Monday, May 09, 2005

Reading is FUNdamental

The last three weeks I have been on a reading spree. Right now I am re-reading Kings Of The Bs:Working Within The Hollywood System:An Anthology of film history and criticism and yes, some of it is as boring as the title sounds but these words caught my attention today:

The reason people get hooked on movie detail or on B movies in general or on, say, movie serials has nothing to do with the quality of either those films or those details, any more than getting hooked on rock 'n' roll or baseball has anything to do with the quality of the individual songs or games. Unlike the Ph.D. candidate forced to illuminate the works of a minor writer, the lover of B movies never attempts to raise them up to the level of high art or to analyze them by applying high art's standards.

That isn't to say that movie freaks don't exercise discriminatory taste. It's quite unlike getting hooked on minor literature. Mystery novel addicts often feel uncomfortable with high literature, and people who read spy novels often don't want to put in the work it takes to enjoy a better book. Addicts of subliterature don't really like reading, just as those executives who attend the World Series and never go to any other games don't like baseball
(What's So Hot About Going To The Movies by Clive T. Miller)

Addicts of subliterature don't really like reading...I never thought about it this way before and I feel sorry for them. When I was a child my mother always said (whenever she was criticized for allowing her children to read comic books)that she did not care what we read as long as we were reading. Twice a month she would bring a new stack of comic books home from the grocery store and we would all lie around the living room reading them.

But she also knew that we would continue to grow in our reading. We all had library cards that did not limit our ability to check out books to just the children's section. Any book I was interested in I was allowed to read. One day, I was in the eight grade, I sat reading Catcher In The Rye while waiting for science class to start when the boy sitting next me noticed what book I was perusing and asked if my mother knew I was reading a dirty book. I told him first of all, it wasn't a dirty book and second of all, my mother bought it for me. I wonder what he would have thought if he saw me reading The Godfather when I sixteen. During those years I also read Dickens, Kerouac, Bradbury, Chandler, Hammett, Stoker, Twain, Doyle, LeGuin, Steinbeck and Poe. And I read almost every one of John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee mysteries.

I've just finished reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A Novel by Susanna Clarke which is about two magicians who bring practical magic back to early nineteenth century England. It's big, it's long, and it takes a while to get into but it is well worth the time you put into it. It is just the book Jane Austen would have written if she had been channeling Edgar Allen Poe at the time.

Anyway, I was reading this book while working at the library and one woman who saw me with it said she could never read a book that big because it took to long to finish. The words of someone who really does not like to read. Other patrons come in and check out a pile of Harliquin Romances or the same Louis L'Amour westerns over and over again. Some only read Grisham or Danielle Steel. Some don't read at all and only check out audio books. Most, whatever they check out, are embarrassed that they read at all, saying as lay their books on the counter, "I shouldn't be wasting my time reading when I have so many other things to do."

The sad thing is they are passing this attitude on to their children. Once the kids here are out of elementary school they only come in to the library to use the computer to either get online or play video game. I find the whole thing very depressing.

No comments: