Thursday, June 07, 2007

Looking Ahead

Slate: Death of 'The Sopranos' - washingtonpost.com

While the link above is a discussion of The Sopranos, I've really posted it to ask an unrelated question inspired by it. Timothy Noah, whose writing I often enjoy, says something here that rings false for me, and I want to know if others feel the same. In trying to blow off a question asking him to predict the fate of certain characters, he writes:
I've tried to avoid predictions, and focus instead on responding to the series as it unfolds. When you're reading a novel you don't pause to predict out loud what you think is going to happen. You press on with fascination to see how the author is going to end it, and to assess how well he or she pulls it off.
I don't know about you--that's why I'm asking--but I do pause and "predict out loud" what I think will happen. "Oh no, she's going to die," or, "I bet the baby is his," or, "those two will end up together."

And why not? In fact, I would argue that it's a disservice to the author NOT to look ahead and try to guess what will happen. If you have no expectations, how can the author shock and surprise you by subverting them? How can a writer lead you down a path that fulfills your desires for the characters if you don't stop to think about what could, and should, happen to them? I know I'm reading a really good book when I can't help but react verbally to it, laughing out loud, predicting out loud, gasping when things go awry. I did it today while reading over lunch (with my office door shut, mind you) and knew I was engaged in my current reading material.

What do you think? Is Noah right, or is it natural--and desirable--to think ahead and predict how events in the book you're reading will unfold?

2 comments:

Carissa said...

What good book are you reading?

Richard said...

The book I was reading when I posted this was A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, who wrote The Kite Runner. It was excellent!