Monday, December 7, 2015

Do you read differently now than you did as a teenager?

I liked what Susan had to say yesterday, and I echo her sentiments and will add a bit to them.

There's a lot more pressure now to read for 'business' purposes--for education, or to keep current with the culture, or research, or out of obligation to fellow writers. Not that those books can't be terrific, but they're chosen for reasons other than absolute interest.

For the most part, though, I still read for the same reasons I did as a child--to be astonished and delighted.

I don't think I was really aware of genre until my early twenties. I loved westerns, comic books, Russian modernists, music biographies, and above all crime novels. But there was no pattern to my reading. I'd go to the library and grab whatever looked interesting. It wasn't until I'd actually started writing that I realized the majority of what I enjoyed fell into the crime fiction category.

I don't read many craft books anymore--I'll periodically reread King's On Writing, or Goldman's Adventures in the Screen Trade, but my rule of thumb is that a book on writing has to be well-written; if I'm bored reading it, I'm skeptical of the advice it contains.

I think a lot of literary culture--and I'm speaking mostly about what I've seen in Canada--revolves around books that people think they should enjoy. There are certain prizes that go to the kind of books you could imagine on the shelves of The Right People. To me, those are the books I'm least interested in. I think that's what turns people off reading--they think once they're out of their teens that they should be reading Big Important Works by Big Important Authors, instead of reading fiction, or fantasy, or comics, or crime novels, or children's books, or whatever they truly enjoy.

So there's more consideration put into what I read, but I still try to spend most of my reading time on books I'm passionate about.


Alan Orloff said...

I agree with you--people should read what they want to read, Big Important Authors or not. I was never much for those BIAs, myself. Of course, I'm not very talkative when the literary party chatter turns, uh, literary.

Susan C Shea said...

Agree - what is it about these 'big' books that makes them so bloodless? And I don't mean I want blood to flow in them, I mean they seem not to have been written with passion. Good post, thanks!

Sam said...

Most of what people call "modern classics" are forgotten within a couple of years. If you enjoy that style of writing, that's great, but the idea that something is important because it's mainstream or "literary"...I have a problem with that.