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28 April 2010

Critique, criticism, & complaint

I'm actually writing this the old fashioned way - with pen & paper.  I usually leave my computer at work Tuesday night, but i've things to say now!  As i won't be at the office until early afternoon due to other commitments, i don't have it here to write.  I can check my email via iPod, but it's too time consuming to write a blog post with the iPod. 

I've been reading a Janette Oke (JO) book.  Okay, i'll admit right off - i've never cared for her stuff.  Why do i read it?  Because from time to time i get curious to know if she's improved her skills at writing.

JO stepped into the "Christian Novelist" place in the early 80s when essentially no one was doing that.  She had no competition & there are lots of women who love her books.  I read that first one & maybe a sequel too, but i found them almost unreadable.

Her first protagonists were uneducated people, so 80% of the book was written in a "vernacular dialect" - mostly created by poor grammar/spelling to simulate the uneducated speech.  I found myself rewording nearly every sentence, which was burdensome & made the story creak.  I found her characters to be pasteboard & unengaging.  

She later did another series which seemed to be a poor bastardization of the excellent Mrs Mike.  I hated that series because of the similarities which were done so substandard to the original.

Since that time, i've picked up one of her books about every 7 - 8 years (often when visiting Montana Mom, who loves her writing).  I do it just to see if she's improved.  While she no longer writes unintelligible "dialect" -  do find her grammar lacking at times.  I also still find her characterizations to be pasteboard & shallow.  She also is very preachy & somewhat condescending.  Okay, that's opinion.

However - i found it difficult to "date" this book.  She writes of times long ago, but the timeline is muddy.  Maybe i struggle with this because i've not read the rest of these connecting books.  Supposedly this is a new series, but it is the continuation of a family from a previous series.  

Her first book, Love Comes Softly, was the story of a young widow, Marty, who did a marriage of convenience in the pioneering days when she was left alone on the prairie after her husband died in an accident.  She is pregnant at the time, & a young widower with a young daughter needs help & so they marry.  They eventually fall in love & have more family.  The series (i think, not having read all of it) is about that family.  One of the last of that series is about their youngest daughter, Belinda.

I think i struggled to "date" those books too, as she did things out of sequence with the inventions & customs of those days.  Roughly it was probably 1870.  Marty was about 18.  If Belinda was her youngest daughter, she was probably was born about 1880.  The book i just read is about Belinda's teenage/young adult daughter Virginia, so Belinda is probably at least 40, which dates this book 1920.  But if i'm off on time, maybe this books is set about 1910.  

It can't be much earlier than 1910 because cars/autos are not uncommon.  However, Virginia's attorney father doesn't own one, which wouldn't make much sense.  A friend of Virginia's mentioned "showing her ankles" as an example of "short skirts" so it certainly can't be the 20s.  However, said friend gets in an auto accident & is on "beeping machines," wires, & an IV drip!

Also, words frequently used in our society now, like "fellows," & "kids," were considered rather crass & not commonly used in the early 20th century.  It feels she is writing something contemporary but trying to set it in a previous century.

All in all i've probably read about 6 of her 39+ adult books.  I guess i keep thinking to to publish so much there must be something in them (tho Lillian Jackson Braun of "The Cat Who . . . " series kills that theory).  I guess if i could turn my brain off, i could read JO's stuff . . . but no.

All that said, again, i know lots of folks who love what she writes.  I guess it is, "to each his own."  

I don't know just why i had to get that out.  I suppose because the charge has been leveled at Christians that most of what they produce is simply mediocre.  Frankly, there are times when it is a justified argument.  Of course, we have lots of examples where this is NOT true (Lewis, Sayers, Tolkien, Chesterton).  Still, over all, in my opinion JO fits the charge.

My complaint originally was about the migraine i'd had off & on since Saturday.  Partly my fault because i'd cancelled the April appointment for CranioSacral work, wanting to save money.  Problem is, i had to cancel May as well due to a conflict.  However, i did some CS work on myself as well as trigger point.  While it didn't help at the time, i'm better now.  Very thankful.

This was a lovely day.  One of those days where i feel the "passion" of which i'd spoken before.  Love of life.  However, i forgot that in our society passion tends to have other meanings & i was misunderstood when i spoke of it.  

No matter.  I've not the energy for that intense love of life to continue for long, but it is lovely when i have it.  :)



lisa said...

I have never heard of her and by the sounds of it I think it will be a while before I try reading her stuff.

Kathryn said...

Yeah, she doesn't really write stuff i'd recommend to someone who owns a brain. :p

I think Hallmark has made this series into TV movies, however. They might be better than the books. I caught part of one & i know the movies didn't follow the book all that much.