Before movies, television, and the internet, there were books, which provided not only knowledge and information but also entertainment to those who weren’t able to get to the theater. In that spirit, perhaps I should have warned anyone who approaches my books expecting to be entertained that they are very likely to be disappointed. Because that is not what I do. I do not write to entertain, and that is perhaps the biggest mistake that I am making. But I will continue to make it, because I truly believe that, if I don’t tell the stories I’m writing, they will never be told. Not by me, nor about the people whose stories they are. They will die with me, and I believe there is too much potential for human commiseration within their margins for me to allow that to happen.
The fact that my own sales are faring so poorly comes as no surprise to me and has been pointed out to me on several occasions now. The word “book” means different things to different people. Judging by what sells and by what most people are reading, sensationalism in one form or another appears to dominate a market literally flooded with stories that deal with sex, violence, horror, mystery, crime, and depravity in one form or another. Sure, these things all happen each and every day in all our lives, as the evening news so obligingly attests to. But are those the only stories happening out there? What about the small dramas that play themselves out in our daily lives? Whatever happened to imagination, to taking a dull commonplace event such as a blizzard or a cancer diagnosis and putting a new twist to it, and making it more accessible?
Are our lives so lacking that we must fill in their mundane moments with as much spectacle and sensationalism as possible? The human mind is a microcosm of the big world out there, and we live out our individual lives according to the scripts we write for ourselves moment by moment, setback by setback, and triumph by triumph. And for some reason, we are fascinated and enthralled now only by the extremes that are possible within the range of human capability.
But what about the small stuff, the little stories, the details that get lost in the sauce as we insist on adding more spices to it to improve its flavor and make it more palatable?
I will continue to write the boring stories, the stories about the “little guys,” as my father used to call them, people who haven’t killed anyone or started wars or lived fantastical lives with their backs constantly arched across beds strewn with rose petals. Because greater than making a few dollars or a name for myself is the imperative to tell the unimportant less sensational stories, the ones that don’t matter, or sell, and to give all those who live on the fringes their due as members of this vast drama called life.
Because if I don’t tell them, no one will. And I think they’re too important not to.