It's Not You, It's Me ... Or Maybe Not

What is the difference between picking up a book and picking up an experience? I read a lot, and sometimes it's just going through the motions. I read the book because I've met the author or because it's lying there on my bedside table and I'm not willing to get up and go look for something else. The plot doesn't grab me, the characters are bland or even objectionable, and the writing style makes me skip ahead at times to find something happening.

What's strange is that people, often lots of people, love that book and that author and write glorious reviews of how he/she captures the moment or the nuances of a protagonist. Great for you, but it didn't happen for me.

At other times, however, the first page of a book evokes an "aaaah" feeling, a settling in for a good story that I anticipate returning to each time I have to set the book down. I like that protagonist, want him/her to succeed, and wonder what's going to happen to him next. But I know from experience that if I hand that book to others, I may get a "that's nice" response that indicates their apathy or even that they're too polite to say they thought it stunk.

So what is it that makes us love a book or an author? It has to be a combination of experience, personality, background and timing. We respond to authors and their characters as we respond to real people: not everyone llikes everyone, and some are willing to forgive certain flaws, some not. Tme of life must matter; I can see that in myself as I've moved through the genres, through fiction and nonfiction, from favorite author A to favorite author B. And as a woman raised in the '50's & '60s, I must admit my background tells: I don't care for authors who flaunt convention and are naughty simply for naughtiness' sake. I don't like protagonists with no morals and I get tired of tortured souls who can't climb out of their past bucket of sorrows. They can have issues, but they'd better transcend them in some way or my Puritan ancestry starts whispering, "Loser!"

This all translates to writing, of course. What we like colors what we write. Appealing to readers with even a tiny fraction of the impact that a writer like Margaret Atwood has on me would be great. I would never compare my work with Atwood's, but I'd sure love to have readers who look forward to my next book the way I anticipate hers. Now is that her talent or my preference? I'm not the only fan she has, that's for sure. But the Reader in me responds to the Writer in her, and that partnership is the best that literature can offer.

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