New Years Resolutions and the Book Stack

by Rachel Baker on January 7, 2014

I think great literature is different things to different people. To some, its a great big book of suckitude for the very reason that how we require students to read and what we require students to read really is a horrible process. To others, its a wonderful vacation to lands unknown and places unseen. To others still, its a form of studying the human behavior. And there’s probably a million other reasons.

I like this article though because so often at this time of year, we bookies seem to sometimes feel that we are inadequate in our reading because we haven’t read this or that. We are all doing just fine in what we are reading. Feeling inadequate is a perceived emotion that only we can put upon ourselves, right? So, go out and read whatever you want, and don’t read something just because its a classic.

My New Year’s Resolution: Take that copy of Ulysses to a used book store and hope it finds a loving home with people who can get past page 15.

Malcolm Jones, at The Daily Beast, asks the above question and then goes on to try to answer this question. The article has a wonderful sentiment (Fiction is about two things: Curiosity and Pleasure)and worth reading.

As a lifelong reader, I have rarely had any sort of compass to guide me. In school, of course, I read what I was told to read, and if a teacher said something was great, I tried to understand why. It took me a long time to get over school, to feel comfortable with the idea that just because the world bowed down to Henry James or Virginia Woolf didn’t mean that I must do likewise. Bothing against James or Woolf. I love his short novels and stories, and I love Orlando. But a lot of what they wrote does nothing for me, and I’ve learned to leave it on the shelf with a clean conscience. The sad thing is, I don’t think most people ever get over school’s idea of reading: the implicit idea that a work of literature is a puzzle to solve, its symbols and settings and so forth neatly identified and labeled. No wonder more adults don’t read for pleasure.

By any sane measure, my reading habits are atrocious. I read four, five, ten books at a time. I’ll start books one year and finish them the next. I’m not compelled to finish anything I don’t like. Given the choice, I’ll forgo unread books in favor of old favorites, and even then just for certain passages or even certain characters. V.K. Ratliff, the little sewing machine salesman in Faulkner’s Snopes trilogy, is not just one of my favorite characters; he’s one of my favorite people. It’s all but impossible for me not to think of him as real.

Check out the remainder of the article here:
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/01/05/can-great-literature-really-change-your-life.html

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