Monday, November 22, 2010

A Spoiler Challenge (contains spoilers)

So, recently, I've tried to read Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. It came highly recommended to me by my friend and coworker Kelsey. She'd seen the movie, and said that it was--to paraphrase--fantastic. Not wanting to spoil the premise for me, she said something like "READ IT, DUDE!" or "READ IT BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!" or maybe "DUDE TOTALLY READ IT!" (this is how I hear Kelsey's voice in my head.)When Never Let Me Go showed up on our shelves, I decided to give it a try.
Now, when Kelsey said "READ THIS BOOK I AM TOTALLY SERIOUS," she very purposefully didn't tell me anything about the plot. This is a book that is better if you don't have any inkling of what the book is about, she told me (or rather, "THIS IS A BOOK THAT IS BETTER IF YOU DON'T HAVE ANY INKLING OF WHAT IT'S ABOUT") So I took her word for it. And I could not be happier that I did.
See, with the advent of modern media, it is almost impossible to remain unsullied with regards to the content of a book. Spoilers strike like lightening. I will never forget the day that I broke the news to my friend's eight-year-old-brother that Dumbledore dies at the end of Harry Potter #6 (I hope you already knew that.)And honestly, I think that this is one of the biggest tragedies of the modern story.
There is so much in a story that relies on the audience not knowing what's going to happen. Tension, drama, surprise-- everything that makes a book interesting relies on the reader's ignorance. If you know what's going to happen, you might as well not read the book.
I don't have to watch Soylient Green now because I know it's people. I knew that, by the end of 1984, someone would end up loving Big Brother. I grew up fully aware of the fact that Darth Vader was Luke's father. And the tragic part of all of this is that the premise depends on my ignorance. Without my ignorance, The Empire Strikes Back is kinda just a movie with a really slow lightsaber fight in it.
So for Never Let Me Go, I decided to change it up a little bit: as an experiment, I bought the book knowing only what the cover looked like. All I had to go on was Kelsey's recommendation and the title. I didn't even read the back cover, and I loved it.
Reading a book without knowing what was in store was like riding a roller-coaster you've never been on before-- every twist and turn was fresh, each plummet felt new, and it was great.
The most interesting part, I think, is that I honestly wouldn't have read Never Let Me Go if I'd read the back cover. It's not something I'm usually interested in (not one of my typical genres, if you will.) But because I didn't know what I was getting myself into, I found an excellent book that I was honestly surprised by.
So, my challenge is this:
Pick up a book that someone's told you to read without asking what it's about. Once you find it, don't read the back, don't read the inside cover, and don't read that little sample-page that they put in before the real book starts. Instead, read starting from the first word on the first page, as a whole and unspoiled book. I'm sure the author would appreciate it, and I know that you will, too.


PS- Kelsey does not actually talk like that.

1 comment:

  1. I do have a loud voice. I'll admit that. As my mother always said, "my voice carries," so maybe quoting me in all caps was actually appropriate. But I don't say "dude."

    And to play the devil's advocate here, what about those books that tell you what's going to happen in the first chapter with the "begin at the end" strategy? There is something thrilling about reading a book where you know the character is doomed and they probably even know they are doomed, but you watch them careen toward their inevitable fate anyway.