Richard Ford, By the Book
Jonathan Franzen said, "Most books I pick up I put down without finishing." "I put down at least a book or two a week," James Patterson said. "My time to read is too short," said Michael Connelly, "so I only give a book -- any book -- a short leash. It's got to draw me in quickly." E.L. Doctorow said, "Sometimes I put books down that are good but that I see too well what the author is up to."
|Joyce Carol Oates|
Pliny the Elder once wrote, "No book so bad but some part may be of use," which would seem to place him in the Powell-Oates camp.
My own view lies somewhere between the extremes of most books are good and most books are bad. It is expressed in the title of a 2005 book by Nicholas A. Basbanes, Every Book Its Reader. This comes from Five Laws of Library Science, written in 1931 by S.R. Ranganathan. Two of these laws are Every Reader His Book and Every Book Its Reader.
Perhaps this is a romantic idea, like saying, "There's someone out there for everyone," but I find it appealing. Even the self-published book that never sells a single copy has its reader, namely the person who wrote it and thought highly enough of it to pay to get it published.
The writers and others whose reading profiles are presented in By the Book reveal an amazing variety of reading tastes. Books that excite some of them, turn off others. That variety is multiplied many times over among the rest of us readers. For each of us there is a book somewhere that will speak to us, and for every book there is someone who will respond to what it says.
While searching for that one ideal book, each of us, like Richard Ford, has every right to put aside those books that fail to interest us, even if, as Joyce Carol Oates suggests, the fault lies more with us than with the books.