The Lunch Test

I don’t like a lot of 20th-century classic works and authors, particularly those embraced by the literati. What do I like? Genre fiction, the kind that is produced specifically with the idea of telling a story in order to earn a living.

There. I said it. I am a literary Philistine, and am proud of it.

There are several components to this, but the one I want to talk about right now is what I call “The Lunch Test,” which is as follows: At least one character that shows up fairly frequently in the work must be someone I would be willing to have lunch with. This person should not be the villain, and should have things go at least sort of right for them.

Why do I have this rule, you may ask? For the following reasons:

1. If I’m going to, essentially, hang out with a bunch of people for hours–because I like reading books cover to cover–I insist that I actually enjoy the experience. Shocking, I know. If all of the people involved are unlikable jerks, I will not enjoy it. Therefore, I do not intend to waste my time.

2. I get my “this is how the world works” reading via nonfiction. That is where I deal with incompetent jerks, annoying social climbers, and incomparable bores, along with the decent folks getting spit-roasted over an open fire and eaten. I deal with this because it has actually happened. I honestly don’t see the need to deal with this while reading for enjoyment–except to see the villains of the piece get their comeuppance. (Yes, I like my literature escapist, why do you ask)

3. I like my books like I like my music–aspirational and inspirational. That is to say, get up and get going, there’s work to be done, and it can be done. As a rule, people who do good stuff meet the lunch test.

Maybe all this means I don’t want to cope with reality.

Or maybe, just maybe…it means that what I like to read are but shadows of the great reality.

‘Til next time,

Lowell Van Ness


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