Gig going foodie who reads too much, watches too much film, likes gardening, cooking/baking, and sewing. Likes to go to the theatre and anything arty. Likes travel, likes planning travel....likes solar eclipses.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

In Praise of Reading

On glancing through the May edition of "Booktime" acquired from my local library it struck me that reading seems to be very popular now.  I'm not talking about the masses of self help books you see great swaths of in book shops; "Learn how delivering a llama helped me to deal with next door's alcoholic grandad".  No, not that sort of thing.  Nor am I referring to the vats of cookery books (see what I did there) although I did roll my eyes in disbelief at the latest offering I saw; a book showing you how to prepare vegetables.  Well I never!  What next, "Walking for Dummies"?  No, not that either. I mean the increasing rise in literature for the masses.  From what I can see it falls into a few main areas.  "Chick lit" (hate that phrase) where Tamsin finds out that Daniel is having a mid life crisis, bonds with her yoga classmates over a pinot noir and eventually goes to live in a yurt and meets Sven; a crime thriller which runs the gamut from Christie inspired chocolate box killers to quite frankly very-nasty-and-I'm-never-reading-that-again books and then the good old books for boys; gladiators, spies, historical battles and lads mags derivatives (Yes, Top Gear I'm looking at you and all the other BBC spin offs).  It got me wondering.  Just who are the classics of today?  At one point get on a bus, a tube or on any beach and you couldn't move for Zadie Smith or Dan Brown.  In fact had I wanted to read any of his novels I could easily have done so over various shoulders.... but how many people have bought the must read to let in languish on their shelves?  I was once bought Wild Swans - why I have no idea - and it lay there until it was given away to a charity shop; at one point my local Oxfam was turning copies away as they had that many they could create a window display....Perhaps I am being too harsh.  After all Dickens started his career serialising in the penny dreadfuls so is Marian Keyes the new Dickens? Martina Cole the new Arthur Conan Doyle?  I'm not entirely sure about that....How far do the books take the reader?  Are they mere diversions or full blown journeys into the unknown?  In an age where everything is at the click of a mouse including viewing a street hundreds of miles away just how much of an alien word is the East End or the provinces?  In our consumer society where you too can buy that handbag carried by Cheryl Cole, it's not like it's the 80s with the glamour pushed by Jackie Collins as now the world seems, well a little bit more jaded, a bit more cynical a bit more, dare I say it, grubby.  Perhaps we know too much for our own good and ingrained cynicism prevents us from being lost in a book....perhaps we just don't have enough time or quite simply perhaps we've lost the art of deciding what to read for ourselves and now just assume if it's on the list it's good.....bit like that awful bottle of wine you ordered off the list in that fancy restaurant and then realised it's the same as you saw on the shelf in Tesco the other week - at three times the price......Maybe it's just me but I rarely read a contemporary good book that gives me the same descriptive qualities as say Dickens or Gissing.  Have we lost the art of a really good narrative description?  Are we so fast food, junk cultured out that we demand a quick fix of dialogue with no depth of characterisation.  I have no idea.....all I know is that I'm currently reading Jay Rayner's "The Man Who Ate the World" and it's a hoot.....he should be let loose on a crime thriller.... it'd probably involve offal......

No comments:

Post a Comment