Photo of pawpaw leaves, by Andif.
So today, Saturday, I'll be leading a "dissection" of a certain best-selling suspense novel that is so badly written that it makes professional writers slam it shut in despair and wail, "Why do we even trryyyyy?" I won't name it, because I won't do that to any author, at least not on my front page. I wouldn't like it done to me, soooo. . .
It's going to be interesting to take the book apart and try to figure out where the magic lies, because there *is* magic in it. It casts the kind of spell over a reader that makes her keep flipping pages even as she wonders, "Why can't I stop reading this?" And that's our question for today in my group: why can't people put that book down? When I say it's badly written, that is an understatement. It is illogical, impossible, manipulative, cliched, infuriating, and it beggars belief in dozens of ways. Nevertheless, to this day I can remember exactly where I was sitting when I first read it many years ago. I was in a hurry to get somewhere, but I just kept reading.
This post has no satisfying ending. I don't know why the hell that book works. If I find out from the other writers and readers today, I'll let you know. I'm sure they're going to say it has to do with a compressed time frame, the highest of stakes, a heroine to root for, a villain to loathe, and a good setting. Okay. That's all true. But the negatives are *so* negative that in most books they would out weigh even those features of good storytelling. In this one, the negatives make no difference at all, except to keep the literate reader asking herself in dismay and wonder, "Why am I reading this?!" And then she turns to the next page. And all over the globe, for several decades, millions of readers have done, and are still doing, the same thing.