Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tastes Change

Brussels sprouts1 Over time, tastes change.

When I was newly married, my lovely bride and I found this little pottery shop in the "historical" section of the town where we lived. They produced all types of stuff, but we fell in love with a very distinctive artist who produced very distinctive work (mostly bowls and vases). The pieces came in different shades of green and gray, and no two were alike. Like I said, distinctive. We bought a couple bowls for us, and we gave bowls and vases to several couples as wedding presents.

Recently, I came upon one of these bowls hidden away in a credenza, and I realized that, in this case, "distinctive" means "hideous." So I'd like to take this opportunity to publicly apologize to those couples who we "honored" with such great gifts. Of course, I have to apologize publicly, because they are no longer speaking to us.

Tastes in reading change, too. When I was a teenager, I read almost exclusively science fiction. Then I segued into horror, devouring everything that Dean Koontz and Stephen King churned out (and that was a lot!). Recently, though, I tried to re-read an early Koontz book and couldn't get past page 10. Too much exposition, too much description. The words hadn't changed, but my tastes sure had.

My tastes in mystery/crime fiction also have changed. I started out reading Agatha Christie. Then, when I lived in Boston, I got turned on to Robert B. Parker. And Kellerman and Sandford and Child and Connelly and Grisham and so on. But I haven't picked up all the latest books by these great authors. Why not? I'm not sure if just need a break from their series/styles, or if my tastes are changing yet again.

Don't even get me started about my own work (although it might not be accurate to say my tastes have changed. More likely, it's my writing that's changed). Have you ever written something you thought was good, then pulled it out of a drawer years later, only to cringe at every other word? This happened with my second completed manuscript. I'd written it, but didn't really query it (I was very excited about the next thing I was working on). About a year ago, I retrieved it and gave it a quick scan. I still liked the story and the protagonist's dilemma (a lot). I still liked the characters (a lot). But the prose? Wretched (a lot).

The remedy? I opened the old manuscript in one window on my computer, and a blank document in another. Then I rewrote every single sentence from scratch. Now I like the total package.

How have your reading tastes changed? How have any other tastes changed?

(Not all tastes change. I never liked Brussels sprouts as a kid, and I still don't.)



The Malice Domestic mystery convention begins tomorrow, and I'm very excited. I can't wait to meet some of my fellow MI authors, as well as readers of this blog, as well as other mystery lovers. If you see me, please come up and say hello!

And, speaking of "tastes," if you sit at my table during Saturday morning's New Author Breakfast, you can get a taste of my homemade chocolate babka (see my post at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen today for the recipe!).


Lisa Bork said...

Alan, I can't sit at your table because I have one of my own. Will you save me some babka? I'm bringing your book to read on the plane :)

G.M. Malliet said...

I have my own table, too, Alan, and that may be true of all the MInkers. We will all have to mingle, mingle between tables if there's a chance.

I went through a phase of colonial everything and while I haven't switched to modern I definitely shudder at some of my early choices. And you have well described my waning interest in some of my early reading choices. I think the old brain just changes shape over time.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Tastes DO change, don't they? Sorry about the hideous pottery. :)

Brussels sprouts aren't so bad! You just have to drown them in cream and garlic.

And...yeah, I've got some old, icky manuscripts hiding in a drawer.

Think I'm going to be at the SinC bfast that morning. If it's the same morning. I've got to figure out this schedule!

Mystery Writing is Murder

G.M. Malliet said...

Sorry, sorry! I thought you were talking of tables at the awards dinner Saturday night. Reading comprehension skills hitting a new nadir.

Keith Raffel said...

Nice post, Alan.

In college I dressed in khakis and penny loafers. Still do.

At age 9 became a Giants fan. Still live and (mostly) die with them.

Read the Maltese Falcon as a teen. Thought it was the best crime fiction ever written. Still do.

Married 23 years ago. Still am (to the same woman).

Call me staid if you want, but never fickle. Save me some babka, please.

Alan Orloff said...

Lisa - I'll do my best to save you a slice, but once the cake gets to the table...might be a feeding frenzy.

Gin - Yes, I think you're right about the brain changing shape. Mine is definitely getting smaller.

Elizabeth - I don't like cream either. I think the SinC breakfast is on Sunday.

Keith - Well, someone has to remain steady and solid. Too bad you won't be at Malice, Keith. I'll try to represent for our gender.

Unknown said...

I was once a Koontz and King fan myself during my 20s. Now I love to read sci-fi and crime thrillers. One author in particular I have newly discovered is Mike Hogan, who just put out an intriguing book entitled, "The Ovary Wars." The story is about a terrorist who sets out to destroy fertility. There are a lot of twists and turns in this one and I couldn't put it down. I can't wait to read his other books!

G.M. Malliet said...

OK, you made me laugh, Alan. I think my brain is becoming not only smaller but kidney-shaped.

Keith Raffel said...

Oh, yeah. Forgot to mention one thing. I have career ADD.