I’ve long been a fan of non-fiction. I find reading about real people in real situations to be immensely more satisfying than reading made-up stories. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy documentary films and blogs so much.
It occurred to me recently that a factor may be my difficulty in suspending disbelief. If fiction writing isn’t top notch, I find myself picking it apart, finding some little detail that just doesn’t ring true. When that happens, the experience is often ruined for me.
I offer you today, four riffs of the theme of suspending disbelief, and in the process, four reviews/recommendations.
1. I just finished reading The Help, the smash success novel by Kathryn Stockett recently released as a critically acclaimed movie. Why, you might ask, given my intro, did I choose this book? Quite simply, Peter recommended it. (Thank goodness Oprah is off the air, because had she given it a thumbs up, I might have passed. Did I mention that I also tend to avoid anything that appeals to the masses?)
It’s a good book, to be sure, well written in seemingly authentic first person voice of the three main characters. I’ll see the movie and am certain I’ll enjoy it.
I struggled with the main theme. I find it hard to believe that, regardless of the civil rights uprisings in Jackson, Mississippi at the time, that a group of black maids would so willingly trust and tell their deepest secrets to a white woman. These are smart women, surely the circumstances of their stories would have been easily recognized? Trust issues aside, wouldn’t the risks associated with discovery be too great? Changing names wouldn’t be enough camouflage, I don’t think. Would any ambitious 23-year-old author really publish without attribution to protect her sources?
Seems like wishful, revisionist history and not quite realistic. Regardless, The Help still gets a thumbs up.
2. Surprisingly, the previous three books I read were also fiction – The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Since I don’t watch or read much of anything set in the future (can’t be non-fiction!), I was surprised to find myself buried in these books and looking forward to the movie. I liked them so much that I re-read each one before starting the next.
I didn’t question all the little technological components as I often do with SciFi, etc. I was puzzled by this but finally realized that I was able to suspend my skepticism since so much of the tale was gritty and real, especially in District 12. I liked the mix of new and old – it made the story seem so much more realistic.
3. That’s probably also behind my recently discovered love for Battlestar Galactica, the 2003 miniseries that we own and have been watching on DVD. I didn’t watch the original series and I’m generally not a fan of this genre but I am hooked on BSG and all its rich characters and artifices. I particularly love the idea of FTL (faster than light) travel.
But there’s also a lot of old, worn out equipment involved, antiques of the era, if you will, and that helps make it work for me. Everything isn’t shiny and new – quite the opposite.
I do struggle with practical questions like how would you address legal tender and motivation in a fledgling civilization? Geez, I wish I could turn my thoughts off sometimes and just enjoy!
4. My last comment on suspension of disbelief is about others’, not my own, and entirely based in the real world. We recently watched the movie, They Came To Play. It’s the true story of a national competition of amateur pianists. Although the definition of amateur wasn’t clear to me, this is a lovely story of people stepping outside their everyday realities, in the face of long odds, to compete and fulfill their dreams.
As with so many documentary films, the characters make They Came To Play rich and interesting. Watching them made me feel so normal, with my own idiosyncrasies minuscule, by comparison. My favorite character was Esfir, someone I think I’d enjoy knowing.
P.S. All this entertainment came fairly cheaply to us. The Help was borrowed from a make-shift lend-library at Peter’s work. We bought The Hunger Games for under $10 at a used bookstore, then checked the other two books out from the library. I am sure Peter bought BSG on sale, probably previously-owned. They Came To Play also came from the library.