21
Aug
09

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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12 Responses to “Pass the fiction”


  1. August 21, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    I read fast 🙂
    I’m 6 books down in the 7 book Harry Potter series…I started my re-read after Half Blood Prince came out…on July 15…its August 21st…you do the math 😉

  2. August 21, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    swooooooooon

    we’re meant for each other.

  3. August 21, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    For an English major, I’m a pathetically slow reader. My mind wanders, I begin writing in my head, it’s a mess in there. But I positively devour nonfiction. It took me less time to read the 390-page nonfic Devil in the White City when it was assigned in first year, than the relatively compact Mrs. Dalloway. I dawdled on As I Lay Dying yet finished off autobiographies by guys like Mick Foley and Bret Hart (both surprisingly literate for pro wrestlers, if you’re the type to buy into stereotypes) in mere days.

    I dunno, it’s weird. It probably has to do with my aforementioned tendencies as a writer (which are probably unique to me, as you’ve been known to turn a bit of prose yourself Blake.) Reading fiction, which I do love to do, I get restless imagining my own versions of stories, or stories that I could write along the same vein. Nonfiction, for me, is locked in and easier to focus on.

    It’s an interesting contrast, though.

  4. 5 Kenny Fanguy
    August 21, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    Yeah but I read slow,and two or three books at a time.(na yall just a couple of fast readn freaks)

  5. 7 Randy
    August 21, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    Me and My dad are really quick readers too. We may give you two a run for your money.

  6. August 21, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    Kenny, I usually am into about three books at once.
    right now whatever Harry Potter book Im on, The Raw Sharks Texts and for some obscure reason the novelization of Jaws 2

  7. August 21, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    i finished one of my books at work and grabbed it for something else to read…its gotta be better than the movie…

  8. 11 bigwords88
    August 22, 2009 at 7:20 am

    My main problem when reading (certain, not all) non-fiction is the moments when I suddenly realize I know more than the author of the book I’m reading. It’s disheartening to realize that certain well-known publishers can’t be bothered researching properly.

    Need an example? The Rough Guide To Superheroes (which carries the Penguin logo on the back cover) is filled with annoying errors. It is, admittedly, written for a “civilian” audience, but any real geek will spot the omissions, gaffs and nonsense. Award yourselves five geek points for everything you notice as being wrong.

    Books based on television shows are often terrible, especially the season guides from the mid-nineties. I’ve gone through most of the X-Files tie-ins, and they seem to disagree on even the most easily-checked information. Hell, I have even come across walkthrough guides that are filled with minor errors.

    Is it any wonder that book sales (in some areas) are down when the writers of factual material can’t get their act together? I remember being told “research, research, research” when I was at college, yet if there are books being released by prominent publishers filled with crap, what is the point? Anyone can create a website with more accurate resources than some books…

    I’m sure that most non-fiction isn’t as terrible as the ones I have come across, and there are many great writers out there who do pay care and attention to their work. Just make sure that you check with multiple sources if you are going to use any piece of info.

  9. October 3, 2010 at 9:09 am

    If you like books about Harry Potter, please read the one that I’ve written, The Lord of the Hallows: Christian Symbolism and Themes in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. You might also like my Harry Potter/Lord of the Rings/Narnia blog which can be found at http://phoenixweasley.wordpress.com. More information about the book can be found there.

    Blake, I’m a teacher in Lafourche Parish too. I teach band at East and West Thibodaux Middle Schools. It’s a small world, right? 😉


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