samedi, août 31, 2013

My eleventh hour (literary) confession

So (don't you HATE people who begin a sentence with the word "so"? I do).  So anyway.

Let me get this out of the way real fast.

I can't go into a bookstore without coming out with some variation on what so many people (you perhaps?) call "chicklit." Of course, I also read "serious" novels -- either because someone is paying me to do so, or because I genuinely like the author's previous work.

Now, before you get any ideas about how compromised I am, I'm not talking about bodice rippers.  I've read a few in my time, but the clunkiness annoys me so much I can barely make it through the Baroque extrusions of the narrative.

Did all of these pseudonymous authors study at the same online writing academy? Can you get an associates degree in swarthy, hard-faced men, or do a whole semester's elective in 18th century ingenue?

Most of the time,  the premise defies logic -- and is grossly impractical.

 If we had sex as much as those lords and ladies allegedly did, we'd never get out of bed.  How do they ever have the energy to restore their reputation, woo the fair heroine (often an orphan) before bedding and marrying her, or sometimes marrying and bedding her, and save his lordship's abused brother from being kidnapped by the villain, who at first seems like the hero...

But I digress.

Instead, I like modern relationship parables -- fairy tales, actually.  Heroine meets hero, but some obstacle keeps them from getting together.  Maybe at first he appears to be a jerk. Perhaps she is dating someone who is nice, but dull.

It takes about 50 pages for her to realize that, though they have been going out for two years before we ever met them.

Or maybe, perhaps, as in the one I just finished, "Something Borrowed," the sexy hero is engaged to the heroine's best friend.  Fortunately for everyone (except for the best friend, possibly), the heroine's friend is  a classic bitch.  So it's o.k.

Really, it is.

The problem with these narratives is that they bear almost no relationship to real life. Because I have such low tolerance for bad prose, I pick books that appear to have some rationale, some connection to the world in which most of us spend our sometimes dreary lives.

I WANT to be a believer. I want to be sucked in.  At the least, I want to escape.  But then a totally absurd plot twist arrives, and I start arguing with the unseen author.

No point in doing THAT, is there? She's sitting on her private beach in California right now, or in a mansion in Connecticut, doing yoga with her personal instructor, grateful that readers like me, however critical we might become, are still buying her books.

Lest you think that I, too, am pining for a happy ending to my romantic woes -- well, that's just part of the story.

I'm pining for happy endings to novels, period.  And when I can't sniff them out among the writers who feature fantastic reviews from the New York Times and the Washington Post on their back covers, I settle.

Yes, dear reader, I settle. I even occasionally buy a well-reviewed love story that has the tag "heartbreaking" on the inside cover.  (Then I sneak a peek at the end to find out who dies so I won't be surprised).

But at least it's not my hard-earned dollars subsidizing Jodi Picoult's lifestyle.

Talk about gloom and doom -- that girl has (almost) cornered the market on writing about things you devoutly hope will never happen to you.

Even to that terrible mother in your son's fifth grade class who kept you from being a chaperone on the school trip.Or her son, who mocked your son every time that he stood up to bat on the Little League team.

Not even she (or he) deserve the kind of awful things that happen to Jodi's characters on a regular basis.

I want to read about two characters working things out -- or at the least plodding on with their lives. I want to be reassured that some families stay intact, some children grow up, find good jobs and eventually marry and raise their own kids.

 I want to believe that for some of us, love lasts, beauty amazes, gratitude touches the heart, and someday, the Knicks will make it past the first round of the playoffs again.

The Knicks? Nothing you can do about those guys.

But that leaves a whole lot of wriggle room, you budding authors -- and whole lot of us out there, paging wistfully through second rate prose or well-crafted gloom, and hoping someone will come along and shed light, and levity, in the literary darkness.