Friday, July 04, 2008

Please, please let me differ

Remember that book I loved, Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier? Well, yesterday, I was reading one of Orson Scott Card's "Uncle Orson Reviews Everything" columns, and Cold Mountain earned a passing mention on account of having recently been named to Entertainment Weekly's "New Classics" list. What did the famous Mormon science fiction writer have to say about the book that has probably made it on to my all-time favorites list? Well, read for yourself:

"And they [the EW book review people] showed how easily they're fooled by pretentious tricks (yes, I know that this is right after I criticized the So You Think You Can Dance judges for using that term - but I'm right, and they weren't). Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain is an incoherent mess of a story - but it touches all the right politically correct buttons, and it's told so awkwardly that it has to be art."

Wow. I read that and felt like I'd been punched in the stomach. Did we read the same book? Did I miss something everybody else caught? Incoherent mess of a story? Politically correct buttons? Told so awkwardly that it has to be art???

But why does it even matter to me what Orson Scott Card thinks about a book we both happen to have read? Because, my friends, OSC is one of those reviewers whose opinions I generally respect - especially when he's talking about homework, Mormons watching R-rated movies, and sidewalks, or the lack thereof (but not movies or politics, sorry). I've even generally agreed with his opinions on books, until yesterday. And now it's like a little part of me has died because if we disagree so fundamentally on Cold Mountain, how can I still maintain a reviewer/review-reader relationship with him? Differences of opinion are easier to explain away when the reviewer loves something and the reader didn't really care for it. But the other way around hints at deeper differences that are not so easily resolved.

For movie reviews, in case you're wondering, I depend on Eric D. Snider (a trait I share with Stephenie Meyer, by the way). I used to agree with Roger Ebert all the time, but then one of us went off the deep end, and I think it was the person who gave She's the Man three stars.

Does anyone else have pet reviewers whose opinions they generally agree with? Have you ever had to break up with any of them, as I did with Roger Ebert?

We'll see if OSC and I make it out of this Cold Mountain snafu unscathed. I'll be sure to let you know if there are any further developments.


Sarah Rose Evans said...

I read Cold Mountain when I was in high school, and from what I can remember, I liked it quite a bit. But when his second book came out, for which he got a crazy THIRTEEN million dollar advance, everyone hated it because the prose was too "purple." I think Frazier can occasionally give in to a tendency for florid prose, but the balance worked in Cold Mountain. I haven't read Thirteen Moons, but from what I've heard it didn't really work there. My feeling is that perhaps OSC is just a reader who is overly sensitive to description, and thus had trouble with Cold Mountain. He didn't pick up on the balance, I guess. I had a professor once who told us not to use flashbacks or exposition.

Interesting about the "R" rating thing. I thought it WAS a rule!

Bridget said...

Sarah, do you mean "flashbacks FOR exposition?" In which case, I agree - it is kind of cheating, but I feel like a lot of books do that these days. And if a lot of books do it, then it must be OK, right?

I heard the same thing about Frazier's second book.

Shannan said...

I don't know if this counts or not, but for years I went to this website called "The Christian Critic" and I loved it! The guy who ran the website reviewed ALL movies and deemed how they related to scripture and whatnot. Even the 'R' rated ones.

Then a year or two ago, you had to started paying to subscribe to his site and well....the Christian Critic went by the wayside with me. Too bad because it was really helpful, especially when picking out family movies.

Bridget said...

What an interesting concept, Shannan. I use (which you can subscribe to, but you don't have to) for content reviews, but I hadn't heard of a site doing it with a Christian spin. Too bad I don't like to pay for stuff, huh.

Crys said...

Lets be fair...the man was going through chemo treatments at the time he wrote that review. Maybe it altered his judgment. One of the things I love about Netflix is that they do a very accurate review. When you are looking at a movie you can click on "more" under the rating and it will tell you something like.

Depends on your kid and your family. 16+
Common Sense Note
The movie has very graphic battle violence, with many characters wounded and killed. There are explicit sexual references and situations, including nudity, prostitution, and attempted rape. Characters engage in a swindle involving seduction and betrayal, with nudity and graphic references. One character shows strong values by turning down sexual offers so that he can remain faithful to the woman he loves. Characters use strong language.

Sexual Content
Nudity, sexual references and situations, including rape, group sex.

Graphic wartime violence, torture, many characters wounded and killed.
Strong 19th century language.
Social Behavior
Very strong female characters.

WOW! Anyway I love the part where it breaks it down into the actual acts. There was a movie I wanted to see and under violence it said, "A charter's nose is crushed into his skull." Hmm, I thought, maybe not after lunch :)

Liz Johnson said...

I read the R-rated movie article by that guy. Loved it. I totally agree. I find it interesting that the fact that the Pharisees were actually members of the church is rarely mentioned when the Pharisees are discussed. Anyways. I could go on, but I'll stop there. :)

Sarah Rose Evans said...

Nope, you read it right the first time. No flashbacks OR exposition. We're talking fiction written all in present tense dialogue and action-- no explanation, scene setting, backstory, etc. It was actually a really helpful challenge. If my prof saw something like, "Clara was a timid girl," she'd recommend cutting it. You really have to convey the sense of your character through their words!


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