Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Some Things I Have Noticed In Books

During my commute to and from work, I usually listen to "books on tape," although they are actually on CD, which I borrow from the local library network. It's generally more entertaining than classic rock radio (which is great, but they're not really making any new classic rock tunes, so there's a fair amount of repetition. But our new car has satellite radio and the classic rock station there plays a wide variety, but I'm not allowed to drive that car and we're probably going to let the subscription lapse and not pay for it.), or talk radio of any sort (it just gets you all riled up and stressed out over whatever the topic of the day is), or news radio.

So I listen to lots of books. I liked Steve Martin's autobiography, I disliked Roger Ebert's autobiography. I liked the Harry Potter books, I disliked the Maze Runner books. I liked Moby Dick and am currently enjoying 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. I liked Frankenstein and Dracula. I liked the Hunger Games and Ender's Game and most of the Dune books.

Recently I have noticed that in many novels, periodically a character will go on a long speech about a particular topic that's not entirely relevant to the narrative, but sometimes interesting to know. There are great examples of this in Moby Dick, as pages and pages are devoted to describing every part of the whale and the various uses of each part. While interesting to know, it just sort of slows down the whaling action and search for the great white whale.

I'm wondering if it's these "throwaway parts" of the novels that are the author's true intention and message. Did Melville draw us in with the promise of sea action so he could explain to us the inner workings of the whaling industry? Did Verne want to educate us about all the various classifications of sea life in 20,000 Leagues? Did Collins want to explain to us that not all boy/girl friendships have to be romantic or physical?

Maybe I am reading into this too much, but in my history of reading books and watching movies, it's becoming clear that the author/director wants to express something more to us than just the basic plot. Perhaps the layering of themes makes the narrative more enjoyable, or perhaps the writers are using the medium to get their viewpoints out there for the public to consume, in a subtle manner to further their own viewpoints.

On the other hand, Orson Scott Card wrote Ender's Game specifically towards a younger audience, but didn't overtly push any of his beliefs on the reader. Sadly, the general public went nuts talking about his personal views when the movie came out and a minor firestorm ensued.

So I guess I just contradicted my whole assertion that writers use their novels to advance their own agendas. Oh, well.

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