I've discovered something in the last few years, the years that I've been purposely pursuing writing and publishing. I've discovered that I enjoy books much less than I used to.
That probably isn't exactly right. I still enjoy reading. I get obsessive about it, really. You can ask my husband and kids, who often deal with burned dinners and missed buses and late appointments because I'm unable to get my nose out of a book until I finish it.
No, I still enjoy reading. I just "enjoy" it in a different way.
I complain about the overuse of similes. I complain about stilted dialog. I complain about flat characters and pointless plots. I complain about predictability and repetitive words. Even if I am the only one in a room, I complain. Even if I am so drawn in by something in the story and cannot put the book down, I complain.
Studying writing, working at developing my own, has made me so much more critical. Critical to the point that I don't find many books anymore that I love and can rave about. I've nearly stopped doing reviews, because I find so many more things I think are wrong with a book than things I love about them.
In the past year I've read maybe three or four published books I would qualify as really great books: the total package of great writing and great plotting. The rest have somewhat disappointed me.
But I've found myself lately thinking about stories I've read that I complained about the writing, but somehow, for some reason, have stuck with me. And I've discovered that some of the beautifully written books are ones I enjoy while reading, and then put on a shelf and never feel anything about again except for a warm glow.
Others, though... ones that I complained bitterly about...ones that I literally threw the book in frustration... something in them has crept into me and burrowed in my heart. At random times I think about them. I remember a character that suddenly I connect with. I think about an issue - social, political, romantic - that was highlighted in the book that suddenly seems relate-able to my own life. Over time, with distance from the actual words on the page, some of these books I hated have become some of the stories I've loved.
I'm not sure what that means, except that perhaps the value of a book isn't immediately understood. And that a great story is more than just the way words are strung together, and yes, even sometimes great despite the way the words are strung together.
Have you read books like that?