Friday, December 4, 2009
I would surmise that most avid readers are pretty smart… and most anyone who reads for pleasure AT ALL, is at least of moderate intelligence. Idiots don’t LIKE books. [note: not EVERYONE who doesn’t like books is an idiot, but the other direction is inevitably true] That said, there are a LOT of forms intelligence can take. There are math brains (like mine), art brains, language brains, wonky twisted brains (I would argue here that I have twisted INTERESTS but that my brain doesn’t work in particularly twisted ways).
And then we all have things that… we’ve just been EXPOSED to… I have expertise in a few odd areas because of jobs I’ve had, people I’ve known, things I’ve read about… These areas of expertise don’t have a darned thing to do with each other (white water rafting, advertising, microbrews, downhill skiing, astrology, Harry Potter…) They just make up the fiber of my experiences and prove I’ve been paying attention as I live my life.
Well SOME people, have expertise in areas that need… more expertise… Music for instance… history, knowledge about PLACES… For me this expertise is probably in psychology—something I use in my writing, but I tend to use it to inform personality, motivation, and relationships rather than explicitly (NaNo novel notwithstanding).
Most readers are willing to learn a little something when they read. In fact I’d argue that any book that doesn’t make me think in SOME form or other is fluff… not that I dislike fluff, but I try to make a point of not reading ONLY fluff. It is a different kind of enjoyment and I honestly like the books better that have some substance… teaching me something is one form that substance can take (the others being deep emotional or intellectual involvement or philosophical questions). But what?
I would argue both of these (GREAT) authors have lost readers over their technical inclusions, but they have probably also GAINED readers who THRIVE on that stuff (and it adds credibility, so may be necessary to the stories on some level)… but how does one draw the line? What thrills one, might alienate others… the goal seems to be finding the balance in which the largest number is pleased…
My Meandering Conclusions
I think Perez-Reverte has drawn the line well… his story required expertise in art, history, and chess to write. He has different characters who are invested in the story each have different expertise. The heroine is an art restorer… she knows the art angle… but she is working for an auction house in order to help a man sell the painting, so she has logical people to explain things to in more common terms.
The murder mystery requires history knowledge (which an expert tells her) and chess expertise (so they’ve just found someone to explain). I will learn about ALL of these things and the narrator never once has to step out of the story to tell me because the STORY is playing out in a way that tells me. It’s brilliant. And I believe it is brilliant because I’m not sure I could otherwise MUSTER interests in some of these subjects… what I am invested in, is solving the murder, and so am learning as part of that process…
I guess I just found it good food for thought.