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In real life drama and conniptions wears us out.  We have so many things going on while trying to work, to keep the home fires burning, to stay healthy, to help friends, to be a loving parent, spouse or companion that we don’t need any extra drama.  Just driving to work can provide more drama than we wish sometimes and in bad weather even more so.

I was thinking about contrived drama and conniptions in books and I remembered when I was ten and my brother was eight that my dad told us he wanted us to sink an old wooden boat in the deepest part of our small six acre pond.  We were game.  I was a bit sorrowful for the loss of the old boat, but my dad said it had become dangerous and it must go.  I suppose he wanted to know when it sank rather than have a surprise.

What bothered me a bit even at that age was that a friend of dad’s who had a movie camera was avid to record the action.  I didn’t mind being on camera, though these hand held devices were very new at the time, but still it seemed as if we were creating a drama for the camera and it was contrived.  Anyway, it was harder than it looked to do the job.  Though we rocked the boat back and forth and eventually sloshed water over the edge up to our knees, the boat did not want to sink.  My dad seemed frustrated with us though the camera-dude was not being fussy.  We worked harder and finally it sank beneath us and disappeared, and we swam to shore with dad and the cameraman following in their boat.

I am not sure my mother knew we were going to do this or she might have had a conniption about the depth of the pond, the weeds that might have hindered our swimming in that part since we usually swam in a new area that was not deep, and the fact that it was being filmed.  She was best friends with the man’s wife, but did not hold him in the same esteem.

What was disappointing was that when we watched the film later, it looked very ho-hum.  There was no background music, no commentary, and the hard work did not translate.  One minute it seemed we were rocking the boat and the next one it was gone.  No excitement, no sweat, none of the thoughts in my mind about what if my leg got stuck.  Just flat.  I suppose if I had understood how flat it would look, I might have waved my arms around, and looked scared or something to make a better film.  

What do we expect from books, then?  What kind of drama must there be?  Do we mind some flatness?  Even in non-fiction books do we insist on conniptions, panic, outrage, shenanigans, dark secrets brought to light?  Will only high adventure please us?

For me, it depends on the book.  I can enjoy a mystery without a lot of bodies.  The psychological underpinnings of characters can intrigue me without a lot of blood and gore.  Being worried about a person’s well-being does not always mean they have to be stalked by another person through a whole story and barely escape.  

Indeed, one set of books that I read were interesting, but as I read through book after book, the author seemed to have to kill off more and more people and somehow raise the level of violence and ickiness that I really did not need.  When I realized that was the problem, I finally quit reading the series.  I had cared more about the developing relationships with the main characters than the deaths of ever more characters in increasingly bizarre ways.

Sometimes an author gets bored, I suspect, and looks for some really new awfulness that has never been explored.  I don’t really need that, either.  I have a pretty huge imagination and a little bit of a suggestion can take me a long way.

Sometimes an author paints himself into a corner and that is not good.  I am concerned about the main character in a series I am reading right now.  All his past comfort is being removed.  Sure, he wants to try something new, but I wonder how that will work out when deluged by horror he has no one to go to where he can put his feet up and be himself, no one who will listen, no one who will care.  I guess I will find out, but I wish I could say to the author that I am going to miss his comfort people.  When I was tired of reading about the horror, I was glad to go with the main character to the old farmhouse where a family lived in a bit of messy chaos or to the mother’s garden, or even be in the car with the young partner who had married and was expecting a baby.  Well, we will see.

Sometimes, it seems that a dramatic event comes out of the blue just to wake me up or something, not because it belongs in the story, and that is unfair.  

What do you all think?

I do have to admit that the Poul Anderson stories I am reading have a great deal of drama and conniption in them interspersed with some really great descriptions of other worlds and peoples.  I am fascinated by the new worlds.  

From David Falkayn: Star Trader  

“The Trouble Twisters” pages 156

But the country grew yet greener as the sun sank, until the Sundhadarta foothills were carpeted with mosslike growth, brooks rilled, and forests of plumed stalks swayed in the wind.  Once clouds massed in the north, colored hot gold.  The mountains rose sheer to the east, aglow in the level red light.  Falkayn saw snow peaks and glaciers.  Above them the sky was a royal purple deepening toward black, where fifty stars and a planet glimmered.  They were at the edge of the Twilight Zone.

Page 157

They rounded a precipice and Rangakora stood above them.

The city was built athwart a pass over the range, on a small plateau.  A road of sorts wound heavenward from it, and on this side precipitously down toward the sea bottom.  That glimmered misty, marshy, intensely green and gold.  A river coursed near the wall.  For the most part it was hidden by forest, but just above Rangakora it leaped over a sheer cliff and thundered in a waterfall crowned by rainbows.


“The Master Key” page 289

We had a favorite spot, in the lee of a cottage-sized boulder on the hillside above camp.  The rock was warm against out backs; seemed even more so when I looked at that pale shrunken sun and my breath smoking out white against the purplish sky.  Far, far overhead a bird of prey would wheel, then suddenly stoop-in the thick air I could hear the whistle through its wing feathers-and vanish into the treetops down in the valley.  Those leaves had a million different shades of color, like an endless autumn.
"Satan's World" was first published in 1968 and I am reading it right now in Anderson's book.  (Pages 353-358 describe a sunless world that is blue and cold) Today, I found this article that was so timely, I simply gawked at it.

Astronomers: Lonely planet traveling in space without star system

Astronomers on Wednesday reported they had detected a planet that had strayed from its star system and was wandering alone in deep space.

Object CFBDSIR2149 is believed to be a cold, young world that for unknown reasons has pulled free of the gravitational pull of its mother star, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) said.

It is not the first time that a “free-floating” planet has been found, but this one is the closest that has ever been spotted, at over 100 light years from Earth.

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UPDATE:  I hope more people will see this comment of melpomene1 by moving it up here:

Free on Kindle around midnight tonight PST, my steamy Sumerian romance novella, Seventh Sanctuary. Here's the blurb:

    A widow in ancient Ur is haunted by feverish dreams of her late husband, endangering her new marriage and her health. When her current spouse visits the temple to pray for her recovery, he is enthralled by a temple priestess/prostitute. The priestess, in turn, is tempted to forsake her sacred vows to be with this man who already has a wife and family. All three of them turn to the goddess Inanna for guidance: Will the great and terrible deity bestow her grace on them -- or is it her will to destroy them?

If you download/read, please consider "liking" the book page on Amazon (here) and/or reviewing. Promo through Tuesday 11/19.

by melpomene1 on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 10:06:47 PM EST

NOTE: plf515 has book talk on Wednesday mornings early

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 05:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Progressive Friends of the Library Newsletter.


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