An Overdose of Real Life

I’m trying to get into the PBS tv series Downton Abbey, I really am, but I just can’t. Everyone at work says it’s great — Michelle asks Karen if she’s seen it, and Karen nearly swoons and says “Oh, yes!” The library has all three seasons on DVD, and there is a huge long waiting list…of which I have Season 2 checked out and am struggling to watch it before it has to go back tomorrow.

I guess I have never been a fan of real life fiction. That sounds funny, of course if it’s fiction then it isn’t real life. But it could be. Real life isn’t interesting enough to be fiction, so they have to keep it moving and surprise us with one catastrophe after another. One heartbreak leads to another, people that you grow to love just end up dying.

If I wanted to watch real life tragedy, I would just turn on CNN. When I read, I am usually trying to just escape for a little while. Even a chintzy romance novel will work. I refuse to watch TV shows or movies or read books about missing and abused children. I can’t deal with political fiction or crime drama that is too bloody. I kind of like historical fiction, just a little, when there is more fiction than history. And please, not another story set in the American prairie of 1800. I’ve also read my fill of Regency romance, thank you very much.

What does that leave me to read? I just finished The Gate Thief, by Orson Scott Card. I love Orson Scott Card. He can create a cast of normal people that inhabit worlds that are quite bizarrre and make it seem real. I enjoyed The Gate Thief, but I get distracted when authors try to pull in religious themes and twist them around to fit into their own mold. For example, the bad guy in The Gate Thief is a creature called the Belmage, a being from another planet that can take possession of people’s bodies. He was kicked out of one world with a host of others, an obvious reference to Satan and demons. It bugged me; the reference was almost there but yet different. Anne Perry did the same thing when she left her amazing Victorian detective novels to write a fantasy based on Mormon theology. I love Anne Perry, but all I remember about that particular book was the attempt to twist a ready-made theme to tell a new story and how it left me unsatisfied.

C. S. Lewis did the same with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but he did it very successfully. Maybe the key is the theme you are using…there is something about a friend who sacrifices everything for you that strikes directly at your heart.

Okay, I can rant about my lack of enthusiasm for historical fiction, but Anne Perry’s newest Victorian mystery is next up on my reading list…and also some classic SciFi in the form of Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination.

If Downton Abbey was a book, I think I would have never thought to pick it up. Beautiful scenery and costumes and acting make it worth watching, but I’m not sure I care if Bates can ditch his nasty wife and marry the sweet housemaid, or if the footman will make it back safely from the war and marry the kitchen girl who really doesn’t want to marry him, or if the heir to Downton will choose the traitorous woman or the Crowley daughter who can’t tell him how she really feels. It’s too much, real life times ten.

I’ll just wait patiently for the next funny romance from Kirstan Higgins, so the end of the book will leave me with a smile, a sigh, and an “aww.”

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