Did The Butler Do It? But Wait -- Who's The Butler?

Agatha Christie, Mary Higgins Clark, Raymond Carver, Anton Chekhov. Names which speak mystery to the reader. Masters at weaving whodonit tales you can’t wait to find out the answers. Right…?

Wrong…! At least according to a new study at the University of California in San Diego. Jonathan Leavitt tells BBCNews.com that, contrary to expectations, their tested readers actually enjoyed the novels more when told the answers ahead of time. Why…? “The pleasure readers get from a good story has far more to do with the quality of the writing and the development of the characters than with how it turns out.”


Doesn’t sound like the way you and I get our daily news. We’re not interested in the nuances as much as the results. We want to know how things turn out. Now. Not later in the history books. But wait. Today’s news may turn out to be tomorrow’s embarrassed corrections. Today’s information may turn out to be tomorrow’s mis-information. Today’s facts may tomorrow be seen for what they really were: opinions.

Ah but tomorrow is such a long way off. Look, if there’s anything Americans don’t like it’s waiting. We’re the people who popularized the rocking chair just so we could be on the move even when sitting still. So lets not waste time thinking so much as doing. John Wayne and Clint Eastwood didn’t win the West by dawdling their fingers on their triggers.

Presidential politics is very much like that. The first time I voted was in 1952: Adlai Stevenson vs Dwight Eisenhower. The egghead vs the general. Come on folks, we all remember who won. Most voters want their presidents to be smarter than them…but not too smart. Which means most presidents have accommodated us. Either by their native-born, common-touch persona (see Warren Harding, Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George Bush II for details); or by their conscious efforts to look that way (see patricians like Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, and JFK for details).

As it turns out, we like our leaders to be tie-less, kitchen-table-types like us. And yet, we like them to be so smart they can give us all the answers upfront. Not complicated, bad-news details; just good-news generalities along with a few flashy, quick-payoff policies.

If only it were that simple. We won’t really know how this story turns out. Our grandchildren will. In their history books. Until then, lets keep turning the pages and paying close attention to the plot. Because lets face it — we’re in there.

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  • " Jonathan Leavitt tells BBCNews.com that, contrary to expectations, their tested readers actually enjoyed the novels more when told the answers ahead of time. ----- "I guess that this Geezer is not 'Unique' as a reader (predictable) for I too enjoy a fine book even if I already know the outcome .... Life seems to be like literature after one has put in a mandatory half century or more of astute observation most outcomes/conclusions are such as may reasonable be anticipated ... the odd surprising 'twist' in the events of the "World" does however keep us from being so frightfully cocksure that we 'know' enough to be confident in most matters ... as for leaders ---- I prefer the educated and compassionate over other types ... those elected on the basis of their misperceived 'strengths' have oft turned out to be boorish and bland if not dangerous and incompetent ... give me 'caring & wise' everytime ... as for literary endings ... well there always seems to be a sequel offered up ... though most often with diminishing returns.

  • In reply to Geezer:

    "...most outcomes/conclusions are such as may be reasonably anticipated..." That wise thought reminds me how,the older I get, the more textbook I am (ie. j pretty much ust like the other 7 billion earthlings)

  • At the current rate, 7 billiion won't be reached until the end of 2011.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Aquinas...but we're getting awfully close awfully fast

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