Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Why are you all bloody?

I read a good poem by Ronald Wallace and I wanted to read more.  So, I went to the library and of course, it is silly to go there without looking at the new books on display.  I quickly found four I wanted to look at more completely.  I did and I found they weren't for me.

One of the books is by a well-known crime, whodunit and police writer.  That book starts out with a couple of criminals driving out into the country with a body to dispose of.  We find out as they open the trunk of the car to complete their job that the victim is alive.  When the trunk is opened, the man jumps out and runs off.  The criminals vow to find him, track him down and complete their assignment.  I decided I don't want to be party to their work.  I am not intrigued.  I think they should re-write the tale by switching to helping out in a soup kitchen for the poor and visiting the hospitalized and lonely.

Not long ago, I read that "it is not a story until something bad happens".  I think our primate, maybe even more basic, animal nature gets aroused and engaged by dramatic tension: will the boy get the girl?  Will the searchers find the missing child?  Will the new product sell?  If too many tales are peaches and cream, butter and biscuits, lovey-dovey, we lose interest.  If it is all going to turn out the way we want, we don't need to worry. We don't even need to care, to pay attention.

It gets a little tiring, though, to put aside all the stories that go for the necessary tension by depicting horror, torture, ruthless cruelty.  There are plenty of those and if we just lower our standards and cozy up to a good beating, a couple of gruesome murders and sadistic episodes, we have something to watch or read, something to fear, to raise worries and actual disgust.  It can be a drag to look through books, series of books, possible tv viewing and movies in search of something well-crafted, appropriately tense and dramatic while skipping blood and gore attempts to be engaging.

The older I get, the more stories I have read or watched.  It gets more difficult for me to care, or worry, or hope.  I read plenty of non-fiction that is quite engaging, such as Franz de Waal's "Are We Smart Enough to Figure Out How Smart Animals Are?"  So, I am too experienced, too familiar with brass knuckles and bloody blades to be very interested in whether Detective Smith is aware of who is also in the room.  The last story that seemed actually worth reading without the aid of blood and screams was "The Revolving Door of Life" by Alexander McCall Smith.  Before that, "The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend."  There is good, modern, sensitive fiction worth reading that does not include breaking bones.  

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