After reading Hunger Games this week, I was accosted by my own mother and accused of only being a few steps away from liking Stephanie Meyer.
A grave accusation indeed.
Hunger Games won a ringing endorsement from Meyer herself, in a manner in which only she could have possibly elocuted. “I just lay in bed wide awake thinking about it…The Hunger Games is amazing…”
I must concede that I agree with Meyer. I did enjoy the Hunger Games; Stephanie Meyer, however, is a far throw away from Collins.
Here is my problem with Meyer and with Twilight. The central theme is the question of whether or not to carry on illegitimate relationships with half-human creatures. My friend always likes to refer to William Faulkner’s 1950 Nobel Peace Prize speech as an illustration of a lot of bad writing today. Faulkner says, “Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only one question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat. He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid: and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed–love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, and victories without hope and worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.”
Hunger Games, while some of the central questions are about when you will get blown up—about survival— much of the book takes an apocalyptic peer into human nature. It is about justice, about starvation, and about love. Meyer, on the other hand, writes not of the heart, but of the glands (and poorly so).
That being said, Hunger Games is good only in its own arena, as juvenile fiction. I wouldn’t necessarily say that Collins is an especially good author. I am no connoisseur of post-apocalyptic literature, but after reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, I cannot but make comparisons between the two. But why listen to me? See for yourself.
I. The Road
“The clocks stopped at one seventeen one morning. There was a long shear of bright light, then a series of low concussions. Within a year there were fires on the ridges and deranged chanting. By day the dead impaled on spikes along the road. I think it’s October but I can’t be sure. I haven’t kept a calendar for five years. Each day is more gray than the one before. Each night is darker – beyond darkness. The world gets colder week by week as it slowly dies. No animals have survived. All the crops are long gone. Someday all the trees in the world will have fallen. The roads are peopled by refugees towing carts and road gangs looking for fuel and food. There has been cannibalism. Cannibalism is the great fear. Mostly I worry about food. Always food. Food and our shoes. Sometimes I tell the boy old stories of courage and justice – difficult as they are to remember. All I know is the child is my warrant and if he is not the word of God, then God never spoke.”
II. Hunger Games.
“To the everlasting credit of the people of District 12, not one person claps. Not even the ones holding betting slips, the ones who are usually beyond caring. Possibly because they know me from the Hob, or knew my father, or have encountered Prim, who no one can help loving. So instead of acknowledging applause, I stand there unmoving while they take part in the boldest form of dissent they can manage. Silence. Which says we do not agree. We do not condone. All of this is wrong. Then something unexpected happens. At least, I don’t expect it because I don’t think of District 12 as a place that cares about me. But a shift has occurred since I stepped up to take Prim’s place, and now it seems I have become someone precious.”
Now to be fair, Collins is writing for children. That is why I am giving it credit… But it is a far cry from Meyer because of its plot and a far cry from McCarthy because of its writing.