f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: More on Violence

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Thursday, September 14, 2006

More on Violence

It's been a hectic week, folks. (Likely to be hectic next week, too, as I prepare to join, well, apparently 90% of you in Dallas at ACFW.) So posting's been light.

Mark Bertrand, who's apparently too high and mighty to post comments here decided to post his thoughts at his own blog. So here's a link to them. The thing that sparked in my mind is that the novels that stand out in my mind as being the most "violent" are both representative of genre fiction--and yet somehow felt more dangerous/real/close than much of the genre fiction I've read.

For instance...you take a serial killer novel like The Bone Collector which has some pretty brutal moments in it. I think it's the last in that style that I read. On the surface, the point of the book was a mystery behind the identity of the serial killer...but in the end I felt the real point of the book was the flair and creativity with which people could be could be killed. (I believe rats played a part.) That's what the genre seems to lead to in the end. Upping the ante on death. You see it in procedural shows like C.S.I. and all the crime shows all the time. The point of the narrative becomes getting the viewer/reader to go "Wow...never seen anybody use a lamprey to desanguinate their victims before."

I think there's something troubling about pursuing the "wow" factor.

Meanwhile, as everybody has stated, there's real power in exploring the shattering effects of violence, the existence of evil, etc., etc. Otherwise it's just "pop" violence. It becomes affectless...or worse, numbing. I remember the one fight I had in middle school. "Numb" isn't how I left it. I left in pain. Violence should hurt.

All that leads to the two novels that "hurt" me. (This has probably gotten a bit overstated at this point...but bear with me.)

One I've mentioned before: Scott Smith's A Simple Plan. This a novel that shows there's consequences for your actions. And without repentence, remorse, accountability...yikes.

The other, appropriately enough, is called Violence by Richard Bausch. I read it a while ago, so I can't even fully describe the plot. All I know is I put the book down feeling like I'd be in a boxing ring. It beat me up like a thug in Hell's Kitchen and said, "You think you wanna read your little suspense novel with stabbings and killings and everything, punk? Here's what they don't tell you." (And, yes, it sounded a little like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas.)

These are not reading experiences I recommend lightly. I'm not 100% how good they are for the soul. I do think they were better for my soul than The Bone Collector though. Sure evil was conquered in that book...but horrific violence became almost mechanical. Set pieces to scamper through until the big unveiling. And I was left untouched. Unharmed.