Thursday, June 10, 2010

Who wrote this story for you?

I have trouble with lots of fiction. I find flaws everywhere. I find flaws in logic, in time, in language. I get irritated so easily whenever I read.

So I was looking at another novel yesterday, not for myself, but for a library patron, told in the first-person by an (formerly) illiterate character. The narrator made grammar and spelling mistakes that could be consistent with an illiterate person.

But the character is supposed to be illiterate. If you, the character, are telling this story after you learned to read and write, then why insert those misspellings and errors? Are you trying to recreate the atmosphere which surrounded that past you? But you are no longer that you, so why do it? For sympathy?

Unless you, the character, are speaking and recording this now somehow? Recording it into a microphone? Your cell phone? So, that's why I asked, Who wrote this for you?

These are small things, but they force me to think about them. Why are you using parentheses and apostrophes but misspelling those other simple words? It starts to make me wonder if there is another person involved.. a writer, and not you.

So suddenly, this whole literary world seems artificial to me. I can't picture someone else writing this. And I can't see the character finding this tape a year later and transcribing it. Well, I guess I could, but it seems unrealistic.

There are many things that bother me in storytelling. When characters seem to be aware of events they could never have witnessed, or when I have no sense of time in the story.

That's what's fun about movies and TV. Characters usually keep the same hairstyles throughout the story arc: I laughed when the TV character Dr. House told someone that he shaved once a week. Because he always looks like he shaved a couple days ago, never just this morning.

But my problem with reading is that it takes so long and I have too much time to think about what I'm reading and I start to pick it apart. Mostly undeservedly. I mean that the stories are good enough, but I guess that since a novel is just the responsibility of one person, I tend to give them almost no room to make mistakes. But movies take the efforts of many, so I figure I need to be more forgiving.

But literature bothers me. I read and I think too much and I withdraw. Sometimes I wonder how I became so hypercritical. Like what did I once read that made me this way. And then sometimes I wonder if I ever really learned to read at all. Because "how to read a novel" is something we're supposed to learn, isn't it?

...So damn you, Batman, Richie Rich, Thor. Your perfect 12¢ comic worlds spoiled reading for me, forever.