Thursday, March 14, 2013

Truer Words...

There are many benefits to working in a library, and in general, I rather enjoy my work than otherwise. But like all jobs, even the very best, there are down sides as well. For me, one of the down sides is seeing the sort of book that tends to make it to the bestsellers lists. It is discouraging, for the most popular books with the longest library waiting lists, usually are not very good books - and I use the word "good" in this instance, in both sense. For in general, the writing in bestsellers is not of the best, but settles for mediocre. There is little of style or substance about them, nor, after an author starts churning them out at a rate of one per year, imagination and originality. Furthermore, the majority of fiction being published these days - bestsellers or not - are usually not very good. The world-view is skewed; if not outright immoral. Even the good guys - generally flawed but redeemable - are not particularly moral, and strong Christian virtues seldom make an appearance, being eclipsed by a vaguer, less demanding set of values. Yes, it is possible still to find quite good stories, ones that are well-written and morally sound, but it is not so common as it once was.

Therefore, it is supremely satisfying to come across someone who appreciates the finer things. Take, for example, the fine old gentleman who frequents my place of employment. He has just discovered Louis L'amour for the first time, and is raving about him. Now, mind, Louis L'amour is not a high-water mark of literature. I read a few of his books back in high school and remember them being ripping good yarns, full of galloping horses and gunfights - classic Westerns, but not, necessarily memorable. However, this old gentleman is enjoying them for all the right reasons. According to him, the books are just plain good. They tell a good story, with plenty of excitement. The Good Guy is always good. He never shoots anyone if tying him up will work just as well. The Good Guy always wins, and the Bad Guy always loses. The Good Guy gets the girl. And that is how it is supposed to be.

And, by golly! He has a point there - especially in regards to Westerns, with their knight-errant cowboys, and their stern code of honour and decency. The Good Guy is supposed to be good, or if his he not exactly good, he should be trying to be. The Good Guy should win, and if he does not, if his story ends in sorrow and sacrifice, he should still have a moral victory over the Bad Guy. And while the Good Guy cannot always get the girl, he should be the sort of man a worthwhile girl would want to be got by. It is not fashionable to write old-fashioned stories like that anymore, but I believe there is a crying need for them, that deep down, people crave them. Perhaps if there were more of such stories about - if people read about how things are supposed to be - they might just discover that there is nothing old-fashioned about it at all. They might discover that goodness, far from being boring, is a powerful and dangerous thing, and that a man is more truly himself when he chooses to walk that narrow path. That adventures are only worthwhile if there is something at stake, and that death and sacrifice are not things to be afraid of. And, just perhaps, it might have a beneficial effect upon the reader.


Katrina DeLallo said...

I'm not one for the short comment reply, but I had nothing to add except, "Amen!"

Oh, and that westerns are COOL! :)

Mahri said...

Westersn *are* cool. Indeed, after such raving reviews as that man gave, I rather think I should go back to reading Louis L'amour a bit myself.

Amy said...

That is such a cute story! I think that guy is awesome. :D

Yep, totally agree. Thank you for saying all this. It's been needing to be said...and you are so much better with words than I am. ;)


Molly said...

Add me to the list of people who just contracted a sudden craving for Westerns! I, too, went through a Louis L'Amour "phase". . .I call it that not meaning that I suddenly took off for loftier heights, but that I greedily read so many of 'em in a row that I burned myself out, for a time. You might look for his short-story collections, too, if you haven't a'ready. I might have mentioned it before, but L'Amour's biography, "Education of A Wandering Man," is a pretty splendid bit of inspiration for one who enjoys writing. Max Brand has also written some most enjoyable stuff, though he, poor fellow, didn't actually want to be a pulp writer, but a poet.

Mahri said...

You have mentioned "Education of a Wandering Man" before, and I keep forgetting to look for it. It sounds splendid.

I had no idea that Max Brand wanted to write poetry. That is a said story :-) I shall have to look up some of his books as well.