Finally, A Day to Breath
I took my first day off in a long time yesterday. It's been Writers' Week at Mt. San Antonio College where I teach and help to run the creative writing program, and that means chaos for me. Writers, students, and teachers have differing needs. All of those needs make a lot of sense, but it just means that I'm working like crazy all the time. I'm hoping everything slows down now. I have some editing work to do.
But I took yesterday off. It's nice to have a Saturday off. What did I do? Well, if you know me, you know that I Nero Wolfe-ed out. I took a morning run on a treadmill at a blank wall listening to a novel. Then I came back and watched a Nero Wolfe DVD with my wife Ann and my dog who’s name after one of the characters in the books. Then I read a couple of the novellas.
So why in the world would I spend the day doing that? How does that mellow me out?
I've talked to a lot of people who have said that they don't like mystery novel series because in each novel, everything needs to be reestablished. That is, of course, true, but what they don't get is that the reestablishment of the setting and character is the joy.
A mystery series like Nero Wolfe is all about the danger outsiders bring to the paradise of the novel. We who love these novels love being in that safe and fantastic place. We fantasize about being there. That sounds strange, but it's easily translatable into any genre that you love.
SciFi fans love the starship Enterprise. The joy of that show is returning again and again to the helm to watch the paradise of the crew working together to find morality in a world of chaos.
Fantasy fans love Rivendell. It's a place of permanent peace and art and music, completely safe from Sauron, and whatever is going on at the office.
Romance fans have the stability of the home that all of their characters journey towards.
That's the joy. That's the comfort.
The tension and conflict that the novels have is with the idea that the paradise might be destroyed. That's what keeps us reading the Lord of the Rings. Rivendell might fall. Hobbiton might be destroyed. That's the conflict in every single Star Trek episode. The Enterprise is under attack. It's the reason after I've had a hard time, I read my Nero Wolfe novels. There aren't a lot of guaranteed safe places in this world, but Nero's office is certainly one of them.