Friday, April 07, 2006

Apparently, I don't read (paca)

So I have been writing on the side for a while now. About 3 years in a pseudo-serious fashion, meaning that I now actually finish stories and revise them to be better than they were. I used to just have the fragments lying around that were never improved or much read after their creation. Anyway, I have this book about plot design and one of the last chapters had an exercise. It seemed very simple. You were to list your favorite 10 books and then do an analysis on them for the rise and fall of tension in the plot. This seemed kind of fun, so I got a piece of paper and started writing my 10 favorite books down.

I don't have 10 favorite books.

I have a small list of perenniels that I carry around. These are:

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Till We Have Faced by CS Lewis
The Manuscript Found in Saragossa by Jan Potocki
Perelandra by CS Lewis
Norse Myths by Roger Lancelyn Green
The Bounty Trilogy by Nordhoff and Hall

After this, I was at a loss. Maybe I could put Lord of the Rings up there, but I've only read it completely once. I remember flipping through The Firm by Grisham like a mad man, but giggling at the stereotypical characters the whole way. I've read all but the most recent Robert Jordan books, but sometimes I feel like it's perseverence more than enjoyment getting me through those. I really liked Pride and Prejudice when we read it in high school, but come on that was high school and I haven't touched it sense. I mean I've read plenty more, but I don't love plenty more. It's the opposite of, say, Van Morrison songs. How could I only choose 10 of those? I'm moving all my Van to a new iPod and struggling to keep a Top 40 play list.

In fiction, it's only the top 6 that I like to just take down and read again in a quiet moment. I remember reading the first bit of Tony Morrison's Beloved and thinking this was some of the most beautiful prose I'd ever encountered. But I never finished it. Ditto with Crime and Punishment. I remember the tension and images from a Tale of Two Cities, but I haven't read it since 9th grade. And it's not just that these are all Great books and I would be happier with some genre fiction. I remember just ripping through The Day After Tomorrow by Alan Folsom, a contemporary adventure/spy novel, a few years back, but I have no desire to do it again. I've started two of N's romance novels, but not finished. I've read the first 4 Harry Potters, but still haven't felt enough motivation to do books 5 and 6. There's nothing wrong with them, but it takes me days to read a novel, and there aren't too many worth days of my time more than once, when I could be doing something else.

This may seem odd to some of you who know me offline, because the single way that I like to spend discretionary money is books and periodically music. I don't know what I've been doing at the bookstore though, because I apparently don't read much of the fiction there, and that which I do read I don't frequently love. This brings me back to the question of my writing. If I rarely read fiction, devoting myself to academic-ish non-fiction, why am I writing it, and how can I ever expect to be any good?

Maybe I should do 10 favorite non-fiction books. I wonder how that would go.

UPDATE: OK, maybe I need to add Karin Kallmaker to my list, though I can't remember the name of the book and she has a bunch. It was the first and only time I've ever written to an author before to praise her book, but that's probably in part because most of the fiction authors I read are dead. She was very kind in her response, by the way.

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