In the midst of all that is wrong with my life, I’ve been looking for some quality reading material that will take my mind off my current situation for a while. Or at least distract me for 15 minute increments. So, I decided to check out my mom’s reading selection.
My mom’s been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. We grew up reading. We didn’t grow up with cable, and we didn’t have a VCR, so every night for entertainment, she would read to us. Laura Ingalls Wilder. Beverly Cleary. A.A. Milne. Because of this, it turned us into excellent and avid readers as well. (Seriously, screw Baby Einstein. Open a book and read to your kids. It does wonders.)
ANYWAY, my mom has probably accumulated hundreds of books in her lifetime, so I had a pretty decent collection to choose from. (Seriously, the woman has a problem. Books are like crack to her. If she doesn’t have a new book to read every week or so, she doesn’t know what to do with herself. Thank God for Kindles… those things save a crap load of shelf space.) Anyway, she recommended David Baldacci to me. You know, David Baldacci? Pretty much all his books are bestsellers? They’re those fast-paced thrillers all about government corruption and conspiracies? Yeah, that guy. I figured, “Perfect. Something to distract me. Woo-hoo! Let’s do this, David!”
Unfortunately, my book snobbery once again reared it’s ugly head and I was totally and completely unable to enjoy a perfectly good, interesting read.
I’ve been a book snob ever since my high school English teacher nixed my idea of writing a book report on the “Left Behind” series because he thought I should tackle something more advanced. So, he introduced me to some of the classics, starting with “Jane Eyre”. I was instantly, and irrevocably in love. (Still, to this day, “Jane Eyre” is my favorite book of all time. Next to “To Kill a Mockingbird”. Okay, so maybe they tie for first place.) I began devouring Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, and The Bronte Sisters like a mad woman. I couldn’t get enough.
After graduation, I decided to enter the professional writing program at my college. Not only was I required to take writing courses up the ying yang, but I had literature courses coming out my ears. British Literature. World Literature. American Literature. The Bible as Literature. Literary Criticism. It. Was. Awesome.
Charles Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Louisa May Alcott, Lewis Carroll, Henry James, James Joyce, William Shakespeare, Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury, William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Toni Morrison, Homer, Ernest Hemingway, Alice Walker…
The entire list would take forever. The point is… after being exposed to these great pieces of literature, I became a total book nerd. It is irreversible and terminal. I have tried countless times to quiet the literary critic inside of me, and no matter how I try to plow through and ignore the plot inconsistencies, poor word choice, lack of character development, cliched and stilted dialogue… I absolutely cannot. CAN NOT. And when I try to get past it, it just makes me angry inside – and a little bitter – and pretty much my whole day is ruined. It is that bad.
It’s such a problem that I regularly reject books that people recommend to me. If I cannot flip to any page in a book and instantly be drawn in by beautiful, poetic prose, dynamic characters, ridiculously clever dialogue, or unique and original descriptions… it’s pretty much not worth my time. I DO NOT CARE if it has a “really good plot”. Good literature is about so much more than the PLOT, people! If the plot is good and the rest of the literary elements suck… what’s the point?! Seriously! Get it together! Read something with some substance!
(Whew! I’m done. Sorry. My inner book snob is raging right now…)
So… back to David Baldacci. My mother was sure I would love it. Again, I was told it had a fantastic “plot”. (At this point, if a book is described as having a great “plot”, it’s pretty much the kiss of death in my eyes.) BUT, I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt and plunge right in.
Oh. My. Eyes. The dialogue was so ridiculously cliched and stupid. The situations were… not just unbelievable but laughable. I finally was forced to put it down.
Once again, my attempts to actually read something, were thwarted.
So, again, I went to my mother, asking for another recommendation (and please, PLEASE something that doesn’t make me want to whip it across the room this time…)
And she gave me this…
FINALLY. The characters are well-developed and deep and dynamic! The dialogue ISN’T cliched! And the plot… the PLOT is… FANTASTIC! *sigh* Finally, a contemporary piece of fiction I don’t abhor…
My only complaint with dear John, is that he’s kind of a potty mouth. Or at least his characters are. But I don’t even care that much… because it FITS with his characters! It actually makes sense!
So, now I’m apparently a big ol’ John Verdon fan. And I finally have something to distract myself with. That I don’t hate myself for reading.
So… silver lining?