“Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it.
Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”
– William Faulkner.
Honestly, I can’t even say that I am following Faulkner’s advice, in whole. The very first course I took in University was a History course. On the first ever paper I handed in, the professor wrote that I needed to read more. And from then on, I have heard that advice everywhere and have tried to take it to heart. Perhaps reading has become something of an obsession for me now, to the point that I have far too many books on the go at any one time. But I have been reading everything that I can. I even have several of my university textbooks on the reading list for this year.
Compulsive chain reading has led to several observations: First: there has been a decided decline in the qualify of popular fiction since the 1930s. Excellent writers who were, I think, popular in their day: like Daphne Du Maurier (one of my personal favorites) have given way to the terrible fad writing of the Stephenie Meyers and E.L. Jameses of the world. I’m sorry to pick on these two ladies, and perhaps you note a tinge of jealousy here – why should they have so much success? I am happy for them that they were able to translate their work into a lot of cash. I am more disappointed in the world as a whole for embracing such trash (and I don’t mean in terms of subject matter, but quality of writing – and this is coming from a girl who knows she’s also a terrible writer).
Secondly, like Harry Potter, i have lost count of the number of times I have reread Pride and Prejudice. Nineteenth century novels, with perhaps the exception of the penny dreadfuls, are inherently re-readable. There is a reason that authors such as Mary Shelley, Jane Austen, and Charles Dickens are not only still in print, but are studied academically – they created rich worlds that one could get lost in. Without television, the internet, or a generally fast paced life, people were in dire need of entertainment. Books, like so many other things, were made to last. Society was not disposable as it is today. Sure, not every novel published in the 1800s is a classic, and not every novel published today is as horrible as Twilight, Fifty Shades of Grey, or anything by Danielle Steel, but in general things were better. I would love to see Harry Potter still being read 100 years from now, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen. I suppose if the grandchildren of those who grew up with Potter are still reading it, there might be a chance.
One last observation: I read a lot, but I don’t particularly study the novels I read. While I’ve reread certain books – Potter, Prejudice, some Stephen King and J.R.R. Tolkien, I continue to press forward in reading. I therefore did not think that I was gleaning as much information from the books as I could have. In conversation with some people, however, I do find that I know more than I think. Who knew all these writers were right: read, read, read, read, read. And then read some more.
Now to start mastering the second part of Faulkner’s advice: write more. Oh how lovely lotto would be. Not having to do paid work anymore would free up so much time to do the important work of reading and writing. Here’s hoping the numbers come in!
Have I also told you that i am notorious for not proofreading blog posts? Please let me know if you spot any spelling or grammar errors and I will attempt to correct it.