21 January 2010

Curing novel-phobia through systematic desensitization--The Help

I just finished reading (well, listening to) The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I highly recommend it. A few of the characters are cardboard cutouts (especially the big bad Southern belle racist biatch who serves as the story's super villain) but other than that, I had a good time. I even cried.

I was hesitant to shell out the 20 bucks for the audiobook because the last novel people were recommending to me so highly was The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. And I really did not enjoy that book, or think it was worth the buzz (no pun intended on the the buzzing bees thing). They made it into a movie last year apparently. So lame. The book said absolutely nothing to me...about women, about relationships, about race, about love, it said nothing.

I don't buy novels very often. In fact I think the only novel I read in 2009 was the rough draft of my dad's noir mystery thriller (coming soon, don't miss it!). It's just difficult for me to get past the fact that everything is made up. I'm afraid I'm wasting my time. In college I became addicted to the not-so-new "new journalism" and the wonderful world of long-form non-fiction. If I want pure pointless entertainment I'll read David Sedaris. But every time I read a book like The Help, which is both thoughtful and entertaining, I am reminded that a novel can be good and rich and valuable. It's no Dorian Gray or Ulysses or The Invisible Man (when pressed for my top ten those three would be up there) but it's worth 20 bucks.

Maybe if I keep reading good modern novels I can get over this odd fiction phobia of mine. A regimen of systematic literary desensitization. I'm looking for treatment recommendations...

P.S. I may have listed three novels above and claimed they are some of my favorites, but don't ask me to elaborate. I can't stand when I am asked to list my favorite books music and movies. Ugh. Pet peeve.

P.P.S. I put science fiction in a different category, by the way. Not sure why. I have the same misgivings about the being all made up part but somehow sci-fi feels like a valuable warning about human nature, if done right. In 2009 re-read Player Piano (Kurt Vonnegut) and I also read a Thomas Disch book that my eighth grade social studies teacher Glenn recommended to me--Camp Concentration. Both brilliant. Through the lens of educational theory (the lens I seem to be wearing all the time nowadays), Player Piano was a book about the culture of testing gone to far (NCLB!), and Camp Concentration was a reflection on the true meaning of "genius," and the lengths to which we will go to cultivate it.

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