Sunday, August 4, 2013
Sunday morning coming down
Writers write. They gather words like field hands gather beans. They carefully toss them into "baskets" and take them to be processed for us to pour over in quiet consternation or contentment. But who are they really? Do they all gather for cocktails this afternoon in a hotel in downtown New York or Chicago? Or better yet a pub in Chelsea? I read the New York Times Book Review every Sunday and wonder. How did those books get there? Does anyone really read them? Do they read them and then go to dinner parties or cocktail parties and impress others with the hours they have spent reading those books? Does anyone care? Is there an award one receives for reading the most books on the New York Times Book Review list? Something like the certificates you got when you were ten years old and it was summer and your mother made you go to the library to get some books for nap time after the beach or swimming pool? What is good writing? What is good reading? Should we be punished with erudite novels about impossible people or should we be able to plunge deeply into the fictional life of a compelling character who wins despite the odds? I prefer characters who are imperfect but have incredible moral compasses. So I don't read about Wall Street or Washington. I love mysteries because I like not knowing until the very end(sort of like Christianity--the not knowing til the end part). I used to read romance until I discovered that it was the greatest fiction of all. Overweight men and women hardly ever inherited their maiden aunt or uncle's mansion at a seaside resort and turned it into a bed and breakfast and then fell head over heels in love with their first guest! More like they baked muffins and made breakfast for slim, "don't each much breakfast" types who left it all for "staff" (that would be the overweight heir) to clean up after. My friend Jane would say I was being too hard on romance fiction, but she understands escapism; I don't. Biographies can be annoying or enlightening. Some historic figures should remain shrouded in the mists of time; others need broad daylight for comprehension. I've never been compelled to read "character driven" fiction. Often the plot is thin and I wonder why I should get to know this character. What am I learning about myself or my fellow humans through this character's affectations and discriminations? So the quest for good reading and good writing continues. And maybe that's why we read and why writers write. The journey to share stories which may or may not appeal is arduous and risky. I suppose if the writer is willing to risk exposure, I should risk exposure too. It's a fair trade.