Friday, 11 July 2014

What style do you like?

Have you ever had a friend tell you about a book they read that they simply couldn't put down? You know the way it goes ... real page-turner, here I'll lend it to you - you'll love it!! You know, that kind of scenario?

I think we all do, right?

The friend lends you their copy of the book and you're excited about getting into it so you set yourself up. My set up is something like, cup of tea, my favourite chair and a cat - sometimes two cats - on my lap.

You're all primed for this fantastic read and ... well it's dreadful.

It's boring, predictable, the language is contrived, the characters are just typical and ... well, you know what I mean. Bottom line: You can't read it.

I hate abandoning books and will usually see them through to the end out of sheer stubbornness, but occasionally I've had to concede defeat and close the cover on it.

As a bit of a troglodyte, I tend to stick to my favourite genres and writers, and don't stray too often because for me, the pleasure of reading I rarely have time for, and as they say, Life is too short to read bad books, I don't want to waste good reading time.

A very dear friend recently recommended a book to me - well she didn't recommend it so much as rave about it. So I thought, Okay, I'll live on the edge, and I purchased it for my Kindle.

Now, as a writer, I respect very much the sweat, the hours and the tears that go into the writing of a book. I know as well as anyone how much is involved and how dedicated one must be to write a book, so I would never, ever, needlessly run-down a fellow writer.

In saying that, this book was simply not for me.

It was called All that I am by Anne Funder and before buying it I read a few reviews - they were mixed - so I thought I might as well give it a go. A review, after all, is just someone's opinion.

I'm sorry, Ms Funder, but I couldn't read your book. It ended up in my Kindle's abandoned collection.

After reluctantly putting aside this highly recommended book, I was given cause to ponder our different tastes.

It's not always the story that's being told, it's the way in which it's told - the writing style.

I love language and I love precise descriptions - not drawn out descriptions - but I regularly spend a long time finding just one word that can replace half a sentence providing that one word expresses exactly what I want to say. Many people who have read my books comment that reading my books are like watching a film. Perhaps that's why.

That's flattering! However, there are others who don't go in for all that and want to get straight to the point, no description needed.

It's probably the same reason people love Stephen King and others don't. Remember the excitement over Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series a few years back? Same thing - some people loved her writing style, some hated it. Now, don't confuse style with story. I loved Ms Meyer's story, just not so much her writing style.

Think about the story of Romeo and Juliet, you know, girl meets boy love story: ho-hum at the best of times. If written by anyone other than our Master Shakespeare, this particular version of girl meets boy may not have ended up the example of classic literature it is today.

I don't mind a bit of Shakespeare myself, I enjoy the old style language. I quite like Sophocles too and read a number of the Theban Plays over the years, but I know that these two chaps have a way of polarising readers: you either love them or hate them.

When it comes to polarising, do they come any more north and south than George Orwell? Some hold him up as a literary and social genius. Me? Well let's just say he's not my style!

It's the same with movies though, isn't it? How many times have you trotted along to the cinema on the basis of some great reviews, stocked up on choc-tops and pop-corn, settled in for a three hour break from the outside world and been thoroughly disappointed?

It happens. As humans we have freedom of thought and individual likes and dislikes. It's one of the things that makes us pretty cool.

Once we establish our personal preferences, we like to play it safe and stick just to those movies, writers, restaurants, cafes, music that we like.

Oh music! I love most styles of music but Def Leppard is my favourite band and Eros Ramazzotti my favourite solo artist... but I digress!

 Another cool thing about being human is the ability to choose and to try new things. So every now and then, I will branch out. I'll listen to a new singer or I'll go to a movie by an unknown director, and often my daring pays off.

How else would I have read and enjoyed so much The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini? Not my usual genre, and a writer I previously knew nothing about, but a friend recommended the book and guess what? It was great.

Same friend that recommended All that I am ... funny how her styles are so varied too!

So, dear friends, the moral of the story is that it's great to have a style as a reader and consumer, but it's also great to branch out and live dangerously now and then!

Until next week, why not try reading something in a style you would not normally consider?Let me know how you go!

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