Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Reading Writer


It occurred to me today that I’ve been reading far more nonfiction lately than fiction. At first I blamed Katrina; John Connelly’s BLACK ANGEL was the first novel I actually managed to read all the way through since the storm. Yet I’ve read a fair number of nonfiction books in the last eight months. My reading time has been seriously curtailed by the realities of our lives these days, yet there must be a reason I’ve been able to stick with nonfiction and not fiction.

I suppose it’s one of the dangers of being a writer. We read our own writing so critically, constantly looking for flaws, that it becomes a habit. And so we bring that same critical judgment to the novels we pick up. I used to open a book expecting to be entertained. Now it’s a rare novel that can carry me away into its story enough that I turn off that internal editor, the voice that says, Poor Character Motivation. Predictable Plotting. Clunky Dialogue.

The other day my younger daughter came home from school. She said she and a group of friends had been discussing a new movie and when my daughter said “But it had so many plot holes!” everyone looked at her and said, “What’s a plot hole?” Both my daughters are always telling me I’ve ruined movies for them. Now I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve ruined the joy of reading novels for myself.

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