Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Ugh Factor

Our county fair starts next week and it had me thinking back to the years when I entered some of my amateur photographs.  One of the photos I entered was an oddball portrait of my husband.  Why oddball?  Because it was a black and white picture of his leg and hand.

He was sitting on the ground with his hand on his knee holding a cigarette.  I wanted to capture the swirl of the smoke as it rose into the air, but I also wanted to captured the essence of my husband and many of the men who live here in our area -- the Dickie work pants, cheap sneakers, and the eternal cigarette.

At the fair booth the woman filling out entry tags took one look at the picture and said, "Ugh, a cigarette.".  She couldn't see past what she didn't like to enjoy the picture.  The photo didn't win any ribbons and it was hung way above the line of sight of most fair goers.  One of my son's friends took one look at that picture though and said, "That's your husband, isn't it?"  He saw exactly what I was trying to capture.

I think we tend to read in the same way.  We decide what we don't like and avoid those books, deciding beforehand that we won't read them.  I'm guilty of that.  I find that I don't like know-it-characters and try to avoid those books.  I like my characters flawed and struggling to come to grips with what's happening in their lives, not those superman types that are always saving the day without much effort.

Other readers don't like it when animals or children are hurt.  Others hate noir and choose to read only cozy fiction.  The last few years I've been making an effort to read books that haven't appealed to me before.  I've been reading werewolf and fantasy stories, and books tagged as literary and classic.  I'm learning to read past my surface prejudice and enjoy what these new to me authors have to offer.  Sure, I don't like everything, but I've found a lot that I do enjoy and I'm glad that I didn't miss these books for they each had something that enriched my reading experience.

Have you read anything lately that would have normally brought out the ugh factor and did you enjoy reading something different from your regular choices?  


pattinase (abbott) said...

I want to see that photo!

sandra seamans said...

Maybe someday, Patti. My printer doesn't scan pictures to the computer.

Al Tucher said...

I have tended to avoid cozies, because I had the impression that they made murder cute. But at the recent Deadly Ink conference I took in the panel discussion on cozies, and I realized that I had probably read bad cozies. They can be good or bad, like anything else.

The panel gave me the idea that the good ones might also be called sneaky noir, because they arrive at the dark side of human nature by a deceptive route.

Maybe I'll try some.

sandra seamans said...

Yes, I have a hard time with cozies, too, Al. I grew up on Christie's Miss Marple and Periot and the new cozies with all the recipes and arts and crafts just don't appeal to me. They always feel like a hook instead of a story. That's just me, of course.

What I tend to consider cozy now are books like John Sandford's Virgil Flowers series.

Travis Richardson said...

I buy cozies from friends, but I'm not a fan of them. Since my expectations are low, I'm usually surprised at one aspect or another. I did, however, read one that made me angry because it was soooo poorly written and published by major house. The entire book could have been a 20 page short story instead of 300+ pages of inflated filler.

sandra seamans said...

It's very annoying to read a novel that should have been a short story, Travis. There are cozies to fit every taste, finding one that fits yours isn't always easy.