Half of Lost

Half of a yellow sun.jpg

I have gotten myself into a bit of a bind. On Friday night, I started to read Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and continued reading most of Saturday. The novel is set in 1960s Nigeria and during and in the period leading up to the Biafran War, something that I knew almost nothing about.

On Sunday, though, I woke up a little later than normal and was frustrated to find out that my TV (which I almost never watch) was not working. This was due to the fact that I am much less of a geek than one would think from my New Set Up, and I had inadvertently unplugged my TV set and DVD player. So what did I do? I dug up the first season of Lost that my brother had given me months ago and decided to watch one episode (on my laptop), and the next thing I knew, I had a major problem on my hands.

So, here I am caught up between two stories: one is basically irrelevant (the plight of fictional castaways on a mysterious island) and the other is serious (the historical fiction of the real life events that took place in Nigeria some 30 years ago). Now when I get home from work, I struggle to divide my time between the two, alternating one episode of Lost, with one hour of Half of a Yellow Sun.

Both Lost and Half of Yellow Sun are cliffhangers. Lost may lack any real intrinsic value in my life other than simple entertainment, but I am still impressed by cliffhangers in general. I think that one of the most important techniques in literature is the ability to get the reader to want to move on to the next chapter and progress with the story. This is a technique that I don’t know that I would be able to sustain from one page to the next. And Lost has done a wonderful job of keeping my attention, and essentially creating an addiction.

The real problem with Lost, though, is its inability to manage the viewers’ expectations. After a few episodes you realize that the use of suspense has the sole purpose of keeping the viewer addicted and watching from one episode to the next. Thus, they purposely avoid resolving many of the plot twists so as to ensure the series’ longevity over time. If the island’s mysteries were solved and the castaways saved, then the show would be over. But like the girl who refuses to “give it up” to make sure the guy is still interested, eventually she runs the risk that he may tire of waiting and simply throw in the towel. And this is what is happening with Lost. You eventually get the feeling that you are being played with, and lose interest in the characters’ well being. Your interest is lost.

On the other hand, Half of a Yellow Sun alternates between the stories of three main characters and between the early and late 1960s. Besides the fact that the reader is interested not only in the resolution of genocide and war, but also with the fate of the individual characters. The use of suspense is to perpetuate one’s interest in the characters and their feeling of empathy for them. This moves the story to its central theme, rather than simply keeping the story on air.

Furthermore, books have and advantage to TV shows, for they have a definite shape and weight. You can feel the length of the story in your hands and know that it will come to an end, regardless of whether or not it is the one you are hoping for.

Having said this, though, does not resolve the central problem. How do I manage my time between the two? I have already decided that I will not pursue the future Lost seasons. Half of a Yellow Sun will come to an end, and I will move on to other books. But, it is nice to also diversify and enjoy some cheap entertainment now and then also.

And yes, I am twice the loser: one for even watching Lost, and two for never having seen even a single episode of Lost until now. But, I can live with it!

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12 Comments

Filed under Digressions, Literature

12 responses to “Half of Lost

  1. TheCommentKiller

    i bet you will reconsider your stance on Lost at the end of the first season. The show is totally meaningless and i generally don’t waste my time w/ fiction, but after watching Arrested Development (upon a friendly recommendation); I tried Lost which was also a recommendation from the same person. Now I am hooked to a meaningless show that is even somewhat Sci-fi (or whatever the hell you call it).

  2. ?

    T.V. is no longer entertainment, it’s just trash, with just a few exceptions:

    #1 all time: National Geographic
    #2 The History Channel
    #3 The Learning Channel
    #35 Fox Soccer Channel, (yes, I know it is a rather large gap in chronology, but if they didn’t suck as a football channel, they would get higher on the list … yes, they are AWFUL ~ even ESPN does a better job, and ESPN is fairly biased against football.)

    If I want meaningless entertainment, I watch programs like the news, or government channels ~ you can always find some moped rider, showing off his/her “Helmet of Retardation +3” to give you a chuckle. Never fails, never, ever, never.

  3. TheCommentKiller

    I mostly agree, however you left out PBS, nothing beats- Frontline, P.O.V., Wide Angle, Bill Moyers Journal, NOW and Independent Lens. Frontline and P.O.V. were on tonight and they both were pretty amazing.

    In fact i was going to email Eric about tonight POV which was about fugees from Sierra Leon:
    http://www.pbs.org/pov/pov2007/sierraleone/
    here is a live concert for the SL fugees- they are pretty good:
    or here is one of their videos:
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3894477872203236387&q=sierra+leone+all+stars&total=25&start=0&num=10&so=0&type=search&plindex=0

  4. **coughcoughbiasedslantednon-factualreportingcoughcough**

    Yeah, those are great programs.

    [/a-hole mode]

  5. TheCommentKiller

    LOL. I actually find Frontline and the others very objective unlike other lefty stuff like my boy who did Terrorstorm… i watch that shit and then have to do my own fact check.

    But even my friends in gov’t (CIA and NSA) are always shocked by the amount of info that Frontline (in particular) has and its accuracy. I think you would enjoy Frontline (not Frontline/world) and prolly agree w/ most of it. They really don’t give opinion they just interview gov’t high ups… not those so called pundits.

  6. eric

    The Wire. That’s about it.

  7. TheCommentKiller

    The Wire is nice. I could never get into the Sopranos.

  8. Randy

    No one mentioned “Curious George” or “Bob the Builder.” The message on both shows is subtle, but powerful.

  9. i think you had an awsome cliffhanger when you ended the intro to this blog entry like this:
    ” and the next thing I knew, I had a major problem on my hands.”
    the first thing i had to do is double click on that link to continue reading! without control, an involuntary reaction fueled by that cliffhanger drug…

  10. eric

    Speaking of the cliffhanger that relates to the major problem on your hands, so when’s the due date? It should be any day now, right? Have you chosen a name: Chico or Chica?

  11. eric

    Randy,

    I didn’t even know that they made a show out of Curious George. Those were some of my favorite books when I was a kid. Never heard of Bob the Builder, but then I don’t really get any American TV here.

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