Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Different Kind of Pleasure

Different books bring me different pleasures.

That innocuous sentence took a look of thinking before it ended up in pixels on your screen.  Not that the rest of my work is slipshod and fast off the fingertips, bypassing my brain entirely (this has been said, with much truth, about my speech, at times) but some sentences carry more import than others.

This is especially true of topic sentences, as my children's homework reminded me over and over again.  I want to capture you and state my thesis and move the story along apace.  I don't want you to read my opening offering and groan.  That's what stymied me this afternoon.  I know what I want to say, but it seems so obvious when I put it down for you here in The Burrow.

Of course, you're thinking, finishing Ulysses leaves you with a different feeling than putting down 50 Shades of Grey. Both stories revolve around sex; other than that, it's no contest.  Now, I never got past the first 30 or so pages of E. L. James's trilogy, but there was no doubt, even from that small selection, that literary allusion and intricate use of language were the least of that author's concerns.

They are of two different ilks, revealing two distinct types of pleasure.

I'm a big James Patterson fan.  I like to imagine which parts he writes and which parts are his co-author's.  I can buy one at one end of a plane ride and return it for 50% back when I land.  The stories are creative and fast and the characters are believable, even if the situations are not.

But the writing is always first rate.  It never bloviates or obfuscates or uses twelve words when four would do.  Not as spare as Robert Parker, perhaps, but no where near as overblown as Anne Perry's descriptions tend to tilt.

It was her writing which prompted this post.  I read A New York Christmas in an afternoon, and am now engrossed in The Angel Court Affair.  I've thought more about policing in early America and anarchism in turn-of-the-20th-century Europe in the last two weeks than I have in my entire life. That time period never seemed to appear on the curriculum when I was in school; perhaps because the people developing that curriculum didn't see it as history, but as part of their lives.

I wrote about this in 2012; I'll quote the relevant passage for you right here:
G'ma was appalled that I didn't know where Patton fought.  "My brother fought with him in Italy!  That's not history - that is my life!"   
The history is only part of what I'm trying to say as I muddle through this post.  It's the history mixed with less than stellar story telling that got me to the keyboard this afternoon.  The stories themselves are interesting and nuanced and, though often disturbingly predictable, are remarkably believable. It's just that the author feels the need to bludgeon me with facts and cultural and historical touchstones.

I love learning the information.  I'm annoyed that the presentation distracts from the literary merit. Were the characters less charming, the settings and time period less attractive, I'm not sure that I'd spend much time with Anne Perry.

Looking back over my reading lists, I see that I've read everything she's published.

Perhaps I am not as much of a literary snob as I like to imagine myself.

I lust for Dorothy Leigh Sayers; I like Agatha Christie; I'm delighted with Robert Crais and all the Kellermans and Dana Stabenow and Michael Connelly. None of these authors make me stop and wonder why I'm reading what I'm reading when I'm reading it.  Their exposition is more subtle; I never notice what I'm learning until I realize it's in my head the next morning.

Anne Perry demands that I pay attention - NOW.

It's okay... I put up with it... because I now know that there were anarchist bombings nearly every week in Europe during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  That's got me thinking about ISIS and Timothy McVeigh and my need to read more history on this time period.

That's why I put up with it.

It's a different kind of pleasure.


  1. I like reading about history. That Fifty Shades of Grey is crap to me. And it's not the sex I have an issue with. It's the writing. And give me Greek Myths any day. LOVE reading those. Don't know who Anne Perry is, but I will check her out.

    Thanks for always giving great suggestions on authors to check out.

    Megan xxx

    1. Do you have the D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths? One of our favorites, for sure. Mr 9 loves the Percy Jackson series, especially b/c he can quiz me on the gods and goddesses :)
      I agree... it was such bad writing that I couldn't waste the time on 50 Shades...

  2. I read almost no fiction but enjoy nonfiction the most, history, cultural issues, or biographies. Lately I have limited time for reading but have a lot of books on my TBR list. None though are ever bestsellers. What the 'world' wants is almost never what I want in a good read. I do like though the Iron Druid series-- never thought I would like an urban fantasy, but my kids read them and I got hooked. I also read Longmires whenever a new one comes along ;) It was another surprise as I don't generally like mysteries, but it's set in a region of Wyoming that I find interesting and has a good western hero. ;)

    1. The kids have turned me on to so many good reads I'd otherwise never find. Ender's Game, Chuck Palahniuk, John Scalzi, Anne Lamott, George R R R R R Martin.... they make me smile <3
      Thanks for these suggestions; They are on my TBR (love it!) list, now.


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