The Next Best Book Club discussion

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message 1: by Amy (new)

Amy | 12 comments Someone recently posted about a book I'm reading that they felt the use of Death as a narrator was a gimmick.

definition: In marketing language, a gimmick is a unique or quirky special feature that makes something "stand out" from its contemporaries. However, the special feature is typically thought to be of little relevance or use. Thus, a gimmick is a special feature for the sake of having a special feature.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gimmick

Which made me wonder: how often has this device been used to make it qualify as a qimmick? I can only think of two instances: The Sandman graphic novels and The Boof Thief.

Weigh in: is Death as a character: a conceit, an innvoation or a gimmick?


message 2: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (TNBBC) | 8699 comments Mod
Amy, I moved this to a more appropriate folder, since its not exactly a "me and my books" type thing.

I see you posted this in the other groups you are a member of as well. I have to ask... are you a big fan of Book Thief, or just looking to get some interesting debate going?

I personally did not like Book Thief. The idea in and of itself was interesting. It was one of our past group reads. To see more about how we felt, check out the group discussion:
http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/4...


message 3: by Becky (new)

Becky (Beckyofthe19and9) You know, that kills me. The Book Thief being narrated by an unconventional character gives the story a different perspective than we'd have had any other way. That's not a gimmick, that's creativity and good story-telling.

To me, gimmicks are in the WAY authors write, like run on sentences with no punctuation and ridiculous amounts of metaphor that get in the way of the story... Or books like House of leaves" where there is no order at all, and everything is chaotic and random and words run all over the page.

These things strike me as gimmicky because it's like they are striving for a "genius" quality that regular story telling wouldn't get them. If you have to entice your readers in with unconventional page arrangements and random colors, that's a gimmick.

True, some books do work when written with the run on sentence, no punctuation and massive metaphor style. Like The Road, which I liked, didn't love because it set the tone of bleakness and fear. But then when I hear that McCarthy writes like that in all of his books, it becomes a gimmick.

Saramago's Blindness worked with the run on sentences and little punctuation, etc, because you're supposed to be disoriented and not know who's talking or what's going on. But his next book, Seeing, is apparently written the same way, and since the disorientation shouldn't be a factor anymore, the style no longer serves a purpose and becomes gimmick.

Now, I haven't read anything else by McCarthy or Saramago, so this is just my opinion on what I've been told of their other books. But it illustrates what I feel is gimmicky, and I don't think using Death as a character is.

He's simply a character. Yes, it's unconventional, and lends a surreal quality to the book, but in a situation like that, wouldn't you feel close to death? Wouldn't everything feel surreal?


message 4: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (TNBBC) | 8699 comments Mod
No...nonononono...no!
Becky. You are bashing two authors that I hold very near and dear to my heart.

You cannot say that Jose Saramago's writing is GIMMICK! You just can't. Blindness was not his first book. He has always written the way he writes. He did not adopt that style because of the story he wrote. His writing is pure poetry, haunting and flowing and full of inner processes.

McCarthy writes with a true passion for words. Dark, bleak landscapes just happen to be his forte.

Please do not speak of things you have not experienced yourself. Before you have an opinion, read some of their works. Otherwise it holds no water at all.....


message 5: by El (new)

El Becky wrote: "You know, that kills me. The Book Thief being narrated by an unconventional character gives the story a different perspective than we'd have had any other way. That's not a gimmick, that's creativi..."

Actually, it's not a "gimmick" if a writer maintains consistency throughout all of their books. It actually then is called "writing style". I consider an author like Dave Eggers more "gimmicky" in that his earlier books adopted more devices in order to drawn attention to himself than Saramago or McCarthy. Every writer has their own "style" - to say that all of those styles is a mere "gimmick" doesn't leave one with much, does it?


message 6: by Becky (new)

Becky (Beckyofthe19and9) I know you love both of those authors Lori, but I am entitled to my opinion even if we don't agree. I like both of those books, and eventually plan to read more of Saramago (probably not so much McCarthy though).

One writing style doesn't work for every story, and a writing style that fits the two books I mentioned would be distracting in other stories that are meant to evoke different feelings and emotions and sensations. In my opinion, it seems gimmicky to carry over a "specialized" writing style if its not necessary to the story being told.

One could even argue that all "specialized" writing styles are gimmicky because a good writer can convey their meaning using straight prose. I don't claim that, because I do enjoy reading different styles and methods of writing if it fits the story, but there are times when it can become just a gimmick.


message 7: by Lori, Super Mod (last edited Aug 31, 2009 02:48AM) (new)

Lori (TNBBC) | 8699 comments Mod
Becky, are you trying to say that a writer must change their "voice" to fit their story? I could not disagree more with that. Every single author that is out there writing and publishing novels has a unique voice that separates them from all the others.

If they were to change their writing styles for every story they attempted to tell, they might as well change their names too... since I wouldnt be able to find anything of "them" in their works anymore. We couldnt claim to have favorite authors anymore, since there would be no consistency in their story telling.

Again, Becky, Im not saying you are not entitled to opinions, however, in this case, I strongly urge experiencing more from these authors before calling them gimmicky. You've read two very unique novels by two very unique authors. You've also read THE two most mainstream novels from them. I don't think you really understand enough about them to make that assumption.


message 8: by Mandy (last edited Aug 31, 2009 03:22AM) (new)

Mandy I think that when a writer using the "writing style" consistently then it is just that, what El said, a writing style and not merely a gimmick.

I loved Saramago's writing with Blindness, no punctuation and no names helped me appreciate the story more, I felt like I was going through what the characters were going through and thought the writing style really worked.

With McCarthy's The Road I absolutely loved it, it captured me right from the very start.

Death in The Book Thief I thought was a great use of a narrator, one I hadn't come across before and considering Death was a character I wouldn't class that as a gimmick.

With the above three they're not gimmicks to me, they are really good writing styles and I will read more from all three authors. I don't think the writing style has little relevance, therefore not a gimmick, I think the writing style has significant relevance in the reader's appreciation of the story.

Having said all of that I'm finding it hard to come up with something I would consider a gimmick but I will keep thinking. I don't know, a gimmick to me would be buy this book and get a free book with it, you know, trying to sell off the book. Don't think the writing styles are trying to sell the books in the aforementioned per se, if you like the writing style of those authors you will read more by them. However, if they added say a pair of reading glasses to Blindness that would be a gimmick and it might be a one-off purchase so as to sell that particular book, or a road map with The Road or a "stolen" book with The Book Thief.

Hm, I'm rambling now but there you go, that's my opinion ☺


message 9: by Fiona (new)

Fiona (bookcoop) Hmm. I think I do understand what Becky is saying - it depends entirely on the book and WHY the writing style is being used and if the author can pull it off.

I loved Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safron Foer I thought it was brilliant.

But when I read his other book Everything is Illuminated to me THAT felt like a gimmick, even though he wrote that one first. Maybe I'd have liked it had I read THAT first? I don't know or maybe I just didn't like the story?

His style is different from conventional. I think it worked in EL&IC but felt like a cheap gimmick in Everything is Illuminated. Maybe the gimmick wasn't the style, maybe it's just using it more then once? It just got boring very quickly reading the same sort of unconventional style of writing.

But that is just my personal opinion.


message 10: by Rita (new)

Rita Mandy wrote: "I think that when a writer using the "writing style" consistently then it is just that, what El said, a writing style and not merely a gimmick.

I loved Saramago's writing with Blindness, no punc..."


Mandy, you and I have the same definition of "gimmick"


message 11: by Becky (new)

Becky (Beckyofthe19and9) Fiona wrote: "Hmm. I think I do understand what Becky is saying - it depends entirely on the book and WHY the writing style is being used and if the author can pull it off."

Yes, Fiona, that's pretty much what I'm saying. I really enjoyed Blindness even though I found the way it was written distracting at first. It took me a little while to get past that, and I only did get past it because of the fact that the story that was being told was a story of disorientation, confusion, fear, etc, and the writing style mimicked those things.

I loved the book for allowing me to step into the characters' shoes and feel like they were feeling. But again, I feel that the writing works for that book because of the story it was telling. Another story written with no punctuation or character differentiation, no paragraph or sentence breaks, etc, wouldn't work to me and would be immensely distracting.

I may be alone in my opinion, but to me, feeling that Blindness wasn't unique in the way it was written actually lessens my enjoyment of it.

Lori, I don't think that authors should change their voice from book to book. There are many authors out there who can and do write books that are recognizeable as theirs while still being unique from each other. I think voice and writing style are two different things.

But again, that's just my opinion, and at this point I will agree that we disagree and move on. :)


message 12: by Kandice (new)

Kandice | 3511 comments I think Lori brought up a good point. Both Blindness and The Road are those two authors most mainstream work. Their particular writing style fit the feeling of those books so well, that it was NOT distracting, but felt like a way to get that feeling across. There's nothing wrong with liking that style, but, personally, like Becky, I'm usually distracted by it. I honestly think that's why those two books were so widely popular. The styles themselves aren't universally appealing unless essential to the mood of the story they are conveying.

In both cases, because it's the way the author always writes, I don't feel they are gimmicks. At the same time, I have no desire to read anything else of McCarthy's, and while I own Blindness, and am really looking forward to reading it, know I probably wont read others by him. I only appreciate distracting writing when it helps put me IN the story, otherwise, I just find it irritating.


message 13: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (TNBBC) | 8699 comments Mod
Kandice, that is the point I am trying to make... writing style is not a gimmick. If they have always written that way, there is no way we can call that a gimmick.

Where Becky says this:
"when I hear that McCarthy writes like that in all of his books, it becomes a gimmick".... and this "Seeing, is apparently written the same way, and since the disorientation shouldn't be a factor anymore, the style no longer serves a purpose and becomes gimmick." Clearly pinpointing the writing style as gimmick.

Not picking a fight, just trying to clarify between gimmick and style. (Let's see how many more times I can get the work gimmick into my post, huh?)

I agree with Mandy's perspective 100%...



message 14: by Becky (new)

Becky (Beckyofthe19and9) Lori wrote: "(Let's see how many more times I can get the work gimmick into my post, huh?) "

LOL... I still think it's a matter of opinion, but *shrug* I don't want to fight either. I <3 you Lori!


message 15: by Fiona (new)

Fiona (bookcoop) But writing style CAN become a gimmick. I haven't read Blindness or The Road, so not basing my opinion on those. I can't say that style would attract me.

Can one writing style be enjoyed more then once? For me, no... EL&IC was fab, Everything is Illuminated same old thing and the story did not grab me so the style felt like a gimmick he didn't carry it off well.

Where one author could use a certain writing style and pull it off all the time with finesse, another could just turn it into a cheap gimmick.

Depends on the author and the story. And it depends on the person reading it too.


message 16: by El (new)

El Faulkner wrote in a very distinct writing style. Hemingway wrote in a very distinct writing style. Joyce wrote in a very distinct writing style.

I'm not particularly a fan of any one of the three of them, partly because of their individual writing styles. But I can not say in any of those cases were their styles gimmicks.

Now, a modern writer who specifically emulates the writing style of Joyce I might consider a "gimmick" as they are trying to gain the success of Joyce by writing like Joyce. There's not much originality there, the style has already been (oh, it pains me to say) perfected by Joyce himself, and anyone trying to copy that is trying to ride on his coattails, most likely based on being marketed as being similar to Joyce. A lot of the "gimmick" in literature is based on marketing.


Lyn (Readinghearts) (lsmeadows) I think El hit the nail on the thread. As a marketing major in college we were taught a lot about how to use different marketing gimmicks to attract customers (or lure them in as the case may be). To me, a writing style can become a gimmick based on how the book is marketed.

Here is another thought to throw out. What about authors that jump on the current "popular theme" bandwagon. I have an author that I really enjoy who has all of the sudden started writing novels with a more paranormal twist. Is that a gimmick to get readers, a natural progression, something else? You be the judge.


message 18: by El (new)

El Lyn wrote: "Here is another thought to throw out. What about authors that jump on the current "popular theme" bandwagon. I have an author that I really enjoy who has all of the sudden started writing novels with a more paranormal twist. Is that a gimmick to get readers, a natural progression, something else? You be the judge."

Hmm. I call it "boring". :)

Like you said, it's authors/publishers jumping on the bandwagon. I suppose it's a gimmick in that it allows for a very specific marketing device (drawing on the popularity of the Sookie Stackhouse books and Twilight). I could be wrong but I don't remember this same sort of marketing explosion back in the days of Anne Rice - I was only in middle school and not frequenting bookstores on my own as much as now, so perhaps I didn't see it as much as I do now.

But I think it's been established that publishing is a whole different animal more recently, in part due to the economy. When Harry Potter first hit it big, there was a ginormous explosion in the popularity of young adult fantasy novels. I don't know that that sort of popularity is a gimmick, but I certainly consider it a marketing ploy. Maybe I'm too lenient in that I consider them two different things.

I remember being incredibly angry when Dave Eggers published his second book, which was in hardcover... not only was there no slipcover, but the cover of the book was simply the cardboard that is normally covered with something. The text of the story began right on the cover, as if it was just a regular page. That was a gimmick. "Oh, look at me, I'm Dave Eggers and I'm pretentious and different!" That's what it screamed to me, and that's the reason I haven't been able to bring myself to read anything else by him even though I had enjoyed Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. By the point where the physical book itself is a contraption to gain popularity amongst readers, it's no longer just a matter of writing style.


message 19: by ScottK (new)

ScottK | 536 comments AYE can one writing style be enjoyed more than once .....I think it can, if it is indeed a "WRITING STYLE". If it couldn't be enjoyed more than once than why would someone with A specific writing style ever bother to write more than 1 book.

Take for example the infamous Ms. Rowling she wrote 7 books in the same style, and became a billionaire from them. Sure they get darker but it is still the same style. Another point is that if you could not enjoy a writer's style more than once why even bother with things called series??


message 20: by Carol (last edited Sep 05, 2009 02:33AM) (new)

Carol I suppose if you have a gimmicky theme that is working for you it would not be profitable to change,until you have milked the cash cow dry.I find Roberts,Steel and other prolific writers mostly boring ,because their books have become predictable.. Writing style (Joyce, Faulkner,Hemingway, Michener, Saramago) etc. is just that ,STYLE. Their books were and are not predictable but their format or (style) is the same.
So to me when the books are all predictable, that is a gimmick to sell more books.


message 21: by Becky (new)

Becky (Beckyofthe19and9) Scott, I think that what Fiona was actually saying is that a particular "writing style" that works for one book may not work in another book, one that is completely unrelated to the first.

In the case of series books, they should all match in style, because they are but parts of a whole.


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