It works like this. You start reading a Haruki Murakami book. It doesn’t matter which one. You’ll be blown away. You might even think he’s the best author you’ve ever read.
Then you’ll read a second, third, and fourth book. At some point, the bloom will leave the rose. You’ll become bored of his style, bored of alienated male characters eating spaghetti and listening to records, bored of the way he invokes the warmth of the Beatles and Respighi to cover up the emotional coldness of his stories. You might read a fifth book. But you definitely won’t think of him as the best author you’ve ever read.
I’ve had this experience many times.
When I was 7 I was a huge Goosebumps fan. It was revelatory that books could be as exciting as a cartoon. Somewhere in Goosebumps 2000, I started to wonder: why does he give his characters names? They are interchangeable. Call them “The Boy Character” and “The Girl Character”, “The Oblivious Father/Mother”, “The Bully”, and so on. Why not? Wouldn’t it save mental clock cycles if you didn’t need to figure out which character occupies what role in the story?
When I had this realisation, I could take no pleasure in Goosebumps. I’d seen what was behind the curtain. I started to feel a bit resentful, as if RL Stine had swindled me.
When I was 12 I read Stephen King. The realism of his stories appealed to me. No matter how bizarre and surreal they get, he never forgets to give his characters dry mouths and headaches.
But after many books, he lost me. I’ve read him for so long that I’ve learned all his tricks, and now he seems like RL Stine 2.0 – a sophisticated manipulation artist who presses buttons and jerks you around. I don’t hate him. Put me in a cell with Doctor Sleep and I’d read it. But only after I get bored with playing the cell bars like a xylophone.
When I was 22 I discovered Junji Ito. Extremely atmospheric and frightening HP Lovecraft-inspired manga. I read about 3,000 pages of his stuff, and then suddenly, lost interest. He can’t tell a story very well. I found myself speed-reading through the dialogue to get to the next gory image. I was desensitized to his good points, and chafed raw by his bad points.
Does this sound familiar?
It’s been said that Mad magazine was the last time anyone took fiction seriously. They exposed and deconstructed the machinery of telling stories, and it was now impossible to see a romance scene in a movie without thinking of the inevitable Mad parody. But truthfully you’ll arrive at that realisation without Mad, it just takes time.
Do you have a favourite author? Do you want him to remain your favorite author?
Then never read another of his books again. Not a single one. Even reading another word is contraindicated. You can’t allow the novelty to dissipate. You can’t allow yourself to realise that your favourite author sucks golf balls through a garden hose.