Reading

It seems my taste in literature has changed.

My “bookshelves” (random boards supported by empty 30-CD boxes) are full of things I have no desire to read — like just about all of Thomas Hardy’s novels, Steinbeck’s East of Eden, and a bunch of other classics, mostly purchased at library sales when I thought I would be teaching high school English for a career.

Every once in a while, when I don’t feel like going to the library, I look through the shelves to see what I might want to read again, and for a couple of years now I haven’t really found much I’ve wanted to read.

Monday evening, for example, I pulled out James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which I remember really liking in high school. I read a bit that night, and then read a lot more yesterday while I was making a double batch of waffles to have in the freezer.

Maybe it’s because I was restless and angsty yesterday, but I decided I didn’t feel like continuing the story. Too much self-important adolescent angst. In the past, that sort of thing has been cathartic, but yesterday it was just annoying.

Am I losing touch with my past, and what it’s like to be an adolescent, even though I still feel like one in many ways? Does “growing up” have to mean not being able to relate to that stuff anymore? If so, I’m saddened. It’s one of those things I’ve been a bit passionate about — determined to remember what it’s like to be each age, always able to tell my own stories authentically, and to relate to the stories of younger folks. Hmmm.

Maybe it’s really just the mood I was in yesterday.

But then again, it’s been ages since I’ve wanted to read any Hardy.

Not that what I like to read now is all fluff or romance or anything. I remembered that I was going to re-read T. H. White’s The Once and Future King, so I’ve pulled that out. And I’ve also got some Kurt Vonnegut, Barbara Kingsolver, and Anne Lamott on the shelves — plenty angsty, and the ladies even have some strong adolescent characters. Maybe I like these three because their angst is so riddled with humor. Joyce doesn’t invite laughter.

And while I’ve definitely got a taste for the modern, I still like some of the classics. I was eyeing Moby Dick when I remembered T. H. White.

By the way, I’d like to read more about Africa and Israel. I already have James Michener’s The Covenant and Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, and I’ve enjoyed the Ladies’ Detective Agency stories. (I’ve even read the Zion Covenant and Zion Chronicles series, but I have to admit that while they were grippingly interesting to read, they seem too sensationalistic, and seem to treat big deep issues somewhat superficially. That, and I think Zionism is mistaken.) If anyone has any other good fiction suggestions for these places, let me know.

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