May 16, 2010

Nicholas Sparks: history's greatest monster

Nicholas Sparks earned my undying hatred when, while watching the movie A Walk to Remember, Mandy Moore's character drops this quote: "Einstein said the more he studied science the more he believed in God," in support of her whitewashed Joel Osteen-style fundamentalist dogma.

It turns out Einstein actually said this, but he was not a Christian (or an atheist):
It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal god and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it. (p.43)
It's the worst kind of pseudo-intellectual sockpuppetry. Einstein said it, so it must be true. (The same goes for atheists who would do the reverse, but that's beside the point.)

Whatever. The anger might have had something to do with dating a fundamentalist Christian myself at the time. It's been a long time and Nicholas Sparks is free, like Plato, to use whatever geniuses he likes to his nefarious--what's this?
Sparks says: "I'm going to interrupt you there. 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."


"Of course!" Sparks says. "I write in a genre that was not defined by me. The examples were not set out by me. They were set out 2,000 years ago by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. They were called the Greek tragedies. A thriller is supposed to thrill. A horror novel is supposed to scare you. A mystery is supposed to keep you turning the pages, guessing 'whodunit?'

"A romance novel is supposed to make you escape into a fantasy of romance. What is the purpose of what I do? These are love stories. They went from (Greek tragedies), to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, then Jane Austen did it, put a new human twist on it. Hemingway did it with A Farewell to Arms."

That's one of his favorites, and he points it out as he walks the aisles of the bookstore.

"Hemingway. See, they're recommending The Garden of Eden, and I read that. It was published after he was dead. It's a weird story about this honeymoon couple, and a third woman gets involved. Uh, it's not my cup of tea." Sparks pulls the one beside it off the shelf. "A Farewell to Arms, by Hemingway. Good stuff. That's what I write," he says, putting it back. "That's what I write."

Cormac McCarthy? "Horrible," he says, looking at Blood Meridian. "This is probably the most pulpy, overwrought, melodramatic cowboy vs. Indians story ever written."


Asked what he likes in his own genre, Sparks replies: "There are no authors in my genre. No one is doing what I do."
Some would say Sparks is entitled to dislike any book he likes. Bump that. This assembly line technician cranking out barely-distinguishable bodice rippers where, judging by the thickness of the book, one can guess the location of the death of a major character to within three pages has no business even licking the boots of McCarthy. (Sure, McCarthy is kind of cocky too. I don't care.) As Roger Ebert says, Sparks writes "soft porn for teenage girls."

But that's not even the worst part. Writers are egotistical, no doubt, but this is new heights. This guy is mentioning himself as in the same league as Hemingway, Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aeschylus. It's like Michael Bay comparing himself to Orson Wells and Francis Ford Coppola, or Vanilla Ice comparing himself to Mozart and Liszt. Tools of Sparks' magnitude are thankfully rare, like asteroid impacts and pandemics. The world can only take so much.

This guy's head must be bending reality-- one would need the General Theory to describe the gravity well.

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