Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Ebbs and Flows of Reading an Author

Scott D Parker

It’s okay to fall out of love with an author, isn’t it?

I’ve debated with myself whether or not to name drop the title and author of the book I’m about to discuss, and I’ve opted for anonymity. I prefer not to single out the author in question, but I will single out the gender: he is a he. That way I’ll have to always say “the author”.

This author has published a new book in the last six months and I read it. Ever since I discovered him, I have read almost everything he has published. And I’ve always loved his work. The most recent book is, to my mind, better than his last. And, let’s be honest, there is actually nothing wrong with the book, his style, and the way he structures his books. When you pick up a book by this author, you know exactly what you’re going to get, and, up until now, I have always enjoyed that.

Not so much this time. I’ve been trying to figure out what happened. I think it’s come down to one thing: I changed. No one remaines static in the things that they like. Life experiences change us, we can get introduced to new things, tragic things can happen to us whereby old things remind us of the old hurts, etc. For those who read my personal blog this week, you know that I have recently experienced the high of acting on stage for the first time (here’s part 1). The experience has changed me, not only as a person, but also as a writer. By how much, only time will tell.

The thing is, I changed, but the author didn’t. Or, at least, not with this book. He might, in the future. As a result, while I moderately enjoyed this book, I didn’t love it like I did in his previous books. It was clear early on what the main character was going to do. I wondered if that was the case, and it turned out to be true. In fact, the thing the main character had to do didn’t even cost him that much. Again, this is not the author’s fault because this is the kind of book he writes, but it was a little one-note for me.

Has this ever happened to y’all?

It now leads me to a new question: what next? If the style of books that this author writes no longer appeals to me, what am I moving towards? It’s unknown. For those of y’all who are writers and have experienced something similar to this conundrum, did your own writing change? Did you adjust the types of stories you wrote to match your new reading habits, or did you continue writing the same types of stories but only change the books you read? It is a question I’m pondering nowadays. I’ll let you know the answer when I discover it.

Tweet of the Week:

Do you remember that time Fozzie told a funny joke? Neither do we.

— Muppet Studio (in the form of Waldorf and Statler)

I’m really looking forward to the new Muppet movie coming out next month. With the YouTube videos and savvy marketing, Disney’s done a fantastic job of bringing the classic characters into the 21st Century.

Thought of the Week:

I hope Nelson Cruz doesn’t become known as the Bill Buckner of the Texas Rangers. The Rangers’ loss to the Cardinals isn’t all on him, but he’ll be the face of it. Why is it so hard to bring a first championship of anything to the state of Texas?

Event of the Week (for me):

For the first time, my wife and I both have written and published articles for Criminal Element. Vanessa read and wrote a Fresh Meat piece about Black Thunder by Aimee and David Thurlo, and I trace the evolution of Batman's costume. Now, the only thing left is for me to make a piece of jewelry.


Gerald So said...

Hi, Scott. What you describe usually happens to me when I've read several of one author's books in a row. These days, I'll only do it if I love the author's work, and with that kind of love, sometimes I have lofty expectations of what the author might do next. I also begin to see the author's go-to turns of phrase and other stylistic tics that pull me out of a story.

My remedy is to take a break from the author's books. I still keep an eye on each new one that comes out, but I don't buy it on the author's name alone. I decide if the plot sounds different enough from what I've already read to make me go back.

The trade-off with ongoing series is that the author has to keep returning readers engaged while delivering the same kind of book overall to keep the series consistent.

pattinase (abbott) said...

There is quite a long list of writers I used to love: John Irving, Anne Tyler, Alice Hoffman, Alice Munro and no longer do. See I am naming names but not writers likely to stop by here. I think both the writer and me and the TIMES change. Some writers are really embedded in a time-I really think that is true of Irving and Tyler. The others made a change, especially Munro, and it didn't work for me. Also taste changes. I used to like whodunnits and now I don't. I need the book to be able the character and the writing not about a puzzle.

the dogs' mother said...

I've learned not to read up on authors. If I find the person is a bit, or a lot, of undesirable person it kills the books for me.

Dana King said...

If you don't change, you'll become stagnant. If the authors hasn't changed, he already is stagnant.

I tired of reading Robert B. Parker toward the end. The books became so pared down all that was left was the banter between Spenser and Hawk and Susan, and an all-star cast of previous characters. I loved the banter--no one was better at it than Parker--and would read the older books again, but the new versions left me wanting more than warmed over dialog. Maybe he changed, maybe I did; maybe both did. Whatever it was, I stopped reading. (I understand the recently released posthumous books is more like the older work. I haven't read it yet.)

Lover grow apart. Why wouldn't readers and writers?

Dan_Luft said...

We all first experience this sense of change about the time we leave high school -- almost no one continues to listen to the same music into their 20s. We just change.

I don't think I could make it through a meandering Raymond Chandler novel now but I read them and some of it was great and I glad I read them.

Also, in my 20s I was totally mad on Dostoevsky but now I never touch anything 19th century.

There are a lot of writers on autopilot and perhaps you were a reader on autopilot for a while.