I love reading. I might love it more than orgasms, sleeping or eating. And I will read anything, high or low, because I’ve enjoyed “smart books” like Katharine Graham’s autobiography as much as “trashy books” like The Other Boleyn Sister. I just can’t stand people who get on their high horse and sniff that a 10th grader could have written Twilight. It was a good read—who cares?
I’ve read two novels by Jodi Picoult—My Sister’s Keeper and Nineteen Minutes—which were both three-hanky reads about suburban families with troubled kids (cancer in one, a school shooting in another). But NPR has a different perspective on the Picoult oeuvre.
“[Picoult] lives large off lurid tales of family strife — most all of them, curiously, garnished heavily with medical jargon, legalese and a punitive finger pointed at a mother who, by any definition, has her back against a wall high enough to defeat the most Job-like of temperaments.
Lurid tales of family strife? Wouldn’t that be, like, Little Women or Beloved or Middlesex or hundreds of other great books? Nevermind that Jodi Picoult is an extremely talented writer. Her books just aren’t classy!
NPR wrote about Picoult when it reviewed a new movie based on her book “My Sister’s Keeper,” which stars Cameron Diaz, Abigail Breslin, and Alec Baldwin. Breslin plays Diaz’s daughter, whom she conceived as a genetic match for an elder child, who suffers from leukemia. Fed up with donating bodily fluids and organs for her sick sister, Breslin’s 11-year-old character hires Baldwin as a lawyer who fight for ‘medical emancipation.’
Ella Taylor’s criticisms of the flick are all legit enough—she says none of the characters are relatable and she mocks Diaz, in “no makeup,” who is “clearly seeking [an] Oscar nomination.” Cancer flicks, she exorciates, are “hauled out by lazy filmmakers to summon easy sympathy and pander to our reflexive need to blame someone for no-fault tragedies.” (Yikes! Do not get this woman angry, people.) But I get testy when she criticizes Picoult herself and basically implies she writes trash.
In all fairness, though, both of the Picoult novels I’ve read follow a similar plot line: emotionally distant relationship keeps mother and daughter apart, tragedy strikes daughter, mother mends her ways. If the author guilty of anything, it’s originality. But why should she be”guilty” of anything? She writes books people—mostly women— enjoy. I see her novels frequently on the shelves at suburban grocery stores and pharmacies. Frankly, it’s great that busy moms are finding time to read anything.
As with the criticism of Twilight for supposedly glorifying a ‘controlling’ teen relationship, the criticism of Picoult and her “lurid” novels is just annoying. What does Ella Taylor really want the author to do? Write all the novels differently for the good of all women?
I suppose all famous writers stomach this criticism, though—Philip Roth has certainly fielded his share of criticism for depicting men as sex-crazed perverts. Still, it’s annoying for this kind of sniffing to come from such an otherwise book-loving media outlet as NPR.