Most Pretentious Novel Plan Imaginable

Well hello again- as you can probably tell from my post the other day, I’ve been thinking a lot about pretentious books lately, and wondering what exactly drives a person to write one of these “I really, really want a Pulitzer” atrocities. And since it’s been a while since I made one of my novel plans, I figured I would get in the mindset of these literary crooks and write the Most Pretentious Novel Plan Imaginable!

*The Sitting Room*

(This doubles up as a wanky title and the place where all the non-action is about to go down)

dexter dalwood room

A group of middle class twats are all sitting around a sitting room waiting on the results of the trial of the century. Everyone is fidgety and on edge in such a way that gives away their chief characteristic:

The hostess, Ms Peters, is hovering around with the teapot, pressuring people into taking refills and sending silent messages with her eyes that they better not try to leave before she kicks them out- or so help her she will gossip about them all next time she goes to church!

The Vicar (who apparently lost all right to a name since becoming a member of the cloth) is leaning against the piano clearly trying to say “I can play more than just an organ!! For god sake, cheer me on as if it’s X Factor!!”

Mr Vanderwall is pretending to write something down, whilst itching the side of his nose and wondering if he can get away with a quick, sneaky pick- a look from his wife tells him he can’t.

Aforementioned Mrs Vanderwall (nee Lily Gatherer) is rolling a cigarette with one hand and lifting her skirt up with the other, in a way that says both how devil may care she is and how long it has been since she last had sex.

Mr Smarves is staring up said skirt.

Bill McBlanderson is just staring at the walls.

First plot point: a circular argument has just ensued between Mrs Vanderwall and Mr Smarves.

“But war is bad!”

“Yes, war is bad”

“But it’s bad”

“Yes, it is.”

“I said it’s bad!”

pg-tips-monkey-sustainability-v1Ok- this seems like enough plot for now- I think it’s time for a diversion: insert digression on tea for about ten pages (no, this post is not sponsored by PG tips, I swear). Mr Vanderwall- the writer character and therefore the hero- is drinking all the refills Mrs Jones offers because it makes him feel important and British. It also reminds him of the Cambodian Civil war, partly as he associates all tea with Asia (in a way that is inspired by post-colonial guilt, not racism) and partly because he’d just read the Killing Fields in the hope it would make good small talk, but realised now that this was not a good fashionable choice of book, because it was popular 30 years ago. He really should have gone into an indie book store and asked “what’s popular now and will make me sound smart if I read it”- that would teach him to go into second-hand…

*News broadcast cuts in* (fortunately interrupting this monologue)

Everyone gets nervous and excited- because finally something is happening in this damn plot:

Gloucester City Council finds Tony Blair guilty of littering… Dum dum dum!!

Blair-320760

*Chaos erupts!* Well, I say chaos- more like Bill McBlanderson falling off his chair, because Mrs Vanderwall batted Mr Smarves away as he went for a quick grope up her skirt, with a hiss of “not in public!”.

Annnd that’s it. The book ends in that nice anti-climactic fashion. Maybe with a random obtuse ending moralising that we are all “everything and nothing all at once”- ooh- sounds profound…

So will Tony Blair have to do community service for his crimes? Who know? I guess it’s just one of life’s unanswerable questions- since this is fiction and, like all pretentious books, there won’t be a sequel! Hope you enjoyed that!

What is wrong with pretentious books?

So I’ve spoken at length before about things I hate in books- being badly written or moralising are definitely up there as the two most obvious things to put me off a book, but I have never spoken at length about one of my *biggest* pet peeves. And since I seem to have reviewed the quintessential pretentious book the other day, I figured now was a good time to discuss this.

Trouble is it’s hard to define, even if you know it when you see it. There are some clues that give a pretentious book away: they never have a plot, a fair number of the characters will be mouthpieces for the author,  and there will be lots and lots of authorial intrusion. Not that these taken individually are always bad things, yet if you find them all in the same place, you can often guess what kind of book it will be.

What creates a gulf between “deep” books and pretentious ones in my mind is that it is marked by “philosophising gone wrong”. Of course, it doesn’t need to be said that a book isn’t pretentious just because a book is discussing heavy issues or making complex conclusions (but obviously I’m saying it anyway, for clarification). I will hit a person over the head with my copy of Crime and Punishment if they dare say books should never be profound! BUT there are times when a nice philosophical debate nosedives into “what the hell” territory. The most obvious being when the author thinks it’s a good idea to start moralising- and while not all books that moralise are pretentious, you can bet that all pretentious books include moralising.

i hate moralising books.png

As many of you know by now, I *hate*moralising- when the author puts on a sanctimonious tone and starts imposing their irrelevant views on the story, I’m a goner. But pretentious books *always* take moralising to a new level. Because in pretentious books the author is always trying to bamboozle the reader with their (*ahem*) brilliant observations that obviously no one has ever heard before (sorry to disappoint, there are no new ideas, get over it). And one of their favourite ways to do this is to use deliberately obtuse language.

Now, obviously I’m not referring to beautiful language (I officially give you permission to get all dewy eyed over Fitzgerald or Keats etc). No, I’m talking about when you read a sentence and go “ye wot?” There is a huge difference between beauty and obscurity. I mean, in the words of Keats “Truth is beauty”- deceptive language is actually harmful to the soul rather than nourishing.

Really, what pretentious authors fail to note is that the smartest people disseminate their ideas in as clear ways as possible. Nietzsche, for instance, said incredibly complex things in the simplest of sentences. While his words, like “God is dead” give the illusion of simplicity of thought, they deliver a hammer blow to the psyche. A pretentious fool would use innumerable, over-complicated ways to deliver their message- often something that doesn’t even make sense anyway (*cough* As I Lay Dying *cough cough*).

Nor do intelligent people talk in circles. They get right to the point and do not waste time on the surface level details. A fool is bogged down by issues such as whether Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy or a comedy- which I can tell you from experience is not a subject that warrants an hour long discussion (it’s a tragedy with subversive comic elements at the start to temporarily mislead the viewer- see, nice and simple). At best you’ve wasted an hour of your time, at worst you’ve convinced yourself of a lie and reached some pretty daft conclusions (yes, I’ve met people that think Romeo and Juliet is a comedy now).

bigly clever

All of this serves a single purpose. By making the meaning obscure, talking nonsense and distancing the reader from the truth, the reader is unable to relate on an emotional level. And this “unrelatability” is the biggest tell-tale sign of pretentious literature. Somewhere along the way, the author forgot that the book was supposed to make you feel more than just confusion. Art is not supposed to be an author rummaging round for a few lost brain cells- it is a quest for the reader’s heart and soul. Evidently, this is a test that pretentious writers fail every time. They are the kind of authors that never leave the Shire, let alone make it back home again.

(Yes I just finished with a Lord of the Rings analogy)

like a boss lord of the rings

So what about you? How do you feel about pretentious books? And what books do you think are an epic failure? Let me know in the comments!