Let’s face it: some of us like a no-brainer escape for our fiction reading. Maybe it’s because I’m a fan of nonfiction, but I’ve tried Ursula LeGuin (The Left Hand of Darkness, though I thoroughly enjoyed her nonfiction No Time to Spare), Margaret Atwood (Oryx and Crake, The Blind Assassin, and no, I’ve not tried The Handmaid’s Tale and am not about to simply because of my horrible track record with fiction), China Mieville (The Scar, The City and the City, Perdido Street Station, Kraken; I think I gave him more of a chance because I was hoping to find the beautiful language and utter readability of the first pages of The Scar, but that didn’t happen for me), … and so many more. I never finish them. In fact, I barely get them started. I’ve spent far too much money “trying.” So-and-so recommends a book, I buy it, then set it aside a few page in, wait for my next chance to take a stack of “non-readables” to Half Price Books. Truly, I’m a hater.
IMHO, Jane Austin’s books suck. The Brontë sisters’ books suck, though I couldn’t put down various [nonfiction] biographies of their lives, so fascinating. What is this thing inside of me? What demon of fiction-dismissing possesses my nonfiction soul? Why can’t I read an adult book of fiction without foaming at the mouth with utter disdain, and thrashing around as I throw it across the room? A last-minute confession, rosary in hand: I cherish Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind. I’m not sure what did it for me, but I flew through most of that book (skimming over about 100 pages toward the middle; it’s a looong book). Yet his sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear, the few chapters I got through, left me wanting to bite someone’s neck.
As I think about this, maybe we begin to try too hard after a certain point in our writing life. Maybe we lose the innocent simplicity of words that rise from a heart of passion, driven as we are by our zeal and the promise of hope. Montgomery’s first book, Anne of Green Gables, is admittedly the best. Rothfuss’s first is by far the best. Neither thought they’d get their work published. Both were content to sit and fiddle away, do their best with what little understanding they had of “the writing life,” and then one day, voila!, it happened. Those words became salvation to an editor somewhere, and the rest, as they say, is readable history.
So please, writers, do remember us lazy fiction readers, and come up with at least one stunningly memorable and utterly readable simplistic beautiful classic. Is that too much to ask?