In Praise of…Reading

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Several things brought me to this post:

  • The path to the hair colour aisle at the grocery store
  • Shakespeare
  • My novel in progress
  • Highbrow literary pursuits

Don’t worry, even those who love me and know me well have a hard time following the trails in my brain…

Item #1:  Yesterday,walking past the racks of magazines and “supermarket novels” in order to get to my box of Natural Instincts Medium Brown (aka Espresso) hair colouring, I wondered if my novels would ever displayed with Road & Track on one side and Mickey Mouse gift wrap on the other.  As I walked past the Clive Cussler paperbacks, the Jodi Picoult novels, and others whose names I didn’t immediately recognize, I wondered if I would mind if my book was sold in a supermarket…

And, then I thought about the fact that Jodi’s and Clive’s kids probably have had top-notch university educations, braces paid for in cash, and at least two vacations a year in lovely, tropical locations.  Nope.  I wouldn’t mind at all.

  I don’t pretend to be aspiring for prizes such as the Booker, Giller, Pulitzer, Oprah Book Club (if it even exists anymore).  On the other hand, I don’t want to be known as a overtly commercial book-churning roboton.  I aspire to write engaging and readable stories – well written, of course – something I’d like to read. I aspire to…dare I say it… entertain.  I do not aspire to have readers yanking at their hair trying to figure out the mystical meaning of the novel’s deeply buried sub-plots.  Relax, read, enjoy.

Item #2: Shakespeare has come up a fair amount in our household recently.  Sunday night we watched the movie “Anonymous,” which, for any die-hard Shakespeare fan, is a bit unsettling.  Surely it doesn’t really matter whether Shakespeare penned all of those great literary works or not – what matters is there are great literary works out there that should still be read, explored, and enjoyed. My daughter is about to embark on her very first Shakespeare experience with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” She, like so many other students her age, is completely intimidated by the very name Shakespeare. 

But, if you believe popular culture’s portrayal of him, he was  a hard-working guy who was as confounded by the fickleness of muses as any other writer can be.  He struggled no doubt but also enjoyed great commercial success.  As both actor and writer, he lived to entertain.  Or, somebody using his name did, anyway.

Item #3:  The Novel is humming right along…except when I allow myself to worry that I’m not going to win a Booker, Giller or be the next Shakespeare.   I worry that I will worry myself right out of writing it.  Naturally, I tell myself to stop worrying and write it down – leave off the concerns until later.

Item #4:  I have had people suggest books to me that are uber-literary, and on the short list for this prize or that…nine times out of ten I give up after a few chapters.  Like a lot of people,  by the time I settle down to read, it’s late at night.  I’ve been writing and worrying over words all day.  After that, I tend to my family.  At bedtime, I don’t want to work too hard.  My taste in books runs to the witty, sharp, fast-moving, humourous (but not necessarily light).  I don’t do plodding, laborious, or deeply insightful; I hate books that have me asking “WTF?” at the end. 

I like to emerge from one of life’s greatest pastimes sated, happy (although sorry the book ended).  I stretch like a cat, yawn, and say, “Wow, great book!”  It is my greatest wish that someone emerges from their reading cocoon someday happy and sated after reading one of my books.  Guess I’d better get on with writing it…

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