Isabel Allende Rips On Mystery Novels In Promoting Her Own
There's something about the mystery genre that makes it almost stereotypically bookish. Even I'm not entirely sure what that means, but let me put it this way: If you really like fantasy, then you probably expand that love to Dungeons and Dragons and Magic: The Gathering. If you like science fiction, you're probably also a Star Wars or Star Trek fan. Most genres can expand outside of the bookstore, but if you like mysteries, then there's really not much information I can guess about you. You could be anybody. It's a mystery.
Anyway, the point is that mystery is a very big, very old genre in literature with a wide and mysterious fanbase, so perhaps it sounds strange to hear someone criticize every mystery novel in existence. Then comes Isabel Allende, an award-winning Chilean author known for her novel The House of the Spirits. Though she was famous for magical realism, her latest novel Ripper is a mystery, which she promoted during an interview with NPR in a rather strange fashion.
The book is tongue in cheek. It's very ironic ... and I'm not a fan of mysteries, so to prepare for this experience of writing a mystery I started reading the most successful ones in the market in 2012. ... And I realized I cannot write that kind of book. It's too gruesome, too violent, too dark; there's no redemption there. And the characters are just awful. Bad people. Very entertaining, but really bad people. So I thought, I will take the genre, write a mystery that is faithful to the formula and to what the readers expect, but it is a joke. My sleuth will not be this handsome detective or journalist or policeman or whatever. It will be a young, 16-year-old nerd. My female protagonist will not be this promiscuous, beautiful, dark-haired, thin lady. It will be a plump, blond, healer, and so forth.
Yes, essentially she called her book a parody of the entire mystery genre by not adhering to what she thinks were rigid characters and plots. Many fans of the genre felt like she was being a bit patronizing with her comments, and at least one store owner even returned all copies of Ripper to Harper Collins. The backlash resulted in Allende apologizing on Friday, though not everyone is buying it.
I'd ask you what you think, but be careful what you say. Allende had this to say about her research for Ripper:
For example, if I inject my victim with a blood thinner and I stab the victim 13 times and then I hang the victim upside down in the shower, would the blood congeal in the bathtub? I would never come up with that kind of question or that kind of situation. But if you ask me now ... I am an expert. I can kill anybody and not be caught.
Yeah, on second thought, I might just keep my opinion to myself.
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