Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Hunger for a Good Read

All I really want is something good to read, but you'd think I was asking for the moon. After dabbling in the precarious stack of books by my bedside, I finally read one that caught my attention, The Hunger Games.

In fact, I then quickly read part two of the trilogy, Catching Fire, and ordered the third, Mockingjay, within minutes after reading the last page.

It seems strange that, after a master's-level study in English, the only literature that can hold my attention is Young Adult Fiction. And apparently the zeitgeist is in agreement, because according to Courtney at Blake's Books in McKinleyville, it's mostly adults reading this trilogy.

While I wait for Mockingjay to arrive, I browsed Blake's literature shelves for something to pacify my mind in the meantime. I rejected book after book with the most curious rationales: too psychological, too didactic, too long, too much of a commitment.

Hidden somewhere between those "too"s is the reason why I and many others are turning to young adult fiction. Like an angst-filled teenage girl, I want escapism from my fiction, a trapdoor to a world other than my own.

But I don't like things that are light and airy; I need to feed my dark side, so I like to escape into grittiness, dystopia, murder mysteries, psychological thrillers-- but they have to be well written.

To be fair, I have to admit I also like falling into lyrical well-written books such as those written by Alice Hoffman (I've read every book of hers) or Lawrence Durell, who writes:
"Perhaps our only sickness is to desire a truth which we cannot bear rather than to rest content with the fictions we manufacture out of each other." (from Clea, one of the Alexandria Quartet)
But there are precious few writers who can engage me, and I fear it's only going to get worse:

I heard a disturbing piece on NPR this morning about Amazon directly publishing Kindle titles and some company called Wowio that sells ad space in e-books. The reporter said, "Americans have accepted the quid pro quo of viewing ads in exchange for receiving low-cost or free content." (I'm paraphrasing).

So now, mediocre authors can easily get published on Kindle, neatly side-stepping any quality review they would have gotten at Random House, etc. And at the same time, Amazon publishing will be motivated to find content--any content--to surround those ads.

It seems literature is headed the way of journalism, where the news is just grey stuff to fill in the space between ads or just sensation to appease the sponsor.

For a reader just looking for a good story to escape to and some decent writing that doesn't jar her sensibilities, this is bad news indeed.

Meanwhile, as YA fiction continues to thrive, this article in the LA Times attempts to explain why adults are turning to YA fiction. One source in it speculates that the reason is that "there's no bones made about the fact that a YA book is explicitly intended to entertain."

And yes, later on, I will read Moby Dick.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

me too, love alice hoffman