Where The Crawdads Sing

Where The Crawdads Sing

It’s rare that number one delivers. It’s oftentimes dumbed-down, made to appeal to the masses, when the truth is we want something that appeals to our hearts.

A book is a journey. And you don’t want to find out halfway through that you don’t want to get to the destination. You’ve figured out the plot, you know where it’s going, and the rest of the ride is akin to that flat track at the end of the roller coaster, not exciting at all.

Now I read the synopsis. And it didn’t appeal to me.

That’s right, I check out the book reviews. Don’t read ’em ’til the end, because they usually give away too much of the plot. Like Pauline Kael, I don’t watch a movie twice and I don’t read a book again. I love the ride.

But today’s literature is often written to impress a small coterie of intellectuals, the supposed seers of literature, who feel they, and only they, should control where reading goes.

So you oftentimes get a book with good writing that goes nowhere. Oftentimes with too much description. The first rule of reading is readability, if it’s not easy to read, it doesn’t matter how important the text is. The second is plot. It’s like a great performance of a bad song, no matter who sings and plays on it, it will never succeed, because that’s not what we’re looking for. What we’re looking for, always, is something different, that resonates, that pierces our hearts and makes us feel warm all over. You know the feeling of hearing a hit track the very first time through. Sure, you might get tired of it down the road, as a result of too much exposure, but… I think of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” or “You Oughta Know,” or “Crazy.” They might be a synthesis of what came before, but with a twist. Nirvana’s song was like punk, fused with the songwriting of the sixties, melodies and a magic chorus. “You Oughta Know” was so in-your-face it was hard to deny. And “Crazy” encapsulated exuberance with a beat…a melding of old soul with today’s sounds.

But the only one of those songs that got me the first time through was “Crazy.” But I felt the same way about Alanis’s “Hand In Pocket.” I’d dance around the house with the volume cranked and it made me feel good.

Most books are not hits, irrelevant of how many copies they might sell. They’re formulaic, or overwritten. When you hear someone say rewriting is the essence of writing run away. That’s like the modern tracks with sixteen writers, art is always about inspiration, and any true artist will tell you you don’t want to mess with the original inspiration, which is why you hear the stories of the demo being the final record.

Furthermore, there are too many genre books. Which I avoid. You know, whodunits, romance. I don’t need to read James Patterson, that’s about commerce, not writing, you might as well sit your ass down in front of a network drama. As if that were satisfying.

But no, we’d rather watch “The Sopranos,” or “House of Cards,” which are too edgy for the usual suspects but end up being legendary because of the truth they contain.

It’s damn hard to create a story out of thin air. But those are the ones we like best. I didn’t feel like I’d read “Lake Success” before.

And almost everything worth reading is fictional. If you’re reading business books to get ahead, the joke is on you. Fiction has more truth than non-fiction. But when non-fiction is well-written with a great story arc, it too can deliver, like John Carreyrou’s book about Theranos, “Bad Blood.” You can’t put it down, even though you know the story. Don’t think if you watched the documentary or listened to the podcast you know the story, there’s so much more. Which is why it’s rare that a movie is better than the book. Ninety minutes compared to ten hours?

Now you’ve got to suspend disbelief if you read “Where The Crawdads Sing.” It won’t be long before you’ll think that can’t happen, and it truly can’t. But, Delia Owens depicts detachment and loneliness so well. The urge to be connected, but the inability to achieve this. Kind of like those incels, they want to get laid, but they don’t know how to approach women, don’t know how to go on a journey littered with anxiety, indecision and cloudiness. If you can’t handle the tension, you’re gonna have trouble in this life.

And forgetting the incels, the rank and file male is just as confused, which is why you end up with rape. They know what they want, they just don’t know how to get it in a reasonable manner. And also don’t realize you can’t always get what you want, even if you’re Mick Jagger.

And that’s in the book too. An aggressive man.

And I don’t want to give away that much more, because it will ruin the experience.

And just because it was recommended by Reese Witherspoon, that does not mean it’s lowbrow crap. That’s what the high and mighty always say when something becomes popular that they didn’t anoint. I wish this would happen in music, not a playlist but one or two tracks a week, but no one’s built up enough credibility to do this. Yes, less is more. Recommend two tracks and I’ll listen, recommend ten and I won’t. Which is why Witherspoon doesn’t recommend a book every week.

Now this is ultimately a genre book, a murder mystery, and you keep thinking you’ve got it figured out when you don’t. But really, it’s not about the mystery at all, but the people. Some never grow up, live in their tiny town on past glories from high school. The star athlete, the prom queen.

And the truth is we’re all ultimately alone, and we feel self-conscious and worried about our interactions. We yearn to be safe, when we never really are. Then there are those afraid of interaction, for fear of loss. You know, like those who have sworn off romance. But without romance, all you’ve got is yearning. So you must try, try and try, and not be frustrated when you keep kissing frogs, your prince is out there, but you’ve got to work on yourself first, know your own foibles and grow. Personality always trumps beauty. May take a while, but the truth always outs. You want someone you can read in bed with, who gets the jokes.

Now there’s too much description in “Where The Crawdad Sings.” And some of the characters are paper thin. But the truth is you reach a point where you can’t put it down.

Not at the beginning. This is one of those books you’ve got to stay with until seven or ten percent of the way through to get hooked. And the more you read, the more you’re hooked, I spent all afternoon finishing it, even though I was only halfway through last night.

Books are different from records. It’s a personal experience. There’s no party, no gig where everybody listens to a song or a performance.

And sure, there are legends whose books are hotly anticipated.

But we’re always looking for something different, something new. And the funny thing is that takes a while to get attention in the marketplace. Most books, like most records, die on arrival. But some limp along until they catch fire, those are the ones we’re interested in.

And if you judge life by how many likes you get, or the car you drive, you probably can’t take time out of your busy day to read a book. But the dirty little secret is breaking up your schedule, ridding yourself of rituals, delivers the greatest rewards. Not only in the doing, but the cleaning out of the brain, the inspiration.

And the funny thing is women rule the book world, because they read. When most men, if they read at all, are into facts, not concepts, and it’s always concepts that win in the end.

So “Where The Crawdads Sing”” is not as good as “Lake Success,” then again it’s totally different. And if you stick with it, it’ll deliver rewards. Then again, if you doubt my credibility read the Theranos book first.

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