I’m trying to get a little bit ahead of the game. I’ve started reading my course book this evening, and there is a quote in it that strikes me as a really interesting perspective. It says:
To write a poem or a novel is immediately to engage with a literary tradition… The activity is made possible by the existence of the genre, which the author can write against, certainly, whose conventions he may attempt to subvert, but which is nonetheless the context within which his activity takes place, as surely as the failure to keep a promise is made possible by the institution of promising.
I find this really interesting. Simply because it suggests that by defining a genre that you are writing against, you are promising the reader something. You are setting out a course for them on which they will follow. To say that you like a particular genre is to define who you are as a reader. It is to define your role in the play that the writer has created. You are the audience, and he or she is the story teller.
It’s almost as if the author is defining the structure for existence. There is no such thing as supply without demand. So if a reader demands a type of genre then it is the job of the author to deliver on that. They form an unspoken contractual agreement, where the author decides to write something in a specific genre, and the reader agrees to write it. When that contractual obligation is broken, the reader is left broken by the promise the author has failed to keep.
I wonder how many authors out there fail to deliver on these promises? To say they are going to deliver a crime thriller, only to deliver a romance. Sometimes reading a book can be a disappointing adventure. You set yourself ready to enjoy the ride that is given, and the book just doesn’t live up to your expectations. Do you continue on through the journey, or do you drop the book and all the hope you had within its pages?
In the past, I used to think that I had to do the author justice by promising to finish the book no matter what. Now? well, life’s too short for it to be ruled by the disappointments that a bad book can give you. So I just admit defeat and find something else to fill my time.