I see it. You have to be “immaculate” to be “good,” in literature today, and you have to be “good” to be “passable,” the way maybe William Dean Howells and Kate Chopin were, once upon a time. Jodi Picoult is vastly preferable to many other authors out there, if only for her ability to embed metaphoric anecdotes within, say, the end of chapters, as a way of showing the mental/emotional side of life without being indulgent in such feeling. Unlike other mass market voices like James Elroy, she doesn’t really seem to fall prey to CHEESINESS, necessarily.
Still, I simply cannot abide all this good guy/bad guy stuff. I never watch movies. There’s this realm you get in sometimes as a fabricated creator where you’re just clenching every muscle in your body, trying to make every little mannerisms of some of the characters “good,” and all of those of the other ones unrealistically boorish, or overly aggressive. This might work on some readers, but I’ve seen too much… I’ve been through the “crusty old classics” like A Hazard of New Fortunes and Huxley’s Point Counterpoint and believe it or not — they have a SENSE OF HUMOR. They do not live in these bubbles of allotted, polarized morality. The rhythm of existence comes from some invisible divinity or deity, and all of these characters live under the same rhythm, all under the same sky both proverbial and existential. If they take a trip out to nature, then THAT transforms them, like in many Virginia Woolf novels. Until then, so much of life is circumstantial. We don’t have computer chips in our heads making us either good or bad, and until lots of these popular writers realize that a lot of behavior, and opinion, is just a matter of the little fractals of surroundings growing up and in young adulthood, we won’t rediscover true literature again. It’s certainly an uphill battle, but I cannot abide pouring syrup on this us vs. them stuff and calling it pancakes.
From what I read of the preliminary commentary on Picoult, it was billed as a “novel about racism.” And to be sure it is, and probably not the worst one out there. But still, maybe this is part of the problem: maybe we’re so reluctant to embrace a novel which isn’t specifically ABOUT something, maybe we’re afraid of what we truly believe, deep down, if we relinquish our taut grip around these chic issues of the day, and give in to the pervasive miscellany of life (notice I didn’t call it the SWEET pervasive miscellany of life). I say go easier on authors, and all artists, really, in the way of content, but require a little more worldview… require… a little more imperfection.