2008-10-23 - 12:33 p.m.
I have spent lots of hours and words (and blog posts) either directly or indirectly defining my aesthetic values as they apply to music (and to a much lesser extent to movies), cuz I think that's something everyone should do once they hit the age of 30 or so. Define yourself, but leave room for growth(s).
But I have never tried to define what characterizes my favorite books, and I've been thinking about this lately, inspired by a series of frantic emails with a friend who is belatedly discovering literature in a big way, after a lifetime of, I dunno, animal porn and the Wall Street Journal.
Whenever I recommend a book to him, I try to explain why I'm recommending it, and the recurring traits that I've deemed positive help me understand my own taste a little better: Basically, I like writers who are British, or failing that, who seem like they could be if you didn't know they weren't. I like writers who can be funny, even jokey, but still insightful and profound--the literary equivalent of Annie Hall. I like a good, absorbing novel disguised as a mystery. I love stories of redemption. I don't like books with the words "corn meal" or "poultice," unless the writer is complaining about those words, which I would find surprising. If a book is written in dialect, I will hurl it across the room and swear. I don't like books about (or, generally by) people whose demographic hews too closely to my own, and yet......I am a xenophobe. Don't yell at me, but I feel like I never need to read another book by an Irish or Southern writer ever again, if that's their only distinguishing characteristic. Same goes for you, Icelandic novelists! Magical realism makes me squirmy. There are always exceptions to all my rules, but I'll be damned if I can explain why.
(21 comments so far)
previous - next