Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Will never try a Clavell book in my life

As you may remember, I was reading James Clavell's historical novels for a book I'm working on. I was boasting about how I'd read all 4,000 pages of them.

But no. I just couldn't. This is pretty awkward to admit, since I'm still writing the entry for him, but I had to put Shogun down and when I started to read Tai-pan, I had to put it down, too. I will probably take a look at Gai-Jin, but nothing more. His novels set in more recent times I won't even open.

I was talking earlier about how Alex Haley's Roots (and Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code) are more about telling than showing. This is also the case with Clavell. He can't seem to understand how to build a scene in an economical way, and he really isn't good with action scenes. What was more troubling was his habit of cobbling the narrative with flashbacks - almost every page has a flashback in which a character is given a motive for his or her actions. And I just couldn't get into that. It got so tiresome I shudder at a sight of a Clavell novel.

Hope my employer isn't reading this. And mind you, in the coming book I'll try to write about Clavell in a more objective way than what I just posted above.

I'm also sorry I never wrote anything more about Norah Lofts. I read several of her novels and I liked them more than Clavell's books, even though I wasn't enthusiastic about them. Some of you might try Madselin (1969, IIRC) if you're interested in how to write about the Norman Conquest without sword and axe fights.


Todd Mason said...

I attempted YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE and SHOGUN at about the same time, and found both Very easy to put down, despite my interest in the interaction of Westerners with the Japanese...and my fondness in spite of themselves for their dramatizations, albeit Roald Dahl's script and the general fiddling with the character on the Bond films' part had already made the film and novel very distant cousins.

Juri said...

Yes, SHOGUN isn't very compelling. I notice that 20TH CENTURY ROMANCE & HISTORICAL WRITERS shares the same view with me, even though they are largely more positive about Clavell.

Randy Johnson said...

I remember reading Shogun many years ago(at the time it was my first 1000+ pages book). I don't remember anything much about it except that I did finish it.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I once had a friend who read his novels almost exclusively. This was only one of the reasons our friendship ended.