June 23 – Something You Want To Read
aka. Post 23 of Those 30 Posts in June Blog-Every-Day Posts
I’ve figured out why my whole novel re-reading effort flopped. It has a bit to do with taste and a bit to do with age and a bit to do with minds already stuffed full of stories.
Remember that? It was only a few weeks ago, actually, that I decided to kill my 2016 reading effort, that goal of re-reading twenty-five books from my past that had once long ago tickled my fancy. Those were books that I’d randomly thought worthy of re-visiting this year. I tried. I read. I wrote about it. But it wasn’t cutting it for me. It was boring the hell out of me, in fact.
I attributed my lack of enthusiasm to various things, like the fact that so many of the books I once loved were driven by suspense and that what-happens-next question that pulls you along through the often (and what turned out to be) so-so writing. Once that mystery is gone then right along with it goes the inspiration to keep reading. Luckily, on your first time through, that inspiration usually burns out on precisely the last page. On a re-read, it flares out much more quickly.
But there is something else. I think. And I’ve been thinking about this a little bit too much.
It’s not just about the lack of knowing what is going to happen. It seems that I used to read from a sense that there was more to discover between the pages, between the lines, amongst the deeper lessons of the plot. There was a sense I could learn something, see an amazing new insight about the universe, glimpse at the upturned wreck of our culture, glean a bit of insight into science or faith, or peek around the corner of reality. Not so much anymore. I don’t feel that. And it’s sot that I’m above learning lessons, no. It’s more that the type of drivel I used to read more of had more opportunity to surprise and teach because maybe, perhaps, really it was that I was young, naive and less cynical than I am now. I’ve grown a little older. We all have. But in doing so I pushed through various collections of blow-your-mind fiction and, well, there’s only so many ways to blow your mind. It’s harder to be surprised. It’s tougher to find a new, world-shattering concept between those same pages. Even tough in new pages.
I guess what I’m saying is that it’s not you, fiction, it’s me.
Part of me likes having that desensitization to the bizarre ideas of the universe. I like that I’ve read books on philosophy and physics. I like that I’ve defaulted to a rational-minded worldview. I like that I’ve pulled back the curtain on some things. And while I’m sure that there are a million more mind-blowing ideas out there, some known, many not, fiction is trapped by a kind of market-driven quantity and breed of strangeness that parts of me feels like I’ve exceeded. Humbly. Frustratingly.
Or, at least, I’m struggling to find more than few a spotty handfuls of strangeness in our popular culture.
It’s a bit of a curse this not being able to read things like you used to. Full of wonder. Full of optimism. Full of the notion that almost anything you would read could show you a facet of the universe you hadn’t already seen a hundred times before.