My Take on books like A Wonderful Stroke of Luck by Ann Beattie: Essay
I had a lot of expectations when I picked up this 2019 published novel by celebrated author Ann Beattie. I had picked A Wonderful Stroke of Luck from the bookstore Wayword and Wise, at Fort area in Mumbai. The book came with a lot of recommendations from the publishing world. Everyone seemed to be picking up this book to read, and so did I. However, I managed to read it only on the 16th of July 2020. It took me four days to read the book. Frankly, this book was so tedious a read that I almost felt like giving it up.
However, I am a reader who never gives up on a book, even a book like A Wonderful Stroke of Luck, that does not meet my standards. This book was not one of the good books I have had the privilege to read in 2020. I read it right till the end, but to be frank, I do not know how I got there in the first place. I have a policy that if you can remember every detail of a novel and the characters and dialogues stay with you even after you’ve finished reading the book, you’ve read a well-written book. Here, I forgot the plot every time I put the book down to do my other teaching and writing work. Even now, as I write this essay, I still cannot recall the book’s main plot and what the author was driving at.
The novel was certainly not a great read. It had its good points, but they couldn’t save the book. Plus, there were too many typos, especially towards the end of the book. The protagonist was not likable; neither did he have a distinct character, and his escapades seemed banal and not in line with what was written in the synopsis of the book. Overall, it was a difficult book to read. However, it is a book that everyone is still picking up to read despite its negative points.
Self-published authors and publishers like me are criticized for the smallest of plot holes or typos. I have had reviewers telling me all sorts of things regarding the quality of my books, especially where the syntax is concerned. Many readers and reviewers believe that my grammar is not in keeping with the Queens English. They presume that English is not my first language since I am an Indian. Many reviewers and many of my writer acquaintances think that I speak another language back at home. This is very amusing because, though I am from India, my mother tongue is English. I am not a multi-lingual person; I find it very difficult to learn a new language. The only other language that I know is our national language, Hindi, which I use in a Mumbai fashion, with a bit of English mixed with it.
Indie authors get a lot of flak when most of the time, their books are way better than the books coming out from big publishers or established authors. In a little over a year, I have read many good indie books or self-published books. They have excellent content, are well-edited, have unique plots, and are a joy to read. Yet, they get pushed back, and books like A Wonderful Stroke of Luck can bask on bookshelves worldwide.
Whenever I read a book by established authors that is not up to the mark, it gets me annoyed. It’s like they are trying to convey that ‘even if I write anything, my name will sell the book’. It gets to me because I spend a lot of my hard-earned money in getting the best possible editors and proofreaders for my books, not to mention professional book cover illustrators. We together work hard to bring out the best, yet we are still overlooked, and books that have fancy covers win the deal.
No, I did not get what the title of Ann Beattie’s book had to do with the plot. I was trying to guess that throughout the book’s reading, it was way beyond me. I’m not going to talk about the book’s plot other than it was something similar to most books being published by big publishers these days: a book without a definite plot but lots of illicit sex. I see this a lot in the books I’m reading, and it is disturbing. Yet, if we indie publishers write something like this, we are slashed.
I’m not going to review the book. However, since I took the trouble to read it, I decided that I would just write a little essay on books like these that get into bookshops and indie books that often do not. It’s just not fair because we all work very hard as writers, and many indie authors are really very good. I’ve been disappointed by so many big publisher books that I have been reading but have kept quiet about it. I read them, and then it’s kept aside to be sold to the secondhand bookshops and libraries that I visit.
Since 2020 began, I’ve decided not to give big books with big names the benefit of the doubt. As an author and self-publisher, I have reached award shortlists and won awards competing alongside traditional publisher books. My books have reached bookstores in Mumbai and elsewhere, and they sell. They are a silent testimonial that even indie writers and self-publishers can have bestsellers. I call them ‘silent bestsellers’ because no one wants to talk about us indie authors, especially here in the book market in India. But enough is enough on my side. I’m going to call the cards as they are. I’ve had enough of giving glowing reviews to big publisher bloopers, and now I’m not going to continue with this trend.
I have decided to review and analyze only the good books published by traditional publishers. I won’t be rude or crude, but I won’t discuss them; that’s it. If I don’t like a book, I’m going to tell my readers the truth without being too mean. Yet, people keep being mean with the indie publishers, especially now with a new wave of very post-modernist covers and content coming out into the market. We, indie authors, had successfully learned the art of making attractive book covers but now we have to work extra hard because the new age book covers are bizarre, eye-catching, and are selling, especially among the youth. We have to work hard and prove that we can create readers for our books.
It was a lot of hard work, but I have succeeded in creating a niche audience for my books. Am I jealous that books like A Wonderful Stroke of Luck succeed in getting their niche audience quickly? Of course, I am! But I’m going to give this my best shot and will hopefully see a future when even indie authors make it big without being bullied out of our rightful share by traditional publishers.
If you are an indie author or publisher, I just want to warn you to keep a watchful eye on the new-age covers coming out. They are not what we’ve been working with for the past ten years. They are different, artistic, aesthetically beautiful, and very alluring. However, they sell even with poor content, and we’ve got to work on this. Keep this as a cautionary thought for your current or future projects. Be charitable towards your kind. You can quickly contact the concerned author via Twitter or Facebook, and privately point out the errors you may have noticed. Wishing you every success in your writing, publishing, and distribution.
If you are interested in book reviews, book analysis, short story analysis, poems, essays, essay analysis, and other bookish content, you can check my blog insaneowl.com. If you want to buy my books, then you can check out my website fizapathanpublishing.us or fizapathan.com. Happy reading to you all!
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