Monday, 3 May 2010

In which I ramble on, lose my point, and never quite find it again...

So this post started out as a facebook status, "why is it that profound, beautiful books are so easy to read, and when it's read, so hard to move on from..." I was going to follow that with "when crappy books are far too easy to move away from and drive me nuts".

I don't know if that makes a heap of sense, let me explain. I just finished reading The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, a prequel to The Shadow of the Wind, which I adored. I started reading it last night, finished it a little while ago, loved it. The words, the way it unfolds, everything. A satisfying read.

Compare that to the last Harry Potter book I read, which was, I think, book 3 or 4. It took me an hour and a half, it was dire. I don't like the Potter books (or the Twilight books for that matter), I think they're poorly constructed and derivative. I'm a lit geek, I taught myself to read at 3 (not boasting, just a fact), I have read literally thousands of books in the 20 years I've been a reader. I have a degree in English Lit, I'm going back to uni this year to get another one. I'd like to think of myself as a discerning, educated reader, and one who can tell the difference between good and poor writing.

I like to make an analogy between food and reading. Some books are like a delicious meal, they leave you full and satisfied, maybe even a little sleepy from pleasure. Others are like cheap junk food, they don't satisfy your appetite and they leave you strung out and still hungry. Zafon's books are the former, Rowling's the latter.

There are many books I've read in a really short space of time, if they're gripping, well written and the pacing requires you to stick with it. The Harry Potter book was trite, and I read it fast just so it could be over and I could read something else. It's not to do with length of text, I've mentioned my love of Poirot novels before, and they're scrappy little things, just superbly written, and the one book I'm still trying to get through is War and Peace (100 years of history cannot be confined to 300 pages unfortunately!) Just a question of quality. And yes, I have frequent disagreements with people who love these books (I'm using Harry Potter as an example, it's not the worst offender, merely one of them), and I appreciate to each their own, but when there's so much out there, many better written and far more enjoyable, it makes me a little sad that so many people can't get beyond the hype and search the shelves to find something they can really get their teeth (and mind) into.

Favourite, beloved books are like old friends, but forgiving old friends, who don't criticise, argue, but who welcome you with a warm tender embrace. Or like a faithful dog, with love and glee. I'm looking at my somewhat overloaded shelves right now, each groaning with the weight of books that I love, that I've read over and over, that I recommend to friends and family, that I rhapsodise over and return to, for comfort and familiarity. The story doesn't change, my perception and understanding sometimes does, but I know the ending, it's safe and comforting to know some things never change.

I'm not quite sure where this is going, there's something about books, and love, and enjoyment, and the fact that when you read a great book, it takes a while to dislodge it from your brain and start another, and oh I don't know. Here's a quote from The Angel's Game, which may have been my point, about the love of books.

" only friends were made of paper and ink. At school I had learned to read and write long before the other children. Where my school friends saw notches of ink on incomprehensible pages, I saw light, streets and people. Words and their hidden science fascinated me, and I saw within them a key with which I could unlock a boundless world..."

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