Friday, September 10, 2010

A Truth About Me

I can be a weak woman.

I just finished (aka skimmed) Ellen Crosby's lastest mystery the nearly unpronounceable  Viognier Vendetta.  Luckily, smartly, she takes pity on the audience, and tells us how it's pronounced otherwise, we're screwed.  It put me in a bad mood because I'm not really interested in stupid people and her main character and the former love interest are achieving new levels of emotional stupidity.  I'm really not interested in how bad life can be, I'm more interested in how to make it all work.  I think that's the Jewish thing to do, at least it's the Chassidic thing to do.  And since we're in the holiday/holy season, it's a good time to remember the teachings.

After her last book I wondered if I'd read the 4th but Ellen Crosby is, compared to what's being published in the mystery genre, a really good writer.  She's a professional.  So I thought, no, I'm not spending any money on it, but I'll get it through interlibrary loan.  Good thing, too.  Right choice.

Any comments I'd have about this book are more about me so would be worthless to you.  But in a theoretical sense--why do we write?  Do we write for ourselves, which would be some kind of therapy?  Do we write for others?  Why would we do that?  Do we seek to entertain?  Are we pontificating?  Are we so clever we know more about life than the readers?  Is our work the way in which we serve?  If so, does that make us responsible to our readers and in what way would that be?

Rebbe Schneerson taught that you never know when your one good act will be the one that changes the world, so you must strive to do good every day.  Light even a small light against the dark.  Let that be your contribution.

So here's my problem with Ellen Crosby's characters and I'm just using them as examples but I could pick up 10 books and would be able to say the same about 9 of them.  I don't think the reader is left with anything positive to see characters flailing around in their self-inflicted emotional morasses. People learn by seeing.  Seeing characters wound themselves and others doesn't teach us how to live our lives more effectively.

I can hear you shouting from here.  "This is real life."  No, it's not.  It's fiction.  Ellen Crosby made a choice to have her characters hurt each other.  I know people really like this kind of thing.  It seems real and edgy and reflects their own lives.  I don't know why they like it.  Maybe someone will post a comment and explain it to me.

It doesn't reflect my life, or my beliefs or my work.  Life doesn't have to be like that.  Real life, not fictional life.  I used to be such an existentialist.  I thought life was a wasteland.  I thought the best movie ever was The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner.  I thought Terrence Mallick was a demi-god among directors.  I thought Horton Foote understood the universe in some kind of clever and magnificent, bleak, barren way.

Then I grew up.

Why am I a weak woman?  Because I will probably read Ellen Crosby's 5th book, too.

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