I take a book with me everywhere I go, and find there are all sorts of opportunities to dip in. The trick is to teach yourself to read in small sips as well as long swallows. Waiting rooms were made for books — of course! But so are theatre lobbies before the show, long and boring checkout lines, and everyone’s favorite, the john. You can even read while you’re driving, thanks to the audiobook revolution. Of the books I read each year, anywhere from six to a dozen are on tape. As for all that wonderful radio you will be missing, come on — how many times can you listen to Deep Purple sing “Highway Star”?
Source: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Published 2000
As someone who gets into a mini panic if I don’t have something at hand to read while waiting for trains or planes or appointments. My handbag always contains something even if its only a few sheets I’ve torn out from a magazine. It’s certainly one way to keep me distracted from the ultra slow progress of the queue snaking through the post office or at passport control.
I’ve not however mastered the art of reading while in the gym. I tried propping up a paperback on the treadmill screen but the pages wouldn’t stay in place long enough for me to read the text. I then tried my small Kindle but it kept listing to one side. You’d have thought some enterprising person would have come up with a gizmo solving that problem – there seem to be a myriad of gizmos and attachments giving ever more flexibility and functionality in how we use our electronic toys. Until then I’ll just have to resort to the talking books on my iPod.
I do not like postmodernism, post apocalyptic settings, postmodern narrators, or magical realism. I rarely respond to supposedly clever formal devices, multiple fonts, pictures where they shouldn’t be — basically, gimmicks of any kind. I find literary fiction about the Holocaust or any other major world tragedy to be distasteful —nonfiction only please. I do not like genre mash-ups à la the literary detective novel or the literary fantasy. Literary should be literary, and genre should be genre, and crossbreeding rarely results in anything satisfying. I do not like children’s books, especially ones with orphans, and I prefer not to clutter by shelves with young adult. I do not like anything over four hundred pages or under one hundred pages. I am repulsed by ghostwritten novels by reality television stars, celebrity picture books, sports memoirs, movie tie-in editions, novelty items and — I imagine this goes without saying — vampires.
There is so much that A J Fitkry doesn’t like reading, that it’s hardly surprising his bookstore is failing. Fikry is the cranky owner of Island Books, the only bookstore on Alice Island somewhere in New England, and the central character in Gabrielle Zevin’s novel The Storied Life of A J Fikry.
I’m only on page 40 of the book but I’ve already warmed to this character even if I don’t agree 100% with his list of dislikes. ‘ll beg to differ with him when he insists that books stay firmly within their genre boundaries. Isn’t it when genres get mixed that we see real creativity? Wouldn’t Great Expectations or Frankenstein be lesser novels if their authors hadn’t broke through the (artificial) boundaries between realism and the Gothic?
But I too have an abhorrence for anything vampirish or post apocalyptic. Nor do I care much for anything written by minor list celebrities like X Factor runners-up. As for magical realism, maybe I just haven’t read the right things but so far I haven’t exactly found it particularly enchanting.
What are your likes – and dislikes? Are you a vampire lover or a magical realism fan?