Hype is as Hype Does

Posted: August 4, 2006 in Current Reading

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The Expected One by Kathleen McGowan

I will say this, Kathleen McGowan is someone who does seem to have the courage of her convictions. If she’s faking her zeal on the subject of Mary Magdalene she’s doing a very thorough job of it. My insincerity detector didn’t sound, at least on this score. I really believe she’s a believer.

I’ll give her that.

Improbable or not, I really think she does believe firmly in all of her visions and visitations. The question is, does this all make for a good novel, and, as in all fiction, that’s really all that counts. Her backstory, and all her secretive “evidence,” are automatically moot without backup. They’re a non-issue entirely. Scholarship is scholarship, and the same standards apply universally. If you want someone to believe you, you gotta cough up the source. Period. And if you have the sources, and the backup, write a work of non-fiction. Tell the world about the visions, about what it means, and about these fascinating documents, please. Otherwise, it’s fiction, and as such it had better be quality or there’s no point. There’s enough out there that’s tripe already.

On the book itself, disregarding all the other esoteric information that tries to cloud the issue of the quality of the actual writing, my feelings are somewhat mixed. The prose style of the book is riddled with so much trite language it was at times painful to read. The dialogue is so wooden you could make furniture from it, and, what was perhaps most annoying of all, McGowan mentions the first name of her main character, Maureen, so many times on each page I considered keeping a running tally, but then thought that an exercise in futility so I abandoned it. This is a prime example of lazy writing. There are other ways to phrase a sentence, and there are pronouns. It gets monotonous hearing Maureen, Maureen, Maureen times twenty. Believe me.

The wealth of historical detail was interesting, but then I’m no historian and can’t verify a word of what she’s written. I’m also no theologian, though I can vaguely hear the rustling of the Vatican getting its cassock into an uproar over all this. The subject’s all moot to me, as a skeptic, but I can give a nod to the interesting concepts McGowan employs, regarding Magdalene, the love triangle, and other matters biblical. Mary Magdalene is a fascinating figure. Hanging your story frame around that theme isn’t the worst choice you could make. But the thing is, in case anyone on the planet hasn’t noticed, that’s been done, and big time, about five minutes ago.

Timing is everything, I’m afraid, in life and in fiction.

The real root of the problem is McGowan’s trying to make this come off as a non-fiction novel, and Truman Capote she ain’t. Ultimately, we’re left with a novel that has no leg to stand on scholarship-wise, and nothing original to say fiction-wise. What it’s trying so desperately to do is to generate sensational interest based on supernatural visions. Well, okay. Maybe there is a certain sector out there that will eat that up, and good luck to it on that score.

Just don’t expect the rest of the world to take it all very seriously.

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