Then I Decide If It's Good
A few days ago I was picking up some books in my favourite Toronto bookstore, Sleuth of Baker Street (which, happily, isn’t closing but is moving to a new location very near the current location) and I was talking with one of the owners about books, of course. What we’ve read recently that we really liked, what was disappointing and why.
Well, not really why.
As we talked I started to realize that whatever reasons we were giving for liking or not liking a book were afterthoughts – intellectual justifications we’d come up with later for how we reacted emotionally to the books.
Or maybe it was just me, I don’t know.
But I’ve started to feel that all the reasons I claim to have for saying this book is better than that one are really rather pointless. There’s almost nothing to say beyond, “I like it,” or “I don’t like it.”
Sometimes it just all seems like a justification. Remember that Jeff Goldblum line in The Big Chill? A justification is more important than sex – have you ever gone a week without a justification?
But so what?
There are lot of books to help us read and write – everything from the highest of highbrow “literary theory” to how to write a mystery that sells books. Now, I haven’t read very many of these, but I did sit through enough classes at university to get a BA in english lit and looking back I don’t think I can remember one time when a professor said, “I really like this book.” The whole thing now seems like an excersize in sucking all the joy out of literature by trying to turn it into something quantifiable, measurable with some kind of ranking system.
I used to think I needed to figure out why I liked something because that would somehow help me write something I liked but now I’m not so sure.
What do you think?