April 23, 2015

If it sounds too good to be true ...

I'm currently reading a book that I won't name for what will be obvious reasons, but with every chapter I am increasingly astonished and dismayed as to how it managed to get published with the aid of a generous grant from a government organisation that has helped fund many cultural and literary projects.

Impressive Author” has an amazing CV that I won't detail, again for obvious reasons, and shows off a brilliant academic pedigree including a doctorate in literature. The author has won awards, been a lecturer and held prestigious fellowships, etc. All this, as well as being an accomplished sports-person to boot, just to add icing to the cake.

For someone like me whose writing qualifications could be summed up in one sentence and sporting prowess in the word zilch, I must admit to always being in awe of people with blue ribbon literary qualifications and with enough leftover energy to burn in other endeavours, but in this case it all seems just a wee bit too good to be true, given that the quality of the writing in the book doesn't reflect the skills represented in the author blurb.

The subject is interesting and written in a quasi-fictional style, i.e. creative non-fiction. Nothing wrong with that, it is a way of bringing what often can be a dry factual story to life in an entertaining way for the general reader but it only succeeds when it is written by an accomplished author and has been efficiently edited.

So, I have to wonder what kind of checks and balances there are with literature bodies as to the quality of the finished product when a book contains glaring errors of fact and anachronisms, typos, cringe-making dialogue and poor grammatical construction that any Year 10 student of English could improve.

The simple fact is this book doesn't appear to have been written by Impressive Author PhD, or if it were, then how did this individual manage to fool so many people over their literary competence for so long? It is actually a scary thought that people like this may have been teaching others how to write.

Much has been appearing in the media this week about shonky degrees being handed out by universities, and it follows that one must query what really goes on in the decision-making processes of literary bodies who part with thousands of dollars and then don't seem to bother that the finished product fails to reflects the high standards they outwardly espouse.

(Cartoons copyright Jantoo and Cartoonstock)






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