Thursday, September 13, 2007

To read or not to read

I have a confession to make: I am a book snob. I didn't read the Harry Potter books. I shy away from Danielle Steel, Nora Roberts, and Mary Higgins Clark. I prefer John Steinbeck to John Grisham. If a book is sold at the check-out stand in the grocery store, you can bet I haven't read it.

Bertrand Russell said, "There are two motives for reading a book: one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it." Despite my literary standards, I have found that bragging rights alone aren't enough to read a book . I tried reading Joyce's Ulysses last summer, and while I would love to be able to brag that I have completed the novel, I couldn't stomach my way through it. Dare I say that some so-called classics are downright miserable to read?

Should we read for edification or amusement? I recently read about an evangelical campaign in the early 1800s that implored readers to "Put down that novel!" The organization feared that reading solely for entertainment would lead to the "grossest darkness and spiritual ignorance." There is something to be said for substance, with or without style. But we want to be entertained, too.

While I was visiting my family this summer, my mom kept persuading me to read some book about vampires. I resisted. She persisted. I would wake up to find the book on my bed stand. She would slip it next to me while I was talking to my sister. Despite her best efforts, I rejected her recommendation in reading material. My mom came to visit me last week. We went to the Magnificent Mile in Chicago, and stopped in at Borders. And there was another one of these vampire books, the store's number one best-seller.

Should I succumb and read Stephanie Meyer's novels? Are they brag-worthy? Even if not, are they entertaining enough to make it worth my while?


Vic and Lindsay said...

Kim first off Henry is so freaking cute!! I can't get over it. When are you coming out here?? And... then the book. If you want my opinion I read 200 pages in and hated it. Now I know I am the only one in the world that doesn't like them. My mom sounds like your mom, and tries to get me to read the book again, she is sure I would love it the second time around. But the truth is I can't let my mind get into the vampires. I guess I don't have a very good imagination. I am just not into fantasy books. I will say I loved it, until the vampires came into play... But then again who am I to say.....

Heaps of Fun said...

I am having the same dilemma. I intentionally have resisted trends in the past. I resisted Harry Potter for what 10 years or something until this summer and to my surprise I enjoyed every book. Did you watch Fever Pitch? The point was made in that movie that it's fun to be apart of something bigger than yourself,[Red Sox Fan] to immerse yourself in something that you can share with a larger population. It's a coming together, a mark in history that people from all walks of life can share without knowing one another. I don't think I would normally like Vampire stories it's just not my thing but I might read it for the same reason I might go to a Red Sox game someday and enjoy that too. Who knows?

jdm said...

This post made me laugh. I have been encountering the exact same situations. People feel so strongly about this book! I had my first run in re: Twilight w/family and now its been happening with all my co-workers. When I asked what the book was about at a family party my brother-in-law blurted out "It's a vampire love story." and we both laughed for a few minutes. Then I said "No really what is it about?" Anyhow I am baffled as well, but curiosity is about to kill this cat!

Lona said...

It'll make you wish Bubba had sparkling skin - so maybe better not risk it. On the other hand, he already has werewolf-like strength and otherworld passion and intelligence - perhaps you'd be alright.
Whatever; I read the first one because Katherine fell in love with Edward, and wanted a t-shirt that said "bite me".
I'm still looking for the Harry Potter shirt that says "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good" - so my reading recommondations are probably invalid, but Harry and Bella are both highly entertaining in my world.

(Love to see cute Henry all over your blog!)

Seth said...

I read all three and Harry Potter is better. But I was entertained and I'll read the 4th book.

My claim to fame is that Stephanie Meyer is in my parent's stake. That's not, however, why I read the books. Denise got me started and I kept going. I think they're entertaining.

Anonymous said...

Kim, best of luck with your writing. I'm afraid I have to say that I was not too happy with your reference to, and comments about James Joyce's "Ulysses. (which by the way I amagine was how your blog ended up in my mail). I read Ulysses - first time straight through in 2005. It is considered one, if not THE best works of literature ever penned; AND for all the right reasons. It is an amaging book, and such a rewarding read. Really, all modern/current publications, for the most part are cast aside by me. If I am not re-reading "Ulysses" ...Yes Yes AND Yes I am thinking about it. I will devote my lifes reading to it...and around it... me thinks.
All the very best to you. JJL

Matt said...

I couldn't help myself from cracking up about the last comment regarding James Joyce's "Ulysses". If this is satire, I am genuinely amused. If it is real, I am even more amused. (It is a win-win for me.) Thank you for creating a forum for this quality humor and dialouge.

As for my personal preference in reading, I am a sell-out in the highest degree. I read Golf Digest as my primary news source and supplement with most popular videos of the day. With that literary diet you can understand why I am only laughing at the James Joyce debate instead of joining in.

Let me know if Tiger Woods ever publishes a novel!

Anonymous said...

Hey Kimmy, this is Kristy your cousin in Texas. I really love your blog. Just wanted to let you know that if you decide not to read the book, they are making a movie that comes out in 2010!

five-one-and-a-half said...

Hi Kim, this is Stacy's friend Jamie. I don't know if you remember me; it's been quite a while. Anyway, Stacy got me into this whole blogging thing and was raving about your blogs so I thought I would check it out. It's fun to read other's comments as well. To add mine, my thought is that books about magic and vampires might be a waste of time but isn't it great to just throw yourself into this completely imaginitive world and live there for a while? Keep up the writing!

Kristy said...

Hey Kimmy. I can't figure out how to email you, but I have been curious if you decided to read Twilight. I keep checking your blog to see if you have posted a book review. I did think of an argument for you to read the books. The author graduated from another university, not the U so I won't mention the name, with a degree in English Literature and was inspired by the works of Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Emily Bronte... Anyway, if you did decide to read it, I would love to read a review!
Take Care!

Anonymous said...

Can I use this layout?