Reading and writing

I have noticed this before.   Faced with two library books to read, one beautifully written and deeply considered,  and the other telling a story that makes me turn the pages, I will always read the second book first.  

Not to say the writing in the story book can be crap, the story has to be well told, which takes skill, but I can tolerate a lapse of sloppy writing in the service of a good story that I can’t abide in the deeper kind of book (even though lapses of this kind are extremely rare in a beautifully written book, or in the book of any good author, actually).  The compelling story-teller’s book makes me turn the pages, gives me a tasty revelation at the end of each chapter that compels me to read the next.

Walter Mosely, whose Down the River Unto the Sea I am imbibing now,  is a universally appreciated master story-teller, like Stephen King.  Both are also excellent writers, make no mistake, but they are primarily in business to tell a story.   That is, on one level, the business of every writer, to make us want to read the rest of the story.  The genius of non-fiction writer Robert Caro is to take a mountain of careful research and turn it into a seamless, self-propelling story that sucks us in.  Journalistic writers like Jane Mayer and Jeremy Scahill do no less.   The words matter, and none of these writers wastes a word, but the words always serve to advance the story.   The story is king, Stephen, as you know.

In a life, what is the story, what is the overarching story of a life?  What are the essential small stories in a life that make us sit up and pay attention, make us turn the pages, hungry for the next set of revelations?   I have no fucking idea, really, but I know it when I read it.  And you do too.

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