“Easy Reading” v. “Serious Fiction”

28 Jun
Books

Easy reading? Or serious fiction?

If you haven’t already read the New York Times blog post by Gary Gutting, I highly recommend it. There are some great quotes in this short piece, but below is my favorite:

“But why should we think that what is hard to read is not enjoyable?  Here there is a striking difference between the way we regard mental and physical activities.  Running marathons, climbing mountains and competing at high levels in tennis or basketball are very difficult things to do, but people get immense enjoyment from them.  Why should the intellectual work of reading “The Sound and the Fury” or “Pale Fire” be any less enjoyable?   If I take pleasure only in the ‘light fiction’ of mysteries, thrillers or romances, I am like someone who enjoys no physical activities more challenging than walking around the block or sitting in a rocking chair.  Vigorous intellectual activity is itself a primary source of pleasure—and pleasure of greater intensity and satisfaction than that available from what is merely ‘easy reading’.”

What are your thoughts on genre novels v. literary fiction? In the summer, do you tend to read “light fiction” or do you try to tackle the big tomes you’ve neglected to read all year?

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3 Responses to ““Easy Reading” v. “Serious Fiction””

  1. Tracy Staedter July 20, 2012 at 11:31 am #

    I can’t stand reading “light fiction.” It irritates me. I feel like I’m wasting my time. I don’t expect everyone to share my aesthetic, but I’m always amazed at the crap that people enjoy, in books and movies. Lowest common demoninator shit. I love this quote because it gets at what is exciting about life — vigorous activity, whether it’s physical or mental. Why coast through life passively? I’ll never understand people who take the easy route.

  2. sbemagx August 3, 2012 at 7:45 am #

    in an ideal world there’s time to read both and there are peers wanting to share their impressions, thoughts, philosophies. luckily, we have a bit of the peer group within our writers’ guild, but there’s never enough time.

    • E.M. August 9, 2012 at 9:17 pm #

      I love both of these comments! So thoughtful. I like the idea of people pushing themselves to do difficult things. I fight against my own laziness all the time (some laziness is totally ok, though).

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Tracy Staedter

Science writing, editing and workshops

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