Book tasting

Sherwood Smith, author of Crown Duel, posted on her blog about the dangers of books reports. “How to Kill a Book — Ruminations without a Conclusion.”

At one point she asks, Who (except for teachers, and maybe some writers?) pulls out the rising action from any book? I suppose I fall into the “some writers” category, because most of the time I can, and I can do so, often, without losing my enjoyment of the story.

But what I found interesting was her assessment of people who work with books for a living:

And this can also be true of critics . . . and editors, who once loved books so much they chose to work with them for a living. But much as one adores creme brulee, a steady diet of it over years might make even the most passionate devotee dread the next bowl brought out. Or if not dread it, get extra picky about the texture, the sprinkling of cinnamon on top, the color of the bowl, the exact temperature of the custard, and how well it was flamed. The joy of eating it is gone.

I certainly do not think my joy of reading is gone — surely not! — but I do think I have become more discerning about what I read. I do not have patience for (what is, in my opinion) bad writing. Usually I can tell if a book is an author’s first novel. I know I am not a postmodernist because there are times when I do say, “No, you can’t do that in a novel,” so I do think there are some unsaid rules, trade secrets of the craft. But I do read for pleasure. Usually I read science fiction or young adult fantasy if I’m choosing a pleasure book. But because I also like to think about what I enjoy, because I am also a writer who reads in her genre, I prefer authors whose books are able to withstand both modes of reading: authors such as Megan Whalen Turner, Robin McKinley, Orson Scott Card, and so on.

So yes, I am a picky reader. I like my creme brulee done just so. I am also willing to try new authors, and if the custard isn’t the right temperature, at least I’ve given them a chance. And I am still a critical reader for Chera Approved™ authors. Ursula K. Le Guin may be my favorite author of all time, but she is not perfect (let us talk about Tehanu. Or Rocannon’s World. Or Planet of Exile). The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell isn’t perfect either, even if I can’t pinpoint why. Perhaps that is why it is my favorite.

…though, I started The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco this week. Another book about monks. Franciscans and Benedictines in the fourteenth century. If I’m not driven mad by reading sentence structure in modern English that I’m used to reading in Middle English, then… I’m just allowing for the possibility, is all I’m sayin’.

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