With the three-day weekend I just had, I thought I’d take a complete break from civilization and spend it reading John Grisham’s new book, The Appeal. To begin with, there are a couple areas I need to explain.
One is that, as a former college basketball assistant coach, I was used to getting zero- day weekends. An avid reader, the bulk of my reading (fiction and non-fiction) was done while traveling and, as an assistant, an extraordinary amount of time is spent in airport terminals and on planes and buses. So, with that schedule, there’s a tendency to be able to get an awful lot of it done. Longer trips were reserved for novels (Grisham, James Patterson, Robert Ludlum, Steve Martini, David Baldacci and others) while shorter ones were for self-improvement (Stephen Covey, Harvey MacKay, etc.), leadership (Warren Bennis, John Maxwell, etc.), other coaches’ books (mainly football and basketball) or other non-fiction. Secondly, yes, I am such a slow reader that it does take me an entire weekend to read a simple 355 page novel.
My affinity for reading is not the purpose of this blog, however. The Appeal was a typical John Grisham novel - one in which the characters come to life - the reader falls in love with some and despises others - becomes enraged at times, then wants to stand and cheer, i.e. the author takes the reader on an emotional roller coaster
I distinctly recall a book-on-tape entitled something like “Successful Sales Techniques” that I was listening to several years ago while driving in Southern California traffic. Although I can’t recall the speaker’s name, I do remember the speech was taped during a live session and that when he finished his presentation, a Q-and-A followed. One audience member asked the speaker, “You said that in order to be successful in the world of selling, you need to create emotions. Is it really possible to create emotions?”
The speaker simply asked, “Have you ever been to the movies and laughed?” The microphone didn’t pick up his answer, but apparently it was yes. Then he asked, “Have you ever been to the movies and cried?” Once again, the obvious answer.
“Do you think it’s something they put in the seats?” Naturally, this remark was followed by laughter, but this is precisely what great authors do as well. And John Grisham is a great author.
Yet, what I found most intriguing about his latest book was not in the body of work itself, but in the two pages that followed. They’re entitled “Author’s Note” but, in reality, it’s his “disclaimer.” After reading it, I had a kind of revelation.
Grisham states all the characters are fictional and none of them “were used as models or inspiration for anyone mentioned or described.” He goes on to disclaim other things in the book, but then writes, “Now that I have impugned my own work, I must say there is a lot of truth in this story.”
Exactly. He was as riled up writing it as we are reading it! Without ruining the story for anyone, it’s basically about how private money can be used to “buy” an official in an election year (in this case a judge on the Mississippi Supreme Court).
John Grisham already has make gobs of money from this book and will make tons more, but, after reading it, I wonder if it was a sort of cartharsis for him on one hand and a call to arms to people on the other about how this fictional work may not be all that much fiction. I’ve read other works that I felt the same way about, but possibly, I didn’t have the same feeling as I did when I finished this book because the authors didn’t create as much emotion.
John Grisham writing fiction is similar to Carlos Mencia, Chris Rock, Jackie Mason and Jeff Foxworthy or Larry the Cable Guy telling ethnic, racial or geographical jokes. “Political correctness” goes out the window as long as the skits and performances are branded as humor. Yet, why do people laugh at something they’d rail against if it were said somewhere other than at a comedy club or on a television show?
The dichotomy is in the following quotes. The first by Pablo Casals:
“The capacity to care is the thing that gives life its deepest meaning and significance.”
And the next one, which was a title of a speech given by best-selling author, Herb Cohen, (You Can Negotiate Anything, among others):
“You Have to Care…But Not That Much.”
Read Grisham’s book and draw your own conclusions.