Sunday, February 15, 2015

Oh Fiction, I Seem To Be Deserting You, Or Are you Deserting Me?

I have a stack (um, stacks, actually) of books by my bedside winking at me every night begging to be read. My husband, concerned about the perilous stacks shoved up against the wall of my side of the bed, said at one point, "Let's get a bookcase. This is getting ridiculous." And now I have a bookcase of books begging to be read. Happy day!

Except. The stack is getting increasingly filled with non-fiction as opposed to fiction. I am currently switching between three superb books of non-fiction: Anderson's Lawrence in Arabia, Jones' The Plantagenets, and Roberts' Napoleon. I leap merrily from 14th century England to 20th century Arabia to 19th France on any given week. All three of them have very different styles of writing, and all three of them are crackerjack writers. It's a total joy to read them. I have no idea about the scholarship in these books, but it doesn't really matter. They are fantastic reads.

And then we look at the decreasing fiction pile. There is very little there to excite. Somehow I never got around to reading The Night Circus, and I'm looking forward to that. Nothing else grabs my eye. So I toddle downstairs to the office where the real bookcases live and pull out an old favorite when I feel I'm in the mood for fiction. The other night I was feeling "capote-ish" and singled out his The Dogs Bark. It's easy to forget what a wonderful writer he was because he became so malicious and angry at the end of his career, and the very thing that he despised, a literary clown. Anyway, much sadness there because much greatness squandered. The book is lovely, especially the bits from Local Color. I highly recommend it.

I guess the point I'm making is that non-fiction is still getting the rigorous go through by editors and fiction isn't. How many books have I read in the past two years that had me pulling my hair out because the editorial "pass" just didn't happen. The book was rushed to publication to feed the ebook reading masses. The real tragedies are the books that are near misses. The ones that could have graduated from being a Saturday afternoon read to being the sort of book you keep, that you will pluck off your shelf one night when you hanker for some decent writing. I have lots of books I have kept. And yet rarely do I keep a book these days. Very few of them grab me and the ones that do tend to be non-fiction.

Not that I have any room on my bookshelves for more books, but still.

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