Why do I read when most novels eventually escape me? The remembrance of being read but not what was actually read and a vague sense of plot. Even of characters, their names forgotten when at the time I was immersed, knew exactly who was who or could identify with them.
this occurs because I read too much...? It's only in a very few cases
it says more about the novel, because I will persevere until the
bitter end if none too keen. Life's too short, you might say, but
then I'm of the view that once started something has to be finished.
I'd rather read and feel increasingly annoyed than admit defeat, and
to give up, the contemplation of it or the temptation to throw the
book down and say 'Enough!' comes with a large dose of Catholic-like
guilt accompanied by doubt: What Am I Missing? Maybe it gets
better... especially if the work of fiction being held before my eyes
has won a prize like the Man Booker, been read aloud on BBC Radio
Four or praised by a Book Club. What does that say I wonder? About me
or the rated reviews?
I hope to learn how to write, how others write and more about what I
do and don't like as a reader. Yes, it's all that but also escapism,
which in a few occasions doesn't work because something or other
doesn't ring true or a detail or two jars. The characters or the
setting don't work for me nor on my imagination. My attention gets
sucked back to the here and now; my concentration wanders to matters
which would normally wait until the end of a paragraph or chapter. My
whole reading bitty, focused in more parts than others.
a few authors too try to write historically when they may not have
either lived through that time or that experience, in that particular
country. It can't always be pulled off with an aplomb like Hillary
Mantel. Then the prose reeks of an explored idea, rather than as an
all-consuming subject which has been lived and breathed and
researched, and re-researched. Personally I don't mind the
exploratory nature but I do if it's sold (not by the writer) as a
form of truth, as in this is how it really was, this is what he was
like. Or when modernity seems to have infiltrated the plot or
aren't all that clever (and I include myself in that sweeping
generalisation). Some may confuse entertainment with factual truth,
so in that sense writers who choose to make history (and reading)
accessible have a responsibility either to make it clear it's just an
idea or to do a damn fine job.
generations approaching reading will have different expectations and
different educations: certain events will stretch back even further
for them, and I worry that they won't be so discerning as to know
what is fiction, what is propaganda, what is a downright lie. Maybe I
do them a disservice...but as past events recede only relatively
recent events will resonate because anything else is out of their
realm of experience or that of relatives or the aged population,
which must surely affect anybody's ability to empathise.
becomes fabrication; fabrication becomes truth. There are as many
truths as there are individuals, but a collective (and fabricated)
truth has the greater potential to cause either division or unity. Do
we really want society to have those kind of pockets? Or for us, as a
people, to distrust everything and everybody? Or conversely, to have
belief in everything we're told, to not question or act out of
allegiance or fear?
everything. Accept nothing as truth, your truth or anyone's else
truth, because truth too changes and ages with time. And truths can
be made to fit circumstances. A perspective freely given sometimes no
longer applies or applies differently as more details become known or
emotions, running high, simmer down. Allow for that and don't be too
quick to follow yours or anybody else's thoughts.
then, like the body, is a functional tool. And just like using tools,
it takes practise as well as regular upkeep to recognise the
individual tweaks your mind needs in its reading matter.
Picture credit: Gas, circa 1940, Edward Hopper