When I finished The Whistler (Doubleday, 2016), which is still # 4 on the fiction best-selling list published by the Wall Street Journal, I felt dissatisfied, as if the story never really opened itself up.
Perhaps the problem is that in this book, Grisham goes more outside his typical legal forte, focusing upon the investigating team of a governmental agency. Sure, there are attorneys, and courtrooms, and settlements, and all that goes with it. But, repeatedly, the characters who work for the agency investigating judicial misconduct proclaim, “we are not lawyers.” And, that is the problem with the novel.
The story title comes from the term “whistle-blower,” which became popular in business circles with the Enron debacle. In this story, it is a character who kept confidential information about a judge, and slowly seeped it out for her demise.
One problem with popular authors such as this is that they work too fast, trying to get the next book into the marketplace as quickly as possible. That may make everyone money, but it seriously erodes their reputation as a quality writer. But. that is a subject for another post, on another day.
But, I was also very disappointed in him. It simply screams “there will be a sequel.” It is unlike every other book he has ever written.
I only read the customer reviews on Amazon.com after I wrote this post. In general, these are vicious. I don’t think the story is that bad, and I don’t think it’s boring. Maybe it has just enough sex to keep me interested. But, I do join others who criticize the book for the low-quality ending. Just finish the story, John. Move on to the next book.
In summary, to find out what happens, you will have to buy the next book. That has never been the case for Grisham, who has penned so many best-sellers over the years, and which have found their way to the big screen through adaptation. Who has ever forgotten The Firm?
You won’t find this one moving to film. At least, not until we know the ending.
One of the great gender-based stereotypes about authors is that females emphasize character development, while males emphasize plot development. Intuitively, I believe this to be true, but it is never exemplified any better than in two recent non-fiction best-sellers.
Claire Messud wrote The Woman Upstairs (Knopf, 2013), a first-person rendition of Nora Eldridge, an elementary school teacher in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who exploits her creative habits in a studio with a partner who is the parent of one of her students. I have never read such a deeply detailed and intimately personal description of a character. Not only does the reader understand Nora’s thoughts and behaviors, but we are also treated to her thoughts behind her thoughts, allowing us to actually predict her next thought and her next movement. The story dances about, and may actually be fairly shallow, but that is not the strength of this book. Readers know the characters as well as is possible.
Contrast that book with The Highway by C.J. Box (Minotaur, 2013). This is a story about an evil and sordid truck driver, two teenage sisters, a former police investigator, and his young former partner. The book is action-filled, moving rapidly between scene and scene, almost as if time were an enemy. While we follow the characters, we really don’t know them very well. They are simply pawns on the larger board of a riveting story. We learn enough about them to allow us to move through the action, but there is minimal coverage of their backgrounds, personality, and inner-most thoughts. I personally hope that someone purchases this script to make a movie. It would be a good one.
The point of all this is that there are differences. Even Catherine Coulter, who has made a career writing FBI thrillers gives us greater character insight than authors such as John Grisham or John Sandford. Maybe we see what we want to see when we read these books. And, there are certainly exceptions.
But, that’s how I see it. What about you? Let’s talk about it really soon!
Let’s wait just a few moments before we christen Kindle as the force that did away with traditional books. Although this technology will continue to add available titles, and as sales for the product through Amazon.com will continue to rise, the chances that it will eliminate books with hard covers, paper, jackets, and traditional marking devices are simply not too high.
I believe that one reason for this is that books are symbols. Books on Kindle cannot be symbols. First, books do not have to be read to serve as a symbol. Many people fill the shelves in their homes and offices with books that they have never read in order to symbolize their interest in, or affilitation with, a particular subject. A great example of this is Peter Senge’s “The Fifth Discipline,” which is a terrific-looking book on any shelf, but one that many people profess to have never read. If I want to show visitors to my home or office that management is important to me, there is no better way than to display many books on the subject. The same is true for deep-sea fishing, religion, cooking, or anything else. The display of books symbolizes one’s purported interest or expertise in a given topic. I’m sorry, but you can’t do that the same way with Kindle.
Second, carrying books symbolizes an active approach to life. When I see someone with a book, I know that he or she always has something to do. The book serves as an avenue to fill unfilled time, such as waiting for an appointment, riding to a destination, sitting before a presentation begins, or waiting for co-workers to arrive back in a meeting after a break. The book is a symbol that this person values time and makes the most of the time available to him or her. It’s not the same with Kindle.
Third, and finally, books are symbols because they represent another part of life for the person who carries them. Books are escapes. Novels such as John Grisham’s “The Associate” or non-fiction works such as Jim Collins’ “Good to Great” take the reader out of the here-and-now and to a place that allows him or her to get away.
You may have more difficulty seeing why can’t books on Kindle cannot fulfill my second and third reasons. It is simple. They are perceptual, not actual. Strange as it seems, there are people who carry around books so that others will notice them doing so. They have not read, nor have any intention of reading the book they carry. Do you really believe that EVERYONE who carries the Holy Bible does so because it is a source of inspiration for them whenever they have a chance to glance at it? Surely that is true for some, maybe even many – but true for everyone? Hardly.
Books are symbols. People ask “what are you reading?” “How do you like that book?” Or, walking into your study, they say, “I see you enjoy birdwatching.” Those comments are not going to come about with Kindle.
Traditional books will continue to sell – and sell well, because to many people, they are symbols. Am I right? Let’s talk about it!