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bear by san

March 2017

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bear by san

the perfect book.

I probably shouldn't be as amused that I am that I asked people to describe the perfect book, thinking they would talk about the book they wanted to read, and everybody's talking about the book they want to write. *g*

My perfect book exists on many levels. It's rich and steeped in insights, but the language is facile without losing lyricism. It's about someone who isn't perfect when the book begins, but who is broken in interesting ways, and who isn't perfect when the book ends either, but is even more interesting and maybe a little wiser. It has adventure and derring-do and characters I believe in, and a little mystery, and no stupid romances for their own sake, and it probably has a death-or-glory stand. It's honest about the ugly bits, because that makes the lovely bits stronger. It's salty and funny and sweet and it's true, and it has me crying on one page and laughing on the next.

And it probably has a harpy in it. Or, failing that, a dragon.

I've found a lot of books that are close to my perfect book. So far, The Last Unicorn is the nearest thing I've found.

mmm. books.

Comments

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The Last Unicorn has the further point in its favor of being equally wonderful when read silently to oneself, or read aloud to someone else. Though probably that's covered under your description of language that is "facile without losing lyricism."
My perfect book involves magic. The book's central issue is something that really matters - less Bridget Jones, more Dark is Rising - and the magic somehow impacts that issue. The book has layers, so that each time you read it you get something more out of it, but the top and most shallow layer is corking good story and it's perfectly possible just to read and enjoy it for that. There are deeper truths buried in it, but though they are implicit to and essential in the story they don't bludgeon the reader - again, it can be read just as a story. There are some beautiful turns of phrase, but the language never obtrudes on the experience of immersing yourself in the book - that is, one day on the tenth reread you might stop and notice how well-crafted the language is, but it never gets in your way or is self-conscious about its beauty.

I can identify with at least some of the characters, and the protagonists grow during the story. I'd prefer it to at least start in the workaday world, though it may then go elsewhere. And the characters do stuff, even if sometimes it's the wrong thing to do - they're not just acted upon.
Given your constituency? You should totally not be surprised. :)

I'm still contemplating a good answer to this question. There's description of the writing, description of the contents, and description of the results of reading - and I'm not sure but that going with the last of those may not be cheating. If I say, "A book that makes me laugh and wince, sometimes at the same time, fills me with the urge to read bits of it aloud to anyone in earshot, makes me - if I'm alone in the house - shout at the book at least once, but still leaves me satisfied with the conclusion, and which is good for multiple, multiple re-reads," well, that's all true. But it doesn't really say anything about the book that anyone else could identify. That's not my perfect book, that's my perfect reading experience - or one of them.

I think, though, any other description would end up being along the lines of, "Is written like this, has that, focuses on characters that are this, has a story which never does that, and is good enough to violate any of these dicta and make me like it anyhow."

Well, if there were recipes for these things, writing might still be a craft, but it wouldn't be an art.
Well, the way you phrased the question really does suggest that it's the book you would want to write. The perfect book that "lives in your head" implies that it hasn't been written yet, otherwise it wouldn't be in your head -- it'd be in your library! And besides, for many, the book they want to write is also the book they want to read.
Not at all. The perfect book that lives in my head is the platonic ideal book that every book gets compared to as I read it.

And of course it doesn't exist in the real world. It's *perfect.* Nonexistence is implied.
I'm not sure how I feel about it now, but twenty years ago I read, "A Soldier of the Great War" by Mark Helprin, and it fit that description.

And it has a small touch of the fantastic.

TK
I liked his New York book with the horse; I should read more of his work.

If I were to WRITE the perfect book, my head would need to be in some sort of coherent and logical order, and I'm afraid that I quite like it in its state of disarray. I can find things.

While I have to admit shame at not (ever) having read The Last Unicorn (and don't ask me why I haven't; I read hundreds of books a year in my childhood and teenage years too), I find my self agreeing with your description of what a perfect book would be for me.

I've always been primarily a fantasy and science fiction reader, but I found that book in The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay.

But there is no harpy or dragon in it.

(Anonymous)

It would look a lot like "Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones" or "Lord of Light" but a LOT, LOT longer. It would be set in the future, but not the nanotech/sigularity future, a strong viewpoint character with a Past, many interesting other characters (some alien or really, really Other) who also share the viewpoint, lots of snappy dialogue, some philosophical questions discussed but probably unanswered, and a certain amount of derring do for a noble cause. Oh, and lyricism. Yes, a goodly amount of lyricism, with plainer language for the fast parts. George R. R. Martin can do this sometimes and he does do dragons.
It would look a lot like "Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones" or "Lord of Light" but a LOT, LOT longer. It would be set in the future, but not the nanotech/sigularity future, a strong viewpoint character with a Past, many interesting other characters (some alien or really, really Other) who also share the viewpoint, lots of snappy dialogue, some philosophical questions discussed but probably unanswered, and a certain amount of derring do for a noble cause. Oh, and lyricism. Yes, a goodly amount of lyricism, with plainer language for the fast parts. George R. R. Martin can do this sometimes and he does do dragons.
I don't belive in perfection, but "The Dragon Masters" by Jack Vance is a pretty good book.. Also "The Hobbitt" by you know who... The Last Unicorn is very well done.. And "Huckleberry Finn" has very little slack in it..
The reason I started writing in the first place is that, at the age of approximately twelve, I flung my hands in the air in frustration at the fact that people weren't writing what I wanted to read -- and if they were, they weren't doing it fast enough, dammit!

So, in theory, the perfect book for my reading pleasure is one I would write myself. Who else can you trust to do it right? ;)

I must say, it's a good thing I still think I'm funny, though. Otherwise I don't know what I'd do. :)
For a writer, aren't the two things pretty much the same?

I know that the main reason I write is because the books I really really crave to read don't exist yet, so I have to make 'em myself.
I can't write the books I want to read. There's no mystery in my books. Where's the fun in that?
My perfect book would have: adventure, intrigue, humour, drama, mystery, and a dose of romance (but not so much that it takes over the story). It would probably be an urban fantasy, but would not have vampires or werewolves. Not that I have anything against vampires or werewolves, but I'm getting a bit tired of them. It would not be set in the United States. Again, not that I have anything against stories set in the U.S., but I'm getting tired of them and would like to see something different.

If it isn't a contemporary urban fantasy, then it would be a fantasy set in some little-seen setting like Regency England, or Renaissance Italy, or Northern Europe during the baroque period, or maybe Imperial Russia... you get the idea. It would be free of the irritating spelling and grammatical errors that are my pet peeves.

Most importantly, it would not take itself too seriously. I detest books that take themselves too seriously. I want a good story, not a pretentious, unreadable 'literary masterpiece'.
That sounds a bit like Sorcery and Cecelia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot and sequel, by Pat Wrede and Caroline Stevermer.
Mine would look suspiciously like One Hundred Years Of Solitude. Mind you, it's been a decade since I've read it. But my suspicion is it holds up.
*raises hand, hoping not to attract attention to the t-shirt that says 'I'm with stupid - he's the one wearing this t-shirt'*

I cannot think of what a perfect book would be, but I had a rather fascinating idea of what it would do: Be incredibly rereadable.

I now return to being terribly unhelpful and quiet.
*g* I like that.
Swordspoint. But with maybe a little more music in it.

Seriously, if I had to BE a book, just one book, the way one is in Fahrenheit 451, that's the book I'd be.

If the (lovely, somewhat understated) sex scenes in it were also telepathic, it'd nail EVERY. LAST. ONE. of my bulletproof kinks.
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