Archive for August 21st, 2009


Pass the fiction

I’ve been having some issues with the Department of Motor Vehicles lately. I understand this isn’t anything new, everybody has these issues, and if I ever meet Joss Whedon I’m going to pitch a Buffy the Vampire Slayer miniseries where she sets out to eradicate the Hellmouth beneath every DMV office in America. Without getting in detail, basically I’m in a position where I have to prove that the car I was in when some jackass plowed into me four years ago was actually totaled, and the two-bit insurance racket said jackass subscribed to isn’t exactly being helpful.

Danse MacabreTo get to my point, though, as I sat there waiting to be called upon for my ritual torture, I was reading Stephen King‘s Danse Macabre. If you’re a fan of horror but you’ve never read the book, it’s definitely worth your while. King takes the time to talk about what horror really means to him, mostly through the prism of the best (and worst) horror of the 30-year span between 1950 and 1980 (when the first edition of the book was published). Come to think of it, next year the book will be 30 years old. Someone get Mr. King’s people on the phone, I think it’s time for a sequel.

The thing is, though, I’ve been reading this book now for over a month, and I’ve still got about 75 pages to go. Sure, some ninth graders I know would find it astonishing that I could have read so much in such a short amount of time. On the other hand, my girlfriend Erin could tackle this bad boy before lunch then go on and read The Talisman for an encore. I’m usually in the middle. A book of this length, if I’m on my game, I could usually get through in a week or so.

So why is it taking me so long? In a word: nonfiction. I respect nonfiction. I understand the necessity of it. I even have a few nonfiction books I particularly enjoy. But nonfiction doesn’t grab me the way fiction does, and it never has. Even a book like this one, that’s well-written and fun to read, slips my mind when it’s not in front of me. If a novel is great, I’m dying to pick it up again so I can see what happens next. With most nonfiction there’s no “what happens next,” just “what happened,” which isn’t nearly as compelling a question. So nonfiction, on those rare occasions I read it, takes me much longer.

What’s more, I’d guess that 90 percent of the nonfiction I read is about fiction. Looking back at the books I’ve reviewed over the years, the few fiction books include tomes that analyze the Harry Potter novels, books that dissect the TV show LOST, several books about various aspects of the craft of speculative writing (sci-fi, fantasy, or horror), many books about the history and influence of the comic book medium… even a book about the philosophy of The Office. All books, in one way or another, centered around works of fiction.

The real world bores me. I prefer the fantasy. There’s more control for me there, be it as a writer or as a reader. That’s the way I like it.

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