Imagine you’re a HUGE Madonna fan and you’ve been fortunate enough to land a front-seat ticket for her latest show. However, as soon as you arrive at the venue an announcement comes over that Madge won’t be performing because she’s unexpectedly gone down with a severe sore throat.
But wait a moment, the announcement continues, all is not lost because JK Rowling is in the building and has agreed to take to the stage to sing a two-hour set of Madonna songs in place of the lady herself.
What would you do? Laugh? Cry? At the very least you’d probably ask for your money back.
Why? Because JK Rowling can’t sing (to Madonna’s standard.) Yet somehow we’re expected to believe that things can work very easily the other way around, that Madge can do JKR’s job no probs. Just do an Amazon search for Madonna and the English Rose series and you’ll see.
This is but one example, I could have cited any number of singers – for example Kylie Minogue, author of the modern children’s classic The Showgirl Princess.
Not just singers either. In the UK we have a dancer called Arlene Phillips. Well, she was famous firstly as a dancer then more recently as a panellist on Strictly Come Dancing. When she left the panel a couple of years ago she re-emerged as the author of Alana Dancing Star.
I mean, could Philip Pullman do Arlene Phillips’ job. I imagine not – he’s not as nimble on his feet. But can dancer Arlene assume Mr Pullman’s mantle?
Fiction writing isn’t a particularly skilled or specialised occupation, after all.
Of course the reason behind all this is clear. If a major publisher signs up an author who’s already famous (admittedly not for writing) 85% of the marketing is done already. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. But is it art?
And here’s another question. Would a masterpiece like Watership Down (first published in 1972) make it past the “slush pile” today? What, a brilliant book by an unknown/unfashionable writer? Not a chance – unless of course Justin Bieber is credited as co-author.
Just how gullible are we all expected to be?