12 hours ago
Friday, December 18, 2015
Books I Am Weary of Reading
article, by Rebecca Solnit, excellent in itself, reminded me of the ennui, not to say disgust, I've been feeling in bookstores and the local public library lately, taking books off the shelf, reading their flyleaf, reading a few pages of them, and then putting them back with a sigh.
I am reminded of a brief period in the late 1990s, I think it was, though I might have that date wrong, when it seemed like every single book being published was about some young (white) guy's experience in Africa. This was just after the movie Out of Africa hit it big, as I recall.
None of these books were the least bit interesting in their own right, and none of the writers (as far as I could tell) knew a fucking thing about Africa, and every single one of them had the same plot. How I Found Myself in this Beautiful but Corrupt 3rd World. Sex with local women or a fiesty Doctors-Across-Borders woman or a Peace Corps woman (whatevs) mixed in, so that no one would forget our young man was All Man.
It got so I hated to enter a bookstore.
I'm getting to that point now. It might be worse, because I'm not sure this is a passing phase, like the African one was. Almost every book I pick up has (essentially) the same plot, or at least one of two plots. Either a young girl has been killed in some brutal fashion, (sometimes it's young girls, because the only thing better than slaughtering one young girl is slaughtering lots of them); or a confused and troubled young woman (married, usually, but sometimes just in a Committed Relationship) is trying to decide whether to have an affair.
Though, to be fair, sometimes the two plots are combined.
Occasionally, as with Tana French, the writer's talent takes this story to a new level. But usually, my God, who cares?
At least in science fiction, mostly, and I know how ironic this sounds, but it's true -- at least in science fiction we're writing about real things: stories that matter.
(Okay, some science fiction. I know about all the gun-porn and porn-lite SF, both of which often share exactly the plots above, so yeah.)
My point, and I do have one, wtf?
If you're going to write an entire book, and try to entice people into reading it, why not write about something that's real, and that matters? (And yes, I know, girls get killed, women have affairs.But seriously. There are other topics.)
I'll add that I know this rant is not entirely fair. As Theodore Sturgeon famously said, 90% of everything is crap, and I suppose modern fiction is the same.
End of rant.
(Maybe tomorrow I'll add a list of excellent books I've read lately that don't have these plots. They do exist.)