Wednesday, January 25, 2012


         I recently read a book that provided an interesting experience. I consider every book an experience, some more memorable than others and for different reasons. The reason this particular book stood out is that it left me with almost no sense of “travel.” Let me explain. The single biggest reason I was captivated by reading the better part of sixty years ago, was that by reading I could escape my ordinary life and travel to amazing places. I could be in Antarctica with Shackleton or on Venus with Ray Bradbury. I could join the gold rush with Jack London or suffer the long days in a dark dungeon with Dumas. My point?
In the present culture, we have invested ourselves lock, stock, and barrel in instant gratification. If a movie doesn’t have a chase scene or some type of special effects catastrophe within the first three minutes and every five minutes to follow, the film doesn’t achieve “blockbuster” status.
Our publishers and editors tell us the same thing about books: “If it doesn’t advance the story, leave it out.” Or, “We need a murder or sex scene the first few pages.”  I admit with some quick read beach books this might be advisable, but what I worry about is; are we losing our ability to describe in some detail the awe-inspiring beauty of the Himalayans, or the manic pressure of a major drama taking place on a crowded downtown street? More important are we losing the “travel” in modern literature?  I admit there is a fine line between enough and too much detail. I further admit it is a good thing authors are no longer paid by the word. That alone spares readers from tons of useless padding. Few authors possess the talent to walk the fine line between too much and too little, while still being able to transport us to another dimension.  
What I miss is becoming so engaged , so captured by a writer’s ability to describe, that I am in his world, in that point in time. I am there with the characters: suffering, enjoying, and feeling cold, or wet, or tired or afraid. I miss that in many of the books I read today. Granted there are some, but it seems as if we are moving farther and farther away from juicy descriptions that make your mouth salivate for more. What is the answer? I don’t know. Perhaps it is more my perception brought on by the staggering amount of books now being published. Perhaps a significant number of new books with this characteristic are lost among the massive flow of books published.   In the even more rushed world of e publishing, I doubt we will find an answer. My hope is that collectively we will grow tired of books without “travel” and maybe someday enough enlightened souls will demand more literature and fewer beach reads.
I would love to hear your opinion, please write.

CC Kaufman - Author -
Reconcilable Differences 'R'  @
Night of The Machetes  @
The Invitation (R )

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jim woods said...

Good point, Chuck. When I lay down a fiction book I'm always glad to know a bit more about Kokomo, Paducah, London or Santiago other than who shot or screwed who.

Jude Johnson said...

I love traveling through books. What's the sense of setting if not to allow the reader a chance to "go there" through description of sight, smell, and sound?