Monday, November 16, 2009

Donaldson: The Anti-Major Author

I was putting off the blog post for Donaldson because I really didn't know what the hell to write about. I will admit that I've read a majority of the series but only finished one book, and only because I put all of my concentration and force into doing so. I found nothing but contempt for the author's Covenant trilogy, so I guess my blog post can be nothing more than a strict criticism of the series.

Our class has covered the basics on Stephen Donaldson's flaws and beaten them to death for about 12 classes straight. None of the three books had gotten much of a positive feedback other than a few symbols (such as the Vietnam allegories and possibly AIDS through Covenant's lepracy), and even that seemed to be reasoning to fish for compliments on the trilogy. We kept being questioned "Is Donaldson a major author?" I think it's a universal "no!" Here's why.

I think one criteria for a major author is to have some sort of staying power, at least for half a century. A class of about 30 English majors (a title that somewhat suggests that the students have some sort of background on at least knowing the names of the most influential authors) did not recognize Donaldson's name. That might not mean anything to some, but one would think that if someone was going down in the history books as a major contributor to contemporary literature or literature as a whole that someone, anyone, besides Dr. Simon had at least heard the name before enrolling into the class. Especially if the author's major trilogy is only a mere thirty years old and the author is still among us. Strike one.

Another criteria would be that the writing is at least inspiring, if not influential to future authors for years to come. Donaldson's prose consisted of bloated description and dialog that seemed like it was written by a fifteen year old writing D&D fanfic. I honestly want to travel back in time to the 70s so I can see whether or not anyone of that era muttered the word "Hellfire" once. Something tells me I won't find it. If anything, Donaldson inspires the future writers of literature to become the complete opposite of his work. Strike two.

One other criteria of a major author is for there to be seemingly countless discussions among scholars and literature fans alike, be it intellectual conversations or just general excited opinion on plot or narrative. I can say that Dr. Simon was a trooper throughout the three or four weeks we took on Donaldson. The only conversation we had was negative, if we had anything to say at all. It felt like he was pulling at our hair just to get us to say anything, and even had to have us admit to not reading as a legitimate discussion contribution. Honestly, does that seem like the work of a major author would be so brutal as to have a 30 person class have to admit to not reading just to have a discussion continue?

Strike Three Donaldson and your Thomas Covenant trilogy. You're out.

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