film / tv / politics / social media / lists / web / celeb / pajiba love / misc / about / cbr
film / tv / politics / web / celeb


An Anti-Nicholas Sparks Screed

By Teabelly | Books | April 2, 2010 |

By Teabelly | Books | April 2, 2010 |

Publisher’s Note: The following isn’t an actual book review, but after yesterday’s Nicholas Sparks’ heavy April Fool’s gag, it should provide a nice palate cleanser.

I’ve spent a good chunk of today feeling enraged after reading an article about Nicholas Sparks. I really would like to punch him in his smug face. I have read one of his books, A Walk to Remember, in which a teenage ‘bad boy’ falls in love with a virtuous girl who is dying of cancer. Lives are changed, tears are shed. This pretty much sums up the majority of his works from what I can gather. I have seen the film of The Notebook and bits of Message in a Bottle, and they’re the same nonsense. You know going in that there will be an ‘epic’ love story where people will be kept apart by ridiculous circumstances and then most likely death, probably from something preventable, like say not going off in a dinghy into an oncoming storm. And if the main characters don’t die then someone (or more than one) around them will, causing unnecessary angst for the lovers before an ending that should leave you reaching for the tissues but after which we have all hugged and learned and grown.

There would be nothing wrong with this if it weren’t for Nicholas Sparks’ inflated opinion of himself and his writing. I would like to hope that he’s pulling everyone’s leg when he says things like those below, but he probably isn’t. I don’t mind books of this ilk, they have a place in literature, people like them. Hey, I’ve read Nora Roberts and enjoyed them, it’s cool. What they’re not though, are something to be held up as amazing literature, or likened to Greek Tragedies. Seriously Sparks, get down off that soapbox, you ain’t no Shakespeare. And your books ARE romances, so suck it.

This is the article that’s pissed me off, and I can’t remember where I saw it or why I was reading it, but if I could take it back I would. Instead I am forcing it on everyone else. Or the five people who might read this (surprise! — DR). In it, Sparks utters such gems as ‘“I don’t write romance novels.” His preferred terminology: “Love stories — it’s a very different genre. I would be rejected if I submitted any of my novels as romance novels.”


“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.” But, well, he always does kill someone by the end of his tales, usually to maximum handkerchief effect. “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”

Oh lord. Can he actually believe his stories aren’t melodramatic? That they haven’t smelt authentic with the way he manipulates his readers? But then he says of Cormac McCarthy: “Horrible,” he says, looking at Blood Meridian. “This is probably the most pulpy, overwrought, melodramatic cowboy vs. Indians story ever written.” Melodramatic? He keeps using that word. I do not think it means what he thinks it means. Look, I didn’t like Blood Meridian, but I could appreciate the language he used, and he’s written other books that are beyond brilliant, something Nicholas Sparks will never even come close to. In another article he clarifies: “Look — The Crossing Guard? His early work? Very strong.” What did he think of The Road? “I’ll be honest, I like his earlier work. You know what? I get that too. A lot of people say, ‘I like The Notebook.’ That was my first book! I’ve done 15 things since then! That’s very common.”

Deep breath. McCarthy’s book is called The Crossing for starters, and it was hardly one of his earlier works, since he’s been published since 1965, and that came out in 1994, with five books in between. But dig yourself out of that hole if you can, mate. I suppose he didn’t like The Road because there was no typical ‘love story.’ But a lot of people did die, you’d think it would be right up his street.

I think this man needs to acknowledge that he is not the second coming of Sophocles and that what he does is fluffy entertainment at best that is designed to make people cry, that he is extremely manipulative in his work and he’s about one step up from Mills & Boon but that, hey, he’s made a nice career out of it for himself. I’d find it much easier to respect him if he did. Instead, I sit here and seethe.

This screed was part of the Cannonball Read series. For some of Teabelly’s book reviews, check out her blog.

Blog Trends from My Bunk 04/01/10 | News: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Obnoxious | Stephen Daldry Tackles Jonathan Safran Foer's Novel

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.