—U2, ‘The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)’
I like stories where stuff happens – sci-fi, children’s book, comics. The Lord of the Rings is great, except for the part where Frodo and Sam are moping around outside Mordor for half a book. All the tension drains into a puddle of tedium into which I shout that the hobbit boys seriously need to have a good long kiss and then hurl themselves up Mount Doom with a fervour fuelled by reckless loving ecstasy.
I’m not saying I must have nonstop action. I love Bill Murray films. He spends half his films doing nothing, but somehow he makes nothing feel big and important.
Last summer I read Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking trilogy pretty much without stopping, but this year I couldn’t get through Ness’ The Crane Wife. The writing was superb, but nothing that happened felt big enough to keep my attention. When I was a teenager I read the first quarter of Great Expectations, during which No Discernible Action Took Place, so I stopped reading. I haven’t tried anything Dickens since then, but I’ve read a ton of Terry Pratchett.
It’s probably because I’m immature.
I like big feels. I love Kitten because all Chaidez’s songs – even the quiet ones – manage to seem bigger than life but without slipping into pastiche. That’s what my favourite kinds of books do too. Right now I’m reading A Monster Calls, another book by Patrick Ness. It’s got a yew tree turning into a huge monster right at the beginning and a mum dying of cancer and conflict with a best friend and a bully that totally has the upper hand and an absent father who’s back on the scene and a difficult grandmother. Stuff happens in every chapter, and it all feels big. It’s wonderful.
It’s also stuffed full of great lines like these:
The illustrations are superb.
I’ll finish with a question. Do you get excited about Dickens and small actions that feel small and lots of description? I’d honestly be grateful if you could explain to me how that works, because I’m missing that part of my brain. Only can you be sure your explanation has good pacing and feels kind of epic?
17 September 2014