Thursday, April 3, 2008

Co-authored Books

Raise your hand if you would even consider reading a co-authored book. Anyone?

Generally, I won't either. They're so often examples of even more self-indulgent writing than we already get from famous authors who no longer accept editing. Sometimes you can even see the seams, if you're interested enough to dip into the book.

Okay, but I just read a co-authored book that made me laugh all the way through. It's by Jennifer Crusie, of chicklit fame, and Bob Mayer, who I hadn't read before (from the book jacket, it looks entirely possible to me that he writes those men's guilty pleasures-type books--he's a "former Green Beret"). It's entitled (unpromisingly, I thought) Agnes and the Hitman. Agnes is a cook, a cookbook author, and a newspaper columnist. Here, for your pleasure, is Agnes' newspaper column for one day; I found it the funniest piece of the whole novel:

"It's His Fault You're Fat"
Heartache often drives us to consume things we wouldn't otherwise, such as an entire pint of Caramel Pecan Perfection high-fat ice cream, covered in ganache, the crack cocaine of frozen dairy. Twelve hundred calories per pint, six hundred and eighty of which are fat calories, but it only dulls the pain for the moment, there's that carb fog while you're standing at the sink shoving it in your face, and then it's over and you feel...used. Like a cheap pickup the Dove people seduced and abandoned in your kitchen, leaving you with sticky hands and an empty cup and a still-broken heart, except now you're mad at Dove, too.

So, a nice little piece of mind candy, or perhaps mind ice cream.


Alison said...

Like you, I am often skeptical of co-authored books (rather like movies with a mile-long list of screenwriters). I did, however, read the Neil Gaiman/Terry Pratchett collaboration Good Omens a few years back. Hilarious. Laugh-out-loud-get-a-seat-to-yourself-on-the-Metro funny. It makes me wonder if I should rethink my usual stance against co-authorship, or if that novel is the exception that proves the rule.

lemming said...

John Bellairs had the audacity to suffer a heart attack at a terribly young age. Brad Strickland took the notes and scraps Bellairs left and completed the remaining four novels and has since written his own, using bellairs' ideas. They are brilliant.

So, I guess the answer would be yes... but I agree that one should be dubious. Dubious, but prepared for wonderful surprises.

Ron Griggs said...

There is an unfortunate tendency for older science fiction writers to "co-author" a book with a younger unknown, usually with execrable results. Arthur C. Clarke and Anne McCaffrey come to mind, here, sadly. So I am particularly skeptical of sci-fi collaborations.

That said, one of the best science fiction novels of all time is The Mote in God's Eyeby Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. In this case, two writers of equal stature at the height of their powers produced a fabulous book.

Anonymous said...

I assume that you mean co-authored fiction specifically. I agree, as with many things done by committee (the Left Behind series, anyone) the results are often quite disappointing. Though, there is a slippery slope from obviously co-written books, through fanfic, and ending up with something like The Wide Sargasso Sea.

Jeanne said...

Yes, I meant fiction. Co-authored fiction seems to me to be quite distinct from the kind of fiction that explores some aspect of a character or a place already written about (I talked about this in a previous post). How is that different from fanfic? Well, it's published. While blog writers may well have room to criticize the way modern publishing works, it is certainly a doorway through which the worst crud does not pass...

Joe said...

While blog writers may well have room to criticize the way modern publishing works, it is certainly a doorway through which the worst crud does not pass...

A highly debatable position... or perhaps I'm with Ted Sturgeon on the definition of crud. (90% of everything.)

Put another way, crud is crud; once you pass that bar, I have no distinction for a "worst sort". I do not believe it is possible for you to present me with a compilation of fanfic which would be worse than Michael Crichton's "Sphere."

Back to your original question, I really must second Alison's commendation of Good Omens, even as the exception which proves the rule.

Looking over my library, I notice that the only other co-authored fiction I can recommend are illustrated books. I'd argue that they're "co-authored", but in a very different way than we're talking about.