Last week I posted about the book July’s People by Nadine Gordimer, the latest read for book group, which not only brought up the interesting discussions about the book itself but also how we read. For example the book is a possible imagined vision of South Africa and yet myself (and some other members of the group) believed that it was based on fact. We had no reason to we just did somewhere subconsciously before even reading a page I had made an assumption. This has made me wonder about how I read and my reading habits. This could go off on a tangent but bear with it there’s lots of questions for you all as we go and I would love a discussion about this… Do we ever sit and think about how we read?
One commenter on that post made the very valid point that fiction is just that… its fiction, which of course is true. I wondered then if because it was literary fiction or because it was based in South Africa I instantly made the assumption. Would I have it I had know I was about to read a book of a genre such as crime, science fiction or horror?
Having said that fiction is fiction I am now wondering if I read it differently from others out there. I don’t want to be sat reading a book and be aware its fiction. I like to get lost in the book I want to believe that it’s all real and that the characters and all that happens to them (it doesnt have to be dramatic, in fact subtle realities are even more convincing) could really have happened. To me that the sign of a good book, I am lost in it oblivious to the reality outside the book as I am lost in a new real world the author is creating in my head. Or is that just me and maybe my need for escapism?
The other point that ‘July’s People’ brought up was we were all initially put off by the writing style. Gordimer can change narrative in a sentence, in fact reading her as one member mentioned is very much like reading a book where someone has said ‘that’s how your meant to write so I will do something completely different’. I was in the same boat, very like with some of Woolf’s work that I have read recently, initially slightly put off this strange new style of writing. Had it not been for book group and the fact like I make sure I finish it, I would probably have given up and thought ‘oh no that’s a bit like hard work’ and I would have missed out on a great book. Does it not matter as there are so many more great books out there if we miss one what’s the big deal (not my opinion but one I know some have)? Do we too often give up on books that could be amazing we just need to read in a different way like I might have had I not read on?
I am now slightly worried this makes me sound like a lazy reader and even though I don’t think I am one, maybe I actually am? After all I don’t think an author should spell every thing out, or explain every single detail do you? I am actually a firm believer that a book which is too spelt out won’t work as reading is both the effort of the author for creating on the page and you the reader creating in your mind isn’t it? A collaborative creation where fiction almost becomes reality? What do we expect and assume when we reach for a book, even subconsciously or unintentionally?
I am hoping I didn’t waffle or go on too many tangents and all makes sense, I tried to rein it in as a subject and yes you guessed it, if any other book bring up these kind of questions there might be more ‘How We Read’ posts.