ARE YOU WILLING TO EXPAND YOUR COMFORT ZONE?
John B. Rosenman
How many of us are willing to try something new or different? Such as:
1. A different religion
2. A different country to live in
3. A different sexual orientation
Relax! I’m not really talking about trying something so momentous or life-changing. What I’m asking is how many of us are willing to expand our horizons by reading something different than we usually read? Just one book.
Recently, my wife Jane told me about an incident which occurred in her women’s book discussion group. A member suggested they read Daniel James Brown’s THE BOYS IN THE BOAT, which has been on the New York Times Best Sellers paperback nonfiction list for fifty weeks and is currently ranked #1. Jane was willing to read it, but the rest of the members went eeewwwww! What was their complaint? The book has the word “boys” in the title and is probably about male athletes. So No Thank You very much. It’s just not our cup of tea.
How many of us prefer certain genres and won’t venture beyond them? Sorry, romance is not for me and forget about horror or science fiction. “I know what I like,” we say, “and I’m not going to try that. It’s strange or sick or just too, well, out there. It doesn’t pass my sniff test.”
Understand, I’m not saying I’m better. For example, I won’t pick up a romance. I read a few in my writers’ group, and though they were intelligent, I couldn’t get past the formulaic requirements. The girl has to find a guy (or girl) by a certain page, and they have to have an HEA (Happily-Ever-After) ending or at least an HFN (Happy-For-Now) one. Any deviation from the norms meant that the member in my group wouldn’t be published, as indeed, she wasn’t because her book contained multiple couples. My big objection to romances was that they were too predictable and not true to life. If I knew a book was going to end happily, I’d lose interest because there was little suspense or uncertainty. However, those who wrote the books said they wrote and read them to escape from everyday life, and it was still possible to generate tension and uncertainty along the way.
So perhaps I could benefit by picking a romance off the shelf and reading one. Who knows? It could enrich my life AND my writing. It’s surprising what and who we can learn and profit from. A few years ago I became interested in books on nature and animals. From one book, Dark Nature by Lyall Watson, I learned that the female spotted hyena often gives birth to twins, a male and a female. The female usually turns quickly upon her brother and viciously kills him. Why? And what would Walt Disney’s cute little critters say? It seems a case of evil, UNNATURAL aggression, yet it plays a key role in my science-fiction novel A Senseless Act of Beauty.
I believe that the more widely we read and the more boundaries we cross, the more we and our own writing will benefit and be enriched. Yes, we need to focus and specialize, but if we’re reluctant to take chances and explore the unfamiliar and perhaps even the offensive and repugnant, we’ll pay a heavy price. True, we’ll probably find that much of it is a waste of time, but we shouldn’t be content with always doing the same-old, same-old.
Still, I sometimes dig my heels in. A friend of mine, for instance, writes m/m (male-male) erotica. She calls it “lovely.” What did I say when she tried to get me to read some? You guessed it: “Eeewwwww! I know what I like. I’m not going to try that. It’s too, well, you know, and it doesn’t pass my sniff test.”
Gentle reader, are there any genres or themes in literature that you avoid or find unappealing or uninteresting? If so, please let me know so I can mention them in my next column. Do you shun books about war, horror and violence? Does erotica turn you off? And if so, WHY? What, in short, are your particular poisons?
In closing, welcome to JOHNNY’S JUNCTION, which I hope you’ll find entertaining and more. Until we meet again…
PnPAuthors write their poems and short stories together~ They also write a novel together~