August 17th, 2004

Getting angry at authors

There's a discussion in sartorias about reader contracts, and I thought I'd mention a couple of times when I felt an author had defaulted on me. Imho, the way you can tell the contract has been broken is because you're personally angry with the author--and not about their personal behavior or their possible effect on the world, but because there you were in a nice readerly trance, and Something Went Wrong.

One is that the book shall not slop over into the real world too nastily. I can remember reading Jerzy Kosinski's _The Painted Bird_ when I was a kid, and being edgy about being near members of my physically harmless family for an hour or so--just because they were human beings. I swore that I'd never read anything by Kosinski (seeing the movie of Being There doesn't count), and, while I don't take that sort of an oath seriously--not after decades, I haven't gotten around to any of his books since.

Another is _The Name of the Rose_. There's no way to go into any detail without spoilers, but let's just say that it's not a conventional mystery novel, and I was expecting one.

Now that I think about it, the Kosinski thing isn't exactly about the contract as usually conceived--that's about genre--it's more about what I expected from books generally.

When have you guys gotten really angry at an author for how a book affected you?

Spiderman 2, mostly religion and business

If anyone hasn't seen the movie yet, I add to the chorus of recommendations. It's an excellent movie--both for the special effects and the people--and I'm only sketchily aware of the comics. And it's definitely worth seeing on the big screen.

I'm trying to avoid spoilers, but there may be a few small ones.

Has anyone tracked in detail just how Catholic it is? It's not just Peter Parker looking crucified on the front of a train (followed by Pieta images)--imho, the "I'm doing everything right, but the whole world is spitting on me" is a Catholic saint story. (Let me know if I'm wrong about this, or if it's also a Protestant thing.) And I don't think it's a coincidence that when Oc's tentacles are tempting him, they look like snakes.

As for business, I think the pizza parlor owner has it wrong. I'm betting that your average customer will be pleased enough to get a trivially late pizza for free (and evidence of a promise kept) that they'll stay as a customer. On the other hand, it's certainly plausible enough for an business owner to get things wrong, or possibly to amp up fears when the real issue is not getting paid for the pizza.

On the other hand, the landlord is plausible enough. He just wants the rent.

Jameson is a weird case. He harks back to the time when newspapers were run by individuals, and sometimes arbitrarily. (When was the movie set, anyway? These days, I don't think Peter Parker would have been allowed to run into a burning building.) Still, I would think he'd be getting more flack--most people seem to think Spiderman is a hero, not a menace. In fact, by the second movie, I don't think there's anyone but Jameson who believes the Bugle's line.

For lots more discussion of Spiderman (including links), see Unqualified Observer. It's mostly about how the choice between virtue and happiness is played out.