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ENTRY

The Necessary Book
March 2, 2009

The latest Poets & Writers interviews a few editors about their work, including what kinds of books are the ones they go crazy about. One of the editors mentioned the idea of "necessary." A book he wants to publish is one that he feels is necessay, one which simply has to be published.

The interview didn't go into too much depth about the idea, but I found it intriguing. On the literary side, what makes a book necessary? One that offers a unique voice, a superb use of language, fresh writing that goes beyond convention? I would believe all three of those would make a book necessary, but there would be other reasons. Conversely then, an unnecessary book has a voice like so many other books, offers nothing new in language use, and reads like stale bread tastes.

On the story side, what makes a book necessary? One that offers a new approach to plot and character, comes at a storyline from a different angle, bends genre? This would have to be some of the characteristics of a necessary book. Conversely, an unnecessary book offers the same plot lines, character types, and conforms to genre standards.

On the thematic side, what make a book necessary? One that explores the deep and complex human condition, or the fundamental nature of human emotion, or the incaluable number of dimensions of relationships? Surely those are necessary for the necessary book.

Then I have to relate necessary-ness to the Theory of Satisfaction (see previous posts). According to the theory, a high-level of satisfaction makes a book necessary. But as we know from the theory, satisfaction is highly individualistic. In some cases, an editor or reader may require all of the characterisitics I described above for a satisfactory/necessary book. In other case, none of the characteristics I mentioned may make a book satisfying/necessary.

As an example I'll use Robert B. Parker's Spenser series. The first few books really bent the hard-boiled P.I. genre. A poetry-spouting, chivalrous, ex-boxer, ex-police detective as main character, and melliferous writing and strong themes, made for a fresh approach. The series seemed necessary. Later books in the series have lapsed into a dull sameness, at least in my opinion, and yet Spenser fans, including me, buy the books in the near million number of copies. We fans need our Spenser fix.

So necessary is satisfying, but what is necessary depends on the individual.

COMMENTS

Number of comments: 2
click here to add a comment

Jo Reed
So *necessary* is subjective? It seems like *necessary* implies a book is objectively worthy of publishing.

Lee Witte
I think 'satisfying' is a better descriptor than 'necessary'.

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