Monday, January 10, 2011

Snacky Prose (and Hunger Games)

I really like perfect combinations. Especially combinations of perfect beverage for certain foods. I geek out about wine pairings. I pick my teas dependent on what kind of cookie I'm having (let me tell you, double-spice chai and a caramel wafer....heaven). It's probably getting a little out of hand.

I have two all-time favorite food/beverage pairings. One is kettle-cooked potato chips, liberally salted but not over-much, with a hearty ale. The other is a square of dark chocolate and a glass of deep red wine.

Clearly, two very different pairings with two very different modes of satisfaction behind them. But it connects to writing--and reading. I promise.

I finally got around to reading the Hunger Games series. Yes, I'm a little Johnny-Come-Lately, but I cued up Books One and Two on my Nook and went to town (haven't read Mockingjay yet, don't tell me a thing!). But it struck me, as I was plowing through Catching Fire, that I plow through my little bowl of salty kettle cooked potato chips in much the same way.

Collins did not write books that make you slow down and savor, the way I savor those little wedges of dark chocolate and the accompanying good red wine. This is not a bad thing. A great snack, and a great read, does not mean it's like every other great snack or read. Collins made me keep moving, turning pages, caught on the ride. And I enjoyed that. But many of my favorite books are sloowwww dooowwwwn books. Books that make you taste the words one by one, swirling them the way the wine swirls in a glass, inhaled like a wine's bouquet.

I like both my kinds of snacks. Some afternoons, after a busy day of work and a round of "scrub the bathroom" I crave the crackle and refreshment to be found in a bowl of chips and a glass of cold beer. And sometimes, in the last golden hours of twilight, nothing fits like some dark chocolate and my favorite Malbec. So it is with reading--there are times I want delicately rendered, beautiful prose, and times I want to get dragged along for a swiftly moving story and prose that keeps me turning pages, not stopping to enjoy the scenery.

And so it is, I think, for writing. With such varying appetites out there, we need our chips and chocolate...and veggie trays and bubble gum and balsamic reductions. It can all be good writing. I've noticed debate spring up over what kind of writing is "better"--the brisk style or the langorous one--with fiery opinions on both sides. You know what? There is no better. You can't compare my chips to my chocolate, and you can't compare different writing for "better" and "worse" either. They're both great--for the right mood.

What do you think? Is there a "better"? Do you tend to be a chips or chocolate person--in reading, writing, and/or snacking?


Connie said...

I'm like you. There's a time for chips and beer and a time for chocolate and Cabernet. So there's a time for fast paced YA books and a time for lit fict. Everything is good in its own time.

Jill said...

The ones I want to keep on my shelves forever are the slow ones, and they're the ones I read over and over again. But I like a good, quick read, too. And you're going to have to tell me what kind of malbec you drink. I haven't warmed to the taste of it yet. Cabernets are great, and good merlots are yummy. I even enjoy the occasional riesling, though I don't know what you'd pair that with! It's so light and fruity, it probably doesn't pair as well with chocolate.

Would you believe that I sometimes eat chips with my wine??

KO: The Insect Collector said...

umm, now I definitely need a snack AND a glass of wine... but it's way too early!
I am just about to read Mockingjay myself.
I agree with you, different books are satisfying in different ways. Love this analogy.

Marg said...

The Hunger Games is definitely a book that you read in the same way as something incredibly more-ish. Suddenly you look down and realise that you have eaten the whole bowl!

Rowenna said...

Connie--yes, definitely times for both (and um, times for both in the same day!)

Jill--I love Cabernet, too :) The first Malbec I tried was Cupcake Malbec--a touch sweeter, but it's pretty tasty and widely available. Honestly...I get a lot of my wine at the "outlet" place in town, so weird, unheard of vineyards and brands! Just discovered, by the way, that Reisling and spicy mac n cheese is pretty tasty together! Odd.

KO--LOL! Enjoy Mockingjay--let me know what you think!

Marg--yes! Ooops, I ate the whole bag...What happened, I read fifty pages without realizing it?!

Caroline said...

I really wish people would quit trying to define the perfect style of writing. It's obnoxious. And impossible because all readers are not the same. Just as all writers are not the same.

I generally like fast paced novels. Probably because I'm a fast paced person. I'm either being lazy or running from one activity to another. I don't like flowery, over done descriptions. I write the same way, generally focusing on dialogue, and not the scenery. This used to worry me because I felt like I wasn't doing a good job of conveying the time period. But my readers said they still get a sense of time and space, even though my prose is spare. So I guess my job is done. :-)