Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sunday Salon: A Minor Rant

I used to be able to stay up all night reading a book. These days I am lucky if I can stay up past 11:30 p.m. It is never the book's fault. The book can have me on the edge of my seat, but my eyes will not stay open no matter what I try to do to make that happen. The joys of growing old.

Today I was lucky enough to have most of the morning to myself, the house still quiet, my husband and visiting brother-in-law fast asleep. I used the opportunity to dive right back into my book, immerse myself in its pages. What better way to greet the day? I am reading David Ebershoff's The 19th Wife at the moment. It is an intriguing tale--two actually; one from the past and another set in present day times.

A friend of mine recently had an experience which many of us can relate to, especially if you read genre fiction of any kind. She was sitting on a bench outside of a restaurant one afternoon, waiting for her lunch date to arrive. She figured she would use her early arrival to catch up on a little reading. Out came the novel she had tucked away in her purse.

The woman who sat down next to her made a visible effort to see the cover of the book my friend was holding. "Oh. It's one of those novels," the woman said. The woman must have been feeling rather talkative because she went on to say that she only read books that challenged her and added to her personal growth.

My friend jokingly asked, "You prefer reading self-help books then?"

The woman shook her head vigorously. No, she meant that she reads the classics and literary fiction. Too much of that other stuff, "mysteries, romance and, oh, those horrid fantasy novels," would most certainly dull the mind. There's no value in books like that, the woman said.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are readers who have commented that they "only read for pleasure" when asked if they have read a classic or a book that would more generally be classified as "literary" - as if the person reading those types of books do not read for pleasure.

I am of the mind that reading is a very individual experience, and, as a result, it can be different for all of us. Our reading tastes vary. Our reasons for reading what we do are not always the same. Where we are in our lives, our moods and experiences all can play a part in what we get out of what we are reading at any given time. While the academics and scholars may argue over the value of one type of book over another--for me, the average reader, they stand on equal ground. I know not everyone agrees with me on that point. And that's okay. For them. I just want them to respect my choices, not snub their noses at them.

Week in Review:
Review of The Tenth Case by Joseph Teller
Review of First Daughter by Eric Van Lustbader
Guest Appearance by Publisher Lou Aronica
Bookish Chatter

39 comments:

  1. Perfectly stated, Wendy. I agree with you 100%. I think that's why I found the Reader's Bill of Rights and put it on my blog!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Well said! It seems there are all kinds of ways in life to misunderstand each other....

    ReplyDelete
  3. I could have written that first paragraph myself!!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. We're of the same mind on this subject. I do admit, however, that I sometimes worry that I don't read enough of what is considered to be "classics" but when I do, I only pick something that sounds good to me. I don't read a book based upon which category it fits into. I certainly don't judge other people based on what they're reading. How annoying.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I agree with you! What I really hate is when someone feels the need to belittle other people's reading choices and there are a good majority of people who are ashamed of reading a certain genre (mainly romance), going so far as to buy bookcovers to hide what they're reading! I don't think that lady should have been able to open her mouth and give an opinion on something she had probably never read before- and that goes for all of the snooty, look-at-me, I'm-better-than-you types.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I've never had anyone snub me for my reading choices, but I actually had a woman say, "I can't believe you take time to read when you are a homeschooling mom and have so many other things that need doing."

    The sad thing is that she was a fellow homeschooling mom. I can't think of anything more frightening than a person who doesn't read teaching his or her children.

    ReplyDelete
  7. 11:30 seems SO late to me! It's 10 now and I'm about to die! I'm usually in bed by 9 or 9:30. I'm often losing the battle by 8:30. I'm only up this late now since I have tomorrow off (I may have mentioned that!)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi Wendy, me wants to rant a little bit too. :)

    I get this all the time. It's like reading a chick-lit novel is sinful. Or a vampire story. Or something that does not sound 'normal'. I don't know what these people's problems are but I don't care... I will read what I like to read... I thought I should launch into explaining the stuff I read, that I read across many genres both fiction and non-fiction.

    Another thing is this: Wow, you are very free huh. So much free time to read all this and blog some more.

    I'm like, what's your problem...

    ReplyDelete
  9. Oh, I hate literary snobs. Just because they don't like something doesn't mean they have to look down on the rest of us who do. I love fantasy.

    I also get people who look down on me for reading, or comment on how they wish they had my free time when I'm in school. I don't just "have free time", I often make time to read rather than doing things like watch TV or wasting hours on the internet, although both those things happen sometimes too.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I can't stay awake past 11 either. And believe me it does not have anything to do with getting old.

    But some people do not read for pleasure. My elder sister used to read just becuase her friends recommended her something. She painstakingly finsihed some of her books just so that she could say something when they were being discussed. She likes reading, but i hope she realizes that she does not have to like each and every book.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Ha, I've met my share of people like that lady. Actually, some people have called me stupid and/or shallow to my face for liking fantasy. It used to make me angry, but these days it just makes me laugh :P

    You stated it perfectly in your last paragraph. I couldn't agree more.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I totally agree with you. I read whatever gives me pleasure - sometimes it's classics, sometimes it's chick lit, and sometimes it's something in between. Getting older is tough - you can't stay up late and you get up at the crack of dawn.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I agree with what you said about "where we are in our lives, our moods and experience all can play a part..."

    So many times, when I pick up a book, it all has to do with my mood. I like all kinds of genres and feel that people need to respect that. Just because I read a vampire novel or mystery or chick-lit doesn't mean the next book won't be Jane Eyre.

    This is a great post!!!

    ReplyDelete
  14. I'm with you, Wendy! Reading is a very individual experience... and it's definitely not right to judge other people based on the books they read.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Very well said, Wendy!

    Usually I can just laugh when people act like that but sometimes it gets under my skin too. Most of all, I read what I want! :)

    Hope your Monday is going well.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I think it's really annoying when people judge others' taste in reading. Everyone individual is different. And just because a book is fiction or fantasy, doesn't mean you can't learn from it!

    I used to be able to stay up late and read in bed. But now with a toddler who wakes me up at seven every morning (and the cat tries to get me up at five!) then keeps me running all day, I rarely can stay awake later than midnight.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I used to stay up all hours reading and I can't seem to do that much anymore. It can't be that I'm getting older right? :)

    And, totally agree with you.... Reading is an individual experience and we all come to books for our own reasons. That should be celebrated in itself.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I couldn't agree with you more. Reading is reading is reading. It doesn't matter what you read as long as you read. No matter what I read, I find that I can learn something even if I'm reading genre fiction. I also find that many of the classics and more literary works provide a great deal of pleasure.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Silly woman! So she only watches news shows and documentaries, right? No reality tv, no dramas, no talk shows, no sitcoms? LOL.
    I totally agree with you that what to read is an individual choice, and our preferences can, and often do, change over time.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I couldn't have said this better! Nothing irks me more than when people start judging others based on what they read - how silly! With reading supposedly declining, I am just happy individuals are still reading!

    ReplyDelete
  21. This actually happened to me and i lost a friendship over it. I used to have a Yahoo book site, one of the participants, at the time a friend did not agree on anothers reading taste to the point of nastiness. I had to remind her we have all different tastes and it is important to read what brings us pleasure, she would not let go on the pluses of reading only high minded books. I had to ban her...:{
    I still have the friend I stood up for and like her blog a lot and that she enjoys reading what makes her happy.

    ReplyDelete
  22. How annoying for your friend! What was the lady trying to say? That your friend has bad taste or is a dummy? I don't think we are our books. I'll read everything from romance to classics. What's that say about me?

    ReplyDelete
  23. What an awesome post, Wendy and so perfectly put! I think that reading, no matter the genre is of the greatest importance and no matter the topic or genre will expand a mind. Without several genres out there, I don't think that one would expand their imaginations quite as much. I, for one, read for pleasure whenever I can - and that may be a mystery, suspense, classic, humor, etc, just depending on my mood. I am a total mood reader. Reading of any kind is better than no reading at all!
    Also, I had to laugh when I read about your inablility to stay awake at night to read. I am soooo completely the same way and it really royally ticks me off, lol. I want to read a book so bad and even if I am at a hugely intense part, my darn eyes refuse to cooperate and remain open. I get so mad at myself! My hubby just laughs at me! lol

    ReplyDelete
  24. Great post Wendy and well said. What we read is a personal choice-no better or worse than anyone else. What's important is that people are reading. I respect other's differences and I enjoy hearing about what they like. Sometimes I even step out of my comfort zone because of it and I think that's great.

    I'm with you on that reading late into the night. I don't know whether it's the cold weather here now or what but I lay down with my book and get all comfy and ready to read and then the next thing you know it's 2 in the morning and I'm reaching over to put the book away and turn out the lights. Errrrrrrrrrg. lol.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Wow. Maybe I just like to keep myself to myself, but I cannot imagine ever making a thoughtless comment like that about someone else's reading choice! Especially a stranger. I, too, read a little bit of everything, but my horizons have definitely been expanded as far as "those" types of books are concerned. I think reading ANYTHING is wonderful, and I fully believe in the saying, "To each her own!"

    ReplyDelete
  26. I so agree with you! Reading choices are an individual experience and nobody should judge someone else's reading choices.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Wendy, well said. Just read. Read what you enjoy. I just LOVE to see people reading, and hear them talking about books regardless of what they're reading.

    So, what time do you wake up if you're reading until 11:30?


    Shana
    Literarily

    ReplyDelete
  28. Some people just take themselves to seriously LOL. Well said Wendy!

    Annette

    ReplyDelete
  29. For me it really comes down to the fact that someone is reading SOMETHING. Blah!! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I just want them to respect my choices, not snub their noses at them.


    I agree.

    ReplyDelete
  31. This is why I use some cute book covers sometimes. Everyone has their own reading preferences. I'm just glad when I see someone reading!

    ReplyDelete
  32. Oh my! Am I ever behind in responding to your wonderful comments! Thank you very much for stopping by, everyone.

    I do usually laugh about things like this ,but occasionally they get under my skin and annoy me.

    Alice & Meghan - I get that too. I must have a lot of time on my hands to be able to read so much (and here I'm always complaining I don't have enough time to read! Haha).

    Sylvie - That is so sad about your friendship. Something like reading taste isn't worth ruining friendships over (although some would disagree, I know).

    April - I hate it when I can't keep my eyes open at the most intense part of the book! I try so hard to hang on, but I just can't do it most of the time. :-(

    Lexi - I tend to keep to myself too. I do peek at other people's books to see what they are reading if it's not going to be obvious, but I rarely say anything if it's someone I don't know.

    Shana - My wake up time during the week is 5:15 a.m. I try and get to bed by 10 p.m., but that doesn't always work out.

    ReplyDelete
  33. I agree! Just hearing her comments make her appear close-minded about reading choices. Something else that bothers me is when people tell me 'I don't have time to read' and say it with an attitude like I must be lazy for reading books. That infuriates me.

    By the way, I'm so glad I'm not the only one who nods off while trying to read at night. I used to be such a night owl. Now I get most of my reading done in the early morning. Does that mean I'm old? lol

    ReplyDelete
  34. Hurrah! Couldn't have said it better.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Lisa - I find that to be true for me too. I used to have no problem staying up late. I imagine my work schedule and the animals play a part in that more than getting older--but it's more fun to blame age. ;-)

    Andi - Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  36. Gah. I hate when people do/say things like that. I read what appeals to me at the moment. Does everything have to be a "Learning Experience"?

    ReplyDelete
  37. Carrie K - Exactly! I do like to expand my horizons, but there are also times to read just for the pure entertainment value. Regardless, I enjoy doing both and everything in between.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Hear hear! Well said, I completely agree with you!

    ReplyDelete
  39. I admit that in my youth I was one of those people who judged people's reading selections. It has come back to bite me, though, because now I have trouble fully enjoying my own reading. When I dislike a book that is supposed to be highbrow literature (Possession by A. S. Byatt comes to mind), I feel stupid because all the smart people like it. On the flip side, I can't read a romance or chick lit book without thinking I should be reading something "better".

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for taking the time to visit Musings of a Bookish Kitty. Don't be shy! I would love to hear from you. Due to a recent increase in spam, I will be moderating comments for the foreseeable future. Please be patient with me as it may take a few hours before I am able to approve your comment.