This is not a post of a pretentious critique telling you why we miss the “good old days”. Its not even about the flaws of modern literature (many qualified folks with PHD out there doing that already). This is merely to express the disconnection I feel when reading a best-seller plucked off the nearest bookshelf.
In an age of competing media platforms, it is increasingly difficult to hold the attention of your audience. I, like many aspiring writers, constantly grapple with the monster that is distraction. What is it that books have that can stop people from jumping on Facebook, turning on their TV or just wondering about aimlessly on Youtube? Well, whatever it was, I didn’t find it in my most recent read.
Just moments ago I finished Sorcery Rising by Jude Fisher. Surely enough, it was an entertaining read. The author had excellent diction and a compelling story. Still, I couldn’t shake off the sense that this could have easily been translated into comics, TV series or other visual media. While this is not a bad thing, it makes me wonder why we bother to read at all. There has to be a reason why people are still willing to purchase books, be it a paperback, hardback or electronic.
I spent most of my college years reading classics. I’ve gone through a few Dickens, Hugo, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Not all of them were page turners. They were not pretty books either (Russian authors were well known for conserving adjectives). Joseph Conrad, in particular, was all but impossible for me. Yet, something about them kept drawing me back.
After returning to the reading of modern day fiction, I finally realised what made those classics special. It was a thought, a powerful philosophy, a view on humanity, expressed in the form of fiction. Tolstoy recorded the lifestyle of Russian aristocrats. Dickens drew delightful caricatures of Britain. Hugo assaulted the corruptions he perceived in French society. Dostoevsky held a mirror to humanity until the reader felt naked.
After reading such great books, I cannot help but feel somewhat hollow when reading modern fiction. It’s almost like I traded a family dinner for a fast food combo.
Well, that’s my two cents. Feel free to comment, disagree and discuss. Until then.