Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Why we read

I picked up a book today for the first time since God alone knows when, a fiction book that is. All I seem to have been reading of late have been textbooks – how to write HTML, how to blog, the ins and outs of web marketing – it can wear you down.

The book, not that it matters too much, is On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan. I’ve not read anything by him since The Cement Garden despite the fact we have practically all of his books in the house. The attraction was its size. Best to break oneself in gently.

I have mixed feelings about reading which I could put down to my age but it’s not the case because I’ve always had them. Do I like reading is perhaps the first question that deserves an answer and the answer is, no.

Let me clarify. I don’t particularly enjoy the physical act of reading – I can never get comfortable, my eyes start to itch, I get sleepy – unless (and it is a BIG unless) the author manages to captivate me, entrance me – call it what you will. We use the term ‘novel’ to describe a book-length piece of prose and that’s where the problem lies for me. On the surface every book is new, which is where the term ‘novel’ is derived from but there’s new and there’s new.

There was a time when anything remotely female caught my eye. Nowadays I wander around peering at the ground unless (and it is a BIG unless) the girl/woman/lady has that certain je ne sais quoi. It’s usually unqualifiable and the females in question tend to come under the heading ‘not conventionally beautiful’. It is the same with books. I don’t want to get intimate – and let’s face it, reading is pretty intimate – with any old book that says it’s a novel.

Secondly then, so why do I read? You never know. You can suspect but you never know until you crawl in between the covers. Sure, you can ask you friends, “How was it?” but they may have simply not connected the way you will. Of course, as I get older, I can talk myself out of getting uncomfortable very easily.

Anyway we’ll see how this goes. It’s keeping my interest so far.

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