The news has been horrifying and addictive this week, with catastrophe piled on catastrophe, to a degree that–if I had read this in a book or seen it in a movie–I’d be protesting that it was just too unlikely, too farfetched.
But topics for novels get ripped from the headlines all the time. Or real-life events remind you of fiction (whether “believable” or not) that you’ve read but never expected to see. Or real life comes up with an event so unbelievable that it stretches your sense of reality.
Hmm … I can’t quite come up with an outright question to ask, but thinking about the theory of fiction and how it can affect and be affected by real world events can act as a buffer between the horrific events on the news and having to actually face that horror. So … what happens when the line between fiction and reality becomes all-too slim? Discuss!
I’ll respond to this query with a quote from Stephen King’s Misery.
In a book, all would have gone according to plan… but life was so fucking untidy—what could you say for an existence where some of the most crucial conversations of your life took place when you needed to take a shit, or something? An existence where there weren’t even any chapters? (297)
Fiction is made up of the same stuff as life—yes, even speculative fiction, naysayers. Even the most farfetched fictional plot has some grounding in reality. Readers feel cheated when fiction mimics the chaos of life; you just have to look at the reaction to the end of Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper to see that. No matter how porous the line seems to be in terms of content (and it’s supposed to be porous), fiction is, ultimately, organized.
- King, Stephen. Misery. New York: Viking, 1987. Print.
Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
I used to read a lot of Jodi Picoult in high school—so much so that, when I graduated, the library donated a Jodi Picoult book to the library in my name. (To be fair, they did this for every senior in the book club.) But after a while, I just started getting tired of them. You see, Picoult has a formula or, at the very least, several elements that she constantly uses. The story is usually ripped from the headlines, one of the characters is a woman in a legal profession who is focused on her career (to the detriment of her love life and/or family life), there’s a court case, and, in families containing a main character and more than one child, one child is valued above the other. At some point, it feels less like a story that needed to be told and more like going through the motions. Still, I’d always wanted to read Nineteen Minutes—as it’s about a school shooting, it wasn’t available at my high school library. So I picked it up to clear out my head after A Clash of Kings.
What reading skeletons do you have in your closet? Books you’d be ashamed to let people know you love? Addiction to the worst kind of (fill in cheesy genre here)? Your old collection of Bobbsey Twin Mysteries lovingly stored behind your “grown-up” books? You get the picture … come on, confess!
I’m usually quite upfront about any supposedly “shameful” guilty pleasures–or, at least, I try to be.
The Gossip Girl books are downright addicting and promote a terrible way of looking at the world–unexamined privilege usually always skeeves me out, but apparently not there. But, in high school, I considered them crack. They’re just such a foreign concept to me that I find them, and other series like them, hilarious. My other guilty pleasure, I suppose, are Jodi Picoult novels. Not because she’s not a good writer, but her books are all very similar–on one level, I know this, but on another, I like their compulsive readability (I can usually tear through a Picoult in a day) and breaking news topics. Perhaps this stems from the fact that I only watch television procedurals if the case of the week interests me, and Picoult novels are definitely procedurals.
(I just checked my scheduled posts, and discovered that this Sunday Salon is my three hundredth post on The Literary Omnivore! Goodness.)
In Mark Bauerlein’s alarmist The Dumbest Generation, he mentions in passing that the kids these days just won’t devote the ten hours it takes to read a three hundred book. My first reaction when reading that was, “It takes you ten hours to read a three hundred page book?” Readers of my generation cheerfully volunteer just how long it took for them to read Harry Potter and the Death Hallows–usually well into the morning of the 22nd. I myself took eight hours. Part of the reason some kids don’t fall in love with reading is the simple fact that it doesn’t come as easily to them as other children. Thus, devoted readers tend to read books faster than the average Jane.
But is reading speed actually important when it comes to reading?
(My apologies for this post being so late- the question went up while I was out and about with the family, including the dog, all day!)
What do you think of speed-reading? Is it a good way to get through a lot of books, or does the speed-reader miss depth and nuance? Do you speed-read? Is some material better suited to speed-reading than others?
I think it’s a bad idea to speed read everything. I read fairly quickly, but I do try to savor the good books. You miss all the hard and fine work that an author has put into a book. I’m a little frightened to reread Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as I finished it in eight hours–I’m sure there’s plenty I’ve missed. Still, completely eschewing speed reading is hardly fair. Light reading should be done at a fairly steady clip, and I will admit to finishing off Gossip Girl and Jodi Picoult novels off in one day when I was in high school. It’s not about how fast you read, but how much you manage to take in.