Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Can Someone Please Explain Paulo Coelho to Me?

First off, does everyone know what I’m talking about? It’s been a little while since Mr. Coelho’s come up with a new novel, but for the past few years, all I ever saw when I walked into a bookstore were huge displays of Paulo Coelho’s various books, and all I ever heard were people raving about The Alchemist, or gasping about the “controversial”, salacious Eleven Minutes.

And by “people” I don’t mean people who read widely and regularly, but that mysterious third party who decides what ‘everyone’s watching’ these days, or who were the best dressed celebrities at the Oscars, etc, etc.

Sometime after The Alchemist had snuck into my consciousness somehow (don’t remember anyone recommending it to me, or reading any articles about it, so can only assume the bookstore hype got so bad that my brain could no longer ignore it), I came upon a copy of Veronika Decides to Die. That, I thought, sounded far more interesting than The Alchemist. And for most of the novel, Coelho actually lived up to this image of a genius writer I had built up in my head. I LOVED this book.

Until I finished it. It weighed on me like a supersized double Big Mac with extra cheese.

Something about it was not right. I’m not quite sure what. But now, halfway through the ‘salacious’ Eleven Minutes, I think I may have it figured out.

I think Paulo Coelho appeals to the masses the same way that guys who paints ‘light’ in and quaint country cottages does.

McLiterature? McPhilosophy? McSpirituality?


You can scoff and call me a snob, but I would rather read Danielle Steel than a guy who feels it’s necessary to place his philosophical gems in brackets, in mid-action, mind you, rather than have the readers figure it out on their own from the writing and story itself.

I don’t think that the fact I can’t appreciate Paulo Coelho’s body of work as much as the millions of people out there who do is because I am a literary snob. I write chick lit for Pete’s sake.

I just think Mr. Coelho appeals to people who don't have time for nuance and subtlety. Which is not most writers, or people who read widely and often. It’s like bite-sized literacy for the hurried. Or men. Which probably explains why his books are so thin.

Anyone out there have a favorite Paolo Coelho book? ‘S okay, you can tell me. I did find the ones I read entertaining. It was just the aftertaste I wasn’t too happy with...


Anonymous said...

Thank you for that post! Finally, someone who agrees with me on Paulo Coelho's talentless writing. It's always seemed a bit funny to me that so many people's favorite book is The Alchemist, and usually they're people who haven't really done much reading in general. His writing really does appeal to the masses. It's preachy and condescending at best. Down with McNovels!

Marilyn Brant said...

Oh, great post! I've heard of Coelho and never read him, but now you've sparked my curiosity. I'll have to take a peek at one of his novels (if only to see those "philosophical gems in brackets" :).