Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Much Loved Classics

To give relief to to those interested in my blog not for my domestic tribulations but for my enthusiasm for Historical Crime Fiction ...

What is it about well-known, widely available classics that makes one return to them?  I'm referring mainly to whodunits which - when all is said and done - once the reader has read the solution, should be like a completed crossword puzzle; discarded after completion or "reveal".

Look at it like this:

All murder mysteries - regardless of period setting - are puzzles.  It doesn't matter the writing standard or the background plot, a reader is presented a puzzle ... who done it?  The reader gets enjoyment from the mental exercise of trying to predict the solution that, in time, the author will reveal.  I cannot deny nor underplay the factor of good writing.  A plot can be clever but if it's dressed in dull, uninspired prose then, let's face it, we'll loose interest.  But, in essence, a murder mystery once revealed is a puzzle with the solution given.

So why do we return to read them again and again?  Or why do we studiously watch a television production of a puzzle "play" which has been solved?  Or, taken to logical conclusion, why do we watch a film or read a book of such a challenge over and over again?

I have no all-encompassing revelation.  I can only speak for myself (well, this is my blog after all) and put it this way.  I've been asked "You've seen this episode of Poirot so many times.  Why do you want to see it again?"

Because it's good!

Why read a mystery book that you know the solution?

Because it's good!

There can be an unspecific something - use the overused phrase X-Factor - that appeals.  Like trying to explain a favoured taste, it's difficult to put your finger on it.

I'll always listen to radio productions of novels that I know well - I'm currently listening to Gaudy Night on BBC Radio 4 Extra, a story I've read many times and seen in one excellent production.  Why am I listening?  Because I want to see (or hear) what "they've" done to a much-admired story.  When I find out about a production of Lindsey Davis' Falco series, I'll do anything to hear it.  I have the complete DVD series of Sherlock Holmes cases, played by Jeremy Brett (let alone others) and I'll watch them over and over again.

And I do this because I enjoy the production, I appreciate the work for itself - it's fair presentation of a practically memorised plot.

But why do we return to read favourite puzzles over and over again?

Hmm.  It isn't familiarity.  It isn't even the challenge.  For me - not particularly intellectual - it's to read and enjoy.  And discover more in the writing that I might not have seen before.

And the nice thing is, good writing gives many things to read that may've been missed before!

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