Why I HATE Nicholas Sparks

Roses are red, violets are blue, Nicholas Sparks–you suck, and I just hate you too.

Get ready to get your panties in a twist, girls: I’m about to share why I hate, loathe, and otherwise despise one of the most beloved writers of our day. Usually I let people squeal about these romances with my mouth shut, for fear of raining on their parade (even though rain would probably only make their parade more swoon-worthy, right?). But now I’m invoking the whole “my blog, my rules,” and telling you how I really feel. So fangirls beware, because haters gonna hate today!

Who is Nicholas Sparks? He’s a 47-year-old author from Nebraska, a devout Catholic with five kids. In 1996, his first novel The Notebook was published after a stroke of good luck when an agent fished it out of the slush pile. It became a huge success, and his current bibliography of 17 novels and 10 film adaptations have built him an estimated net worth of $30 million.

But you know what? Good for him for making a fortune with his writing. It’s every book blogger’s dream, and I’m not going to hate him just for being rich.

I’m going to hate him because he’s an egotistical, arrogant jerk.

I’ll bet money that no Nicholas Sparks fan has read his 2010 interview for USA Today, because I don’t know how anyone can come away from it still believing he’s a great guy.

He also looks like a creepy plastic surgeon.

How do I hate thee, Nicholas Sparks? Let me count your pompous, deluded ways:

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

Oh, really? You know what this is? Sexist BS. God forbid he ever gets lumped in with all those female romance novelists, who are writing exactly the same kinds of stories as him. A novel about romance is a romance novel, and a crappy book filed under any other genre is still a crappy book.

“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.”

Again, Sparks, you’re splitting hairs. Own up to the fact that you make people cry by invoking the tear-jerking subjects of cancer and military deployment. Whether you evoke or manipulate emotions, who cares? You make your readers feel what you want them to feel.

And when you spout off lines like this, that’s straight-up melodrama.

He spends the entire interview trying to convince the journalist that he’s a special snowflake. He compares himself to the Greek tragedians, William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Ernest Hemingway all in one breath. As the interview takes place in a bookstore, here’s what he says when he picks up A Farewell to Arms:

“A Farewell to Arms, by Hemingway. Good stuff. That’s what I write,” he says, putting it back. “That’s what I write.”

You know what Hemingway hated the most? Fake people. How I wish he could come back from the dead and slap your self-absorbed face.

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 say To Kill a Mockingbird is an all-time classic.”

Why study race relations in TKAM when you can learn that teen marriage is totally cool as long as you have leukemia? Way to go American education system!

Oh, sure. Citing your own novel as your favorite–then adding one of the most influential masterpieces in modern literature as simply an after-thought–is a prime example of humility.

 “There are no authors in my genre. No one is doing what I do.”

Ok, that’s it Sparks. STFU. I can’t take it anymore! How can your head even fit through doors when it’s that big?

Luckily, there are some sane people who call Sparks out. Roger Ebert declared his novels “soft porn for teenage girls,” and plenty of other book bloggers have shared their loathing. Cracked has a hilarious critique of the author, a part of which I’ve shared below:

Now here comes my disclaimer: I have never actually read a Nicholas Sparks novel. I have seen the movies, “A Walk to Remember” and “The Notebook,” which I enjoyed because I was drinking the Kool-Aid like every other teen girl, but now? I refuse to give one cent to this yahoo.

And I really stick to my guns. I don’t care how hot Zac Efron’s washboard abs look, I turned down all of my friends’ invitations to the theater. There are plenty of other formulaic, sappy love stories that I can experience which were written by people who aren’t complete sleazeballs.

So yes, feel free to judge me for judging a writer without reading his writing. I completely understand the argument, and I admit that it’s not entirely fair. But after seeing his personality, why in the world would I start reading his stuff now???

Sometimes you don’t need to experience something to confirm it’s bad–like heroin. I wouldn’t shoot up to see what all the fuss is about, and I don’t need to waste money on someone who clearly doesn’t deserve it.

In fact, as much as I’d love to hear how much you hate Nicholas Sparks too, if he’s your literary homeboy, speak up! That’s what book blogging is all about! Trust me, I did debate in high school, so I’m all for some lively discussion!

So give it to me, readers: Nicholas Sparks–love or hate?

I say we just blame Nicholas Sparks for everything.

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Does Having Children Make You a Better Writer?

Maeve Binchy, who lived a wonderful, successful life full of affection, thank you very much, Ms. Craig

For the record, I’m having a pleasant low-key weekend while my parents are at the coast celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. Tonight one of my best friends is coming over for a girls movie night, and we’ll be binging on pizza, popcorn, and these delicious smores bars I’ve discovered.

However, yesterday I had a moment of blinding rage after I read this article by Amanda Craig in The Telegraph. The sub-heading lets you know this is going to be one rollercoaster of a read: “Does a female novelist need to have experienced childhood to truly understand human emotions?”

Why is she asking such a ridiculous question? She’s criticizing Maeve Binchy, an Irish writer who passed away earlier this week. Binchy’s sold more than 40 million copies of her books, has been featured in the New York Times bestseller list and Oprah’s book club, and won a “People of the Year” award in 2000.

But according to Craig, she would’ve been so much more successful if she had some babies too.

Starting with the photo caption, which states, “Maeve Binchy, who had no children on whom to lavish her affections,” this whole piece reeks of sanctimonious, patronizing, condescension. I cannot believe she has the gall to say that, “there is no practical difference between a man and a woman writer when the latter has not had children.” You know, because if you don’t use your womb, you might as well hand in your women’s ID card because it’s void now.

Let’s point out the real motive here: Craig is jealous. A writer with two children, she’s published six novels with relatively little fanfare. Oprah hasn’t chosen her for her book club. She moans that life is so hard when you’re trying to write and raise kids, so why can’t there be special mommy writing awards to celebrate all her extra hard work?

I have often wondered whether the Orange Prize should be renamed the Navel Orange Prize, given the difference in time and energy available to women writers before and after motherhood.

You’ve got to be kidding me! Craig is bitter at her relative lack of success compared to Binchy–and the echelon of childfree female authors, including Austen, Woolf, and the Bronte sisters–so instead she decides to judge a person’s career on their ability to reproduce.

Which by the way, is highly offensive, considering that many readers have commented that Binchy and her husband suffered from infertility. The woman just died, and you’re criticizing her life choices when she possibly didn’t choose them at all.

No matter what your experience of adult love, there is nothing as strong as the bond between a mother and a child.

I disagree wholeheartedly. Craig’s on a roll pouring salt into Binchy’s wounds, but even if Binchy was childfree-by-choice, this statement holds no weight. The bond between mother and child is just one kind of bond, and if you look to the likes of Casey Anthony, many women have not honored that bond. Love comes in many forms, between partners, spouses, friends, relatives, pets, etc. Love is not a hierarchy.

And by the way, men should also feel disgusted by this article for its inherent silence on fatherhood. Kafka and Poe never had children either, but you don’t see Craig judging childfree male authors. Are they somehow inferior to Hemingway or Fitzgerald because they didn’t create offspring?

Anyway, I could rant all day about this ridiculous piece of “journalism,” but I would love to hear your thoughts. I’ll just leave you with a final quote:

I make no moral claims for motherhood ­— which can bring out the worst in a person, in the form of vicarious rivalry, bitchiness, envy and even mental illness…

Finally, we agree on something, Ms. Craig, because motherhood has certainly brought out the worst in you.

Fifty Shades of Grey: My Rant on Crappy Books and the People Who Buy Them

Nothing gets my blood boiling more than animal abuse, religious fundamentalism, and crappy books. As someone who hopes to write novels one day, I get pissed off when mediocre writing gets an abnormal amount of hype, followed by movie rights and millions of dollars before I can even say “For the love of the Oxford comma!”

Right now, that hype is surrounding Fifty Shades of Grey (FSG), an erotic fiction trilogy by E.L. James. While I could discuss my annoyance over the excessive use of initials among authors–usually to disguise the writer’s gender in order to appeal  to a larger audience (sexist much, publishing industry?)–I have WAY too many other things to rant about. Here’s an abridged list:

These crappy books are crappy Twilight fan-fiction. Why are people acting like this is an original story? FSG used to be known as Master of the Universe. James, or “Snowqueens Icedragon” as she’s called online, wrote a BDSM tale about Edward and Bella, but then decided to rewrite it with her own characters. Instead of a story about a billionaire vampire and a high school virgin, it has become a story about a billionaire mortal named Christian Grey and a recent college grad/virgin Anastasia Steele. I’m not accusing James of copyright infringement because FSG now contains no connections to Meyer’s equally crappily-written trilogy, but I’m tired of media outlets ignoring the fact that James is essentially a crappy book copycat.

These crappy books make real erotica look bad. I read the previews of FSG on Amazon, so I believe that I have enough knowledge to judge their literary merit. (Trust me, you don’t want to read more than that!) I have also read my fair share of erotic novels, and even erotic fan-fiction, and I am embarrassed for the writers out there who are actually good at what they do. Here’s an excerpt from the Tumblr “50 Shades of Suck:” “Oh my, the look he gives me could be solely responsible for global warming” (Freed, Ch. 2). And another one: “‘Hold tight, baby,’ he murmurs, and magically produces a foil packet that he holds in front of my mouth. I take it between my teeth, and he tugs, so that between us, we rip it open” (Darker, p. 194).

If you didn’t cringe and groan while you read those sentences, then you might want to re-evaluate your literary standards. But there are many more examples where those came from, so feel free to check out that Tumblr. If anything, the outrageous number of times that these characters say each other’s names is enough to turn me off, not turn me on.

These crappy books have created a sexist conversation. Look, I have nothing against BDSM. I believe that women can be submissive in sexual relationships without being submissive in other aspects of their lives. As long as people enter into consensual agreements, what they do behind closed doors is none of my business. However, I can’t stand how media are calling this trilogy “mommy porn.” I find this term offensive, because it implies that (1) the only readers of erotica are housewives and (2) women don’t watch actual porn.

Both of these generalizations are completely false. Women are sexual beings just like men, whether they have children or not, and to trivialize their desires is sexist. What women can do to fight this verbal misogyny is to discuss their sexuality in an honest way and battle stereotypes about sexual fantasies. Stop this romance novel versus hardcore video, gender war nonsense! You should be able to like, or not like, various expressions of sex without “The Today Show” cracking jokes about your preferences.

These crappy books have undeservedly made way too much money. Speaking of “The Today Show,” E.L. James was recently interviewed on the NBC program. The author even admits, “I’m not a great writer.” (As if we hadn’t noticed!) Jezebel discusses how James is just as shocked as I am about her books’ popularity. And yet, they are topping the NYT bestseller list, and people are already hoping to cast Chris Hemsworth and Dakota Fanning as the film’s stars.

It simply boggles my mind what books make money nowadays, while well-deserved stories go unnoticed. James is now a millionaire, while the rest of us aspiring novelists are considering lowering our standards to get published, or at the very least, adopting pseudonyms just so we can earn enough to pay our bills without sacrificing our literary integrity.

Granted, I realize that this blog post is only fueling James’ success with publicity, but I hope that my intelligent subscribers will recognize crappy books when they read them–just don’t pay for them if you do!

What are your thoughts? Do you love or love-to-hate Fifty Shades of Grey? Or maybe you have never heard of it? What other crappy novels get your blood boiling?