Saturday, December 20, 2008

Gone are the Days of Careful Foreshadowing

Three quarters of the way through this blog post, I will get to the point of the post. I am telling you this now so that you keep reading the post until that point, and then I will hope that my main point will keep you reading until the end, when I will tell you once again what I have told you.

Actually I am not sure if the above will hold true. But I do know I have noticed that the older a book is, the less likely it is to have a "prologue" or an italicized section designed to give you a reason to read the first 250 pages, or a first chapter that seems to come from a different, more piquant story than the one you soon begin to read; until you realize that the chapter you just read actually comes from somewhere in the middle of the book.

Seems like this is a crutch for the modern writer. Does it mean the moderns are less skillful? I am not one to say (or at least not one to write). But I do know I have a tough time imagining Flaubert needing to spill a few beans about Madame Bovary at the beginning, only to spill the rest of them later.

Movies have indulged in this for quite some time--or anyway, it seems they started doing it before authors took it up. Maybe that's because movies have long been made for a busy audience--folks who don't have that much time and who need to be reassured that, if they spend some time on this story of yours, they will be rewarded later.

Gone are the days of careful foreshadowing: when, just by telling the tale very skillfully, the author was able to convey a sense of what was to come. Here are the days of blunt propositions: step right up--have a peep inside! We won't disappoint!

We get bored so easily today. We feel left out and lonesome if we discover ourselves reading a book that has not already given us every reason to believe we will have made good use of the time we've spent. The prospect of having spent an hour alone, risking the failure of our reading investment, seems to shame us into leaving books closed that have not early made us secure.