My sister-in-law Jessica majored in English at Yale. Although her current apartment has plenty of books, a sizable portion of her collection is still at her childhood home. When you enter that room you find shelf after shelf of literature and classics. She doesn’t read books, she reads literature.
I recently asked her what one of her favorites was. She replied “Ulysses, by James Joyce” and provided a disclaimer that I probably wouldn’t enjoy it. She was right. I hated it. I don’t think I lasted twenty pages.
Over the years I’ve come to realize that I don’t read books for literature’s sake. I don’t read books for character development. I read books for great plots and powerful ideas. It’s not mindless entertainment I’m after – I enjoy thinking about books – but I also love books that pull me in emotionally or create a powerful world around me. Modernist literature doesn’t do that for me. I don’t want to stop and analyze each paragraph – I want to experience flow while reading and do my thinking and analyzing while I don’t have the book in hand.
Today I came across a Wall Street Journal article by Lev Grossman that does an amazing job of summarizing my thoughts and explaining how the literary world got where it is today. The title of the article is “Good Novels Don’t Have to Be Hard Work.” Please read it.