Saturday, August 12, 2006

Hearing Voices

Charles at the mike.

I was thinking about what Rick had said below (Pick Your Poison). I put a book down this week as well, the voices in my head not allowing me to enjoy it. Must be something in the air.

I was quite excited when I found it at the bookstore – an adventure novel/mystery that takes place in exotic locales with ancient cultures and a believable, likeable protagonist. Like many books I enjoy, it had a dual narrative, the first person author and the centuries old memoirs of a famed explorer. It was this second voice that killed the book for me and that’s a shame since it’s a cool story and the first person narration was vivid and fresh.

What got me is that this second voice was so much like the first. Similar word choices, similar observations and a rhythmic pattern that made it hard to tell where one dropped off and the other continued. Perhaps if I had stuck with the book I would have discovered that the spirit of the long-dead explorer had fused with that of our hero and that’s why they spoke as one. (Okay, that’s an interesting idea, but before I gave the book to a nursing home, I peeked – it’s not how it ends.)

The other thing that bugged me about voice #2 was that it was so contemporary. Here it’s supposed to be the journals of a person living in the 1500s and yet it has the sensibilities and values of a liberal leaning academic. Nothing wrong with those leanings mind you, but not when it’s supposed to be someone who died before many of those sentiments developed.

We bring our own baggage to what we read. My background in history often ruins a perfectly good story. When I sense some historical anomaly the voices in my head won’t shut up and even if I finish the book, I won’t enjoy it.

I heard from a reader not long ago who had the same experience with my first book, Relative Danger. The person wrote to tell me that the 5.11-carat Moussaieff Red Diamond is the largest red diamond ever found and that my hinting at a red diamond ten times that size indicated my ignorance of geology and thermodynamics rendered the book “unreadable”. What’s the matter, I thought as I read his note, can’t he just ignore that voice and enjoy the book?

So here’s to voices – those on the page and those in our heads.

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