I just had to get this off my chest.
There are some books that are simply great reads. Books tattered and torn, scribbled in and folded, books in which passages are memorized and can be repeated at will. Books that, with every read, simply get better. There’s a frame of the familiar, and within the familiar, there is constant surprise. Whether it’s a new connection, a stunning simile, or simply an image that sits with you differently than it did the first time.
Tom Robbins is the example I typically use for this. His writing is magnificent, even blurbed as a roller coaster of prose. With that, I heartily agree. And yet he has characters that, no matter how many times you pick up the book, never change from the last time you picked it up. Sure, they’re not static within the confines of the paper, but within the book itself, they are as unchanging as the clock in Arizona. But set within a familiar story, new details can and do leap out at you when you least expect it, and often when you’re not looking.
I think a good relationship is like this.
I’ve argued (at length and with several eye-rolling people) that the best stage of a relationship is not the first exciting, honey-moon period, but rather the familiar, comfortable place where expectations have been set and met, where the day-to-day becomes routine. My reasoning is that, just with a good book that is as familiar and comfortable as a pair of tattered bunny slippers, there is room for brilliancy and surprise.
Sure, you’re done with the whole “What kind of toothpaste do you use?” and “What’s your third favorite color?” thing, of which, I must admit, I’m a fan. I love minutae; I love details. They set the framework to see how the person is connected as a whole. But there’s a whole new world beyond that.
With that being said, not all stories are equal.
Some, with their Robbinesque details, beg a deeper look. Some are so intriguing that you can’t help but find yourself amazed, intrigued, and thoroughly enthralled.
But then there’s Anne Rice. Her vampire books, at least, are full of amazing detail of New Orleans, and for that I found them lovely. Still do to a certain extent, in all truthfulness. There is an energy in New Orleans that is simply beyond my descriptive powers, and she captures that well. If she were writing a travel brochure, I could love it for what it was. But she doesn’t write travel brochures. She writes novels. Ones with dull lifeless characters (no pun intended, really) and predictable story lines.
Within the familiar frame of the vampire books (with small exception, say Memnoch, which I really enjoyed), there is nothing but dull and lifeless familiarity.
It’s not that I don’t want to read, you see. I just don’t want to read your story. Because I know your story, and, despite your promises of a plot jolt in the near future, I already know how it ends. And, while I know that, in your opinion, I should be grateful to simply have a book–your book– in my greedy little hands, I should remind you that I have a library card. And a Barnes and Noble card, for that matter, in addition to access to a university library.
This act is about as convincing as Tom Cruise’s Irish attempt at playing a French aristocrat, and twice as annoying.
And I refuse to be grateful for the privilege of reading bad literature.