in which i steal Bruce McCullough’s idea and relate it to literature

and now, janklow with an open letter to Nicholas Sparks in light of his commentary on his work and the work of others.

Nicholas Sparks

well, why did you do it? are you some sort of jerk or something? do you really not understand the difference between quality literature (such as that written by Cormac McCarthy) and terrible literature (such as that which you have written)? are you yet another author that doesn’t understand that merely comparing yourself to better authors does not make you a better author? do you understand that financial success (which i ultimately do respect from authors) is not the same as critical success? or that the amount of money you make is never going to make your writing better?

so let’s get into it: Nicholas Sparks – he of the Notebook and A Walk To Remember and Dear John and Message In A Bottle and, most infamously hated on by janklow, Nights In Rodanthe – has recently made some comments that are in danger of putting him on the Bill Callahan list. the Bill Callahan list, you ask? well, in the past i’ve commented on my great hatred for Callahan, and some of those who know me know i have declared i would fight Callahan on sight. but it’s not even a matter of CHOOSING to fight him; at this point i think it’s a primal, genetic response. if i was to be driving and see Callahan walking down the street, i probably wouldn’t be able to help myself: i’d slam on the brakes, leap out yelling a variety of profanity and fight him. and probably lose, but that’s besides the point.

so let’s get right to the article, because it is full of nonsense at which to rage:

Nicholas Sparks, Miley Cyrus share a ‘Last Song’ love story

LOS ANGELES — Nicholas Sparks has no love for people who call his stories “romances.” The mega-best-selling author of The Notebook, A Walk to Remember, Nights in Rodanthe, Dear John and Message in a Bottle stands in the aisle of Book Soup, literally and figuratively defending his turf. “If you look for me, I’m in the fiction section. Romance has its own section,” he says toward the end of a long conversation. Sunshine streams in from Sunset Boulevard. He’s smiling. Hard.

what indicates a douchebag writer is when the guy starts claiming his work doesn’t deserve to be lumped into a section it clearly does. does anyone make the claim that the movies based on those books aren’t romance films? isn’t that the entire reason that all girls love the Notebook? and yet Sparks can’t admit that his successful romances are romances. for example, i know Stephen King wishes, deep down, he was a “serious” writer, but does he try to claim that ‘Salem’s Lot isn’t a horror book? “if you look for my book about the vampires, you’ll find me in the FICTION section!”

“I don’t write romance novels.” His preferred terminology: “Love stories — it’s a very different genre. I would be rejected if I submitted any of my novels as romance novels.”

oh come the fuck on. if you’re going to call your fake-as-hell genre “love stories,” then just call them romance novels and get into a discussion about how you’ve elevated them from some ridiculous Harlequin romance pulp into something that classy ladies love to read and touch themselves to before they drag their sad, sad husbands/boyfriends/whatever to in theater form. because at least MAYBE you’d have a point there.

Nights In Rodanthe
yeah, i don’t know how i could look at a cover like this and think “romance”

“Mmmmm, OK,” he says. “I think, above all, the characters in my novels feel universal to the readers. I feel as if, when they read them, they can feel — for instance, if you take The Last Song— that ‘I know a 17-year-old like Ronnie.’ And these characters are by no means perfect, but when the going gets rough, they do the right thing. People want to say, ‘I would do that.’ “

on the one hand, i see the point here, but on the other, it sort of seems like an excuse for boring, generic characters. shouldn’t your characters seem more unique? should they ALL “feel universal” as if you know them?

Sparks says: “I’m going to interrupt you there. There’s a difference between drama and melodrama; evoking genuine emotion, or manipulating emotion. It’s a very fine eye-of-the-needle to thread. And it’s very rare that it works. That’s why I tend to dominate this particular genre. There is this fine line. And I do not verge into melodrama. It’s all drama. I try to generate authentic emotional power.”

you know, when you’re telling someone how you “dominate” a genre of books – while earlier, mind you, you claimed that your novels inhabit this mysterious genre that you seem to have created and be the sole inhabitant of – and you’re telling them how “very rare” your ability to do so is, you yourself are the living embodiment of melodrama. see, Sparks, i don’t think you actually get the difference between drama and melodrama:

drama: “a composition in verse or prose intended to portray life or character or to tell a story usually involving conflicts and emotions through action and dialogue and typically designed for theatrical performance” or “movie or television production with characteristics (as conflict) of a serious play; broadly : a play, movie, or television production with a serious tone or subject.” does this sound a little general? yeah, it should. drama doesn’t mean “evoking genuine emotion.” drama can be BADLY DONE.
melodrama: “a work (as a movie or play) characterized by extravagant theatricality and by the predominance of plot and physical action over characterization.” wow, doesn’t this sound kind of like something that would have “universal” characters and:

But, well, he always does kill someone by the end of his tales, usually to maximum handkerchief effect.

…and plots that predominate over their characters by their predictability.

“Of course!” Sparks says. “I write in a genre that was not defined by me. The examples were not set out by me. They were set out 2,000 years ago by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. They were called the Greek tragedies. A thriller is supposed to thrill. A horror novel is supposed to scare you. A mystery is supposed to keep you turning the pages, guessing ‘whodunit?’ A romance novel is supposed to make you escape into a fantasy of romance. What is the purpose of what I do? These are love stories. They went from (Greek tragedies), to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, then Jane Austen did it, put a new human twist on it. Hemingway did it with A Farewell to Arms.”

so now we have Sparks comparing himself to the great Greek writers and Shakespeare and Hemingway, and this is generally where i start getting annoyed. for one thing, it’s poor form: you should let others make such a comparison IF it is apt. for another, it’s shocking wrong. you have to write your shitty books the way you do because Greek tragedies were written a certain way? huh? there’s been NO progression in fiction ever? and third, you DO write in a genre defined by you! we started this piece with you claiming to write in this fucking fake “love stories” genre!

i’m not going to shed any tears for Jane Austin, however. i hate her works. garbage! that said, Shakespeare’s work needed a “human twist” from Austin? excuse me? was he writing about robots?

Ernest Hemingway
apparently this man is the closest author to the great Nicholas Sparks

That’s one of his favorites, and he points it out as he walks the aisles of the bookstore. “Hemingway. See, they’re recommending The Garden of Eden, and I read that. It was published after he was dead. It’s a weird story about this honeymoon couple, and a third woman gets involved. Uh, it’s not my cup of tea.” Sparks pulls the one beside it off the shelf. “A Farewell to Arms, by Hemingway. Good stuff. That’s what I write,” he says, putting it back. “That’s what I write.”

oh, excellent. when in doubt about your ability to convince anyone you’re a real writer with your own work to base that on, just think of a popularly renowned book and claim “that’s what i write.” what the hell is that even based on?

i’m reminded of that time when Ann Rice made a comment about how she didn’t need an editor because you wouldn’t imply that someone like Hemingway needed an editor… when Hemingway did, in fact, have a goddamn editor. if you’re going to compare yourself to a well-regarded author, at LEAST know what you’re talking about.

Cormac McCarthy? “Horrible,” he says, looking at Blood Meridian. “This is probably the most pulpy, overwrought, melodramatic cowboy vs. Indians story ever written.”


i could get long-winded about this, but i’ll just boil it down to this: Nicholas Sparks, where the fuck do you get off making a comment like this? you are not fit to READ McCarthy’s books, you moron.

Even hearing a passage about a sunset in which “the mountains in their blue islands stood footless in the void like floating temples” doesn’t sway him.


Cormac McCarthy

Cyrus pipes up: “The Catcher in the Rye. That’s my favorite book.” She smiles. J.D. Salinger’s classic may be, by law, every 17-year-old’s favorite book.

mine was, incidentally, the Talisman. fuck it, i stand by the selection to this day.

Sparks’ favorite tale of youth? “I think A Walk to Remember,” he says, citing his own novel. “That’s my version of a coming-of-age.” He pauses and adds: “You have to sayTo Kill a Mockingbird is an all-time classic.”

seriously, you’re asked about your favorite youth work and you mention YOUR OWN GODDAMN BOOK? and then you pause to add another book that, while a good book, tells us nothing about your personal taste? maybe that latter part is too demanding – popular and well-regarded books tend to be popular and well-regarded for a reason – but you mention YOUR OWN GODDAMN BOOK as your all-time favorite? what the hell.

Any he thinks are overrated? “I don’t like to say bad things about others.” Except McCarthy? “He deserves it,” Spark says with a laugh.

Sparks, i hope all the bad things in life happen only to you.

Blood Meridian
unlike the Notebook, this is the kind of book people with intellects discuss

Asked what he likes in his own genre, Sparks replies: “There are no authors in my genre. No one is doing what I do.”

but remember, he also says “I write in a genre that was not defined by me.” furthermore, he’s willingly cited his OWN BOOKS when asked about his favorites in fiction. now, i suppose he could presume he’s being asked solely about current authors (a fair assumption) and thus demure on those grounds… but then why not just say “oh, in my own genre? i like MY OWN TERRIBLE BOOKS!” because it’s not like you’ve proven reluctant about self-promotion, Sparks.

When others (James Patterson?) are suggested to him, he keeps his lips pursed.

it’s awesome to me that the equally-shitty-but-not-writing-books-like-Sparks’ Patterson is mentioned as a peer of his genre. this makes me smile.

Sparks cringes at the word: romance. But since it comes up again, isn’t he kind of splitting hairs with this whole “love story” vs. “romance” thing? “No, it’s the difference between Cinderella and Romeo and Juliet,” he says. “(Romances) are all essentially the same story: You’ve got a woman, she’s down on her luck, she meets the handsome stranger who falls desperately in love with her, but he’s got these quirks, she must change him, and they have their conflicts, and then they end up happily ever after.”

honestly, it seems like he thinks the difference between “love story” and “romance” is that the former has a sad ending and the latter has a happy ending. i also don’t think he should be criticizing anyone’s simplistic story-telling.

Some might say that’s the plot to Nights in Rodanthe, apart from the happy ending.

sounds like the interviewer’s even getting a little salty. awesome!

Sparks disagrees. “No, the themes in love stories are different. In mine, you never know if it’s going to be a happy ending, sad ending, bittersweet or tragic. You read a romance because you know what to expect. You read a love story because you don’t know what to expect.”

maybe it’s been a little while since i was in school studying all this literature stuff, but i really don’t think the difference in the way a book ends changes the “theme.”

Is it annoying when someone doesn’t see the distinction? “Uh, no,” he says. “But it has been a struggle.”


Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *