When I was growing up, books were a constant companion. The practical dreamer that I was, sounds like a misnomer I know, books provided a beautiful escape, constantly opening my eyes to things I did not know. I could read about places and people that I would never meet. I could imagine scenarios and live them in my mind’s eye based on the sheer imagery of the writing I read. I especially loved the genre of psychological thrillers. Agatha Christie, I remember. There was one of her books that haunted me for a few days, as I kept suffering on behalf of one of her characters, so powerful were the emotions her writing evoked. Thrillers have always been my favorite genre but when it involves people, it becomes even more exciting. I have been fascinated by people and their failings and triumphs for as long back as I can remember. Relationships and their complexities are a subject of interest for me.
I also remember marveling at the storytelling skills of the authors. How they wove tales that were multi-layered and complex, keeping up the mystery and introducing you to characters that were so flawed that they seemed unbelievable and yet so real. Such astonishing prowess! I bowed my head to them.
Recently, I read, The Girl on the Train. For some strange reason, this book is right up there with those books I read back then. Just a few characters but amazing storytelling that repulses you yet you can’t keep the book down. I heard that its cinematic adaptation just got released. Just in time for me. I can’t help but remember Gone Girl, another book that had that same kind of dichotomy between fascinating storytelling and a revulsion you feel for the characters or unfolding of events.
Just reading these books made you admire the writer’s skills. Oh how they must have written and rewritten, struggled with their own souls when they penned those difficult parts. Who were their inspirations? Did some part of the characters come from their own lives? Fascinating to delve into how a book was written. And also to admire the intricate layers, the ups and downs, the pages which seemed aimless but not so when everything fell in place. I never ceased to marvel at their creativity, I still do.
There is so much pedestrian writing that gets published these days that I long for these writers. For these gems among the stones. How I wish that the publishers went for quality more than mass appeal. And why did the choice of the masses become so lacklustre and low on quality? There was a time when we read books to enhance our vocabulary and fuel our imagination. These days some books put me off with their horrible grammar and editing, not to mention their utter lack of creativity. Where is the dedication to perfection? Where is the skill to churn out a tale that is a masterpiece, that reaches out from your keyboard to another’s soul and creates a harmonious communion?
I don’t want to trash popular authors nor indulge in name calling. They obviously have a market. I just wish they were more committed to their craft and to the joy of creating something timeless that will stay long after they are gone and be upheld for the amazing storytelling, not a silly tale that people read in spare time and toss into garbage or prefer to give away.
Have our expectations from our writers really come down so much? Are we willing to read just about anything that comes out in print? I hope not. I pray that my kids can sustain the same vivid anticipation, the same rush of joy that reading a great book brings to you. I hope good writers continue to find an audience, inspiration and publishers.
What is your take on the writing that you read these days?
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