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I. Reading Comprehension

This section contains two passages. Read each passage and then answer the questions given at the end of the passage.


Passage One


    Just before Sept. 11 changed storytelling in America forever, my Hollywood agent explained that my new novel was doomed in movieland because it lacked sufficient “explosive moments.” Given this, the fact that the Defense Department is currently consulting with Hollywood scriptwriters and producers to help U.S. generals “think outside the box” is beyond comprehension. Hollywood storytellers invented the box. They worship the box. They have spent their lives mass-producing the box.

As American movie geniuses scramble to reinvent their formula and edit out scenes that might offend post-Sept. 11 sensibilities. I feel a wonderful release. The box is dead. The tyranny of Hollywood has temporarily abated. What will fill this storytelling vacuum has yet to be seen, but my bet is that the appetite for stories that explore violence and mayhem, rather than exploiting them, will have an even broader appeal.

    Although the body count is traditionally high in my genre, the best thrillers and crime novels have never been about thrills or crime. They are about the often subtle, often banal inner workings of evil, and about the many shapes of heroismthose impossible struggles of the individual challenged by forces that threaten his soul more than his body.

Certainly, some of the landscape of popular fiction is changed. Stock characters that have been so reliable in their ability to scare us sillyserial killers, stalkers, hit men, mob bosses, psychopathic cannibalswither and turn to dust in the face of the far more potent forms of evil we have encountered.

    Real-life heroes reshape standards for bravery. Who has not tested his imagination by banding together with strangers on that doomed plane, throwing together a hasty plan, then storming down the narrow aisle to tackle a group of razor-wielding thugs? Who hasn’t imagined himself pushing upward into those smoke-darkened hallways as choking civilians rush out of harm’s way, while all around us a faint rumble rises?

    Thriller writers grapple with the devilish distinction between revenge and justice, and show violence and bravery in their starkest forms. Books like Huckleberry Finn, Moby-Dick and A Farewell to Arms share the gritty sensibility and brutally honest portraits of violence that distinguish the modern thriller.

    Since Sept. 11, my Hollywood agent has changed her tune. Now the reason my book will never be made into a film is that the one explosive moment it did contain is a scene portraying an airliner brought down by terrorists. In a book written over a year ago, I’ve broken a brand new taboo. I get no points for prescience and want none. My barometer was twitching: that’s all I can say. I write about what scares me.

 And these days everywhere I look, I see material.

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