Thursday, June 16, 2016

To Ask and to Answer

I am in the process of reading two books—one fiction, one nonfiction—and both are proving difficult in their own way. The novel is translation, and I wonder how much is lost in shifting from one language to another. It's a strange narrative, very literary (as opposed to the genre fiction which I have been in the habit of reading lately). It reminds me of stuff I read in college, which is the sort of stuff I've avoided since college.

The nonfiction piece is a travel memoir that I'm coming to believe requires the reader to be from a certain place and have spent time in a certain other place. In other words, it's not so much an invitation to enjoy something unknown as an opportunity to reflect upon shared experiences. Those who have done so will chuckle to themselves as they relive said experiences, while the rest of us keep turning pages in the hope that this seemingly charming narrative will soon reveal its charm and/or narrative.

Each book cost a dollar, so I can't complain, although I just did in the previous two paragraphs. They are not the sorts of works I would have sought out on my own, but the price was right and I'm trying to expand my repertoire. I want to see how other writers grapple with the same problems we all face in telling a story. And to be exposed to some—one a Nobel Prize winner, one praised by an author I admire greatly—that do it far differently from what I'm used to can't be a bad thing.

It's important to know what one likes and why. It's also helpful to know the opposite. Why don't I like this work? What about it doesn't resonate with me? These are good questions to ask and to answer.

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