Where have all the phone booths gone?
Belonging to four different book clubs isn't a sane lifestyle choice for everyone, but I find it empowering. Along with obvious socialization benefits comes the potential for quadruple rewards in the "wouldn't have picked it on my own" department. Completing all the assigned books and some personal selections enhances my sense of balance. When, in addition to the reading, I achieve a certain degree of house/garden maintenance (beyond minimal but short of Martha Stewart), I feel practically superhuman.
Of course, that means I'm susceptible to Literary Kryptonite. You are, too, and you probably know what that is: an element, passage, or scene that doesn't work for you at all, brings your mood waaaay down, ruins your day, prompts you to wish you'd spent that time in a more beneficial activity, say, eating M&Ms while watching Project Runway reruns.
For some, the debilitating effects of LK attack in the form of lengthy descriptive passages detailing what characters wear, what passers-by are doing, etc. The substance that enervates other readers may be inconclusive conclusions, endings that leave them to ponder what may or may not have happened to the characters, since the author isn't saying. I actually happen to enjoy that sort of thing.
But here's what knocked the wind out of my psyche this week: two skillfully composed passages in different books (perhaps too expertly conveyed) in which a killer has mortally wounded his prey and then remains beside the victim, entirely aware of that person's agony and wishing for his own convenience that the individual would go and ahead cease his/her efforts to survive. When I realized that I was encountering, in the space of three days, a second instance in which a dying character's quivering hand desperately stretched toward the only possible rescuer--the cold-blood killer--I felt victimized myself.
I won't ruin the first book for you by revealing the name; the second was a Jim Thompson title--The Killer Inside Me--so, no worries about spoiler alerts. Both feature masterful prose and riveting plots. Nevertheless, along with M&Ms, I immediately sought an unassigned novel to restore my equilibrium. Though Yukio Mishima never managed to achieve his own personal balance, his lovely The Sound of Waves proved the perfect antidote for the dreaded LK. The person who recommended it to me is decidedly a superhero.