Saturday, February 6, 2010

All or Nothing

Books are piled on most flat surfaces in the house, on the night stands, by the couch, in the bathroom, on the bookshelves, on the desks. Not books that I've picked up because they were bestsellers or because they came from a genre section. My books come to roost because they seemed interesting, because they caught my eye and then kept my attention or some gracious person waved them in front of me until I gave in and read them. I buy them from brick & mortar stores, online venues, and from card tables at conventions. I check them out from libraries. I download them (actually, the Pumpkin King downloads them).

All this, to say that if you speak for "all readers," you claim to speak for me. So if you insist, for example, that "modern" readers and "genre" readers demand a certain style, a certain type of tale, or a particular hair color for the villain, you are claiming that I demand these characteristics as a modern, genre reader (living in 2010, purchasing new books from the scifi/fantasy section).

Let's say that you insist that I like action, that I (because I'm a modern reader) have to have a book that starts with a bang or else. You would, in fact, be blowing smoke, since I don't care for characters whom I meet dangling from the anchor line of a balloon over a pit of lava with a knife and a can of aerosol cheese. I have no desire to dangle with you over igneous rivers, feeling the can start to get hot and wondering if I'll perish by flame or by Cheez-o cheese-flavored product before I've even met you.

Why would I care? It's like assuming that I want to meet someone in the middle of an . . .er, romantic encounter. I want to get to know the character first. I suspect that if he/she isn't interesting enough to sustain the getting-to-know-you part, he/she isn't really interesting enough to sustain my attention through a novel.

The premise that "all" readers want "X" is wrong. I'm not looking for lazy fiction. "All" is about laziness--it's about not having to think about it, just blow it up, stab it, make it an orphan, chase it down the block. I want grammar-checked, spell-checked, interesting fiction (in whatever genre I happen to be reading). Sometimes I want a fast, fun, silly story. Sometimes I want a story that's deep and tangled with language like hot fudge and maraschino cherries. What I don't want is a story in which I'm hauling the main character like a cardboard cut-out of an actor through a plot rigged with firecrackers.

Yes, this happens to be my particular windmill. No one forces me to buy these kinds of books. However, I'd like to think that books I might like will still be published, even if they aren't the *height* of fashion. Also, I believe that it does us good to remind ourselves when we seem blanket statements that they may be covering up more than they reveal.

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