Junk fiction: A Confession

I love to read, and I read lots of books. But I am generally not a reader of fancy literature. I have made my way through plenty of big long books*, but I confess that I LOVE the kind of books you can buy at the airport. Bring on the embossed covers – I’m all over them.

And the best of these paperback writers (thank you, Beatles), by a mile, is Lee Child. His books about the loner/drifter Jack Reacher are impossible to put down, and are extremely well-written. Each book generally has a scene or two in which Jack thoroughly kicks the ass of someone who REALLY deserves it. Good always triumphs over evil, but the price is always paid. Do not start one of these books at night before bed, especially if you have an early wake-up time.

While in Italy two weeks ago, I started reading “A Room with a View.” I remember Denholm Elliot, in the movie, saying, “I have a room with a view. Why don’t you take my room?” in his scratchy basso delivery. What I didn’t remember was that this was considered shockingly inappropriate behavior, and all the action of the rest of the book (the quote is delivered right there on page uno) results from his appalling suggestion. What is up with these Brits (actually, what WAS up with these Brits – I assume this kind of thing is a thing of the past)? Am I supposed to be engaged in a story about the terrible manners of an upwardly-mobile Englishman who pokes his nose into the snobbosphere?

Although I slogged through War and Peace, there were moments (that stretched several hundred pages) where I just didn’t give a damn. I was trying to get to page 1261, so I could leave that brick on the shelf.

One more thing about Lee Child: he answered my fan mail (first fan mail (and last) I’ve ever written). What a mensch!


*First of all, I am stealing the concept of the blogsterisk from my cousin Amy, from whom I will steal many more ideas before long – thank you, cous. Secondly, and this does belong in a footnote: my brother bought me a hardcover copy of Anna Karenina when the new translation came out (yes, I read it, and yes, I liked it). He then bought himself the paperback when it was released. He noticed that the covers were virtually identical, except that, for the paperback edition, the fingernails on the pictured woman had been trimmed. Does either of my readers know enough about marketing to explain that?

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5 Responses to Junk fiction: A Confession

  1. A very timely post, as we’re about to leave on a week-long lazy-ass vacation and I am casting about for good lazy-ass reading. I, too, want something that does not require a great deal of heavy brain lifting, but that doesn’t leave me rolling my eyes 20 pages past the embossed cover. Also slightly sick of The Travails of Upper Middle Class White People. Recently read Freedom and This Beautiful Life. Good books, but enough already. I’ll give Lee Child a try, because it would be fun to read about a well-deserved ass kicking. Any other suggestions?

  2. dangrabois says:

    Robert Ludlum’s books have the most amazing plots I have ever read. Intrigues within intrigues. These are espionage books. He wrote the Bourne books that are now movies. He was a HORRIBLE writer who told GREAT stories. Every book has a beautiful woman who is referred to as “the girl.” Many books have a black man who is referred to as “the black.” It gets annoying, but the stories … Strangely, even though Ludlum is dead, his name has become a trademark, and books are being published under his name that are written (and usually much better written) by others.

    Another great writer is John Sandford. These are murder mysteries that take place in Minnesota (the ones that take place in the winter will make you cold!) and are solved by Lucas Davenport. They are well-written and very enjoyable. Each book has Prey in the title.

    Finally, James Lee Burke has a bunch of crime novels that take place in New Orleans and feature the detective Dave Robicheaux. They are dripping with Cajun character, and, again, are well-written in spite of the embossing on the cover.

    If you are after really good reads of a more literary bent, I would recommend anything written by the Canadian author Robertson Davies. He spills an amazing yarn, and takes on lots of different kinds of topics. When he writes about music and musicians, he gets the details right, and I’m told that the same is true when he writes about the visual arts. These books are much richer than the crime novels, but (!!) they are a joy to read.

    If you have a Kindle or other electronic reader, you won’t be schlepping so much weight in your suitcase!

  3. Thanks! I do have a kindle & will give these a try. (Except Davies, who I consumed in his entirety in college. Totally agree – what a storyteller!!!

  4. Adam Grabois says:

    I appreciate your exegetical work.

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