Friday, April 02, 2010

On Not Reading Novels

I've not been reading books much at all since my eye operation. It's not like I've always got a book on the go, anyhow, I tend to read intensely and fast when I'm in the mood, and not finding it that easy to read these last few weeks, the mood hasn't been there. It's only the last couple of days that I feel like I'm getting back to some sort of normal, though the vision is still a little fuzzy. Poetry has been all right, and the newspapers, and - to some extent - the internet.

When I was a kid, a week off sick was a signpost for voracious reading. Parents weren't going to be insisting I went and got some fresh air, when I was coughing and wheezing, so it's a little odd being off and not reading. More than the vision, though, I've found extended concentration hard - and I guess that's how I read novels; and probably why I rarely read what might be called "commercial fiction." As many readers of more literary writing will know, there's nothing "harder" than reading bad writing. I'm not sure one even reads it, rather than quickly photographs and moves on. It's why when you get a more than half-way decent writer like Kate Atkinson turning her hand to genre fiction, its such a win-win. Atkinson's earlier novels sometimes seemed a little too slapdash, a little too much like fun - both to read and write - as if, if she put a bit more effort into it she could be, oh, I don't know, A.L. Kennedy - but the slightly rushed enthusiasm of her writing comes into its own in thrillers. That's probably what I need to sit down with right now, something well written but engaging. The eyes, and the mind, both need to get back into training.

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