Monday, December 7, 2009

Down the Rabbit Hole

Just pushed myself to finish Beautiful Children, by Charles Bock. Had some soaring moments, but I was frequently frustrated with it. I don't trust writers who spend pages and pages inside their character's heads, doing the whole interior monologue thing. It's easy. It's false. It posits that people think in sentences and paragraphs and a calm, reasoned emotional logic. It believes in a kind of linear a-to-b psychology that only happens in books, not in real people's heads.

Show me with dialogue. Show me with behavior. Make something frikkin happen.

This last week I've settled down with Stephen King's behemoth novel, Under the Dome. I like Stephen King. I trust Stephen King. He's a generous writer, with large casts of characters and epic plots. He can be a lazy writer - I find myself wishing with about half of his books that he'd have taken it through one more draft - but he delivers what he promises to deliver. A good story. At least one or two Interesting characters. And, in his best books, a metaphor at the center of the story that you can pursue if you choose to. I though his last, Duma Key, was an effective meditation on grieving and loss.


I haven't been able to read very much of this year because I've spent my free time writing. So it's a great pleasure to be able to kick back with a book this last week. I've talked before in this blog about how starting a good book gives me a sensation of falling, that I'm being taken to another place, like Alice going down the rabbit hole. I think that might be the simplest requirement of great writing, or any great art for that matter. Take me to another place.


Laurita said...

I feel the same way. Books with endless monologuing are tedious. I also feel the same way about King - a great story buried in too much detail. I'll still read it though. :)

ArtSparker said...

Winter is the reading season, absolutely. Time to hole up in the magic cave and read by candlelight. Now you have me jonesing for Stephen King.

Maggie said...

I agree with you about the interior monologues. People's heads are scattered and chaotic.

I love the rabbit hole feeling. But I am intense about it. I want to stay down till the end and if I get interrupted I get a little irritated. I don't like being pulled from such a dense wordy place, especially if the novel is wonderful. Which is why I only read at particularly quiet times around here, limiting my reading time. I can't wait for the time when reading can happen in long long long intervals.

Clowncar said...

Laurita, there are always exceptions, but in general when I see pages of interior monologue I page ahead to see how long it's gonna last.

I love the phrase "magic cave" to describe reading, Art. And a huge, undemanding novel is just the ticket during such a hyper month.

I agree fully, Maggie. I hate reading in little 15 minute bits. Though I often have to.

Last Tango said...

I think King has become so powerful his editors are actually afraid to edit him. After all he is the best selling author in THE HISTORY OF THE PLANET. Nonetheless, every now and again (this happened in DESPERATION) he will quite unexpectedly write the most heart-rending paragraph. Comes out of no where. He can write when called upon. And yes, I agree completely with your simple assessment of what great art does. Takes us away. Like coming out of a matinee after seeing a great movie into the sunlight and being confused, discombobulated. That's the feeling I get when I come out of the rabbit hole after being tossed and turned by a really good writer or actor or director or singer or musician or artist. Well said, Jeff.

Clowncar said...

He really can bring it when he tries. But he can be so lazy! The opening paragraph of Rose Red is excellent, but the rest of the book is forgettable. Like he wasn't even trying.

Under the Dome, so far, is pretty good.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...


Scarlett & Viaggiatore