Thursday, November 5, 2009

"Good" or enjoyed?

People are funny about reading.  If you ask What is high level reading?, I suppose many would answer “Shakespeare”.  High level is supposed to be good.  That is why it is referred to as “high”, above the average.  My experience has been that the famous books recommended on lists of the great writers are not read much by most people and are not all that satisfying when they are read.

In my reading review course, I often picked on Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.”  It was unfair since I hadn’t read it and had not ever even looked at a single page.  One time, I saw that the book was available for Kindle and I downloaded it.  I have read it in several times but not found it particularly interesting or compelling.  In contrast, “Loving Frank” by Nancy Horan was good reading and the non-fiction “Mindless Eating” by Brian Wansink and “The Head Trip” by Jeff Warren continue to be very worthwhile. 

There is a passage where C.S.Lewis is discussing good literature and not-so-good and he asks the reader to imagine a woman in front of a library bookshelf with her head thrown back and her gaze off in the distance.  She is trying to remember whether or not she has read the book in her hands.  He says that if she read good books, she would remember.  If she can’t remember, her reading isn’t very good.

Two different friends have told me recently that they always buy books that they don’t read, as though that is a waste and counts against them.  I do the same thing but I have a strong desire to do so even if I can’t justify it.  Maybe I’ll read them later.  Maybe they will answer a call when I am in a different mood and I can sense that fact now.  We have different moods and needs.

All the English majors have heard of Herman M. and few have head of M.C.Beaton.  Yet, I found Beaton’s character, a policeman in a small town in the north of Scotland quite memorable and readable.  When I explained my reading preference to Lynn, she said,”They fill different spaces.”  Right!  When I want a salad and a milkshake, I don’t want a 7 course meal. 

Noel Perrin, an English prof. at Dartmouth, in “A Reader’s Delight”, goes through the numbers.

Notice, a few thousand of 5 to 10 million.  No wonder we haven’t heard of many works we would love!

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