Good writing vs. bad writing

When you start poking around the place you find that there are an awful lot of writing prizes out there in the world of literature. Is it any surprise that one or two might slip past us? And so it did with this year’s  PEN/Faulkner award for fiction.  Announced on 26 February the PEN/Faulkner focuses on novels by American writers published within a calendar year, and according to their website is “the largest peer-juried award for fiction in the United States”.

This year’s winning title is Netherland by Joseph O’Neill, a book about a Dutch immigrant living (and struggling) in post-9/11 New York. It also features cricket, which probably doesn’t pop up in American novels that often.

Around the same time these awards were announced finalists for a rather less prestigious award were made public. The Delete Key Awards shine a light on the year’s worst writing in fiction, non-fiction and poetry. The grand winner in each of these categories was announced on Monday. The awards have been running for three years and as you can probably tell they point out authors who should have used their “delete” keys more often.

The finalists this year included Denis Leary’s Why we suck, which I reviewed last week. Though I’ve really enjoyed the book I can see why it is included. Mr Leary does have a bit of a tendency to run off at the keyboard in a ranty stream-of-consciousness way that makes a whole paragraph out of a sentence (well, he probably figures that James Joyce got away with it so…?)

Luckily for Mr Leary it’s Stephenie Meyer who gets the gong this year.  Specifically for her novel The Host. There are a couple of reasons given for it being designated as a stellar example of bad writing.  One is that according to readability statistics it is suitable reading for a nine year old.  The other is that it contains howlers like this –

It’s a voluntary choice.

Yes, I see what they mean.  For further examples of “what not to read” see the list of this year’s finalists.  Maybe you’ll be horrified to find one of your favourites on the list.  Despite the presence of Why we suck, I still think it’s funny but is anyone willing to go in to bat for The Host?