Friday, May 23, 2008

Navel Gazing 101

Whenever we go on a long trip, we listen to audio books in the car. This involves a lot of compromise because the books have to appeal to both me and DH, have limited scenes that are inappropriate for kids to hear (they're usually listening to DVDs on headphones, but will occasionally pop their heads up for a string of curse words on our audiobook) and be available at our local library. So far, I've discovered that I like John Grisham and am okay with some Jeffrey Archer. Sometimes we get kid's books and we all listen - the last time around we got E.L. Konigsburg's From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Because we only got through half of it, J then got the actual book so that he could finish it on his own - an unforeseen benefit.

This trip, we got a couple of books by authors I'd certainly heard of but never read, and I discovered a curious thing about grown-up books that I'd forgotten about - extensive navel-gazing. When you write and read mostly books for kids, there is usually limited navel gazing. I've been told that I need to up this amount and delve deeper into what my characters are thinking and feeling at any given time. I've discovered there are limits to this. Namely with a very famous thriller. I liked the beginning of the book and it got pretty creepy pretty fast. But then he started going off onto these weird tangents that didn't have anything to do with the action at hand. Which would have been fine if the characters were at the grocery store or having a boring day at work. It got irritating when the monastery was crawling with demonic images that meant that sometime in the next 24 hours great harm was going to come to all of the inhabitants. The MC gets attacked in a snowy courtyard by some unseen assailant, and the next thing you know he's off thinking about the texture of some particularly good chocolate chip cookies made by a nuclear engineer. For like three and a half minutes.

After several instances where the action and tension were completely suspended for a lengthy monologue about the town where he grew up, etc. I finally turned to DH to ask if it bothered him. He just shrugged, so maybe it's me. In any case, I finally couldn't stand it anymore and switched books to Peter Mayle's Encore Provence. This book is pretty much nothing but navel-gazing, but that is the whole point, so its okay. Except it makes you really really hungry for food that isn't available at any of the fast food joints off the I-5. Pate' en croute anyone?

On this date: In 1934, police kill Bonnie and Clyde.

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