“Books… are like lobster shells, we surround ourselves with ’em, then we grow out of ’em and leave ’em behind, as evidence of our earlier stages of development.”
― Dorothy L. Sayers
“There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.”
When I read Stephen King’s book, On Writing, I was struck by his down to earth statement that a writer has to be true to his or her characters. One cannot sanitize just because ones’ audience might object to something a character says or does.
I liked the feeling of freedom I got from this. I had noticed my own writing going flat when I forced my characters into or out of situations just because it was “right”. But it was a frightening thing. How is any writer supposed to just ignore public opinion?
My first brush with this came during my third NaNo novel when one of my main characters swore. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. I wasn’t sure how my friends would feel if they knew. It was mild; I think he said, “Hell.”
But then, in my fourth NaNo novel, my protagonist found herself seeking answers in the company of a psychic–something I didn’t agree with and certainly couldn’t excuse to my friends and family. I had to let it go and let my character make her own way through the novel. Regardless of how I felt about it, it made perfect sense for her to be doing what she was doing.
Categorizing a book (or a character) as “good” or “bad” misses the point, I think. It’s not about whether one morally agrees with the book, the writer, the plot, or the characters. It’s about what what learns through it.
What book do you treasure but feel reluctant to recommend, whether it’s because others might not understand, or because it reveals more about you than you like to admit? (For me, it’s a number of books–but Stephen King’s On Writing comes to mind at the moment. 🙂 )
I go through fun, entirely unpredictable, reading binges. Last year it was a lot of classic literature from the first half of the 20th century (also some classic scifi, all of Charles de Lint’s books I could get ahold of, and more YA fiction that I want to admit to). (I used the Recommendation feature on Goodreads a little too much.)
This year it’s had even less direction to it. But what I have in front of me is interesting: a few older, fun scifi novels (C.J. Cherryh, David Feintuch), some George Orwell, all of Ann Aquirre’s Sirantha Jax novels, and some non-fiction I’ve been meaning to get through.
…It’s the TV that’s really distracting me from my reading list. I have Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones in my queue.
What about you? What’s on your reading list? (Or your watching list?) How do you choose your next read?
HuffPost Books recently tweeted:
What was the last book you read that made you cry?
I had to go back over my book list to check. I don’t remember reading a book recently that made me cry. Of course, my eyes water at the drop of a hat so perhaps I just don’t notice.
It very well could have been Neil Gaiman’s Ocean at the End of the Lane. That was a very emotional book. Beautiful. Lyrical. Magical. And about so much more than what the narrator said it was about.
Or it could have been Charles de Lint’s Widdershins–which was amazing, but also very sad and rather a personal read. I don’t know if it’s the sort of thing I could hand someone with a word of recommendation. It’s brave and beautiful, but not safe. It dredges up things from the recesses of memory.
What about you? What’s the last book you read which made you cry?