Jun 20, 2011
Book reading 301
(Pic adapted from Cartoon Stock)
I feel that a great fiction must keep the reader so engrossed that one should get no clue about the ending of the book - both 'how' and 'when' it ends. As you are holding the book and reading it, you know that you are approaching the end, because on the right side of the book, the pages are going to exhaust. Imagine, on the other hand, the publisher keeps some unspecified number of dummy pages. Either you know about it, or you don't. That can work in 2 ways as one can see. Unless you are too curious like some people that you WANT to know how many pages are left, you will be kept in suspense as to where you are in the fiction - towards the end, or somewhere in the mdidle. I think that is the right way how a work of fiction should be.
The same thing can be applied for a movie too. It can be a 1 1/2 hr movie like most Hollywood products, or the 3 hour epics like the LOTR trilogy. Either way, not knowing the actual duration of the movie and not peeking into the watch, one can truly enjoy this other form of fiction, though the screenplay usually revs up quite a bit as moves towards climax.
Now, as I am talking abt movies in the context of books, let me also talk on the suspense in movies adapted from books. When Suhasini remarked in her movie review that it was so easy to guess who the culprit was in 'Angels & Demons', I was like 'Come on, you can't, unless you have read the book'. But, when I think about it, if you are reasonably good at movies, you can! When you see someone like Ewan McGregor in a role, you immediately sense that his role is damn important. And with Tom Hanks as the protagonist, it extrapolates itself to Ewan as the antagonist. Such a revelation could be averted by either making the entire cast from famous stars, or by giving that role to someone unknown. He could be a new, talented Hollywood actor (hard, as he c'd have made it big in some other media), or an established actor from European countries.
Such a revelation of importance can be camouflaged in books, as it provides the liberty of hiding the face and character while introducing the character. Still, usually the authors would give an elaborate physical description of that character, but as (and if) they do so to several other characters too, the importance of the suspense character isnt explicitly revealed.
Now, back to the length of the books in the e-format. There are a few ways to keep the reader from guessing where one is at the story: One, split the story into several chapters, and no info is given on the # of chapters. So, when you see the scroll bar, it is just for that chapter; Second, no scroll bar at all while reading it on the screen; third, like in print versions, have a number of dummy pages. No issues to the additional costs of dummy pages incurred in the printed version here.