30 December, 2009

First, how I stopped reading

When I was a kid I used to read books constantly. It was a problem. When kids bullied me they would call me "Bookworm," which I know sounds like something out of an adorable after-school special, but it's true. Anyway, I don't read books very much now, especially novels--which is kind of weird, because of my supposed desire to write them. I think part of it is maybe just that I process things a little differently, or that when I was a kid I didn't really think about the social context of reading and tended to approach it more loosely, reading the last half of a book first, or reading the same books over and over. Now I can't seem to get away from thinking of books as work, and I read a lot slower because I am concentrating, which makes me less inclined to start books because it's more of a commitment, etc.

Also, there's just the fact that I am an adult now and I'm not supposed to read novels for children and teenagers, and there's a huge stylistic difference between young adult and adult, I think. Adult books never just say what they mean unless they're really trashy. It's hard to even explain what I mean by this, but I just finished reading a young adult book (the first book I've finished since September) and it is an intelligent and thoughtful book, but the narrator just tells you what he's thinking and what's important. Whereas in adult books--well, I'm not saying this is a bad thing, but they're always trying to do something else. They move slower, they hold more back, or something. This takes me a lot of work so the book has to be worth it.

This is one of those things where I don't know if I should tag it as "asd" or not because maybe it's not related. Maybe I'm just a slow reader. But I don't think this is true because I was reading the New York Times on the computer over A.T.'s shoulder, and I asked her to scroll down, and she was surprised that I had already gotten to the bottom. I think I read fast on the Internet. And I can read magazine articles and stories very fast. It's just different with books, which makes me think it is some kind of anxiety or compulsion or difficulty processing a particular kind of writing. I don't know.


  1. I know what you mean here re writing styles: IMO the divide isn't purely between "adult" and "young adult" fiction (i've never liked the "young adult" tag, as it feels a bit ghettoising, and i think encourages writers who write for/about teenagers to write formulaic books that fit into a self-imposed literary ghetto, but that's a different rant), but between "literary" (for an IMO somewhat narrow and rather unfair definition of the term "literary") fiction and "genre" fiction, which as well as "YA" fiction includes some categories of "adult" fiction, such as some (but not all) sci-fi, horror and fantasy (and possibly some other genres such as westerns, historical war fiction or detective fiction, though i don't know as i haven't really read any of them).

    It's difficult to exactly describe, but i sort of think of it as being somewhat like a sliding scale between non-fiction prose and poetry, with the way most "YA" or sci-fi writers write being closer to the non-fiction prose end, and the way most "literary" fiction writers (e.g. John Steinbeck, Toni Morrison and the like) write being closer to the poetry end. There are some notable exceptions that i've read though; Alan Garner's "Red Shift" (from the "YA" genre) and Paul Park's "Celestis" (from the sci-fi genre) stand out as being much nearer the "poetic" end (probably more so than even most "literary" fiction) for me. Both of those are books that i love and find incredibly powerful, but also that i think of as strongly "genre-defying" in their style.

    (Ignore me if i'm talking about something completely different; in that case, i've misunderstood what you've written...)

  2. no, agreed. sometimes I read romance novels just because I can actually read them fast and it's really enjoyable to do that. I just wish they were actually good. I should probably read more sci-fi and fantasy since they're actually good a lot of the time.

    also for some reason I can read Joyce Carol Oates really fast. I think it's because the prose is so breakneck that that gets me revved up enough that I don't become compulsive because it's so hard just to keep up with the words.