I was speaking with a friend whose mother is such a devout Catholic that she attends Mass daily. My friend contends, however, that she is not doctrinally narrow. Instead, what draws her back to the Church on a daily basis is the service’s unswerving predictability. In a chaotic world, she has a fixed point. The rhythm and familiarity of the service is itself a spiritual experience, separate from the religious aspects of her worship.
Since I am not a religious person, I have had to find my own fixed points in a chaotic world. Proving how shallow I am, I find junk novels serve the purpose very well.
Junk novels are remarkably predictable. In the romance field, boy meets girl, boy and girl fight their attraction, boy and girl get thrown together, boy and girl acknowledge their love, and everyone who is virtuous lives happily ever after. (The evil ones are, of course, subject to appropriate punishments.)
Thrillers are equally predictable. Hero gets thrown in chaotic situation, with a time deadline to save the world, the president, the girl, the ship or whatever else needs saving. Hero is perpetually one step behind the bad guy, but always manages to extricate himself. Blood and bodies fly. At the 11th hour and 59th minute, hero saves the day, the world, the president, etc. Hero is emotionally scarred, and surrounded by a pile of dead and wounded, but the he will live to fight another day.
Good romantic thrillers are possibly the most satisfying junk novels of all, because they manage to wed those two inexorable plot lines in one satisfying whole.
The above plot outlines are consistent no matter how imaginative the author. S/he can change the colors, but must always stay within the lines. And it’s very comforting. When politics are depressing, world security scary, children exhausting, and household overwhelming, these novels have a story arc on which I can always rely.
I’ve been reading a lot of junk novels this summer, which is part of why I haven’t been blogging as much. I mean to blog, but I follow my stories irresistibly to their inevitable denouements, which requires a certain amount of time, no matter how fast one reads. I know what’s coming — always — but I still find the unswerving predictability satisfying.
I’d be exaggerating to the point of lying if I said it was a spiritual experience for me, and I’d be dishonoring religion if I was serious in claiming there is a “Church of Junk Novels,” but there is no doubt that the rhythm of the novels is seductive and gives me a weird mental peace.