Discussion in 'Art & Culture' started by cole grey, Apr 12, 2006.
OK, it's embarrassing, but... Tom Clancy.
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Lite reading, to me, is a volume that accommodates interrupted reading habits, something like Grothe's abysmal Oxymoronica, which would be just fine were it not for the insights provided by a psychologist with a fetish for motivational speaking. Felton's What Were They Thinking? proved somewhat hilarious, although it seemed that whatever enthusiasm the author has for "Claven" trivia ends when it comes to producing a book.
Mental Floss is another great book to read in snippets; it's a good "cigarette book", a volume to be read in the short passing of a smoke. It's compiled from various editions of a magazine by the same name, at least as far as I can tell.
Short stories are good lite reading; you can go on or not without worrying about the ongoing story of a novel. But I've been reading quite a bit lately, and the fare has gotten lighter as the time goes by. Felton, Streiber and Kunetka, and now Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Pop-culture is often good lite reading.
And, sometimes, it's not. Bradbury is usually good lite reading, or McKammon or Brust. On the other hand, Joyce Carol Oates requires some devotion. So does Jack Cady. Like the volume Ghosts of Yesterday: "The Lady With the Blind Dog" is heavy, but "Israel and Ernest" is hilarious and even revealing. And the essays on science fiction and ghost stories place an unfair burden on lite readers; a certain degree of thought is demanded of the reader that lite reading, at least as I see the term, does not.
To the other, stories aren't just for entertainment. Even some of the shallowest fluff out there has a thing or two to teach; it's just a matter of perspective. Calling it "lite" may be derogatory in a sense. Is it that it's not required reading? Or that it is selfish entertainment? Remember that most authors won't lose sleep over their readers wasting their lives in the pages of a well-told story. Don't ever feel guilty about the entertainment aspect of reading. It's not necessarily "lite", but, rather, an essential demand of that human aspect we call the soul.
(Someone has offered me a copy of Da Vinci Code. Who knows? Maybe I won't be ashamed or embarrassed to read a pop-culture phenomenon approaching a new height in its fame. Generally, I like to avoid those titles until a few years have passed and I've forgotten the hype. Fresh eyes always help.)
Since when has the American majority ever picked a truly must-read book as the ongoing national favorite? I absolutely refuse to read The Da Vinci Code, and similarly, I have not touched the Harry Potter books yet, either. Am I missing something great? I am willing to wager that I am probably not. The closest I have come to reading a popular book in recent times is The Kite Runner, but its popularity is not comparable to that of The Da Vinci Code. Most people simply have poor tastes in books, music, movies, and everything else.
The problem is, when you ferret out (or create) deep meanings in everything, even down to playing a videogame, you need a story that just flies by easily, a book you could get through in a day or two, or drag out a chapter at a time, not one positively pre-loaded with meaning.
I see from the additions that we are still getting more good ideas for "not oppressive", or "easy", or "fun" reading.
davinci code is somewhat interesting as a story, but is terrible prose - if someone hadn't lent me the graphically amplified version (with pictures of the art and drawings and places they went in the story), I think I would have felt like i truly wasted my time reading it.
I seem to lack the brain lobe to comprehend "great literature." My wife has a master's degree in English and has lovingly turned me on to some of the books that she thinks are masterpieces of human civilization, and she might as well have asked our brightest dog to read them. "Huckleberry Finn," "One Hundred Years of Solitude," "The Magic Mountain," I got halfway through each of them (actually I couldn't get through ten pages of Thomas Mann), realized that I could not state a single coherent thought about them, and gave up in frustration.
This wasn't a complete failure, I did read "Lord Jim" and found it entertaining. But apparently I did not come close to understanding the book's point and we still argue about it. I thought the man was a dolt for sacrificing his life that way and that he should have moved on to another place, started over, and settled for the life he could have. We are all haunted by our sins and we all make a truce with them. "Get over it," as the kids say.
Finally she started turning me on to second-tier books by first-tier authors. "Henderson the Rain King" by Saul Bellow is considered fluff by the literati, but it was one of the greatest reads of my life. The best intentions can turn out badly. If you don't know what you're doing you have no idea what will happen. Thinking you can solve the problems of a people and region with which you're completely unfamiliar is pure hubris. That latter revelation should be tattooed on the inside of the eyelids of our current President.
So basically, with the occasional exception of that nature, all my reading is "lite." Yet I have profound experiences. I find James P. Hogan, a physicist who writes sci-fi with the emphasis on the "sci", so thought-provoking that one of his novels has more of my notes in it than any of my college textbooks. He postulated humans encountering a civilization of what we would call "machines," who had rather easily mastered the art of "engineering" using what we would call "organic" material. Naturally, they felt exactly the same way about us. Where were our creators? How did something as simple and delicate as organic tissue manage to survive without external maintenance and repair, much less evolve into sentient beings? Why did we build our technology out of bits of machinery instead of much more easily manipulated organic artifacts?
Robert L. Forward, who recently passed away, was another scientist turned author who produced some stunning speculative fiction that challenges our perspective on life and the universe. Larry Niven has done the same thing.
Alan Dean Foster, who writes SF and fantasy, is a lightweight and a fast read even by my standards, but highly entertaining. He is a master of the craft of storytelling and has the sense of humor that eludes many "serious" writers.
I also like historical epics that are rich and painstaking in the details and probably too wordy for most people. Jean Auel's "Clan of the Cave Bear" series is spellbinding, and helped me understand how we probably got to where we are. Ditto for James Michener and his books that go back into prehistory and early history like "Hawaii" and "The Source."
Yes, I read Harry Potter. Although I'm waiting for the--what, the fifth one?--to come out in paperback. The hardbound copies are simply too heavy to carry around on the subway, and if I try to read one in bed, when I fall asleep it smashes my nose. Again, these are thought-provoking. Waking up one morning and discovering that you are not who you thought you were is every kid's fantasy and in contemporary America we're all kids who wish someone would come rescue us and take us to our real home. But what if in the bargain you also learned that the world is not what it seems and that your new life comes with knowledge and power and responsibility that make your old one seem like an idyllic childhood?
"Winnie the Pooh." I discoverd that and "The House at Pooh Corner" when I was about 35. I cried when it ended. "Somewhere in the forest a little boy and his bear will always be playing." Just typing those words makes me cry still. Why does childhood have to end so early? Why do we have to learn twice-times? Why is the universe so cruel? Why can't I always carry Piglet in my pocket? I actually have had a tiny Piglet on my keychain all this time as a gesture of defiance to the universe.
"Lord of the Rings"? People who say that is not "real" literature are just bloody elitists!
But my point is: Any piece of good writing can plant some valuable new ideas in your head. A "lite" read may not plant as many as a "great" read. But a "great" read may also go over the heads of many of us and thus be lost.
Gabriel García Márquez may have won a Nobel prize, but my life will never be enriched by his work because I am simply incapable of understanding it even with the help of my own private lifelong tutor. His existence and effort are meaningless to me. I cannot say that about Michener, Auel, Niven, Forward, Hogan, A. A, Milne, or J. K. Rowlings.
I really liked harry potter, although it wasn't/isn't great. It is fun just to read, and when you see what you feel is weak or flawed, it is okay anyways because you can associate more with the writer.
I prefer the dense jungle-like terrain of Lovecraftian prose...
"I would have given much, in view of my experience and of certain Bedouin whisperings discredited or unknown in Cairo, to know what has developed in connection with a certain well in a transverse gallery where statues of the Pharoah were found in curious juxtaposition to the statues of baboons."
-Imprisoned with the Pharoahs (1924)
Only the silent, sleepy, staring houses that dwell in the backwoods
Can tell all that has laid hidden since the early days
And they are not communicative
Being loath to shake off the drowsiness which helps them forget
Sometimes one thinks it would be merciful to tear them down
For they must often dream
-H.P.Lovecraft (The Picture in the House)
Separate names with a comma.