On Genre

In honor of World Book Day, I thought we could have a discussion on genre.

What’s your favorite genre? Do you switch around or stay put?

I’ve been reading so much over the past couple of years that I’ve meandered through several. I always have a tender spot for the classics – especially British literature, but I took a long detour through the science fiction/fantasy aisle that led me into some pretty fantastic worlds (GOT, WOT). I always enjoy a thriller/suspense novel that keeps me guessing and I’ve read some good modern lit lately. I also have a soft spot for guy humor (it’s a guilty pleasure but Tropper makes me laugh out loud.)

I love to read and now that I’m not knee deep in baby dolls and Barbies, I’ve discovered a thing called “time”. When the kids got their cars, it went from “Daddy’s Home!” excitement to “see you later, old man” in what feels like the blink of an eye. But I’m not complaining; I want them to be independent and get on with life. It’s good for them and leaves me time to read.

I listen to books on my commute, too. Do you consider that reading? I do, but some people are opinionated about it. I will always be partial to paper and there here have been a couple that I’ve stopped listening to because the language was so beautiful I wanted to see the printed word. The Goldfinch was one of those.

I stumbled across a title that intrigued me recently: They Both Die in the End. It was listed as YA – which isn’t typical for me. About a year ago a trusted friend recommended a YA book and one of my girls asked me how my vampire love book was coming along. To be precise, it was vampire-werewolf love and It wasn’t going well, either. I don’t understand love on the whole, nor do I want to read about it – especially across monster species.

Anyway, They Both Die in the End has a fantastic premise – there’s a company that knows the day you will die and as a service to you, they let you know early in the day. That way you can do whatever you need to do to make your end day count. We’re introduced to these two young men who both got the call. They are very different, but meet on the “Last Friend app” and spend their time together.

It was so well-written. The characters leapt off the page and the story: WOW! The takeaway is that we should all live every day like it’s our last – a lesson I have learned the hard way. Check out this line, “Every new minute we’re alive is a miracle.”

It is a great book – even with a little romance thrown in because it was handled so well that a guy who doesn’t like to read love stories (me) was okay with it. Anyway, it wasn’t until I was sharing the link to it with my book friend that I noticed on the details tab that it isn’t just YA, it was YA-LGBT – a genre I didn’t know existed. At the same time, I also realized the genre label didn’t matter all that much to me. A good book is a good book.

I’m not sure how 25-year-old Mark would have responded, but the 51-year-old version is much more mellow about such things. Actually, I do know how that young, judgy knucklehead would have responded and it makes me a little sad. These days I think that books should be judged by the content of their pages, not what label classifies them. And we readers should read whatever genre we want or read them all.

Whatever makes us happy.

Tell Me Again, About the Rabbits

This year has been an odd one for me because I have read much more than I’ve written. I began working down a list of the “100 greatest works of fiction.” I had read many of them, but I found two giant holes in my library: modern books and American literature. So I dove into Harry Potter, The Help, and Game of Thrones interspersed with Melville, Hemingway, and Steinbeck.

That last one, Steinbeck… he hit me in the teeth with Of Mice and Men. I respect his ability to pack such deep, meaningful characters and a heartbreaking story into 112 pages. That is genius. Most authors today seem to write for the trilogy or get so enamored with their own words that 112 pages is barely a back-story. It also hit me because I could identify with Lennie and the rabbits.

The impoverished and simple Lennie just dreams of holding a rabbit in his palm and stroking its soft fur. But he can’t. He can’t and never will. So he constantly begs George for stories about the rabbits.

bunnyTell me again, about the rabbits

The rabbits represent something of substance that a hopeless drifter has no chance of claiming. The rabbits are a thing just out of reach – a dream that could never come true. That thing we want, but cannot have.

We’ve all dreamed of things we couldn’t have. Sometimes it’s a person or a relationship. Often it is just that we want more: more money, more stuff, more recognition. More would make it better and fill the void.

Most of the things we spend our time dreaming about are material. With the right preparation, bankroll, or a stroke of luck, they could be attained. But like Lennie, the thing I want I cannot have. I want it so badly that I often feel my bones ache to fill the void.

Tell me again, about the rabbits

Labor Day Weekend four years ago brought news that Kylie’s cancer treatment had failed. We were scheduled for a five-day hospital stay; but they sent us home while they planned a new course. Because of the unanticipated time with her sisters, Kylie was thrilled. But that news marked the beginning of a downward spiral. We never got ahead of the cancer until we lost her months later.

I will never hold her again, or hear her say “daddy”, or see how she reacts to the attention of boys. I’ll never be able to see her on stage, share a cup of coffee, or walk her down the aisle. Those are things I want and cannot have. I can never have. I will never have.

Contentment is elusive when you see people all around holding their rabbits and your rabbit is but a memory.

But along with the ache that comes from wanting something you will never have comes a paradox. While I live in jealousy of rabbitful families, I don’t begrudge them their rabbits. I want everyone to have their own and joyfully hold them forever. I just want mine, too.

Tell me again, about the rabbits

And so, like Lennie, I dream. I am a drifter in this life who dreams an impossible dream about holding a thing I will never again hold. I smile, I work, I play, I have laughter and fun… and yet the allure of the rabbit’s soft fur always tugs at my heart. It’s a beautiful dream that necessarily awakens to a sobering reality. My palm is empty… there is no rabbit. There will never and can never be a rabbit.

Tell me again, about the rabbits

Lennie settles for stories about rabbits and so must I… in this life.

But I believe there is a day coming when my dream will come true… when Kylie will take my hand and show me a land of promise and reward to which no work of fiction can compare. That belief, though resolute, rarely makes the waiting here easier. I see now that this life will be difficult until that day.

But still, I will dream.

Tell me again, about the rabbits