Friday, July 24, 2009

Books and shit

so i'm in new orleans and mostly i've been spending my time reading. on the plane ride down, i read a whole bunch of diana wynne jones, she writes fantasy for young adults. the books were mostly good, they went fast and kept me entertained. but i also had a major bone to pick with them, and it applies to actually most books i read (maybe because i don't read very good books, or something). why do so many books rely on the main characters (usually it's with kids) being really stupid to move the plot along? it's especially frustrating in serial type books like harry potter. maybe we'd believe that dumbledore is too scary to talk to in the first book. but after that? you don't fool me, j.k. rowling. i know that dumbledore is kind and awesome from then on. so why doesn't harry just go tell him everything on page 25 and get him to fix it? obviously because then she wouldn't have a book anymore. but really, that's no excuse.
anyway, in ranting about book structure, i also came up with another idea. this one may take a while to explore all the parts of it. part the first: book endings. why do the good guys always win? it's amazing to me, and i guess impressive, that authors can create suspense at all, when if you think about while you're reading, you know the good guy isn't going to be killed, even when things are at their worst. what if someone just had the bad guys shoot the good guys immediately, without first delivering their monologue explaining their whole plan? i think it'd be depressing as hell (see H.M.S. Ulysses by Alistair McLain, for example), but still a refreshing change of pace. well maybe not actually refreshing, but at least a change.
phase deux: this part also kind of deals with TV sitcoms, or at least it's connected to them in my mind. so it seems like another classic plot device to present the regular life of a character, radically change it during the course of the book, but then ultimately return it to the status quo by the end. for example, someone in the show is a big time loser, then can never do anything right, comedy of errors, etc. but then in one episode it turns out they are a piano genius, and that particular episode explores that. and then by the end, they've someone ruined their piano playing career, and they are a loser again. like charlie, with his juggling. only he was never good at that. he did almost drop a brick on his toe once, though. i always feel bad for these guys when they have to return to normalcy. so what if there was a book about someone who just never fucked up. either they're perfect from start to finish, or they start out a loser and then turn out to be awesome, i don't care, as long as they don't end up a loser again. the main point is that there's basically never any conflict created by their mistakes, they can solve any problem in a couple pages, etc. would that work? i'd read it. (see I Wanna Go Home, by Gordon Korman. do i care that that book is for 10 year olds? no, i want to be the kid in that book who's good at everything without trying.)
Three: doesn't anyone else ever wonder why books are always so conveniently set in time when something exciting happens to the character. they lead a normal boring life for 20 pages, and then the author of the book, presumably recounting a story, just happened to capture the moment when everything changed for the person. isn't that just a little hard to believe? of course it's fiction, so they can do whatever the fuck they want chronologically. but would people actually be completely disinterested in reading a book about a person's everyday life, where we don't happen to be looking in at the exact time when they do something they've never done before? (sure there's Jim's journal, but that kind of proves my point, people read that, and that's even more boring than what i had in mind)
anyway, maybe all of these different innovations have been tried before and everyone hated them. but i still would be interested in reading things like that. i could only come up with maybe one or two examples for each thing i'm talking about. so if anyone else can think of anything like that, let me know.
finally, i want to respond to wiley, who dared go toe-to-toe with me on immortality. first of all, i've already found the immortality potion.
but remember, you promised not to tell annie. secondly, i can see your point, but i present this counter-example: every teenager ever. we're convinced that we won't die, because we're young and beautiful, and that doesn't happen to us, just people on the news. so in fact, we only do a lot of things because we're NOT scared of death, or even our parents. like skydiving, whatever. not a sermon, just a thought.

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