Sunday 8 June 2008

The Problem with Reading

The problem for writers about reading is that you can’t stop being a writer enough to get really absorbed into a new book. If you also happen to be teaching Creative Writing at a university as I am it gets even worse. Each book you read, you start editing and I often find I start thinking in terms of marks. I even reedit my own book as I give readings at schools and other meetings. I used to think what they said about Anthony Minghella was an exaggeration – that he never finished work he just abandoned it. Now I think I’m even worse than him.
Take the book I’m reading at the moment. It’s a typical holiday read, written by an American about American women but with much of the plot playing out in Europe. However, there is plenty of back story set in the States. I initially found several of the sentences clunky and the only character I’ve met in depth somewhat unbelievable. The technology is way out of date – no blackberries, no mobiles being used in flight mode and no wireless internet. Still, the book is only a few years old and that is how fast technology is moving.
And yet. By chapter three I’m hooked.
I feel very much the same about the Harry Potter books. I can pick lots of faults with the writing. Yet the plots are superb. Plot is King. And interestingly, Stephen King claims he does not plot but just puts characters together and sees what happens. Yet his plots are almost perfect. All this analysis, hey? Reading won’t ever be the same again, I guess.

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