Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Soap Operas and Heavy Hands

May 23, 2012

When I was much younger, I remember rushing home from school everyday, throwing down my backpack and running up the street to Erin's house.  At three o'clock on the dot we would settle in with a bowl of Fritos, some KoolAid and breathless anticipation.  Oh, these were the glory days of General Hospital.  Who could forget Luke and Laura?  Not to mention Blackie (Really?  Blackie?  A room full of writers and they couldn't come up with a better name than Blackie?)  And yet, nothing titillated the fancy of a middle school girl, like a good old fashioned soap opera.  I know I should have been involved in some club or some sport, but I wasn't.  I was hopelessly committed.

It was during this brief but intense relationship that I discovered a little expository trick used by those rascally writers.  Just about every other day, two characters would engage in a conversation that gave an entire back story on one of the story lines.  I thought it was hilarious and predictable.  I wonderful little trick put in to get everyone up to speed in soap opera land.  Until, I was up to speed.  Then, it was downright annoying.
So imagine my surprise and dissatisfaction when this ploy appeared in Death Comes to Pemberly by P.D. James.  First of all, like all Pride and Prejudice fans, I am well acquainted with the characters.  I don't need their back story.  I know it by heart.  However, taking into account that this novel wasn't written solely for my benefit, I let it slide.  However, when an explanation of the legal structure and system in 1803 England is introduced with the line "Remind me of the procedure," I just about lost it.  It was so clunky and heavy-handed.  And, quite frankly, I didn't really care to know the information nor was I going to be able to retain it.  It really kind of put me off the book, a bit like finding hair in your soup.

So, my question is this.  Have you ever run across this problem in your reading travels.  If so, what book and what part?

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