guess who broke the electric line
are they supposed to be here
do they care
As a writer of a certain type of book, a writer who writes the stories I want to write, I am always interested in why others choose to write or read the books they do. The latest book to tweak my interest arose from an article in the Daily Beast.
The question I have often asked others-- why read a book about unpleasant people and events (unless it's non-fiction). Why be wrapped up in a writer's story aimed purely at disillusioning you about life with fiction as the tool to do it? Isn't the newspaper enough to do that?
One possible reason could be what is suggested in the article:
“It’s a novel, and once you’ve finished a novel, what happened in it is of little importance and soon forgotten. What matters are the possibilities and ideas that the novel’s imaginary plot communicates to us and infuses us with.” from The Infatuations by Javier MariasThe thing is-- what will those ideas leave us with when the story is about horrible happenings and worse people? Can't we get positive ideas from far more enjoyable reads? Is this some kind of torture bearing test? You know, even a lowly romance can leave the reader with thoughts and ideas that don't leave when the plot ties up the ends. So what is the benefit in reading all these books that tear the reader up?
I get it that some are prestigious books to read and that alone will draw readers. They then have something to talk about with a literary group of friends as they possibly debate how valuable are the writer's endless ponderings and whether he/she was too graphic or not graphic enough regarding life.
The review in Daily Beast suggests that the appeal of Marias' books are because they offer a possibly lurid adventure in a literary setting which means the literati can read them and not feel guilty at lowering their standards-- particularly since it was a Spanish writer.
The last time I read books because they were 'the' books to read I was in college and I wanted to read a lot of what was at that time considered the greatest writings. I read everything by some writers like Steinbeck or Hemingway and a lot of others on the list of 'supposed to have read'. The project ended when I was pregnant and about to have a baby. Baby books, like Dr. Spock took over and I rarely ever again felt a need to get back to reading something because I should.
I felt a bit tempted by this one. It's on Kindle and even though the sample had run together paragraphs and already seemed ponderous, still it's an example of what some consider the thing to read-- which might mean that I, as a writer, should find out what that means. I'm still trying to decide if that's enough reason to put myself through it. I have a feeling it won't be.
As a writer you do have to wonder what is doing well. You ask yourself if there are aspects to these NY Times bestsellers that you could adopt. It would be easy for me to write pages and pages of endlessly philosophizing. I think that way myself. But... maybe readers only tolerate that when they think it came from a literary genius.