Friday, 8 January 2010
A balanced literary diet
I’m often baffled by heated discussions about reading preferences. When it comes to certain books…Dan Brown’s novels, say, or the Stephanie Meyer Twilight series, it seems like battle lines get drawn and people are determined not to move into enemy territory. And as Claire Allen discussed in an entertaining and thought-provoking post on Monday, chick lit can be another of those light-the-touch-paper-and-run topics when it comes to discussions among readers.
I’ve been thinking about all this a lot and have come to the conclusion [again… sigh] that I’m a bit strange.
Let me put it like this: am I the only person who views books like food?
Okay, I know this sounds like a huge leap in logic, but stay with me here. Reading nourishes and satisfies me on a daily basis, or it can leave me feeling empty and hollow if it isn’t very good. But my point is this: just as I wouldn’t dream of eating the same meal every day for a month, am I alone in craving variety in reading matter?
The tone of the discussions mentioned above is often ‘I only ever read XXXX genre’. It seems a bit like saying, ‘I only ever eat cheese.’
My desire for contrasts means that on a broad level, I might read a children’s or YA novel straight after reading an adult one. Or if I’ve just finished something literary and sombre, a lighter, frothy book feels like a palate cleanser. It goes further than that too. If I’ve just read something historical and English, I’ll probably fancy something US and zeitgeisty straight after.
It’s part of the joy of reading for me. Part of this may be the freakish speed at which I read. It’s not big or clever or designed to sound like a boast in any way [I sometimes secretly think it’s actually a bit weird] but I am such a voracious and obsessive consumer of books that I tend to chew them up a bit quickly. Maybe this is a failing and I should spend longer savouring the experience, but I can’t help devouring books just as I would a delicious meal.
Now don’t get the impression I’m just some sort of reading Hoover and don’t care about quality. I do, deeply. But sometimes I fancy reading something a bit trashy, just as the urge for a bag of Marmite crisps [or two] can be impossible to ignore.
I’m not pretending I’ll read any genre either. I generally don’t enjoy sci-fi or fantasy [although my two favourite YA books of last year: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness both had sci-fi echoes] and I’m not a big fan of chick lit, apart from the few Marian Keyes I’ve read [sorry Claire]. I do have preferences, of course, but I can no more imagine only reading one kind of fiction than I could exist on a diet solely of cheese.
I’d love to know what others think about this.
Does anyone else feel the need for a balanced literary diet?