I read a bit. I’ve read quite a bit, fairly widely too, I think. I don’t ‘devour’ books, the way some people do, and many more claim to, largely because I read quite slowly, and tend to get distracted. I read, and I enjoy it. Still, with the advent of digital books, and the apparent resulting resurgence in reading, the main forms of reader’s snobbery annoy me more every day. And what does Faheem do when things annoy him? Blog about them, of course.
Text is an incredibly effective means of communicating information. Actually, that’s not true. It is credible. We’ve come to terms with it. It is a fantastic way of conveying ideas, imagery and style, and is certainly capable of delivering large volumes of information extremely efficiently. It’s not necessarily the best way in all circumstances. It’s certainly not the only way.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a historical tendency for people who don’t enjoy reading to be less educated, less informed, and what some may call ‘less cultured’. I accept that. But this is changing. In fact, it has changed. Some of the most interesting people I know don’t read, and the opposite, we all know, is certainly true.
Secondly, there is a lot of drivel that gets published, and read by many people, but so what? They enjoy it, so let them enjoy it. Not everything everyone reads needs to cause some sort of self-improvement.
And while we’re on the topic of books that can result in self-growth, I’d like to acknowledge the many people who read these books for the sake of having read them, just to casually mention at a later stage.
"Oh did you see the news last night?"
"Yes! Oh, sorry, I thought you said ’Did Ulysses’. I’ve just finished reading it and I like the way Joyce contrasts the…" etc etc.
Just so you know, very few people care. Stop it. You’ll still find love. Somewhere. I think.
Last is an issue that’s bugged me longer than the rest. It’s an issue that is prevalent amongst the type of blogs and films against which I normally direct my blogging odium, but predates that pretentious drivel to an idea pertinaciously fed to me during my upbringing, which I’ve refused to accept. You see, I don’t believe in ‘The Classics’.
I refuse to believe some books are extraordinary purely because I’ve been told so, as parents, teachers and some friends have expected me to. While I haven’t read them all, there are certain books amongst the oft-cited canon of ‘The Classics’ that I found to be very much just fine (and if you’re thinking about words like ‘fine’, you might be interested in another post of mine: http://whattheghoti.tumblr.com/post/60743158994/lets-all-calm-down).
I’m no literary expert, but that’s hardly relevant, and I wouldn’t trust many in any case. I’d happily replace a book like, ’Lord of the Flies’ with ’Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency’ and I’d throw some Wodehouse and Waugh into the school curriculum for good measure. I found ’Animal Farm’ lacking in subtlety and depth, and I consider ’1984’ the grown-up version of ’Animal Farm’, yet still entirely unimpressive. I mention those books, not because they’re the only ones contained in lists of ‘The Classics’ which I’ve read - because they aren’t - but because they’re ones many people have read.
Conversely, there are books considered classics, such as ‘The Great Gatsby’ and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ (again, these mentioned because many people have read them), which I absolutely loved, for their style, content and their literary merit, and very much not because they’re listed amongst ‘The Classics’. In fact, I tried, on principle, not to enjoy them for their featuring in that list.
Books vary greatly in style, content and literary value, certainly, but that’s horribly subjective and, more importantly, not what always matters. There is no consensus, despite what the teachers and semi-informed bloggers tell you, on which are the greatest books ever. The listing of some books is irreproachable, but there are many the presence of which should be rightly contested instead of accepted mindlessly.
In any case, the snobbishness is wholly unnecessary. Don’t act aghast that someone hasn’t read some so-called classic, don’t pretend you enjoyed a book you actually didn’t, and don’t recommend one unless you think the reader will actually gain something from reading it.
I enjoy reading, as I’ve already said. I think many more people would enjoy it too, if they found the right book to get them started. Instead, one who wants to begin reading a bit is faced with a near-insurmountable wall of smugness, ’must-read books’ lists and strong opinions presented as fact, and the fault lies entirely with those who do read regularly.
I hoped that, in a time when books are more accessible, more people would be able to read more widely, and I think it is still possible. Readers simply need to decide if they’d like to share the pleasures of reading instead of enjoying belonging to a patronising, smug and, frankly, terribly annoying ‘elite’. And if you choose the latter, piss off.