book review! – mr. majestik, by elmore leonard

this isn’t really going to be much of a book review because elmore leonard isn’t really my favorite writer. i’m not saying he isn’t a good writer, but i am saying that his type of story isn’t on my list. he’s into violent, masculinity-proving, knuckle-busting, testosterone-testing kind of fiction, and i’m not. however, because someone in a writing class made a big fuss about how brilliant a writer leonard is, i figured that it would be wrong to not read at least one of his books. i picked mr. majestik only because i mainly do books on CD, and that was the only title my library had.

the book was adequate and what i expected. i prefer to come away from a book with at least one of two things:

1. more knowledge than i had before, but a good kind of knowledge, which would mainly come from non-fiction


2. a few good hours of entertainment that allowed me to forget work or the news or my ex-wife.

this book gave me version 1 because the knowledge i now have is that i no longer have to read anything by elmore leonard. grammar and language are a big deal to me. if someone is going to be considered an established, seasoned, and almost legendary writer, then they better be able to master the language. otherwise, it’s like a carpenter not knowing how to use a saw.

here are three examples of mr. leonard’s writing, with a little bit of paraphrasing:

a. there was a car chase, and at one point he wrote, “the cadillac veered off the side of the highway, turned, and came back this way.” he’s writing in 3rd person limited, which means the narrator is detached from and not present in the story (3rd person) and following only one character’s movements throughout the action (limited). if a narrator is not actually in the story, then he or she can’t use the words “this way.” that can only be said by someone who is actually there. he should have written something like, “the cadillac veered off the road and returned towards the man.” of course, i don’t that it was a cadillac or what the man’s name was, but the important and accurate part was the phrasing of “this way.” you just can’t write that.

b. a similar breaking of the narration rules took place when he referred to a character who was in trouble and being chased. the sentence went something like, “as soon as he had the chance, he was outta here.” here? no, he should have written “there.” as in, “he was outta there.” if a narrator says “here,” then he is automatically present and no longer an omniscient being.
c. a last example of a breach of narration was when a character was thinking about something that might or might not happen. the narrator said something to the effect of, “he would probably never go there again.” the narrator is omniscient. he knows everything that is past, present, and future. he can’t say “probably” because he would have to know for sure everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen in the future.
other than that, the story was okay. predictable, but okay.

what say you?

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