Tuesday, 17 June 2014
1.) Harold Bloom's book "How to Read and Why" was not helpful. He has written more than twenty books and he lives in a scholarly world of literature that I barely visit.
2.) The foreword in "The Book Lovers Companion" made me think. It reads, "Life's too short to read bad books. There really should be a word for that particular resentment you feel after ploughing through hundreds of pages that didn't pay off. A single reliable book recommendation can spare you hours of annoyance, impatience and disgust." So 200 books are suggested to relieve that problem.
But, in the last paragraph of the foreword, the editor Lionel Shriver says, "I spotted three or four selections included here that I couldn't bear". Didn't he just explain why this doesn't work???
One person's annoyance is another person's pleasure! I am constantly amazed that our interests are so varied. I just recently gave an impassioned plea for my favourite book "The Poisonwood Bible". But it is definitely not a favourite for others. And this makes a real problem for recommending books.
3.) "Why I Read" by Wendy Lesser. page 4: "The kind of pleasure you can get from reading is like no other in the world. People even get pleasure out of reading bad books, and I deplore this, but that is only because those books are not to my taste. You will deplore some of the works I hold up as models in this book, and that is not only sensible, but inevitable. Because reading is such an individual act, the pleasures we derive from literature- even which books we are willing to call 'literature'- will not be identical. That is as it should be. Reading can result in boredom or transcendence, rage or enthusiasm, depression or hilarity, empathy or contempt, depending on who you are and what the book is and how your life is shaping up at the moment you encounter it. This effect will be particular to each person, and it will change over time, just as the person changes over time- and the richer and more complicated that book is, the more this will be true."
I thought about doing a series on "bad books" but I'm sure that I will anger some people when I mention their favourite in my list. Bad books - ponder that!