be misunderstood and readers may take offence.

The third category is DANNY, mostly. I can think of very few books that can challenge it in this, and it is fearless. DANNY doesn’t overstate its point. It doesn’t spell out the underlying issues and messages of the book. Mostly, it definitely does not tell you how to think on any subject. DANNY presents you with a set of characters and describes their lives, truthfully and frankly. DANNY doesn’t sugar-coat harsh aspects, and it does nothing behind closed doors.

For the other books in the former categories this would be suicide. It would be way too scary to send out a book that doesn’t give the readers a definitive answer, or an opinion to assimilate rather than decide on. DANNY tells a story and lets the readers decide what they think. We gauge our own opinions of the characters, and it makes us question our own ideas on risky subjects. DANNY asks you to think about things you may not want to think about, and then to make up your own mind, free of the barriers of acceptable society. I think it asks you to find the truth, whatever that may be for you, and then to face it.

DANNY is also thousands of pages of pure story, there is no fluffing or padding. There isn’t a single word in it that doesn’t have to be there in order to fully understand the characters. There are no ten page descriptions of a set of curtains, no minute detail of the weather each day. There’s too much of a real story for that. DANNY strips everything away. Maybe this is just my preference, that I enjoy character-driven stories. However, in my opinion, books that include pages of description, a thousand adjectives for grass, and the history of one of the pots in a kitchen, are all afraid to let their characters tell the whole of the story. Their characters are too weak for that, they would not stand up alone. I think you could set DANNY anywhere, any time and probably even change the characters’ appearances, and the messages and enjoyment of it would still remain untouched.

DANNY gets this category because it does things that other authors would be terrified to attempt. Not just its controversial subject matter, but the refusal to apply political correctness to its themes. If an author attempts to write about controversial subjects they give their opinion of them immediately. The author does not want to induce any confusion that they may be condoning the wrong behaviour. They make their message so absolutely that there is little point writing the whole book. The author may as well write ‘racism is wrong’ or ‘incest is wrong’ and not waste their time building a story around three words. DANNY makes no statements, it only presents a situation without unnecessary trimmings and says ‘so what do you make of this?’ For those reasons it is fearless, and I love it.


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