Apr 2, 2010

A More Literate Future

I've realized lately (Ok, I've known it for a while) that I read a lot of crap.

I mean, it's not poorly-written crap. It's not inappropriate crap (or at least, not too innapropriate. Nothing more than PG or perhaps mild PG-13-ish stuff.)

I am snobby about the quality of the crap that I read. It has to have a well-thought out plot without any holes that makes sense in light of the characters. Characters have to have some depth and development, and I have to like at least one or two of them. Dialogue and situations have to either be humorous or very interesting.

I have never been able to make myself read classics. Well, I've read a few. Let's say that, once I actually bring myself to pick them up, I read them as voraciously as I read anything. But for some reason I have a mental block against classics, against literature that actually means something. I think it has something to do with the "veg" factor. When I pick up a book, I want to be entertained. I want my mind to be taken over. Quite often it's my therapy, my moment of escape (and thus, sometimes a somewhat unhealthy addiction.)

SO I end up reading highbrow crap. Stuff that is purely for entertainment, no matter how well-written it is, really doesn't redeem all that much. Let's just admit it.

Well, I want to be a writer. And I LOVE reading. When I read a novel that touches me deeply, I think about it for a long time. I compare it to events in my life. I talk about it with my husband. I think about what the Author might have intended, what message he or she is trying to send or portray and I'm intensely curious about how an author's life affects his or her writing, what the story says about society at the time it was written (or about the time period and situation portrayed.)

In short, I'm the sort of person who would LOVE to read classics, if only I could bring myself to do it.

SO my goal for this year: Bring myself to do it.

I've looked up a couple of lists. This one is "The 110 best books." Purely subjective, of course, but I looked over the list and agreed they were all books that I needed to read. A lot of them are more modern, which is a plus... it'll fill in the holes from this other list: "The top 100 books of all time." These are all classic novels... exactly what I was looking for. I'll be starting with these.

My goal is to read at least one book from these lists every week. And then blog-essay (blessay) about each one. I'm excited about it. I think it will be very educational. And hopefully it will help me shift my tastes a bit, until something truly worthwile becomes the thing that I like to veg with.

But... Elizabeth Peters. Anne Perry, Gayle Carson Levine, Meg Cabot and Sophie Kinsella--

you need not worry... you ladies will always be my heroin dealers of choice.

(rueful smile.)


Putz said...

yep you have read some of my posts, yep crap, you have you have

Camilla said...

Hmmmmm... I found myself nodding my head at pretty much everything you just said. I'm pretty much the exact same way. I also have been trying to incorporate some more meaty classics into my reading diet. They're so good once you get started- but I always think they're going to be so much work, and I'm a lazy bum.
Love your goals. Can't wait to read your blessays :)

Sunny said...

Hi Sarah! Just saw your mom today and she gave me your blog name. Congrats on Hazel.

As far as books go, I've read very few classics, myself. Most of them are just so dark and...well, make me feel like I'm slogging through the mud. A bit of what I read is escapism, but I do love the books that mean something to a person. My favorite book--being not very heavy but still meaningful--is The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver. She has a lot of those make-you-think titles; Poisonwood Bible, Prodigal Summer, Animal Dreams...

Another great book is Elegance of the Hedgehog, a very unsuspecting book. It's great for reading right before bed, as every chapter is a different entry in a journal by one of two characters. It is pretty high-brow, a vote against it in the read-before-bed category, but since you seem to like the View On Humanity type of thing, I think it would be right up your alley. And little side-note on it, the manga that the girl talks about--Hikaru No Go--is an actual manga, and one that I adore!

In seeing what books win Pulitzer or Booker awards, the requirements seem to be tragedy, heartbreak, death, remorse, devistation...I rarely read award-winning books for just this reason. There's nothing wrong with writing a significant book, but it can be achieved without having to wrench the reader's heart out of her chest and leaning on it with one's elbow. And you're welcome for the visual ;)

Apologies for the novella-sized comment. I just got off work and am still in book-discussion mode.