Books and Blogs

I seem to be doing my blogging later and later as time goes on. Unfortunately, inspiration is hard to come by when one spends most of one’s time alone. And then there is the matter of laziness, perhaps, or simply a tendency toward procrastination. Either way, here I am with my lights on since it’s dark outside, trying to think of something interesting to say. One of these days, I will give in to the temptation to let a day or two slide, but for now, I’ve committed to daily blogging for the rest of the year.

Just about the only thing I’ve been thinking about (other than that it will be another six months before I can get back into gardening) is the awful book I just finished reading. I could have put it aside at any time, of course, but then the uneasiness fostered by the story would have lingered much longer than it would by finishing it. Normally I don’t read contemporary women’s lit, but I needed a break from my usual diet of murder and suspense, which is a mistake I won’t be making again soon.

There seem to be two types of books that are targeted specifically for women — happily-ever-after stories (romances that tell the beginning of a relationship), and unhappily-ever-after stories, (novels that tell what happens to the loving couple after many years of being together).

This particular book was of the second variety. The main theme was about communication; none of the characters every told their partner what they were thinking. They expected the other person to know what was going on in their minds without their having to say a single word, and each character interpreted their partner’s actions in light of their own insecurities rather than the partner’s.

Even worse, the novel told three very loosely connected stories. The only connecting element was a house that none of them end up with; otherwise, the three stories had nothing to do with one another. Worst of all, there was nothing in any of the stories to offset the growing sense of dread and dreariness as the couples all drifted further apart. Just misunderstanding built on misunderstanding built on misunderstanding.

Simple discussions at the beginning of the book would have swept away all those misunderstandings. But then, there would have been no book for me to suffer through. Nor would I have had anything to write about today.

One of the stories was about a couple who were divorced from their original partners, and who ended up getting married. Since each had children from the prior marriage, and each child brought their own insecurities to the new home, dread was piled on dread. Some of that dread, I am sure, has to do with my own situation. I am at the age where, if I ever ended up in another relationship, it would be complicated by his children and grandchildren and perhaps even a great-grandbaby or two. (Unless, of course, he’s the type to eschew all family, in which case he wouldn’t be worth having.) The mere thought of having to sort out and find a way to combine the baggage of two lifetimes wearies me.

Luckily, I have no interest in another relationship. I have a house (and this blog), and that’s about as much responsibility as I want in my life.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

This Thing Called Communication

Whenever I start patting myself on the back for my ability to write, something happens to make me realize how very difficult is this thing called communication.

Today I texted someone to give my opinion about a course of action he was planning to take that would affect me. I immediately received a call from him chastising me for my anger. I was taken aback because I wasn’t angry. I was being direct, or at least thought I was.

phoneI got upset with the situation, and remarked this was always happening to me — I say something that seems unadorned and direct, and the recipient reads it as anger. My communicant today responded, “If it always happens, maybe the problem is with you.”

Perhaps it is. If so, how would I know? I only know what it is I think I am saying, not what it is people hear when they read my words. But come to think of it, even if I were angry, what difference does it make? I’m allowed my own reaction, especially when it comes to things that affect me.

Today, because of his call, we were able to smooth things over. Both of us apologized for the misunderstanding, but that ease of voice-to-voice communication is not always possible. And when that happens, things drag on, with the situation getting ever more complicated. I try to explain myself in subsequent emails but end up only deepening the misunderstanding, because each explanation seems as if I’m refueling the anger.

When we write fiction, we write to evoke emotions — anger, nostalgia, humor — but people don’t always respond the way we want them to. Sometimes the humor falls flat, the romance seems uninspired, the pathos insipid, but we as writers don’t end up in imbroglios because of the miscommunication. In fact, we seldom even know where it is we lost those particular readers, or if they even care. Maybe they felt something completely different and just as meaningful as what we intended.

But real life isn’t as easy. We leave people with impressions we don’t want to make, and no matter how precise we think we’re being, we end up causing confusion. Case in point: I sent this text to the executor of my father’s estate: “I’ve got a note on the cable box that it has to be returned to the company.” And I do have a note taped to the box. I put it there as a reminder to return the box when the house is sold. I just wanted to make sure it didn’t get forgotten or thrown out in the flurry of post-sale activity. But the executor thought I meant that I received a note from the cable company about the box. Eek.

Considering all the misinterpretations that are possible as words slip from one mind to another, it’s amazing that we can communicate at all.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.