Morro dos Pescadores, Rio de Janeiro

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Nicholas Sparks' THE CHOICE

We can nod at the obvious that The Choice is typical Nicholas Sparks; faithful readers are not likely to be disappointed. Unless, of course, they actually think about it too much.

To be fair, Sparks has declared his interest is writing best-sellers, not something else, and in today’s world that means formulaic and predictable. Again, the readers he wants to please are probably not going to be disappointed with The Choice.

At the lowest resolution, there isn’t much more to be said.

If we look a little closer, however, some cracks have begun to appear, almost as though he has tired of repeating himself; or is having trouble making new plots fit the very very profitable formula.

The Choice starts of with a typical boy-meets-girl set up; Gabby moves to a Florida to be close to her boyfriend Kevin. And (wouldn’t you know it), the oh-so-eligible Travis lives next door. You already see the choice, right? Well, wait till you get to Part II and that isn’t the choice at all. Not that it isn’t a choice, but it’s not the one in the book.

As I’ve tried to follow Nicholas Sparks, after all he was, at my last checking, the third best-selling author in the world, the formula is pretty clear: (1) a timely subject--livings wills in this case, (2) a maudlin 'voice' or writing style, (3) a male character outwardly very masculine, but who wants a relationship like women wish men did, (4) quick bonding, one principle is conflicted about it. but permanent once achieved --contretemps keep the plot moving, not seven-year itches, (5) an uncomplicated plot that can be told simply and gushingly. This keeps the book relatively short, readable in two or three sittings. (5) No nastiness like cursing (you won’t be embarrassed to recommend it to your friends), and sex is just explicit enough we know what’s happening (though Sparks appears to subscribe to the modern myth that chastity has no selective advantage over promiscuity in selecting a mate).

The crack in this edifice is that the choice of The Choice doesn’t come until Part II. It is as though Sparks changed his mind about the book after Part 1, which was a fairly humdrum romance with little action and almost no plot. It appears Sparks realized he would have to do something to pull it out, and didn’t want to go back and rewrite the whole damn thing.

Still, Sparks’ readers will be happy. So, I'm confident, will his publisher.

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