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so I cynically, cynically say, the world is that way - blue dog blog™
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March 2012
 
 
 
 
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littlebluedog
littlebluedog
Tim
Friday, February 29th, 2008 08:48 am
so I cynically, cynically say, the world is that way

The story in a book is no longer than the book that contains it.

That is to say, when reading a book, I know exactly how much more of the story there is left to read. I may or may not be able to estimate how long it will take to read to the finish, but there is a continuous, inescapable indicator of the boundaries that contain the story. (I guess the exception to this is a collection of stories in a single volume.)

This affects how I read a story. I'm tolerant at the beginning and through the middle, expecting that plots and characters and ideas and background and detail will be presented so I can interpret the events that unravel or the thesis the author develops. But when a majority of the pages have accumulated behind the left page and fewer and fewer remain behind the right, I start to get anxious. I read faster and less carefully. I start expecting resolution, clarity, completion, I start actively imagining how the story will end, and I look for clues, because it has to end somehow, and there are only so many possibilities, and there are only so many pages left. Sometimes I get nervous, sometimes I get sad.

I don't like the way I react to knowing how much more of the story there is; it's an artificial feeling that intrudes upon, and interferes with, how I otherwise feel about what I'm reading; it taints the experience. This is why I don't like to look at my watch when I'm watching a movie or a performance, or glance at a time indicator if I'm listening to music. (It might also be why I'm bad at estimating how much time it will take me to do something.) In general, I think, I prefer to immerse myself into whatever experience I am having at the moment, letting it grow, develop, and subside organically, without being conscious in advance of its termination.

Of course, this is probably one of countless manifestations of my tendency to take my own sweet time doing damn well anything.

I still think I'm going to live forever, you see.

11CommentReplyShare

dreamlogic
dreamlogic
min
Friday, February 29th, 2008 06:13 pm (UTC)

My first LJ post was something along these lines.


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thestepbeneath
thestepbeneath
la débauché
Friday, February 29th, 2008 06:19 pm (UTC)

I get that way too. What's worse, for me, is when I'm reading a really good book and knowing the end is coming and wanting to slow it down so I can savor it that much longer. But I still start reading furiously towards the end trying to get to the resolution. Bah!


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bernmarx
bernmarx
Paul
Friday, February 29th, 2008 07:45 pm (UTC)

Get a Sony Reader or an Amazon Kindle. ;)

There will still be a page indicator, but it'll be less real, less physically omnipresent how far you are through the story.


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littlebluedog
littlebluedog
Tim
Friday, February 29th, 2008 11:15 pm (UTC)

One of those would be pretty cool, but way too expensive right now. I could maybe justify it if I was a total addict or did a lot of traveling, but I don't think I could for this -- even if it is in my nature. :)


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(Anonymous)
Friday, February 29th, 2008 09:18 pm (UTC)
nice

Nice Sundays reference.

-PAgent


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mrhig
mrhig
Triple Word Whore
Friday, February 29th, 2008 10:26 pm (UTC)

Great post.
That lyric has been rebounding in my head for the last hour and so I am chuffed that I have just worked out what it was. And the significance.
What you need, sirrah, is a Mobius story, one that collapses in on itself. Neil Gaiman's "Other People" from his short-story collection "Fragile Things" is a good example. Or, a book that upon finishing, you feel the need to read all over again to see what you missed. The M Night Shyamalan of books, if you will. House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski is a good one.


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littlebluedog
littlebluedog
Tim
Friday, February 29th, 2008 10:47 pm (UTC)

House of Leaves has been recommended by a couple folks now whose opinions I value ... to be honest, I'm a little intimidated by it, but I think I might get ambitious and give it a try.

Another possibility would be choose-your-own-adventure books for adults, but I don't really think that genre has yet to be explored, or maybe it has, and completely escaped my attention, which is certainly possible.

I also thought that a really neat device to do, maybe in a graphic novel, is direct the reader linearly back and forth through the pages via directional boxes, so maybe the reader encounters the same page a few different times while following a sequence of panels. That could have the added feature of foreshadowing or flashback. I think it would certainly present a challenge to an author to do something like that.


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luvsammy
luvsammy
Samalamity
Sunday, March 2nd, 2008 09:04 pm (UTC)

On the topic of choose your own adventure books for adults: it has been explored! I just bought Pretty Little Mistakes because I was so engrossed while flipping through it in Borders. It starts out as a girl graduates from HS and makes the choice between college and staying home, and after each little chapter, you make another choice for her and see where it takes you/her. I can imagine re-reading that book a TON of times to catch all the different possibilities. It was funny too.


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mrhig
mrhig
Triple Word Whore
Sunday, April 20th, 2008 11:02 am (UTC)

There are tricks with re-reading panels and panels meaning different things in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen. One of the characters is almost godlike and somewhat timeless so they can afford to do that.

Also this week's Amazing Spider-Man pulled a similar trick :)


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magn0lia
magn0lia
Magn0lia
Saturday, March 1st, 2008 12:32 am (UTC)

I've had this experience with movies. For a while I used a DVD player that showed the time on its front, and I would almost always set it to show the time remaining. I noticed that I'd use that information when watching the movie, for instance "well, that can't be the resolution of the mystery because there's 45 minutes left". Then that player died and so now I'm much less likely to have the time-remaining information available when I'm watching something, and I think it helps me be a little more into the movie and less meta or in my head about it. The immersion is something I grasp for but rarely reach.


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inkytwist
inkytwist
The Loch Ness Monster
Saturday, March 1st, 2008 03:19 am (UTC)

I had a discussion with one of my friends after having him borrow "A Game of Thrones" by George RR Martin. It's scary when you get near the end and you cannot fathom how anything will be resolved and oh gosh there's only *this much* left! How can the auther FIX everything?


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