Books · Observations

If Knowledge Be the Food of Love, Read On!

I’m part of a reading group on Facebook, it’s pretty cool; there are members from all over the world and everyone is always very polite and there are no silly arguments or stupidly arrogant people in it, except that one time someone tried to fight for the right to get away with bad spelling and grammar, but they didn’t win.

Anyway, someone once asked what people looked for in a book and that was a very interesting question indeed: in a world of a million choices, why do you read the books you read?

Most said they chose books by word of mouth. And I think this is true of any trend on any group – if more than three people post about how great a book or a place is, people will be driven to buy it/go there. It doesn’t matter whether you want to satisfy your curiosity or prove people wrong, you’re still taking the advice.

I read authors. Especially ones that can write a sentence that holds the very essence of life in as few words as possible. I love words and the use of words in wondrous and clever ways. If an author can do that AND be able to hold a story together, well that’s just genius to me.

Some of my favourite authors write odd stories that don’t appeal to the masses because they’re not just made out of the same old recipe: the ‘intro, plot thickens, something goes wrong, problem is solved,’ variety of fiction.

Good writers like to indulge in words. Sometimes, unfortunately, it makes for a not so brilliant story. Take Yann Martel’s second book after Life of Pi: Beatrice and Virgil – a story about a writer musing about how to follow up his successful debut novel, who attempts to help a taxidermist write a play about a donkey and a monkey, while he personally settles on writing a fictional novel about the Holocaust. The writing was superb but the story was actually pretty shite. Good for a read and discussion with tut students and faculty at university, but not a pleasant story for the average yet avid reader.

Some people love to read genre. A lot of my friends read fantasy and science fiction – long series, full of magicians, kings and queens, sweeping love stories, epic battles in space, worlds you wish really existed, maps of wondrous lands, talking animals, exotic gods and quirky characters you never forget. What great escapism for readers this particular genre is!

Currently people are attempting to read George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series but I think admittedly most just watched the television series. He is a good writer, in my opinion, but the more he took his time writing it, the more one suspects he didn’t really know where the story was going to go, and that’s a bit disappointing. I don’t know about you, but what a tragedy to sell the rights of A Song of Ice and Fire to the tv series! I lost respect for him there a bit; did he so desperately need the money?

In comparison to his books, the rest of the fantasy canon is actually quite tame. His blood and gore and sex and murder clearly appeal to today’s generation of reader/watchers. But the best fantasy series are often the ones you read when you’re a kid; the ones that kept you enthralled, lying under a blanket while the rain fell on the rooftops and thunder scared you, like Bastian in The Neverending Story. Mine was Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain – some of you may know book 2 in the series as it was made into an animated story called The Black Cauldron.

If you’re not reading authors, or the fantasy genre, you’re probably reading romance and/or crime novels. These are the genres that sit on the bestseller lists. They’re relatively easy and quick to read. The hero/heroine almost always wins in the end and they follow a familiar pattern that everyone enjoys. For me, these books are reserved for the beach on summer holidays. If you get suntan oil or sand or water on them, it’s fine. They’re not there to be treasured. I’ll pass them on, or leave them behind. They’re too simple for me and I’d get bored writing one. I need depth in my book life! (I’m also well aware I lose out on potentially being a bestselling author because of this attitude but it is what it is.)

If you’re reading non-fiction, you’re basically studying. Be it history, or a biography, if the topic is interesting, you’re learning about it. People who ONLY read non-fiction are usually in the financial sector of society – or places where imagination and creativity don’t really factor in. They are the people you’d want as members in your quiz night team.

I feel that less and less people read these days, and that’s not only sad, it’s detrimental to the language you’re reading in. Audio books are good and fine but you don’t learn how to spell words by listening to someone saying them. It’s imperative to make your children read – because even though they may not know how to pronounce all the words properly, it’s guaranteed that they’ll be able to spell words better than their non-reading peers in the future.

So you see, that young lady in the Facebook group who tried to convince us that she should be able to get away with bad grammar was, in the end, convinced otherwise; Correct spelling and good grammar is a sign of respect for your language. While language constantly changes, contorts and evolves with modern slang words and colloquialisms, it is still a solely human means of communication and we should hold it dear, and maintain it at its highest standard.

2 thoughts on “If Knowledge Be the Food of Love, Read On!

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