Thursday, July 21, 2011

Canned Tamales

No one would set out with deliberation to write a dull or boring book.  Even those writers who have written and published dull, boring books did not have dullness or a vision of bored readers uppermost in mind hen they set forth.

It is true that some academics--many academics--ultimately write books that are dull and boring; these are called textbooks.  It is also true that individuals who are not academics and who think they have led interesting, exciting lives set forth to write memoirs which are, nevertheless dull and boring.

You are not talking about such books.  While it is true that you believe a good fifty percent of fiction and nonfiction are relentlessly boring and dull, you are seeking to address here the interesting and exciting nonfiction books that come into your life.  And although you may catch some howls for this, you are for the purpose of this argument, ranking books of poetry, particularly the good ones, with nonfiction because books of poetry are about the multifariousness of reality as opposed to story.  This is not to say that there is no story in reality, rather that fiction is more of a managed reality than nonfiction.

The problem you encounter with the nonfiction books you like enough to keep is a high-class problem.  It is rare for you to be able to simply read through all or parts of an enjoyable nonfiction book without being driven in the process to order another nonfiction book.  Perhaps a novel, perhaps a book of poetry, but more than likely another book of nonfiction.

A novel sometimes has the effect on you of causing you to search for all the other novels of an author you like, Kate Atkinson's Case Histories being a splendid example of that.  In general, you are more likely propelled by a work of nonfiction to another work of nonfiction by another author than the nonfiction author with whom you began.

You are well aware that novels and works of nonfiction you enjoy are the equivalent to other readers as cinnamon to ants, as canned tamales to a serious Mexican.  But this is another matter, one you may get to--one of these days.

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