Yes, that is kind of a sweeping statement, but not untrue.
Over the last month, I have read at least four books and seen three Major Movies, and as I sat down to write my reviews and impressions, I realized that I hated them all.
"Hate" might be too harsh of a word for how I actually felt, but "negative" is accurate. Dark Shadows--can't recommend it, because it has no idea what it wants to be. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel--great cast, shoddy script that the best talents of British acting can't save. The Avengers--a lot of sound and fury, but to very little point. Yet if asked, I would say "I love to go to movies."
Books are worse, in part because now I have read so many of them that I see their problems more than I see their strengths. Weird Sisters, by Eleanor Brown--fails to create any real conflict, fails to create characters I care about, fails to master the small innovations that Brown attempts. Bring Up The Bodies, by Hilary Mantel--extends the brand she established in Wolf Hall but fails to achieve anything with it. Boring. Fifty Shades of Grey--do I even need to say anything? Okay--in brief, it makes Stephanie Meyer look like a master of suspense and plotting, and is boring porn on top of it. There is better stuff out there, even for free.
Wait! you say. You said there were four books, and that's only three. What is the fourth?
That's the exception that proves the rule. The book I am currently reading is Jenny Lawson's Let's Pretend This Never Happened and I am really loving it. She is funny, while recounting a childhood that could make you cry. (I believe Jeanette Walls took that approach in her own book, The Glass Castle.) A (young! still so young!) woman who was raised in poverty, has battled anorexia, crippling anxiety disorder, multiple miscarriages, and rheumatoid arthritis still manages to make me laugh out loud. I may be able to represent her life and her writing in two sentences about the first time she brought her (now) husband home to meet her parents:
(1) This probably would have been my exact worst nightmare of brining a boy home to meet my parents, if I'd ever had enough creativity to imagine my father throwing a live bobcat on the boy I was trying to impress.
(2) In my father's defense, it was a smallish sort of bobcat that my dad was nursing back to health so he could release it back into the wild, rather than one of the full-grown ones from the backyard.(pp. 88-89)
Not only does her father--for no discernible reason--decide to throw a wild animal at an unsuspecting young man, but this animal is only one of several wild animals he could have chosen for the task.Is there any need to go on and explain that Lawson's father keeps the bobcats in the yard in order to collect the urine? No, I didn't think so.
But this is where I think I have perhaps gone over the line into privileged, spoiled, unpleasant bitch territory. Jenny Lawson grew up with tap water from a well poisoned with radon, subject to the humor of a father who makes hand puppets out of squirrel road kill, wearing bread wrappers stuffed with newspapers in the winter. Meanwhile, I sit back watching movies and reading books that hundreds of people have spent thousands of hours and millions of dollars to create, and all I can do is say "meh--it wasn't very good. It could have been better."
Could it have been better? How? Okay, you over-privileged jerk--why don't you try to make something one tenth as good. Once you really experience the difficulty of actually creating something that is as good as you expect it to be--then you can come back here and bitch about other people's failures. Until then--shut up!
Is it too late for me? Has my heart really turned into a lump of singed carbon in my chest? Can I possibly raise my cultural response to something more than a tepid "Well--it wasn't a complete waste of time." I think I can, because there are so many things out there I don't know about. I could read novels from other countries, about lives wildly different from my own. I could read non-fiction. I could engage in other art forms that are not so familiar as to be boring--painting, dance, classical music, sculpture, photography. I could learn to read foreign languages and pursue their literature. I could read drama, poetry, experimental fiction. I could study business, economics, politics, rhetoric, history, theater arts. I could start a theater company, learn to program computers, write my own damn books.
But will I?