Friday, January 30, 2009

'Edgy' Elicits an Embolism...?

I got into a rather long Twitter discussion with author Courtney Summers (@courtney_s) about the edgy label that some books (and their authors, for some ungodly reason) carry in and through their writing. I started it by saying that I thought labeling a book as edgy is counterintuitive as acknowledging your own 'edginess' is shooting yourself in the foot. To me it comes across as trying to cause a reaction, and trying too hard at that. Let the book speak for itself, please.

So, I decided to bring this forth on my blog. What do you guys think? What about beyond 'edgy' - any other common adjectives publishers (and sometimes authors) slap on the product?

Personally, I hate descriptors. You know, those perverse and often baffling additions to the book description, like, "[Author Name] has written a rich, captivating story exploring the beautiful love of RPattz and his hair grease that will inspire readers to search for alternative energy sources therein."

I hate that. Love having the description (though they're often overplayed or misleading), love having the genre (though don't trust Amazon's categories: they placed Twilight as spine-chilling horror which is perverse and often baffling in and of itself), hate the adjectives.

Anyway, y'all, I'm gonna go back to my insomnia and my insomnia read.


Anonymous said...

OMG! That was hilarious (Your descriptor)! Eeeee he he! How incredibly funny! Love, love, love it!

I definitely think you (general 'you') should avoid labels, in general, when its about your own work. The moment you label it 'edgy' (or some other word), people will tend only to compare it with 'edgy' works, and, in a way, you can lose the whole feeling of the novel because everyone is too caught up about its 'edgy-ness' (or lack thereof). I don't think that made any sense at all ...

But, yes, I completely agree with you. And, eeee he he he! Love, love, love your descriptor!

Anonymous said...

"[Author Name] has written a rich, captivating story exploring the beautiful love of RPattz and his hair grease that will inspire readers to search for alternative energy sources therein."


Edgy has definitely become a four letter word for some authors. I don't dislike it nearly quite so much as that--I'm always looking for edgy fiction to read, so if no one calls it edgy, how will I know if it is? And if a tree falls in the forest etc.--but it's getting smacked on an awful lot of books I wouldn't necessarily call edgy and that's frustrating to me as a reader. I think playing fast and loose with the label has almost inspired this whole sub-genre of safe-edgy books. I dunno. Of course, I'm not the final word on edgy and it's all subjective...

AND BESIDES THAT, I keep flinging the word around when I talk about Cracked Up to Be, so I am just ultimately perpetuating this vicious cycle AND shooting myself in the foot and likely being a hypocrite in this VERY COMMENT. It's hard out here for a pimp.

So as a reader, I agree with you. As an author, I like ot keep it in my back pocket when I'm feeling too lazy to read the back of my book when someone asks me what it's about.

I feel lazy a lot. :/

Anonymous said...

(And FWIW, totally posted this comment in Firefox! YES!)

Amee said...

I think I would equate calling their own work edgy with seeing that they rated their own book on Goodreads (or whatever bookshelf site they use). Obviously they love their own book, so I can only wonder if they're trying to improve their overall rating on that particular site.

Lenore Appelhans said...

Amee - Wouldn't that be great if an author was honest about the poor quality of his/her work on GoodReads or elsewhere to the tune of "Yeah, this could have been better, but it was rushed to print and I spend most of my writing time watching reality tv. Maybe you should skip this."

Unknown said...

I see what you did here -you've raised some new and troubling questions.

Now, see what I did there?

Brooke Taylor said...

Lenore--you crack me up!

As for labels--it is so hard not to use them because everything in this industry pushes you to do so.

Personally I like the adjectives, but not when they are misleading--a lot of edgy books aren't, and Twilight is soooo not chilling. I think that just sets a book up to fail with anyone who buys it because they think it will be.

You always have such interesting discussions!!

Brooke Taylor said...

One more thought--when I use the term edgy to refer to my own book I generally am doing so to warn readers that "hey, there's gonna be some bad words and sex and stuff. So if that's gonna shock you, better keep looking."

Not so much to say--"Oooh, look at me--I'm edgy" LOL.

Anna Claire said...

I hate those descriptor words, too. It smacks of telling, not showing, and I always think--why shouhld I believe you? SHOW me how it's captivating/edgy/emotional by talking about the plot or the character. If it really is edgy, that should come through in the showing.

Plus, I don't know, calling something edgy sounds to me like an adult calling something "hip". Just feels weird and maybe a tiny bit uncool?

Liviania said...

Edgy is on the fence for me. I dislike seeing it printed on the back of the book, because like you say it rings false. I mind it less referring to an author's work as a whole because then it just seems like it's talking about his/her style. Though really, I like it most coming from the mouth of someone who has read the book. Or on the Darker and Edgier page of TV Tropes. ^^

As for other descriptors, I like the ones that tell you about the prose, like "poetic." "Captivating" is an empty word.

stargirlreads said...

oh my... :)

Anonymous said...

The word edgy usually convinces me that whatever product it is slapped on is the complete opposite of edgy. Same with extreme. Remember when everything was extreme? Extreme sports, extreme deodorant, extreme ramen. No.

Anonymous said...

My book is a merry romp... A MERRY ROMP, I SAY.


You're totally right... nothing sets up a book with a one-way ticket on the Failboat than an inapt (or pretentious) descriptor.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Amazon was thinking of the chilling horror of another few hundred pages of hearing about how Edward is like totally amazing?

prophecygirl said...

"[Author Name] has written a rich, captivating story exploring the beautiful love of RPattz and his hair grease" <<< LOL! Wow, that was funny.

I agree though.. those descriptive words don't always help.

Saundra Mitchell said...

Edgy is like literary. It's a word I'm generally more comfortable if other people apply to an author's work, than the author herself doing it.

Though as Courtney points out, sometimes you're just kind of stuck and forced to use it anyway- you can give a dissertation on the exact genre of your book, or you can sheepishly say, "Well, it's kind of edgy/literary." and make it all go away in an instant.

It's kinda like being cool- if you have to tell people you're cool, you're so not. :D

Steph said...

Saundra - THANK YOU. I was trying to come up with a proper comparison and I came up with a "hot guy who KNOWS he's hot therefore his attractiveness is diminished". It was lame. Courtney countered it with "I want a guy to know what he's about! Also, isn't Chuck hot? And isn't he a pompous-ass rat bastard?" (She didn't actually PUT IT like that but you get the gist of it...)

This is score two for you today. How do we get a third?

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