my problem with fiction; and the solution

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I bought a book recently based on the recommendation of an author I thought I could trust.  She raved about the book Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett, and consequentially, as soon as it came out, I bought it and read it.  It was terrible.  The best thing about it was the cover and that’s saying something.

This is just one example of what usually happens to me:  I pick up a fiction book because it says “bestseller!!!” on it and then wonder why I can’t get into it.  I thought maybe I wasn’t intelligent enough to understand the deep and hidden meanings/ideas that made a book a bestseller.  (this still could be the case, I suppose)

When I read I want to get lost in the book.   I want to get that feeling like “I cannot put this book down.”

If I get the sense that a book is trying too hard to be a book, I can’t read it.

The book has to be a book!!

My mistake was made when I subconsciously lumped *all of fiction* into one category…decided I wasn’t cut out for fiction….abandoned it….. and resorted to reading mainly memoirs.  I have the best time with memoirs.  I’ll always love memoirs.  (For a while I thought I had a problem with fiction because it was “made up”….after all, memoirs are for the most part true, or based on, truth.)

I watched the movie “The Age of Innocence” and watching the movie provoked me to read the book (free with kindle).  Ahhh, here was fiction to respect!  The Hunger Games?  Bah!  Yawn!  Sneeze!  (actually, truth be told, I did like the first book, it was the 2nd and 3rd I couldn’t read.)

But why?  Why did I enjoy The Age of Innocence and not Catching Fire?   And how?  How could I find these books, the fiction books, that I could read and respect?  Certainly not by walking aimlessly around the fiction section at the library!

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The answer came to me just the other day when I was in the depths of reading a most wonderful book which I had selected at random from a used bookstore.  How on earth can I be enjoying this fiction story, I asked myself.  It was written in 1942, perhaps that was the answer.  Perhaps I have a problem with modern fiction.  After all, I hated Commonwealth (for example) and that JUST came out.  Perhaps the internet/online world destroyed the creativity and seriousness of the written word so that fiction works are no longer respectable?  How very depressing!

Not at all.  As I thought and thought about this problem, I finally realized and came to the conclusion that I was wandering around in the wrong type of fiction……

I realized that fiction isn’t just “fiction”. It’s divided up into different categories within the genre.  HELLO!  Now we’re getting somewhere……..

(I’m sure I should have realized this years ago, but whatever, I was too busy having babies.) I’m excited! what’s the point, you ask?

Look to the Mountain, as I researched it online, was a Pulitzer prize nominated book, and that was my light bulb moment.  What could be more literary than a Pulitzer prize book?  I quickly searched for the Pulitzer prize winners list and realized I had only read a few of them.  Right then and there, in front of the fire place, I realized I had a lot of reading to look forward to.

The point is this;  I am going to read all the Pulitzer prize fiction winners and not in any specific order because I’m going to search and find them all in second hand bookshops.

(insert squeals of joy here!)

I may even read all the runners up, as well!!

There is an awesome little used bookstore in Rutland, VT.  My son Ethan’s college is nearby and when we drove him back on Sunday I went inside to look for my books.  My Pulitzer books.  I quickly found two: The Good Earth, by Pearl S Buck, and Ironweed, by William Kennedy.

But first I had to finish Look to the Mountain.  Which I did, last night.

I just want to say….I highly recommend this book.  It was the best book I’ve read in a long time, and it was reminiscent of another long time favorite, Hannah Fowler, by Janice Holt Giles.  There is a special place in my heart for early American pioneer stories.  Reading them makes me want to make stew over an open fire and put on a long full skirt.  I often sighed to think, “I wish I could find another book like Hannah Fowler.” And I did!  This one is even better!

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410 pages of wonderful words…..woven together into a meaty, rich, beautiful book.

She stood at the top of the rise and she watched to the eastward….guessing between which two treetops would be the place where the sun would come.  Then the sky grew too bright there to see the tree branches.  
     The true gleam of the sun, it the first instant she saw it, was of the sun itself—and a long ways away from her.
     Then across all that distance it came into her eyes…and her eyes had to turn from it.
     She threw back her hood, and on her face was the morning.  pg. 107

******

 

9 thoughts on “my problem with fiction; and the solution

    1. I read Bel Canto and thought it was much better than Commonwealth, too. Let me know how you come along with the reading. I started The Good Earth and it’s so good.

  1. I can totally relate to what you said about enjoying older books. That’s mostly all I read when I do read fiction. Seems like there’s so much more to them than “modern fiction.” I’ll have to look up the book you recommended (Look to the Mountain). Looking forward to reading it.

  2. I should send you my grandmother’s book. I have to admit that it is not well written. But it is a great story, and true. Unfortunately it’s been out of print for a long time. I do find some used copies on-line from time to time. Grandma was born in 1988. Her Armenian family lived in Turkey. She experienced a massacre when she was 7. After that it was not safe for her to go to school or to town. Her mother taught her how to weave oriental rugs. She prayed for many years that God would let her leave Turkey. When she was 16 she left to come to America to marry my grandpa. She had never met him. Anyway, it’s quite a story. The name of the book is “Pearl” or “The Bride’s Escape”. The author is Donita Dyer. It reads like fiction, but it is true. Grandma told it to us many times.

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