Booking Through Thursday: StoriesAugust 28, 2008 at 10:50 pm | Posted in Book Blather | 5 Comments
Here is my response to this week’s Booking Through Thursday:
Actually, I do like to read for the character development and interaction, the descriptive, emotive powers of the writer, and especially the deep, literary meaning hidden beneath layers of metaphor. Well put!
Not only do I not care as much about the story of a book, but I often can’t remember that much about it later on. I have read books that permanently changed my life and the way I see the world, but if you asked me how it ended I’d just have to shrug. He died? They got married? *Yawn* The part that stands out in my mind, the part I read for, is the spiritual ephipany.
I think the role of the artist is to show us things we can’t see on our own. What I want out of a book is nothing less than a transformative experience.
I can stand in line, sit in a restaurant, or travel in a plane and hear all kinds of stories. “Then he said… and then she said… and then the police came…” Having worked in a homeless shelter and a drug rehab, my days have often been filled with stories. Some are heartbreaking, some are moving or inspiring, but most are pretty humdrum and predictable, really. The question is, does anyone learn anything from the press of events?
I loved Moby-Dick, but not because it was the story of a man chasing a whale. I loved Pride and Prejudice, but not because it was the story of a man and a woman who get married. (For that matter, Anna Karenina, The Awakening, and The Portrait of a Lady are also stories of men and women who get married, though not books you’d give to a new bride). I think the best books are those in which the story is psychological. The books with the most sensational events, unpredictable plot twists, and unmitigated drama tend to come across to me as so much soap opera. I just want to say, “Okay, where are we going with this?”
On the other hand, here are some stories I thought had fantastic plots:
The Brothers K – David James Duncan
The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
The 39 Steps – John Buchan
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen – Gustave Dore
Bel Canto – Ann Patchett
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas – John Boyne
Fire in the Blood – Irene Nemirovsky
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
Henderson the Rain King – Saul Bellow (maybe my favorite book EVER)
Life of Pi – Yann Martel
Lord of the Flies – William Golding
The Princess Bride – William Goldman
Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier
Slaughterhouse-Five – Kurt Vonnegut
Snow Falling on Cedars – David Guterson
And then probably anything by Douglas Coupland, Tom Robbins, or Chuck Palahniuk.