I don’t read highbrow literature. Atwood, Mistry, Toews: They are >ahem< as closed books to me. Don’t get me wrong. I consider myself quite well-read, owing to parents who encouraged me to read anything that came my way, as well as an education that included The Canon, the list of Dead White Guys who wrote on a rainy island half a world away. As a result, I can catch an allusion to Hamlet or Beowulf or the Olympians. I also have read a lot of nonfiction about things that have interested me at one time or another: animals, architecture, feminist theory, salmon and history, to name some. I can talk a lot about some stuff.
However, I do not confuse ‘reading’ with ‘improving myself’. Reading is for pleasure and for finding things out, not for humourless journeys into 1930’s Pittsburgh to read endless pages of a character’s angst.
For pleasure, my shelves are filled with Terry Pratchett, L.M. Montgomery, Charles De Lint, Juila Quinn, Nora Roberts, etc. Okay, I love Kinsella, but mostly when he’s writing as Silas Ermineskin. I do not have ‘literary’ tastes. Further, I have never attempted to look ‘more intelligent’ with my reading choices. Okay, when I went to Philadelphia with Dad for Bo’s birthday, I purposely didn’t take any romances, in case Dad was embarassed by them on the plane. But for fun, I am not reading about tortured coal-mining families in Cape Breton. I am reading about fashionista vampires and modern-day superheroes.
So I don’t understand why people give me gifts of books that I will probably never read. I have been given ‘The Oxford Guide to English Literature’ twice. By the same person, even. I have never opened it once. I have been given books by Carol Shields, La Atwood, by several authors whose names escape me, who write about childhoods starved of affection and the resultant dysfunctional adult relationships. Why? Have I somehow misrepresented myself? Did they look at the Nora Roberts in my hand and assume it was some OTHER Nora Roberts, one whose novels are ‘deeply haunting journeys through the soul’ or something? There’s only one Nora Roberts, and she’s very rich because she is populist, not highbrow.
And I read her books like they are fricking crack.