Tuesday, October 27, 2009

An Author's Dilemma--You Write One, You've Written 'Em All?


Or maybe this is a reader's dilemma, I don't know.

I'm currently reading Pat Conroy's recent offering, South of Broad. Now, I am a huge fan of Mr. Conroy. Yeah, he's a little long-winded at times, but I have long been in awe of his skill with the craft of description. He uses words the way an artist uses a brush to paint a picture. Unbelievably gifted.

And yet I find myself very lukewarm about South of Broad. The worst part, though, is that I have a sneaking suspicion that not only am I going to be disappointed with this book itself but I'm going to find that it's ruined Conroy's other works for me ... and that would just be a shame.

I never realized before how similar all of Conroy's characters are; there is very little change from book to book beyond names, occupations, and who has almost irreperably betrayed whom. Even his sentence structure, his phrasing, his very word choice is alarmingly reminiscent of earlier works.

This, of course, begs the questions: at what point does an author realize that he or she is basically writing the same story over and over again? Some of them are okay with that (Danielle Steele comes to mind, although I would only refer to her as "author" in the very basest form) and others try to reinvent themselves (a la Dennis Lehane, who created a couple of very endearing protagonists then just left us hanging for a decade ... not that his other stuff isn't good, but I want to know what's up with Kenzie and Gennaro) while some admitted that they were only good for one book (Harper Lee ... Margaret Mitchell ...).

Even Stephen King, an author I believe to be the most gifted of the past century and arguably of all time, has an occasional sameness. Being King, he brilliantly incorporated this into his whole Dark Tower theory, but the fact remains that there are times (and with King it's minimal, but still ...) that the works become redundant.

Is redundancy okay? Am I being too hard on Mr. Conroy here? And, well, since my Swine Flu and I are going to sign off and go read the book, I guess it can't bother me as much as I think it does ;) It definitely gives me something to think about as a writer, though ... an area I hope to avoid, redundancy.