Sunday, September 19, 2010

Toeing The Line Of Masculinity: The Literate Man vs. Nicholas Sparks

Here at The Literate Man (TLM) we realize that the majority of the works we review are by male authors. This is by design. But in a meager attempt to enrich the diversity of this site’s content contemplated reviewing a book penned by a woman author. Unfortunately, we didn’t. But we did the next best thing. We read a Nicholas Sparks book, Three Weeks With My Brother.

And for any struggling and frustrated authors out there that have passed by a stack of Sparks’ books at a book store, or read his name at the top of the New York Times Bestseller list every day for the past decade or been forced to watch one of the big screen adaptations of his novels by your girlfriend or wife and hated him for his apparently easy success: shame on you.
Granted, the first manuscript he sent out to agent was accepted for representation within days. And within three months of snagging an agent he had received a $1 million offer from Warner publishing. And so what if he’s made a gazillion dollars with his numerous best sellers and box-office hits.

This is a man who has struggles just like the rest of us, actually many more than most people. Reading Three Weeks with My Brother, while not the most interesting book in the world, is nonetheless engaging, and is a good reminder (especially to the jaded human sub-specie of unpublished novelist) that happiness is much more than a million dollar book deal or a bestselling novel.

In fact, this book is a real downer. About every 30 pages or so my eyeballs felt compelled to shoot out salty water. Even at the end of the book and during the epilogue I was waiting, hoping, for some tiny morsel of happiness or redemption. And it never came. But sometimes in life there aren’t happy endings and it’s hard to paint rainbows and unicorns out of such things like: the traumatic death of your mother, your father’s descent into madness, a severely disable child, or having your sister devoured by a brain tumor –all in the span of a few years. The remarkable thing about Sparks’ life and indeed this story is that for every one of his staggering successes in life there seems to be a corresponding soul-crushing low point to counterbalance it.

I’ve never read any of Sparks’ fiction but if the dialogue is as bad as the supposedly real dialogue that he’s included in this non-fiction memoir of a trip around the world with his brother than I never will. But this book isn’t about the dialogue between him and his brother but rather about the ups and many downs of his life. It’s a breezy read at best, and there are many other (better) books out there. But Three Weeks With My Brother, is about as close to chick-lit as we’ll ever get at TLM, a broadening of our horizons, so to speak, and it’s a good reminder to cherish the good things in life.

So next time you pass a stack of Sparks’ books at the airport and curse him for his commercial success, remember that this guy struggles just like the rest of us and that there are many problems in life that a seven-figure book advance will never be able to fix.

7.0 out of 10

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this! I had an absolute crap day. This actually made me laugh.