Demon Hunting and Tenth Dimensional Physics: July 2020

Friday, July 10, 2020

On Books and Expectation

So I've been reading a lot more, since I'm now in a book club (Online, of course, because I'm not an asshole and I want this pandemic under control.), and part of the way our book club works is, each month, a different person gets to select the book we're all going to read. It leads to a lot of variety in what we're choosing. We started with The Island of Dr. Moreau, then went into Weetzie Bat, the The Night Circus, and then continuing forward into Ben Bova and Anne Rice and Josh Lanyon and on and on.

This, all to say that we read a lot of different books, and not everything is to everyone's taste. Even when we all like a book, we're obviously not all going to be taking it the same way, bringing the same baggage to each title we go through (Not to mean baggage in a negative connotation.).

As such, I want to talk about reader expectations, and specifically my expectations going into the last book we read. Anne Rice's The Wolf Gift. Now, I liked this book. I don't recall that anyone in the club disliked the book, in fact.

But the member who chose it and I, specifically, had very different expectations for this novel than I did (Mild spoilers for the title mentioned. Or major. I'm writing this in one go, so...just spoilers.).

I can't speak entirely to her expectations, but what I saw going into this book was a young man, disaffected, interested in art and the finer things, and all those things unappreciated by the remainder of the people in his life.

So that was set up, for me, as the story of a man finding his place in the world, coming into his own confidence. And so I was disappointed when it immediately turned into a story of him...being a werewolf superhero. It ended up as a satisfying experience, all said and done, but it was quite hard for me to get into the more interesting part of the book because it didn't live up to the expectations that the author had unknowingly set for me.

There was no reason for Anne Rice to know or care how I would take the opening of her novel. I very easily could have taken this character more like the person who selected it. She thought the main character was just a rich whiny kid. An "affluenza" victim, more or less. So her expectations were clearly very much different than mine, so she didn't experience that dissonance that I went through with it.

That's something worth remembering as you read, and as you recommend books, and as you go through conversations about books. Something as simple as expectation can change the reading experience of reading a book, sometimes completely.

I don't know precisely what the point was for this, but I've been thinking about this a lot lately and wanted to get it out. Hopefully I wasn't too boring for you.