Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Weight of Expectations

It occurred to me sometimes that expectations can take some of the joy out of an experience. It was triggered today by the rather lackluster parade I went to with the family. The entire thing lasted maybe 15 minutes, and then it was over. It was less a parade than a traffic jam in green. And while I have no idea why the parade was such a bust (the local Halloween parade is huge by comparison), I did realize that despite my disappointment, my daughter wasn't. She's five, of course, and there was candy and balloons so that alone probably made it worth her while. She didn't have the weight of expectations to deal with either, though, having only been to a few other parades.

Then I was listening to a review of "Watchmen" which I confess to owning and having read at least a dozen times since first buying it. It is, in my humble and entirely unprofessional opinion, a tour de force in comics, and the one comic that should be on a "must read" list along side other titles of great literature. (Heck, it could replace several Dickens' titles if I had my way.) Early reviews and such seem to indicate that the comic faithful will enjoy the movie, but that it may go over less well with the general public. Despite the hype and expectations, some reviewers who enjoyed the source material found the work a little too faithful, which is something that can work for and against adaptations. (The "Lord of the Rings" springs to mind, despite it's being exceptionally well done.)

Then there was the book I got from the library a few weeks back. Big expectations. Rave reviews from lots of people I know and talk to. Great book. Must read. And... utter disappointment. I'm not entirely convinced I would have enjoyed the book or found it all that great even without the expectations, but under the added pressure to live up to what I'd been told it folded miserably.

Some of it was just the bad writing, as it was another example of an author violating some of those "sacred covenants" of writing - like "show don't tell" - and doing it badly, serving up examples of why the rules are there. But at least some of it was the nagging thought in the back of my mind that I had picked this book up, and gone to some trouble to be sure it was the first in the series because there are now three of them, expressly because it was supposed to be good. And yet I barely managed to finish it, because by the end I just didn't care about what I was reading.

And that's the one expectation that has to be fulfilled with any book - there has to be a reason to care about what you're reading.

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