Wednesday, August 15, 2007

On Reading

I'm currently in the process of reading two, yes two, books that I've already read before. Now, i know some people who would never EVER read a book, or watch a movie, or even a TV show more than once. There's no surprise for them, which is apparently what they're looking for.

But I'm here to tell you that they're all sdrawkcab.

There are so many surprises you can find on a second read, or a second viewing. Sure, it may not be in the narrative, but it is in the presentation of the narrative. There are things the author may have put in front of you that you didn't recognize as relevant the first time around (especially in crime fiction). There may be a turn of phrase or particular transition that takes on greater meaning in the context of what you already know. Maybe you picked it up the first time around, maybe you didn't. But I can tell from personal experience that you experience the craft much better on the second (or third, or more) time around. And the same goes for films.

And I'm also here to tell you that if you're still surprised at every narrative you come across, you're just not paying attention. There are patterns that become readily apparent if you watch or read enough and PAY ATTENTION! There are stock characters, there are cliches, there are standard formats of storytelling that guide you in a particular direction, and if you can recognize those patterns, there will be no surprises in the poorly crafted stories. It's the good ones that give you all of the above and still surprise and satisfy you. Or, as I particularly like, the ones that take those above and use them to their own purposes, playing with you as much as they play with the archetypes.

So, what am I reading again? Well, the first is OUT OF ORDER by Charles Benoit. Mentioned often, he is a local author whose book I was reading in public to try to give some publicity to. It is a quick Indian adventure mystery that takes us on a whirlwind murderlogue of maj0r sites of the paradoxical country.

The second is LORD FOUL'S BANE by Stephen R. Donaldson. The first of six fantasy books published in this series in the 1970s, it, along with ENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card, has got to be one of my most-read books. I revisit it every so often and get more from it each time I read it. Donaldson is in the middle of putting out the "last" four volumes in the series, so I thought I'd revisit them again before I dug in to the new ones.

2 comments:

Lorraine said...

If you enjoyed a book, why wouldn't you read it more than once? I just don't get that mentality. There are books I've read three, four, five times and more. A couple of books I make a point to reread every year. Why? Because I enjoy the characters and it was a stand-alone (not in a series). It's like visiting old friends.

Jared said...

More and more I get the sense that the General Public sees narratives as commodities to collected. It becomes a victory of sorts to be able to say "You haven't seen that?" or "You haven't read that?" And even slightly more satisfying to offer a dismissive "Oh, I've seen that" to someone who thought they had the trump card in their hand. And the more narratives they collect, the better off they are at The Game.

So they don't have time to go over something twice, when that time could be used to add another to the collection, no matter the quality. Even if it's a substantially different remake, as the two MANCHURIAN CANDIDATES were, they won't watch the other because they've already seen the one. And that's also why books and movies burn very hot and very fast. Everyone's jockeying for position in The Game, so they can be ahead, or avoid being left behind. We Free Thinkers don't play the game well, but enjoy our blissful ignorance.

Or maybe that's just my cynical side talking.