Monday, August 04, 2008

The Pleasures of Zigzag & Kite Runners

Back in July, both Ana Maria and Dorothy expressed their annoyance—even, perhaps anger—at a little essay in the Guardian about Reader’s Block, the inability to finish a book. I read the piece and didn’t find anything in it to irritate me. I admire their venom and frustration--maybe I'm missing something in my own make up as a reader? But then, I experience reader’s block a lot and find the phenomenon fascinating--and I'm clearly not alone. I cherish the knowledge that Charles Darwin’s reading journal recorded where he stopped reading books and, occasionally, why. (Oh to be a Victorian, recording everything!) And I loved Germaine Greer’s testy response to reader’s block, too:
Have you experienced reader's block?
It's just a different world. I read all the time; I can't stop reading. It might apply to my assistant, but she is on holiday, so she is probably reading like mad.
Could you recommend a book to get people reading again? Oh God, I don't read novels! Why do people think that reading a book means reading a fucking novel? You finish reading the book and you think "Well, that's over. There's four hours down the drain." At least in non-fiction you might pick up some information you can trust. My whole world is built out of books, but they aren't Booker prize-winners, which I frankly always think are overrated. Like lots of people who end up reading stuff they don't want to read, what I pick up is mainly dictated by what's in the airport bookshop, which is a very depressing cross-section. I think some people are reading a whole lot more that they need to be. I think all these children banging themselves on the head with Harry Potter would be better off doing almost anything else. Why are we so sanctimonious and moralistic about reading?
Her solution is more extreme than Woolf’s which is all about variety: read for pleasure; reading is an end in itself; choose a book that complements what you have just read.

In this summer of isolation and Woolf, the action heroes of Agent Zigzag (on whom, more soon) and melodrama of The Kite Runner have been welcome breaks.

3 comments:

Dorothy W. said...

I think that some of my response to that article has to do with not getting (not understanding, not appreciating) a certain kind of humor. Actually, I am interested in reader's block too (although my post doesn't let on that that's true), but was irritated by the dismissive tone the author used to discuss difficult books. I found some of Greer's response appalling, but I'm taking it entirely too seriously! I have a habit of doing that ... I did like her last line about people being sanctimonious and moralistic about reading.

amcorrea said...

My issue was primarily with the tone of the piece and the assumption that the only real reason for reading is entertainment value. Basically, if a book isn't entertaining you, toss it. God forbid that people challenge themselves occasionally...

But, of course, when I have trouble getting through a book, I usually blame myself rather than the author. And usually persistence pays off. I experience wonderful things that I would've missed out on had I given up.

Obviously, "bad books" do exist. It's just that I don't have a lot of patience for the attitude that says if one isn't immediately "sucked in" then the book isn't worthwhile. Such a cop-out.

Anyway, at least it was a chance to use a favorite Flannery O'Connor quotation! :)

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