Monday, March 8, 2010


Predictability, the knack of figuring out what will come next, is a human trait that helps us "understand" the world and aids us in our social constructions. But predictability is not always reliable, and not always good.
In music, predictability seems to be very important; it's why we keep enjoying the same songs over and over again despite hearing it numerous times. While listening to a song, we wait for that great chorus, or guitar riff, or piano solo, and are quite satisfied with the experience when it's over. We may even play it again---and again.
In movies---I find, anyway--- knowing how things will turn out, and knowing that the movie is progressing firmly in a linear direction, bores the hell out of me. It's an age-old formula where the action and plot follow in a linear direction, and people seem to prefer that everything adhere to this discipline. I would think this acceptance of a predictable linear story line is why so many people watch all the CSI's on TV, and enjoy them, even though one episode is actually indistinguishable from the other.
It's the same with novels. One of the reasons I don't read Mysteries is that, despite the many twists and surprises inherent in the story, the plot does follow the same well-trodden path: victim found, murder case, detectives on it, twists and surprises, solved. Authors will in many novels strain to keep their characters on a linear path---this is contrivance, and it's quite noticeable. I usually see it coming. These novels are good if you only want a neat, nice story---with a happy ending.
It's interesting to note that when an author strays from the linear, and predictable telling of a story a lot of people have a problem with it. Some will discard the book entirely, others will pick it apart while seeming to be lost in their reading. The Canada Reads book by Douglas Copland GENERATION X is written like this, and is getting a lot of flak lately, and I'm noticing that reviewers really don't know what to say about it. It's written as a kind of mind set for a generation, and seems to resonate for that particular generation only. They seem to understand the characters and the actions, and care little for the non-linear style.
I enjoy novels that are character based and do not follow a set predictable outline.
I really don't think life in general is linear, even though we try so hard to make it so. I also think that our belief that life has a determined path(Determinism), and our endless struggles to keep it on this path, leads to unhappiness and anxiety. In that great novel ZORBA THE GREEK by Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba tried so hard to build the water conduit. He put so much money, labour, time and sweat in the building of it, only to see it fall to pieces on its first run. What did Zorba do? He danced. He laughed and danced---and drank wine.

Hey, let's hear it for HURT LOCKER. It is an excellent movie. Oh, there you have another example of a non-linear story. Many people were complaining that this movie doesn't make sense because it doesn't do anything---there's no satisfying climax. But this movie is amazing on so many levels, you have to give up your expectations, lower your predictability bar, and watch it for what it is. It's much more enjoyable that way.

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