6.8.09

Book randomness

Increasingly, I find myself reading books without first reading the back cover or the sleeve, which carries the intro/summary. Of course, it's not completely random - I pick them from a certain genre selection, so I am somewhat aware of what it's going to be like.

I've been thinking about it, but I'm still not really sure why. I first noticed it when I started reading the latest volume in a couple of series, and realised I was 80 pages into it and I hadn't bothered to see what exactly to expect in this one. I shrugged it off.

Then I found myself doing the same with any book which had written by an author I knew and liked, but which I hadn't read. I sort of rationalised it away, figuring maybe it was because I already had some idea about the quality and tone of the book, having read the author's previous works.

But the last few times I've gone to my local library, I've found myself randomly picking up books - even though there are dozens of books that I want to read by authors I really like. And now I'm quite confused.

I'm certainly not bored of reading, or bored of the stuff that's out there. And no, I'm not four, so it's not about pretty bookcovers, ok.

Whatever the reason, there is this - I find myself reading the books more closely. You know how it is when you pick up a book that looks interesting and you sort of know how things are going to go until a certain point, so you sort of just skim through? Not happening.

Because I no longer know what the book is about, or what's going to happen, I'm reading every page like it's going to be the one where things really start to happen. And when they do, it's like that bit in a horror flick where the monster jumps out and shocks you. It's like being told a story when you're a kid, and you're just hearing it unfold, with no preconceptions. It's so much more fun.

Sure, you're likely to pick up some bad books in the process, but the experience of reading the good ones this way is worth it. Try it.

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Talking of books and preconceptions, here's the reverse.

The Bride and I plan to try and read Joyce's Ulysses, as part of a we've-stopped-being-litty-readers-and-have-lost-our-culture (more details on her blog). In addition, I also plan to eat a lot of curd.

I've started the book at least five times, and have never gone beyond page 18 (hush, Falsie, no sneering now). For several reasons.

At first, I was put off because I felt I had to read the book, because it's such a wondrous masterpiece, dontchaknow, and how can you call yourself a bibliophile if you haven't read it, which immediately put me against it (I've posted about this attitude before - any sociologists/psychologists out there who know if there's an actual term for this?). So I picked it up, but resented every word, and eventually put it away.

Then, when I had cooled off enough (give or take two years), I picked it up again and got tired because I thought he was just trying to be clever and difficult for the sake of being so (which he was). And I was like, sod it if I'm going to be patronised. And the last time, well....it just didn't grip me (ok, enough with the gasps of horror already).

Still. There must be something in the book, right? So, once more into the breach, and all that. And in the interest of doing something interesting with blogs, we'll post our progress publicly, discuss how we interpreted/liked the latest bit, and so on.

Anybody want to join in? We could make this a group effort.

10 comments:

Mudra said...

Sounds interesting dude. If only I could remember bits of what Iv'e read recently. But yes, sooner or later, we shall.

km said...

The start-and-stop cycle is fairly common with Joyce but don't stop starting :) If you haven't already read it, start with an easy, fun Joyce: "A portrait of the artist..."

The Bride said...

Oops and I was sneakily trying to shelve that plan. (I have now started rereading The Scarlet Pimpernel).

I also started backtracking in favour of Portrait Of The Artist (because it opens with something about a moo-cow which I think is delightful) but that won't solve my problem of dying without having read Ulysses, so Ulysses it must be.

Let's treat it like marriage and set a date.

brinda said...

Oh well, 18 pages is further than I've got with the blessed book -- 11 has been my stumbling block. And I start reading it at least once every year (sometimes more often). Nice to know that I am not alone!

??! said...

Mudra:
So you're in then, eh?

KM:
Oh I've read Joyce, just not Ulysses.

The Bride:
Oho, give me some motivation to blog, will you? No shelving plans. We put date soon.

Brin:
And you're in too, then, I'm guessing?

Shyam said...

I think it's a myth that anyone's actually read "Ulysses". Not even the cachet of being an intellectual snob (and I was at one point) could raise any enthusiasm. I might be ready to try it again, as a group effort. For the literary benefits, naturally.

Shyam said...

Oh, ??! - forgot to add, I always read the back covers of books, but if I said that I watch the occasional TV series (House, Law & Order, etc) without checking the synopsis first, does that count? :)

Falstaff said...

"I thought he was just trying to be clever and difficult for the sake of being so (which he was)"

He's certainly being clever for the sake of it - but that's what makes the book so delightful. As for difficult, well, that's just another word for challenging.

Now Finnegan's Wake, that's a book I've never managed to make headway on.

km said...

Read Ulysses? Nah, I'm in the mood for some light reading.

NightWatchmen said...

And no, I'm not four, so it's not about pretty bookcovers, ok.....

Well I occasionally pick books since I love their covers, Above Average and The Death of Vishnu being the more successful ones....

Anyway interestingly enough I have decided to change the language now, so now I am reading Sooraj Ka Sathvan Ghoda after spending I don't know how many years reading in English......