Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Fast Food Fiction and a Shared Reading Experience

This arrived today, along with a sci fi novel, an urban fantasy and a fistful of children's books. I can't wait to consume it.


I spent quite a lot of time in my 20s reading the books I was 'supposed' to, the Classics with a capital C, the literary ones that were only sold in independent book stores, the ones that were heavily subsidised by the Australia Council because no publisher makes a profit from them but we need them to "contribute to the development of Australian culture", the piles of new ones I was sent to review for a book magazine. And I didn't particularly enjoy it.

There were moments of delight in a particular turn of phrase, in minor characters or a glimpse of a world I might want to inhabit. But not a lot.

Now I read for pleasure as much as I can. I read for the act of reading, to spend time (hours, ideally) turning pages and consuming words. But that's okay, because Rick Gekoski likes Jack Reacher too, for much the same reason I do. He also reads a bunch of fast food fiction, the stuff you mindlessly devour that's enjoyable at the time but not particularly nutritious or memorable. 

He talked a while ago about missing a shared reading experience. Unlike previous generations, there are fewer and fewer books we have in common, as a grounding for our cultural experience. This might partly be because of the diversity of books available or the diversity of cultures in most middle-class areas of society. I know I am having fewer discussions on literary type novels these days (although J, I owe you a long phone conversation soon about Kate Atkinson's Life After Life - it took me a while to want to plunge in but plunge I did). I miss my book club although it was incredibly hard coming up with a list of books to read. The thing is, do we currently have an equivalent list to the one he talked about, spanning from the 50s to the early 70s? What's our equivalent now of The Catcher in the Rye or Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance or The Second Sex or Catch 22 or The Female Eunuch or On the Road? Is there an Australian equivalent (and does it include all of Tim Winton's works)?

Interestingly, this list of the greatest books by women was circulating recently and, to be honest, there's quite a few cheeseburger reads in there. This both delighted and amused me. Despite that, I'd still only made it all the way through 15 of the 102 on the list.



How much fast-food reading do you do? Are you keen to talk more about books? How many of the "greatest books by women" have you read?

8 comments :

  1. Loved this! I think our shared reading experiences are now shared 'viewing' ones - GoT, The Wire, True Detective, Breaking Bad. All those boxed sets that we talk about endlessly. There's so much to read now, that there's something for everyone - which is a good thing.

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    1. Even the way we talk about TV is changing though. That 'water cooler' week-by-week stuff is shifting as more people get into binge-watching box sets or full season downloads. I do love that there's something for everyone books-wise but am a little sad that there will be fewer shared books.

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  2. I like to read what I enjoy not what I should. though book club does extend me a little and I have found some new authors I love to read. Going to head over and check out the list and see how many I have read - probably not many.

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    1. Not many for me either, although having things like Harry Potter on the list certainly helps beef up my score.

      I really miss my book club - haven't found a similar group of folks since moving several years ago. Is your book group with people you know or one of those collection of random strangers?

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  3. Handy Hubby isn't much of a reader and the only books we have shared are some of the Jack Reacher ones plus books from Australian author Matthew Reilly (Ice Station, Scarecrow and Seven Ancient Wonders). Like Allison, we have more shared viewing experiences - comedies like Community, Scrubs and more recently Utopia or dramas like Spiral, NCIS and The West Wing.

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    1. I started reading Lovely Husband sci-fi so we'd have more books to talk about, but we definitely share more TV. West Wing is a favourite of ours too (all the Sorkin series, really). Did you read Reilly's The Tournament together? Bit different from his usual fare.

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  4. I'm ashamed to say I havent actually read that many from the list, but was pleased to see Little Women there as that was one of my childhood Faves xx

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    1. In facebook comments on the list, people's numbers ranged from 0 to 35 - so I think we're in good companyon the lower end of the scale :)

      I think the list highlights a couple of things - firstly, that few of us are encouraged to read books by women (certainly not a lot on school reading lists, etc) and secondly, that we are less likely to have that shared reading experience.

      Little Women is one of my faves too - my comfort novel (and movie).

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