I am not arrogant nor presumptuous, but I’d like to think that I can spot a book that could be considered a New Classic.
At least I try not to be, but it is easy to get all smug and condescending when one is scanning library shelves for a great book to read. Many titles I find through their jacket descriptions, their first few sentences and maybe even a mention of a dog in the author’s bio make me a little frustrated. (Sorry, dog lovers.) I am arrogant because I am picky about what I read. I am presumptuous because I expect writers to write well. And then I’m smug just because I can be in the privacy of my library.
I want to read great books. Life is too short to waste it on the empty literary calories of the poorly written. And I think that there are books out there that could qualify for the possibly arrogant and presumptuous title of New Classic.
The problem I have, however, and this doesn’t help the problem of arrogance and presumption, is that my definition of greatness and others’ definition of greatness often are different. Isn’t possible to agree completely on what a New Classic is. I want to define art and I think stand in good company of many arrogant or presumptive readers who think they can define it too.
So, what am I looking for?
Within the genres of chick lit, women’s fiction, literary fiction and light fantasy, I am looking for books that I wish I had written. That’s a nebulous definition, but I know it when I see it.
I’m also looking for these qualities:
Creativity: Usually the plot blurb on the back is enough to tell me whether this book is really creative or just another will they or won’t they romance. It’s creativity that’s slowly drawing me into fantasy. Slowly. Really slowly. I still haven’t read Harry Potter.
Intelligence: I like smart prose, allusions to other disciplines, educated characters, unexpected metaphors and humorous comparisons. I like to look for intelligence in writing by reading a random page. If the description is bland, the dialogue sleepy, the action too pedestrian or expected, then I’m completely turned off. My attention is captured by interesting turns of phrases, wordplay, variation of sentence structure and wit. ESPECIALLY WIT. This “random page” reading lets me see the craftsmanship of the author on a sentence level. If I see it there, then it’s a good indicator that the story itself is well crafted too.
Distinct Voice: This should be put first on the list. I loathe books, especially romances, that sound basically like all the other books out there. A distinct voice tells me that the writer put energies into story telling that isn’t just about the story. The writer wanted me to taste something different in the story itself. Voice is similar to a literary accent. I don’t want to read the equivalent of an American mid-western accent when something more exotic, more individual, more unique, more distinct is out there.
Happy Endings: I am a self-described gloomy person. I am always a few steps away from a dark funk. I have never seen a glass half-full. I often think optimists are stupid. I have probably developed many irrational assumptions about the perpetual cheery people I know on Facebook and I secretly am delighted when they say something as negative as, “It’s raining! ;(“ (My online persona is a far happier one than my real life persona, so please spare me the oh no you’re nots!) So, for the sake of my own mental health, I only read books with happy endings. Sorry Frank McCourt, I won’t be reading Angela’s Ashes anytime soon.
So, THIS, writers of the world, THIS is what I’m looking for in the books that I read. I would make all my reviews of the 4 and 5 star variety if the books that crossed my path were strong in these areas.
This makes me a very picky reader. But you know, life it too short to waste it on bad books.
This question was given to me by these generous authors whose books I can’t wait to investigate and see if they make this picky reader smile. You should check them out too!
Mark of the Loon – Molly Greene
Synopsis: What happens when a workaholic serial remodeler falls in love with an old stone cottage built by an ornithologist and his eccentric Irish wife? If you’re Madison Boone, you kick your budding romance with handsome Psych Professor Coleman Welles to the curb and lose yourself in a new project.
Madison renovates distressed homes in addition to her busy real estate sales career. When she hears about a quaint house on a private tract of land overlooking Lake Sonoma, she climbs in the window for a private tour and falls in love with the place. Good fortune enables her to purchase the Blackburne’s property, but far more than a new home and lush gardens await discovery during this renovation.
As Madison works on the remodel, she’s drawn into an old love story with dangerous consequences. She unearths buried secrets and discovers herself in the process. Good thing she has three wise, hilarious friends to advise her along the way! Mark of the Loon is the skillful combination of history, mystery, and romance in a novel that explores deep friendship, choices, and how individuals cope with loss.