Thursday, May 29, 2008

Up We Go

I'm wobbling on the brink of self-pity and despair today, so I will try to climb out of the pit I have created for myself (but I like it! It's so comfy!) one clawed toe at a time. Sunlight is always useful in the treatment of darkness, right?

I confess my Fusty Blob does indeed feel fusty of late. Not many posts. No pictures. No neat graphics or fun music. No anything that the "cool" people would want to read. Wah!!!!!!! (That's the wail of the perpetual outsider . . . )

I am, however--oof!--almost entirely above ground now. Let me just scrape away some of this mud from between my toes and give my claws a quick polish with this nice, green leaf--and voila! Here I am, squinting and ready to blob, fusty or not.

I've been thinking lately about the difference between a good book and a really good book. I have fairly recently read two new young adult novels. I am not naming them because I don't want to cause any kind of disappointment or disgruntlement for the authors, should they read this post (doubtful, but still . . .) I am an author myself and know how painful negative words can be.

Both books were well-written. One of them I liked well enough, but the other one I loved. What's the difference?

My own likes and dislikes, of course, and maybe that is all there is to it. It is always a shock to see a book praised that simply doesn't speak to you at all. And the opposite, of course, is true as well--a book disparaged or dismissed that you thought was a great, delicious piece of frosted cake.

I like, for instance, beauty of language. Many books are well written but leave me flat, because for me the rhythm and intensity of language just isn't there.

I also like to be transported somewhere by a book--flung into a life and a story that isn't my own, falling madly in love with the characters.

I suppose the book I liked but did not love just did not get me there. Or rather, it started that way--I was excited!--but it seemed to stumble slightly in the middle, as if both the rhythm of its language and the completeness of its transformation were off. I got distracted, you see, losing interest, and I think that is why.

It will, however, undoubtedly serve others well. In the end an opinion is just an opinion belonging to the person who gave it. My words won't make any book sink or swim, though of course there are others whose words will.

The book I loved? Dark and gritty in many ways, it was nonetheless a delicious, heady brew I quaffed as fast as I could. Beautifully written, with a story that yanked me right out of my life and into another, keeping me there to the end. Were there weaknesses? Probably--most books have some. But I never noticed and didn't care.

All this is obvious, though, isn't it? Likes and dislikes, as individual as each individual reader. So I offer no new or especially interesting thoughts about good vs. really good, but I am happy to have a reason to be out of the pit, blinking at the sun.


evelyn said...

Ah--I see you blog at 7:01 a.m. which makes you even more daunting a writer. I just finished Dumb Love, having been excited by Parallel U. Your other books are either on order or somewhere in the chaos of my apt. Great characters! Rhythmic language!
I'm too overcaffinated to continue--just wanted to express admiration.

from edmonton, Alberta

Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson said...

Thank you for such lovely praise! And, good grief, it does say posted at 7:01, doesn't it? That must be a time warp/time zone/ghost time thingie, because I never write that early. Though I wish I did . . .
p.s. Watch the caffeine. ;->