Sunday, October 28, 2018

Novels I Don't Like

The kind of novel that circles around one character, who’s a bit weird, whose lifestyle is strange. They find it difficult to talk to people, they have odd habits, they’re tortured by something – Some Terrible Thing – in their past. The entire novel is asking: What was that thing?

The character is either lying about it, or not too sure themselves, because trauma, so the book slowly and gradually – very slowly and very gradually - discloses the Truth about that character: the terrible Thing that happened to them, the terrible Thing they did, what their damage is, their secret. The problem with this is that it narrows story and character down to a puzzle, and reading the book starts to feel like nothing more interesting, nothing richer or more surprising than solving the puzzle. The author, meanwhile, is much too present, getting in the way, looming over the whole enterprise, smugly slipping in one would-be tantalising clue after another, every fifty pages or so. The author is like a weird waiter in a restaurant who brings you your meal one morsel at a time. It gets frustrating. I can usually guess what the secret is, but even if I can’t, I tend to lose interest. If I want a puzzle, I’ll do a jigsaw, or a sudoku.