There's no end
to the things you might know, depending how far beyond Zebra you go! {Dr. Seuss}

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Quick, Easy, and Delicious?

I own seven delightful cookbooks, but my favorite is Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook. Most of the recipes contain pictures and are easy to follow. A colorful banner references recipes that are fast, easy, low fat, or a favorite. It’s a 3-ring binder, so I can easily remove the page with the recipe I want. The book contains reference tabs for everything you could possible want to make and has an emergency substitutions and equivalents list. The ingredients are listed in the order I’ll need them, and they’re all something I know the grocery store carries. 
It’s simple to use and comprehensive. Nowadays, it’s all about quick, easy meals without sacrificing your health. This cookbook delivers beautifully.
Isn’t that what we want in our novels, too? We want a fast-paced story, easy to read and follow, dazzlingly clever and comprehensive. We want a story deliciously inviting, one we can easily lose ourselves in without realizing it. We want a story that’s so believable we don’t feel too guilty investing all our time reading when we should be writing or cooking dinner or changing diapers. And we strive to write stories that way, too.
It’s funny how cookbooks have evolved over time, just the way novels have, to cater to our fast-paced lifestyle. Though Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking saw a boost in sales recently, would it have without the success of the movie Julie and Julia? How many of those people are still cooking from it since the novelty has worn off? Actually, now that I think about, it probably was revised and updated to appeal to current times.
It’s no wonder that it’s harder to invest our time in the classics, those novels we were forced to read in high school or college literature classes. That’s why I like to give the classics a second chance. Now that I know the probable reason for not liking them is because I’m too cultured in my generation, shaped like a robot to read fast! think faster! time is of the essence! next! move on! It shouldn’t be so difficult to sit down and enjoy reading run-on sentences, lengthy paragraphs of character and weather description, flowery dialogue with words you only ever see on the SATs. But these days, it is.
Thanks to Elizabeth Spann Craig for inspiring me to write this blog post! See her post on fast-paced books.
I have not been endorsed to promote any cookbooks. Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook truly is my favorite from which most dinners arrive every night. I mean, I make the meals. The book doesn’t deliver the meals. Wouldn't that be marvelous!

“Easy reading is damn hard writing.” ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

“When a man is in doubt about this or that in his writing, it will often guide him if he asks himself how it will tell a hundred years hence.” ~Samuel Butler

What are your thoughts on how our faster lifestyle and shorter attention spans have changed/are changing writing, publishing, and marketing? 


Shannon said...

Readers today want to be thrown into the story immediately. World building happens as the catalyst unfolds. In years past, authors had more time to create their universe.

Clinging to this quote today:

“Easy reading is damn hard writing.” ~Nathaniel Hawthorne


Roxane B. Salonen said...

Laura, the pace of our world has indeed changed the way we must write. There's no choice about it. So, the way I feel about it is, okay, this is where we are, my challenge is to learn how to persist even in light of this change, even if I resist it to some degree. Our main goal should be to connect with our readers, and if this means adjusting our approach, I think we can do this without compromising everything.

Rebecca @ Diary of a Virgin Novelist said...

I often think about how certain "classics" would never "make it" today. But I also realize that at the time, they were groundbreaking and fresh. That is what we are striving for in our work today. Not to rewrite what has been done already, but to do something entirely new.

Six-word memoir, anyone?

Jen said...

My friend loves her Julia Child cookbook and cooks from it regularly, it had been long before Julie and Julia was released. Her husband is Italian and I think his lifestyle has fallen upon her over the years, makes her more calm and relaxed.

I think short lifespans is sad, especially with faster lifestyle. When was the time where we stood and lived in the moment? We pondered on what we wanted to do for the day, rather than shoving 50things that we did for others. Is it so wrong to think about what you want then what thousands of others want?? I love a good back that's faced paced, but I love a journey through a story that is so amazing I wish it never to end. Harry Potter was like that for me. The world was so magical and imaginitive that I wanted to live there and never leave.

Talli Roland said...

You own seven cookbooks? I'm in awe! I own... none! I should, though. Maybe I would cook something other than chicken!

catwoods said...

Talli, my fave (quick, easy and outstanding dishes) is the Campbell's soup cook book. My next fave is the Brand Name cook book.

To keep the cooking metaphors, I would say that we our world has neccessitated us to eat more times a day but in bite sized pieces.

We have such a short amount of time that we need cliffhangers every two pages to fit into our next two minute reading break.

I see this as shorter chapters. Quicker action. Less building of plot, characters and setting. Fast, fast, fast.

Great post.

Lola Sharp said...

While I do love my fast paced, fun, easy reading (Janet Evanovich's Steph Plum series for example), I also still love literary fiction and the classics. "Flowery" writing, if done masterfully, is breathtaking, lyrical, full of imagery and emotion. I like to use my grey matter at length as much as I like to fluff off.

It's sort of like the many types of music I listen to. I'm omnivorous.

But I am inclined to agree with you. What sells is definitely fast paced, light reading. That kinda makes me sad.

As far as cooking goes...I only make what's fast. I don't enjoy cooking as much as most. BUT, I love eating gourmet! And slowly savoring every bite. As long as someone else cooks it. ;)

Jemi Fraser said...

I have a great cookbook my mom gave me for an engagement gift eons ago. It opens automatically to my fave recipes now! I'd love that to happen with my book someday!

Sandy Shin said...

This is such a great analogy. It is true that both in cooking and in reading, we tend to gravitate toward fast-paced items, because there are so many distractions and never seem to be enough time in a day.

SWK said...

Better Home & Gardens is my go-to cookbook, too. My mom bought me a paperback copy when I started college and I still have it! Since then, I've acquired a few more good ones, but BH&G is still my cooking/baking bible! Love the pacing analogy, too!

rama said...

I also felt so bored during my college days being forced to read the classics. Though they were good but, there was too much detail, so skipping pages was the only way to read them.
Even now I don't have the patience to read such books. However I also understand that in order to be a good writer one must cultivate the patience to go through some of the finest novels written, for they alone can be our teachers.
Rama .

Laura Pauling said...

I have no problem reading paragraphs of description if it moves the plot forward. If it doesn't I'll skip it. I think the fast-paced is good. People aren't sitting on their front porches anymore everying evening drinking lemonade - with nothing to do but snap beans. Fast-paced is needed.

Laura Marcella said...

Shannon- Very true. And I love that quote, too! Sometimes people think a published novel just came out of the author that way. It always boggles their minds when I have to explain how much work it really is, lol!

Roxane- Nicely put! I do think it's good to adjust to the changes, but I feel bad for those novels that are getting left behind!

Rebecca- You're right! And who knows how our writing today will be viewed in years to come? It's interesing to think about!

Jen- I know people with JC cookbooks, too, but they've had theirs for years. I admire those who can cook such time-consuming, buttery recipes, lol! And well-said! It bums me out that some people put a book down if the first paragraph doesn't hook them right away. It won't kill them to give it a couple chapters or just a few pages! And I totally agree with you about Harry Potter. :)

Talli- LOL! Chicken is delicious, though! All of my cookbooks were wedding gifts, except one. I bought a cookbook with all easy recipes for the slow cooker, haha!

Cat- Perfect analogy, and so true. We want a lot of certain "dishes" but we want it quick and simple. And I'll be checking out those cookbooks you suggested to Talli. :)

Lola- LOVE the Stephanie Plum series. Something on nearly every page makes me laugh out loud! I don't hate cooking, but it's not my favorite thing to do, so I'm also into quick, easy recipes that are healthy, too!

Jemi- Me too! That's be pretty awesome. :)

Sandy- So true. Even when we wish for more hours in the day, we know if we got it, we'd probably fill it up with even more busyness and distractions and would need more hours!

SWK- Ooo, yes I love it! My other favorite cookbook is my BH&G slow cooker recipes. BH&G sure knows how to cater to our fast-paced lifestyle, lol!

Rama- That's true; I think it's important for to try reading the classics. Even if you can't get through them, it's always better to try! And I think the fact that teachers force students to read them is already another (unfair) strike against the classics. Poor things!

Laura- I like your image of the front-porch sitting. I can't help but wish the evenings were that relaxed! I don't mind a slower pace as long as it's not monotonous or stalling. I can hang on to a slower pace if it's clearly getting somewhere.