Mar 12, 2018
I'm not a big reader of science fiction, but I love it when it's well done. (Michael Crichton comes to mind.) Good sci-fi writers explore interesting social questions while constructing cool plots about things that haven't happened...yet.
My complaint with SF is that all too often the story ends with "and now we must kill the aliens before they kill us." The last few chapters are the all out battle for the survival of our species, with lots of things blowing up and gallons of green blood spilt.
That's not my thing. In the most recent example I read, the story began well, with questions about how time travel would actually work and what the resulting physical and mental problems might be, but it ended up with monsters pouring out of the portal and lots of shooting. We started with questions and ended with an arcade game.
SF isn't the only predictable genre, which is why genre fiction has a bad name with literary folks. Who hasn't started a romance novel and known from the first chapter what was going to happen and who was going to end up living happily ever after together? (Sometimes it's a tossup between two men, but if you go with the less socially acceptable one, you'll probably get it right.)
Mysteries are often predictable too, and after reading them all my life, I really enjoy finding one that escapes the rules a little. An interesting (but not mean) sleuth is great, a unique setting is nice, and if at all possible, a solution that's clever and even obvious...after I read it. Too often these days I know the "who" early on, and I tend to skip chapters to get to the end and find exactly the same thing that happened in the last five books I read: The protag is bloody but alive, the cop that doubted him/her becomes a friend/lover, etc. etc. etc.
Even "literary fiction" novels, those books that are supposed to "transcend genre," are often the same old same old, and lately they seem to come in streaks. I'm tired of books about bookstore owners who are delightfully fey, tired of titles with "Girl," and tired of lead characters with no redeeming qualities who wallow in their own misery for 400 pages and end up exactly where they began.
If you're nodding your head as you read this, I know what's wrong with you. You have read TOO MUCH. YOU NEED TO STOP READING BOOKS. (YOU NEED TO STOP WATCHING TV AND MOVIES TOO.) YOU NEED TO GET A HOBBY, LIKE COLLECTING SPOONS OR WEAVING YOGA MATS OUT OF OLD GROCERY BAGS.
Or you can keep doing what you're doing, looking for the one book in ten that occupies your mind and satisfies your heart. That's what I intend to do!
Aug 29, 2016
There should be a word for wanting something good to read but not being sure what you want or able to find it.
Apparently what I want to read isn't very popular right now.
I've been sick of serial killers for years, but that's mainly what Amazon offers when you type in mystery.
I'm also sick of protagonists who aren't much better than the criminals they seek. I gave up on two books this week. In one the protag shared his client's cocaine with him and spent waaaaaay too much time describing the physical attributes of the sleazy, slimy women the client surrounded himself with. In the other, every cop was corrupt and every lawyer was shady to the point I was sick of all of them.
I've never been much for books where the mystery takes second place to something else, like growing kumquats or shopping.
I'm disappointed by books where the killer comes totally out of the blue in the last chapter. I should at least have the sense there were things I might have picked up on.
(I got a note from a reviewer last week who gave Dead for the Money a "solid" four stars because he enjoyed the book but figured out who the killer was before the end. My contention is that those of us who read mysteries a lot will often have an idea who the killer is because we're "experienced investigators." This is especially true for writers, who see where the author is trying to take the story because we do the same thing ourselves.)
So what is my buchbrauchen?
I want a good mystery. Don't care about anyone's sex life. Don't want to know how they make Christmas cookies. The protagonist can have faults, but I don't want those faults to be disgusting, depressing, or dwelt upon to the point they drive me nuts.
Such books are hard to find these days, since the public taste seems to run just the opposite. I try to write what my buchbrauchen demands, as James Fenimore Cooper did. Unhappy with what was available in his day, he wrote the kind of books he wanted to read. It might have ended up that he was the only one interested, since he went against the trend, but it didn't turn out that way.
Jul 11, 2016
While I was doing all that, I was still reading--I'm always reading. Last week I had four books going that were all very good. First was WILDE LAKE by Laura Lippmann. I expect great things from her, and she never disappoints. I also read a good historical, NO COMFORT FOR THE LOST, by Nancy Herriman, a woman I met at this year's Printers' Row in Chicago. Steve Hamilton's acclaimed new book, THE SECOND LIFE OF NICK MASON, is a good read, though more to John's tastes than mine. The protag didn't engage sympathy or empathy in me, so it was in the "good story" category but failed to engage much concern for Nick's future. I'm about to finish DANGEROUS PASSAGE by Lisa Harris, which is a good police procedural if a little heavy on "Will God send a man to love me?" angst. I recently started Bruce Holsinger's A BURNABLE BOOK, which isn't for those not really into medieval detail. It took me a while to get into the story, but Geoffrey Chaucer is in there, so I stuck with it, and it's becoming clearer what's going on now.
So that's my life. I write, I read, I get books ready for other people to read. It keeps me out of trouble...most days.
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