Let’s talk about boring, because there seems to be a misconception that you can just put anything, anything down on paper and it’ll be interesting. And that’s just not the case. As Alfred Hitchcock once observed:
What is drama but life with the dull bits cut out.
Well if I may observe, nobody bothered to tell that to EM Forster, who wrote one of the most sinfully boring books I have ever read, Howard’s End. And yet this is hailed as one of the high-water marks of British literature, and I just don’t get that. Maybe someone can explain it to me down in the comments, but as of right now I’m just left scratching my head. I struggled to get through this.
In fact, part of the issue I take with this work is the amount of acclaim it has received historically, while other books sit on the sidelines. Actually, a great example is how comic books (something near and dear to me) get tossed aside as “kid stuff” while this gets taught in classrooms the world over thanks to British Imperialism. Those norms are changing now and people are becoming more accepting that a good story is a good story regardless of the medium, but those old ideas are still in play, especially for comics produced of certain time-periods.
Let’s compare them, actually, with one simple guiding principle: for a book to matter and be engaging, it has to be about something other than the mechanisms of the plot.
Fatal Attractions is “about” dealing with the rise of the AIDS epidemic and how it affected the persecution of infected homosexuals and heterosexuals.
Bag of Bones is “about” finding the legs for a new life after something traumatic or unexpected happens to change ones previous status quo.
The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix is “about” the need and desire of parents to parent.
In Howard’s End, an umbrella goes missing, at some point.
That’s it. That’s the big plot moment: missing umbrella. Heavens to Betsy.
This is complete and utter trash. Actually its worse than trash: trash is interesting. Trash used to be something useful and now isn’t. This is… boring. There’s very little other word for it: just boring.