This morning someone asked what novel I’d read most recently. I told them.
“Wow, I never imagined you’d read something like that,” they said almost in horror, as though I’d just admitted to a world-class sommelier that I drink Lambrusco straight from the bottle.
I love really good literature, obviously. But I don’t have a lot of time for leisure reading, and when I do, I don’t necessarily reach for a Cormac McCarthy or Kazuo Ishiguro.
I don’t choose books that I think will impress friends or colleagues or strangers in a café.
I don’t care if you gasp when I admit I didn’t like a certain “classic” novel by default simply because it is a classic.
I don’t care if you turn your nose up at me because I’m not reading whatever sneering deconstructionist tome you’re slogging through—dripping with semiotic snobbery and hoary lit crit nonsense—and pretending you’re enjoying it.
Basically I want to read a fucking story.
I want to read about places I haven’t seen, full of people I’ve never met, involved in something fascinating and perhaps just a tad over the threshold of plausibility.
I want to read about people doing things. If most of the verbs in the book are variations of thought or said or felt, forget it.
Give me some characters with faults. Give them important, wonderful things. And then yank them away. Let me see the wind knocked out of them so I can watch them react and see what they’re made of. What do they do?
If I find a work of fiction that gives me that, I’ll likely read it, no matter what lasting literary “value” it may have or the cachet it displays when I pull it out of my bag.