Once upon a time I would read anything and everything. I would read the cereal boxes as I ate before school. I would read whatever book my mother had just finished, whether it be a Sydney Sheldon or Steven King. I would read without prejudice, would read without questioning the author. Hell I would just read to read. Now that I am older I find myself struggling to finish many of the books I think I will enjoy. This change in reading puzzled me and upset me because I could not tell you why this changed happened. All I know is that I now put down more books than I finish. To a lifelong bibliophile this change is horrifying.
This week in class we read an essay by Virginia Wolfe titled How one should read a book. It is a very long essay but oh what an essay it is! In it Wolfe talks about the idea that books are windows into other people’s lives and that as readers we are invited to look in. By doing so we are able to see how others live, eat and interact with one another. Books give us a glimpse into a world we would otherwise never encounter. Wolfe goes on to say that readers should allow the author to take us on a journey we would otherwise miss. This gave me pause and I reflected on her words. You see dear Readers many times I pick up a book with preconceived ideas on how the plot should unfold and when it does not I struggle with the author. I find myself questioning his or her journey path. This makes the book less enjoyable and often times I put a book down because I do not agree with the author’s choice of journey. I would never do this with a real person. I enjoy meeting new people and hearing their stories. I marvel at how other people live and attitudes they have about life. So why do I struggle with books that essentially do the same thing? I am not sure but Wolfe has made me see the light, or at least see the window pane for what it really is.
Not too long ago I tried to read a historical romance with little success. I did not like plot or dialog so I put it down with prejudice. This was wrong; had I taken Wolfe’s advice I would have seen that this book is typical of the genre and that I had to allow the journey/story to happen in the typical genre fashion. I could have enjoyed the book for what it was; a romance book with a story book ending. This semester I have to read Hard Times by Charles Dickens and not being a fan of Dickens I found myself putting the read off.
After reading Wolfe’s essay I picked up the Dickens’ book without prejudice or judgment. I decided to let Dickens tell his story without my wanting to dictate how it should be done. What do you know; I am finding I am enjoying the book! I am looking into the window of Victorian England without certain expectations or notions of how this window should look. I am letting the story take place in front of me without comment. I have never been to Victorian England nor visited the working poor. With Dickens as my guide I will get a chance to see how these people lived and what they lived for. It is kinda exciting to view reading this way again! I hope I can continue to read in this fashion. With practice I hope to be able to pick up any book and enjoy reading as I used to; to read just to see where the journey takes me.
So dear Readers do you find yourselves struggling with authors? Do you ever think you know where the journey path should lead or do you just sit back and let it happen? Have you found your reading has changed over the years, for good or bad? Let me know because I am feeling a little alone about this.