Writing versus Producing

As expressed here before, I'm an avid Jodi Picoult . Part of it has to do with her Princeton background (we were undergrads at the same time), part of it is a mutual author friend, part of it is that she turns a phrase like a master sculptor putting a gnarled piece of wood on the lathe. The results stretch your sense of beauty.

I finished her latest, 19 Minutes, earlier this week. Sadly, I felt somewhat disappointed at the end, much as I did with The Tenth Circle which preceded the current bestseller. The story is classic Picoult -- a high school nerd goes on a shooting rampage, killing 10 students but sparing the life of his childhood best friend. But for each facet of the characters uncovered, another one is left unexplored. There are more good ideas touched upon than finished, and after the last page, after the asssured gasp-inducing plot twist that is a staple of her writing, I was left simply not liking the main character.

Precisely the way I felt at the end of Tenth Circle, making me wonder if Picoult is now producing books rather than writing them. Some of the characters recycled from previous novels are more settled; maybe the balance of anguish and reconciliation has to be maintained to avoid having moral fiction turn into a morass of gray areas. But the simple act of re-introducing us to threads of previous books detracts from Picoult's ability to walk a character through every emotion, simply because we have context from previous novels about their likely actions and reactions.

I'm still a big fan, and Picoult still gets a loud locomotive cheer for another great book. And at her current completion rate, I can look forward to another book, and another mental adventure, in just a few months.

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Hal Stern's thoughts on software, services, cloud computing, security, privacy, and data management

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