Focus today’s post on the contrast between two things. The twist? Write the post in the form of a dialogue.
‘I’m not really a big reader.’
‘Really? Why not?’ I ask.
‘Well, I dunno, it’s boring…’
‘What sort of thing are you trying to read?’
‘I tried some Dickens a while ago, but I didn’t finish it.’
‘Hmm, that might be your problem then. Dickens and other nineteenth century authors might be regarded as classics but that doesn’t make them easier to read, in fact it might mean the opposite. Sometimes books get a reputation based on being hard to finish.’
‘Really? So I’m not a moron for not being able to appreciate the fine writing or intimate place setting?’ you laugh.
‘I wouldn’t say you were a moron because you don’t like the way an author writes. Have you tried anything else? Anything simpler? Or more contemporary? You might find it more enjoyable if the places are more familiar and the language more like what you’re used to hearing.’ I suggest.
‘Not really. I always thought new stuff was supposed to be trashy and not worth the time.’
‘Like what specifically?’
‘Well, like crime or fantasy or vampires. Is it even worthwhile?’
I think for a moment before I reply. ‘Every book has been written by someone who has poured hundreds, if not thousands of hours into honing their skills. The fact that a book is “genre fiction”, like crime or sci-fi or romance, doesn’t mean it’s a waste of time. There are so many great books out there, so many interesting characters to share, that you should try out as many different sorts as you can. Never be discouraged by people in ivory towers, or academics or even friends telling you it’s not worth it. Books are popular because people have a good time reading them, lots of books will never be critically acclaimed but they’re still fun to read.
‘I would never encourage you to stick with a book if you’re bored, or the story doesn’t make sense, or the voice of the author gets on your nerves, but don’t give up on reading altogether. And even if you try out lots of genres and still don’t really like reading, there’s always graphic novels and comics to look at. Even reading this blog counts!’
‘But what about all the classics? Shouldn’t I keep trying?’ you protest.
‘Well, you can if you like, but something to keep in mind is that language is fluid. Those classics, particularly the older ones, were written when language behaved differently. Some, like Shakespeare, are so far removed from current common usage as to be almost a foreign tongue. There is a lot of value in the works, but you need to learn how to translate them to get the most out of them, and you might not want to spend your time doing that. There will always be plenty of PhD candidates in the world who spend their lives reading the classics that they won’t be forgotten because you personally haven’t read them.
‘And reading contemporary stuff might mean that some poor, starving writer in the world gets to make some money to live off what they love to do, so everybody wins.’
‘Yeah, maybe. I’ll give something else a go. But where do I start?’
‘I suggest you go to your local library and ask them what’s popular but not too hard. They know lots of good books to start with. Or you could go to a book shop and ask them, or go online for reviews, or you could borrow something from my shelf. The world of reading awaits you, just open the cover and start!’