She Who Must Be Consulted On Matters Of Importance and I were having an spirited debate recently. Not about the relative merits of onion in pasta sauce (for a change), but about the relative values if the various narrative forms.
I have to admit that this was my fault -- after a couple of speciality teas I get a bit giddy and move on to the great moral conundrums of our day. And sometimes a debate about whether or not, if you were shipwrecked in the South Indian Sea, you could make a raft out of Anne Widdecombe by hollowing out her innards and living off the proceeds while you float upon the briny blue. Sort of depends how the Sauvignon Blank takes us at the time*.
The moral conundrum in this particular case was 'what value crime fiction?'
This is what we call a 'Pernod' question, because we have to drink pretty much everything else in the house before we start asking it.
And the aniseed-flavoured question** has me thinking 'Not that much.'
Now I'm not saying that I don't rate crime fiction: I do. Given the option, it's the genre I'd read by choice. Most of the people I know, write it***. But let's face it, in the great pantheon of world-wide popular entertainment it's not exactly rocking the Casaba, is it?
When I said this to She Who Must Be Given A Wide Berth When There's Sharp Implements Involved, she said, "Rubbish."**** And so I challenged her: "How often," I asked, with rakish abandon and a sliver of dinner caught in my beard, "have you read THE LION THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE -- your favouritist book in the world -- in your life?"
She thought about this and replied with pride, "At least a dozen times."
Which I think you'll agree is pretty good going for a book written about treacherous bedroom furniture published in 1950. Then I asked her, "How many times did you listen to Green Day's AMERICAN IDIOT last year?"
Answer: lots. Lots and lots and lots.
Most of us will read a book only once. Even a book we really like. Some books transcend that -- they speak to something deep inside us we don't fully understand, and we go back to them time and time again. But it pales into insignificance when compared to the number of times we'll listen to an album. Or watch a film. Or a TV series.
Which brings me to the question I did ask at the start of this rambling monologue: 'what value crime fiction?'
As far as I can see, on the scale of things it goes like this:
I know that sounds cynical, but be honest, how often have you read your favourite book compared to how often you've watched reruns of your favourite TV show? Or listened to your favourite album?
This is why so few writers are zillionaires. And probably why all my groupies are over 50.
Anyone up for a spirited public debate?
* For those who're interested, my money's on yes. In fact I think it could sleep four and be a strong contender in the next Clipper Round The World Yacht Race. We could use her pants for a sail.
** Like the $64,000 question, only more tasty ... and let's face it: cheaper.
*** And yes, I know that's a seriously bloody sad admission.
**** Actually, what she said was a darn sight ruder than that, but this is a family blog and one never knows when cats or kittens may be reading it.
***** Though technically I bought it for her, so it's my own fault. And yet another reason you should petition the Pope to get me canonised while I'm still alive -- what the hell's the point in being a Saint if you're dead? How's that going to help you pick up women in bars?
Labels: ramble, stuff, writing