Why reading a novel can be a lot like watching a TV weather report
February 21, 2013
I was watching the weather report on Television the other afternoon, and it reminded me of a lot of some novels I have read during the past few years.
The station had broken into its regular programming to let us know that we were under a severe weather alert and facing a dire situation.
Hail on the way.
Rotation in the clouds.
Reports of funnel clouds.
A tornado watch, then a warning.
The sky had turned black, and thunder was rumbling in the distance.
It was everything a good mystery or thriller should be.
That’s what the images on the television screen exposed.
That’s what the meteorologist was saying with the solemn tone and facial expression of a mortician on the way to a funeral.
It looked and sounded as though the end of the world was upon us.
I glanced out the window.
The sky was blue.
The sun was shining.
Nothing was happening.
A sheriff’s deputy near Beckville was calling in to say the tornado was on the ground.
The reporter waited.
But hang on again. Don’t leave me now.
Strong winds were blowing through the streets of Tenaha with hurricane force. The little town might not survive.
The town waited.
The people hunkered down and waited.
For an hour and forty-seven minutes, we hung on with broken fingernails, expecting disaster and fearing the worst.
Then the powers that be suddenly lifted the storm warning.
They cancelled the tornado watch.
The meteorologist smiled into the camera as though he had had ridden like Paul Revere and saved us all from an advancing catastrophe.
And the station resumed its normal programming.
That’s little different from so many novels I’ve read. The authors promise all sorts of intrigue and secrets, enigmas and threats.
But the plot runs off in one direction. The subplots all run off in another. And the characters are stacked like cords of deadwood in the corner.
When it’s all said and done – when I read the final word on the final page – nothing has happened.
And just like it was when I sat on the edge of my chair during the weather report, I can’t get my hour and forty-seven minutes back.