I struggle with those highbrows, both in and outside my life, who refuse to read anything except “good writing.”
First off, I’m sure my writing doesn’t qualify. Next, we are not in agreement of what constitutes “good writing.” Ideally, I don’t have to choose, but if presented with a choice between the “dark, poignant, and tragic tale of human whatsit” and a story that makes me smile, laugh out loud, think and ponder, and generally feel I’ve been enriched in some way, there’s no contest.
Give me a writer whose life isn’t a “dark, poignant, and tragic tale of human whatsit” and whose mission is not, therefore, to make certain my life is, at least for a time, equally depressing, morbid, and joyless. My husband, John, has a name for this prevalent idea among the literary “elite” (I do not think that word means what you think it means) that good writing (Literature, no less!) comes from the angst of the tortured soul (good writing is the the province of such souls, don’t you know), and is most often performed under the influence of various mind-altering substances, and at the brink of suicide. John says it’s bovine fecal matter, aka B.S.
It seems to me that much of what the publishing world is praising, publishing, and passing off as literature is contrived, formulaic, and trite. Someone writes a great romance or two, and then suddenly they (or someone influencing them), decide we must add “poignance”. Why? Is it because the world is too happy and bright, and we must never for a single moment consider things not horrible?
Let’s write a book about predictable, boring, uninspiring, plastic people in plastic worlds being defeated at every turn! If we put on a slick jacket with nifty artwork and get a crafty marketer to sell the plot, another sucker will pick it up and try it.
And sigh. And say, “Where is The Swiss Family Robinson? Where is The Secret Garden? Why aren’t there more books like The Help and Louis L’Amour’s The Sacketts? What is this fear of goodness, joy, beauty and victory, what is this celebration of ugliness, THIS FALSENESS, seeking to grip us all? “
Give me authenticity! Authenticity works. George Strait, Clint Eastwood, Katherine Hepburn, John Wayne, Edith Schaeffer, Ben Carson, Ronald Reagan, Queen Elizabeth, and even Donald Trump are among those folks who dance(d) to the beat of their own drummers. And even if we don’t like them, we pay attention. They don’t leave us cold, bored, and wishing there was someone real in the room.
Who was the best character in Bewitched? Agnes Moorhead, who played the wickedly honest Endora. Why was Kevin Cline so much fun with Meg Ryan in French Kiss? Because he made no apologies, cared not one whit for the opinions of others. What made John Cleese so great in Fawlty Towers and in The Pink Panther? It was because he was authentic, even awful, but in no way for a single moment, dull or ordinary. It’s called entertainment.
People make fun of me, behind my back and to my face, for my unsophisticated tastes. I have grown weary of explaining why I watch James Bond movies, but here I go again: Because James is smart and strong and handsome and he always wins! Because there are exotic locales and not a single boring moment. There are amazing cars and exploding gadgets, and impossible feats of derring do! Fascinating folks named things like “Q” and “M” and “Moneypenny” are always doing the dangerous and sacrificial thing, right along with James. Yes, there are scantily-clad and shockingly-named women moaning, “Oh, James”, but to the fun-lovers among us, it’s just more fun.
Contrary to the allegations of the Bond naysayers, there are thought-provoking plots (sometimes, anyway) such as the consequences of worldwide information and surveillance control, adding depth and texture to an already satisfactory offering. Most of all, in Bond we have a hero worth his salt.
I don’t apologize for liking Roger Moore better than Sean Connery or Daniel Craig, and I do admit that a couple of the Bond flicks weren’t quite up to par. And I am happy to say that the final (???) Bond movie, Spectre, is my favorite among favorites because it ends, as do all my favorites, “Happily Ever After.”
So sue me. I believe in happy endings. Listen, if you don’t, you won’t ever have to worry about one if your own life. You won’t have to worry about people calling you Pollyanna, making fun of you and thinking you give a care what they think.
I once had a boss who made fun of me for reading Reader’s Digest. “So? You read Time,” I countered to his frowning confusion. I was supposed to apologize for reading uplifting stories of real people, rather than what the “intelligent” people read.
Yesterday at the Red Feather Lakes Library I picked up Sons and Soldiers by Bruce Henderson. I am miffed at myself because I hoped that would redeem me in the eyes of one of the more “highbrow” volunteers, one I am quite sure thinks my Georgette Heyer love affair quite childish.
I am halfway through Sons and Soldiers (would have stayed up all night reading it, but my heart had to have a respite), almost finished with A Gentleman in Moscow (taking my time because I don’t want it to end – how I love, respect, and admire the Count!), just started on my third reading of Minerva by Marion Chesney (why do I love Minerva’s atrocious daddy?), and I just finished with Georgette Heyer’s A Lady of Quality. This represents my fiction reading of the moment.
Non-fiction includes my annual reading, month by month, of The Shape of a Year (such a treasure) continual dippings into and out of various motivational and informational books (Jennifer Scott’s Madame Chic books for instance), magazines (I just subscribed to Ree Drummond’s Pioneer Woman magazine!!!!), homemaking blogs, and of course, my almost daily reading of Psalms, Proverbs, and something Jesus and/or Paul had to say (I’m sadly deficient in my Old Testament knowledge, and often mistake the exploits of Daniel with those of David, Joseph or another notable. This lack, it seems, isn’t nearly as reprehensible or disconcerting to others as is my lack of taste in movies).
I guard my heart. I believe much of what passes for literature and entertainment is a danger to the health and therefore the strength of my heart, and even my character.
And I think it’s time that all of us who want to write but don’t think we’re “any good” should just get to it, without a single thought of what anyone thinks about what we write, without a worry or even a nod to the opinions of others about what constitutes “good writing.” Even if it’s never published or read by another soul, we can say we did more than criticize and complain.
Let’s write, shall we?
P.S. TOMORROW, FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 16, AT 2:00 MOUNTAIN TIME, TUNE IN TO: WWW.1360AM.CO FOR THE HOMEFRONT SHOW. I’ll be sharing good stuff on manipulation (how not to do it, or to feed it); champion forgivers among our Founding Fathers, rescuing yourself from the TORTURE of unforgiveness, and much, much more. Thanks ahead of time for joining me!