I used to be a voracious reader. I considered myself bookish and so did everyone around me. And whenever I saw a book I have not read my pulse will quicken and I would start looking at the book longingly. I used to read the few books that I got with gratefulness and read them from cover to cover. Those were the days. Now my iPad is filled with PDFs of books by ostensibly great writers and I just close the tab and play an online game.
But I am not sure if it is just the presence of the online games that stopped me being a book-lover. It is also the quality of the books that I found around me. Does finding the right book for you get more and more difficult as you grow older? Why am I less indulgent about the prose? Is it because you can’t really enjoy James Patterson after acquainting yourself in Wilkie Collin’s writing? My first Patterson book attempted a multiple narrative format and fell flat on its own face. Did Agatha Christie spoil the mystery genre for me by making me too used to slithering red herrings that now when someone tries to put a mystery under my nose, I sniff it out and tut-tut at the budding author’s lack of skill? I don’t know. But I still feel the need to read.
A few years ago a friend pushed J. D. Salinger’s “The catcher in the rye” into my hands and I returned the favor by pushing a copy of George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion” into hers and we continued to do this until she relocated to Hyderabad. Now I have no one who really knows what I will like and the recommendations I see online don’t do anything to me. Or maybe I am just picking the wrong recommendations?
These days I start judging the writer from the first line onwards. It does not feel like I am following the protagonist’s journey. It is more like the author is sitting in front of me and trying to impress me in some sort of audition and I give Simon Cowell-type pronouncements on the quality of the product. And it seems to me that the young ones have started to write before they have read enough. Reading the seven Harry Potter books alone is all very well if you want to write Snape/Lily shipping stories. But writing something that is worth reading is a herculean task and good preparation of the mind is essential from the writer and I wonder if sufficient ‘writers’ realize this. I find it painful when very immature writers try to be profound.
Steven Pinker, Richard Dawkins and Matt Ridley kept me company with their well-researched Pop-Sci books and I could not get enough of their erudite and passionate arguments in favor of their pet theories. And even if some of their concepts are too much for my slow brain, it still worth the trouble I put into reading their books.
But I came to miss evocative storytelling from someone who knew what he or she was doing. My childhood dream was to earn enough money to buy any book I took a fancy to. But just as the dream was turning to a reality, my ability to take fancy to any book at all was at an all-time low. Is that the fate of adulthood?
Do you still read? Can you recommend something from a writer who isn’t putting on a circus of emotions and going all drama-queen on me? Can you recommend something to read that was really worth your while?