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Because it works, that’s why

Written by Kirsten on October 19th, 2009

This weekend I realized something about myself that makes me, perhaps, different from many book bloggers or other “critics” of the arts: I am not offended, bored, or annoyed by formulaic books, television, or movies. Matter of fact, I find myself suckered by them more often than not. And that, folks, is why the formulas exist – they work. Sure, it’s exhilarating to read a story that’s written from the perspective of an inanimate object, for example, and of course we love walking out of a movie theater and talking animatedly with our friends about how we sure didn’t see that coming. However, offerings from those who have perfected the tried-and-true will always succeed, because that is where so many of us find comfort, satisfaction, and happiness – in the familiar.

I picked up a copy of Reading the Romance by Janice Radway and – surprise, surprise – haven’t gotten around to it yet, but I’m intrigued by the severe breakdown of exactly how bodice-rippers must be written in order to pass muster for publishing: so many pages before the main characters meet, so many more before they first touch, so many more before they’re torn asunder, so many more before they first have sex – it would seem a wonder than anyone would need to read more than two, right? And yet…

Sunday, I watched The Mighty Ducks. I’ve loved that movie since it first came out, even though it’s just like any number of other underdog sports team themed flicks. But every one of them has a heartfelt pep talk, a discovery of fair play, a rewarding of hard work, that is touching, despite its triteness. Not such a big shocker, really, that I got teary-eyed a few times.

More interesting to me, however, was the book-related revelation on this theme. I picked up a John Grisham book for the first time in probably five years this weekend; I read the first chapters in moments, recognizing his prose easily, remembering some ten other books of his that could have had these chapters wedged in and it would have been completely unnoticeable.  I saw the first twist coming from a mile away, but instead of rolling my eyes when it was revealed, I felt validated – maybe as a writer? or a reader? – for having “figured it out.”

How do you feel about prolific authors whose books all tend to be variations on a theme? Do you avoid them like the plague, gobble up every single book they publish, read a few and then are over it?

Edited to add – Have I mentioned that flu shots make me woozy and somewhat incomprehensible? This is a hilariously disjointed post, and half of what I’d intended to write didn’t make it to the screen, but for the life of me I can’t remember what’s missing. *sigh*


4 Comments so far ↓

  1. You know, I used to not care about that kind of thing either. I read every single one of Catherine Coulter’s FBI series (woman has a secret in her past that gets her in trouble, male FBI agent shows up to help, they fall in love within a week of meeting each other, mystery is solved, they live happily ever after and start hanging out with all the other happy couples from the series) but this summer I picked up the new one and couldn’t get more than 20 pages in before the dialogue became to painful (“Maybe Mrs. Smith will be willing to share some of that 30-year old Scotch whiskey she’s been saving.” Scotch *whiskey*?! Who says that?). Subsequently, I took the entire series to the used bookstore I mentioned last week and haven’t had a moment’s regret. I’ve tried King and Patterson and Grisham and never really got into any of them, perhaps I’m just not a mass produced book kinda girl…except for Stephanie Plum…she will *always* rock!

  2. Kirsten says:

    Haha, Scotch whiskey, I love it.

    I’m a few more chapters into the Grisham book, and my jadedness is growing; I think I have a higher tolerance for repetition in television and movies because they don’t require the same dedication of time, nor do they displace options I’ve been trying to get to for a while.

  3. That makes sense. I think it’s also about the type of escapism you’re going for. Watching TV or movies is more passive, so you don’t feel as bad about loving something awesomely cheesy (I’m a sucker for anything Amanda Bynes does as an example.) where as books are more active, you’re required to put more of yourself into it and why would *you* want to be a part of something cheesy?!

  4. Kirsten says:

    That’s a good point… Though I tend to find myself a part of cheesy somethings rather often. Don’t tell anyone, though ;)

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