I have a confession to make. I am not a great reader of books and never have been. Being a robust, physical little kid, I always found the prospect of concentrating upon anything as sedentary as studying or indeed ‘reading for pleasure’ as a waste of valuable mischief or sport time.
I suppose these days I’d be diagnosed as suffering from ADHD, or something similarly impressive, and issued with a blank chit excusing me from ever sitting still, or alternatively be given special dispensation for my ‘disability’ in this PC-correct world we now all inhabit.
I just wasn’t much interested in reading, period. I supposed I instinctively subscribed to the theory that those who could, did … and those who couldn’t either taught it or else wrote about it.
Furthermore, I hid behind the excuse that I hated fiction on two principle grounds – it was boring and anyway, the moment I opened a novel or similar, I immediately succumbed to an aversion to reading something that someone else had dreamed up. Why do that when in theory, if I could be bothered to, I could ‘invent’ something myself for others to read?
The truth is that, in my old age, I have justified my lifelong inability to read (much) – only half in jest – by claiming that I was always a visionary clearly ahead of my time, in that I anticipated the world of the internet, digital social media, and the modern human addiction to small attention spans, bite-sized summaries of news and information.
I have blogged previously about the fact that I gain the bulk of my appreciation of the arts world generally by regularly perusing the newspaper culture pages – covering painting exhibitions, books, theatre, opera, music, film and television etc. – together with monthly magazines like the Literary Review, and tend to concentrate upon the reviews contained therein, rather than by actually bothering to read any of the books, visit any galleries, or go to any of the theatres at which occasionally highly-recommended opera and other productions are playing.
After all (the way I see it is that) if the reviewers are kind enough to provide a summary of the work concerned, whilst at the same time filleting the themes and headline points being made in it and then pronounce on whether the whole is actually any good – or even worth buying – who am I to quibble, or certainly to bother to waste my time doing all this for myself?
That said, I do buy the occasional music CD or book largely based upon my haphazard magpie-like trips through the reviews and (except upon the rarest of occasions) find myself being seriously under-whelmed by my purchases.
After that rather low-key beginning to my post today, let me proceed to the meat.
A good while back now, probably about six months ago, based purely upon a glowing review I read in The Sunday Times (quote therefrom ‘It would be an understatement to describe this novel as an extraordinary tour de force’), I went out and bought a book by an American writer – Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders [hardback published by Bloomsbury, priced about £13 on Amazon] – whose subject was the illness and death of US President Abraham Lincoln’s young son.
I guess I did so primarily because firstly, well why not … but also secondly, perhaps a sense in which, responding to some guilty pang about my lack of interest in reading, maybe I ought to give it a try as a means to developing my mind and character by getting into the pastime in my old age when – let’s face it – my poor deteriorating body is beginning to fall apart and I suppose I ought really to try and take up some age-appropriate hobbies.
Since then, apart from reading the first two chapters, I have made no progress with said tome.
But, ladies and gentleman – guess what?
Lincoln in the Bardo has only gone and won the 2017 Man Booker Prize!
See here for the BBC website report on the award – BBC NEWS
I suppose I should now really knuckle down and give it a go …