Reviewer John J. Hohn:
John is a frequent contributor to web sites dedicated to writing and
publishing. Raised in Yankton, SD, he graduated with a degree in
English from St. John’s University (MN) in 1961. He is the father
of four sons and a daughter and a stepfather to a son. He and his
wife divide their time each year between Southport and West
Jefferson, NC. To learn more about John FOLLOW HERE
Author: Brain B. Rogers
Author: Brain B. Rogers
If a person wants to become an electrician or plumber, entrance to the trade is gained by becoming an apprentice. Before being licensed, the apprentice takes classes and works with an experienced journeyman until a mastery of the basics is tested and certified as having been achieved.
Not so for writers, however. Aspiring authors art urged to study the craft, to seek the advice of experts, and submit their work to editors and proof readers, but none of these steps is required. Writers, unlike trades people and performance artists, can declare themselves accomplished. Many introduce their work, unschooled as it is, to the judgment of the marketplace and reviewers in the hope that it will be praised, and if not praised, at least given treated charitably.
The amateur who forsakes the rigors of learning the craft places the reviewer by default in the role of pointing out the flaws in a work.
Brian B. Rogers’ book, The Testimony of Benjamin Smith, is regrettably a case in point. Rogers fails to demonstrate a basic understanding, let alone mastery, of the fundamentals of good writing. The basic unit of any composition, after the sentence, is the paragraph. Rogers doesn’t know how to write one. In writing dialogue, every time there is a change in the character speaking, the writer must begin a new paragraph. Rogers lumps quotations by different speakers together in the same block of text – one of his would-be paragraphs. These and the other elementary rules of grammar and composition are not difficult to learn. Refusing or failing to do so is simply not acceptable.
Rogers brings a raw talent as a raconteur to his narrative. Most readers have listened to a family elder go on and on about what life was like growing up. At first, the tales may be somewhat engaging. A certain wit evokes a smile now and then and perhaps a chuckle. But as the speaker prattles on and on, the awareness dawns that the stories are not intended to entertain the listener at all. The monologue is for speaker’s amusement who drones on oblivious to the discomfort of the listener.
Also tiresome is Roger’s dwelling on the inconveniences and afflictions of old age. With age, hopefully, comes wisdom and with wisdom, insight into humans and why we do the things we do – whether out of desperation, foolishness or passion. The antics of Roger’s characters are sometimes funny, sometimes cruel, often foolish but never complicated by pangs of conscience, uncertainty, or any hesitancy over the choices they make. The reader comes away with little insight into the any of the character’s feelings or motives.
Perhaps a suffix should be introduced to modify all genres in classifying books. Hobby might be appropriate. Invoking it, an author declares that a named work is not to be held to prevailing literary standards. It would be understood that it was written for the author’s own amusement. In Roger’s case to illustrate, the genre would be designated, Biography, hobby. Readers would then be forewarned and be more inclined to accept a work on its own terms. Writers adopting the designation whose work proved worthy of more serious consideration would enjoy being promoted. Better that, certainly, than suffering the slings and arrows of cranky reviewers who cannot make allowances for a book published just for the fun of it or for the age of the person who wrote it.