Thursday, May 30, 2013

LIFE AFTER LIFE by Kate Atkinson

Okay folks, here's a new novel by Kate Atkinson that seems to be taking off into the stratosphere, maybe into the afterlife. Good for Ms. Atkinson. I'm always a sucker for this kind of story, although I'm only commenting on this novel and not reviewing the story. And yes, I realize my comments are a review of sorts, an inadvertant promotion, so to speak.

But who really cares? If you like a story idea, by all means reward its author. We all know how hard it is to come up wth original concepts. So here goes. First things first. The title. Search this title and you'll obviously get many other non fiction books by the same title, relating to the afterlife.

I thought Life After Life was non fiction too, and after reading Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander, M.D. several weeks ago, I thought LAF was along those same lines, but it's a novel, and that means the story could be be about anything. And guess what? This book is about maybe too many things, but somehow it still works for me. You'll notice this novel has garnered mostly good reviews (by open-minded readers) on Amazon. That being said, it also has about 45 One-Star reviews from readers who hated it. I think it's safe to clasify these readers as "literary purists".

They're just not having it. All the weird plot structure and unusual back and forth, as in "not moving the story forward" kind of writing, which delivers too much backstory early on and mixing the past and present throughout. Good heavens, a deadly sin. Lord have mercy on you if you ever commit such a literary sin. Shame on you. Okay, you get the picture. You know where I'm going with this, but hang on, there are a few surprises to be had here.

You know I'm not that predictable. The point is, this author took a chance, and more importantly her publisher (Reagan Arthur Books, a Little Brown And Company imprint) took a bigger chance that seems to be paying off. And in case you haven't noticed the recent shift in the publishing world, take note of all the obscure (to me) imprints that noteworthy publishers are touting these days with a great deal of success.

What do all these imprints mean? In a word or two, niche marketing. Publishers know there is a market for just about every kind of book (story) out there. And while these small markets are miniscule compared to their full-blown genre counterparts, sub-genre stories are coming on strong these days. Books have always taken the lead from Hollywood movies, as far as story structure goes, and conversely, Hollywood thrives off bestsellng books.

I truly believe the days of hardcore genres is out though. The same goes for the music industry. Today's hits are a mix of many genres. Virtually nothing is pure Country, pure R&B or pure anything anymore. Novels are going through the same metamorphosis and that's a good thing. Of course, you can't be all things to all people. Genres, hardcore genres, that is, still have their place and always will, but the days of Romantic Historical Tragic Comedies are here to stay. Okay, maybe that's a stretch but you get the picture.

These kind of stories are multi-textured and offer great latitude in the sales department. Yes folks, there's the "S" word. Sales, as in profits. Does everything have to lead to money? Uh, YES! Maybe that's why so many publishers steer away from literay masterpieces flexing for a Pulizer Prize. Awards like these may be good for the author but not so lucrative for publisher's bottom line.

Just ask Paul Harding. Remember him? (2010 Pulizer Prize for Tinkers)