A reader’s confession:
When it comes to novels, I really don’t care for “page-turners” so much. I’m more of a lingerer, a stop after every page and think about it reader. I want to make a book last, I want to smell its essence, suck the marrow out of the words, chew on the fat of intent, feel the spicy sting of satire or taste the sweet-sour of regret in the tone. The writer has poured his soul into the soup and I want it to fill my mouth and savor it before I swallow.
Page-turners? meh. What’s a page-turner but a cleverly contrived plot? Bad guys chasing good guys or good guys chasing bad? The good guy wins or the bad guy wins, I don’t really care. In the end we all die, but how do we live, that’s what I want to know? Sometimes I start a “page-turner,” and sure enough, I’m hooked. But one of two things usually happens: I speedread just to find out whodunit. Or I lose interest about halfway through because the whole thing feels contrived. This happened to me recently with Gone Girl. I was initially seduced, and drawn into the story because of the characters — whom I soon quit believing in or caring about.
For me, page-turning thrillers are like quickie encounters; most of them these days are heavy on the gratuitous sex scenes. Laughable soft porn, at best. If you’re looking for auto arousal may I suggest literary erotica — which is at least honest about its intent. What keeps me turning the pages isn’t so much action as character, voice, and theme. Ultimately, the feeling of discovery, the connecting with another human being, real or fictional. And I’m not sure there’s a difference between the two.
My favorite genres to read are nonfiction, literary fiction, short stories, humor, satire and poetry. I admire the writing of George Saunders, Dave Eggers, Michael Cunningham, Catherine Anne Porter, Anne Proulx, Garrison Keillor, T.C.Boyle, Ambrose Bierce, Mark Twain — oh, stop me, no one wants to read a list!
I’m currently reading Cunningham’s latest novel, The Snow Queen. So much humanity packed into each paragraph! Did I tell you I once took a week-long writers workshop led by Michael Cunningham, at the Napa Writers Conference, back in 1997, before he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in ’98 for The Hours. Ah, but that story deserves its own blog post…
A writer’s confessions:
I’m an old-fashioned writer, trying to get better at my craft. (I’m also an old writer. But that’s the fine thing about writing, you’re never too old. Consider Larry McMurtry and Doris Lessing. OK, Doris is no longer with us, but she had a long career and finally won her Nobel prize. In comparison, I’m in my salad days.)
I’m an old jack-of-all-trades and master of none. Just as my mother warned I’d become.
I refuse to write for a “market.”
I don’t produce a product.
I write what compels me.
I write to discover.
I write to share the life I’m living and the lives I imagine.
I strive for soul on the page.
I’m looking forward to practicing my craft at the Chesapeake Writer’s Conference at St. Mary’s College of Maryland this summer, featuring acclaimed authors Jerry Gabriel, (conference director), Patricia Henley, Matt Burgess, Ana Maria Spagna, and Elizabeth Arnold.
The older I get the more I have to learn!