Guilt, Part II

Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Yesterday I wrote about guilt pangs I feel after a shopping trip to Half Price Books or any other big bookstore box store. But I have another reason to feel guilty about the book buying binges I go on every time I’m in the Cities. The truth is, I’m an English major who buys fluffy puppies at the bookstore.

What’s a fluffy puppy when it comes to books? Well, it’s a book that’s not high concept, great literature, or anything more than a thin plot in which lurks hope of a movie contract. It’s the book equivalent to a donut. You know, full of empty calories, fleeting satisfaction, and evokes a mild displeasure in yourself.

Take for example some of the fluffy puppies which have graced my nightstand in the past year: P.S. I Love You, The Nanny Diaries, and my current read du jour: Me and Mr. Darcy.

Since my junior year of high school, I’ve been plowing through a list of 101 Great Books I found on the Princeton Review website back when I was preparing for college. 8 years and an English major later, 37 books remain on the list, but I’m a little exhausted with great literature. If Kafka’s Metamorphosis is sitting on my nightstand next to Me and Mr. Darcy chances are that my fingers are going to tiptoe over to select the latter option.

Is this a bad thing?

Outside of academic circles, few read Dickens, Kafka, Faulkner, et. al. With lessons about life and writing are embedded in all great works of literature, these books are definitely worth the time and patience it takes to truly absorb them. They’re just not always a whole lot of fun and to me, one of the most magical quality of writing and storytelling is its ability to transport us from our mundane lives into fabulous new worlds. When I’m spending most of my reading time mulling over the author’s meaning, the whole magical transportation things just isn’t really happening. Yet on the other hand, the unpolished writing of lots of fluffy puppies can be another point of contention which hampers my absorption into the book’s story.

I really hope I don’t end up writing fluffy puppies. And I certainly don’t harbor of producing great literature that will be read for centuries to come. I want to produce something that is appealing, well written, and interesting. There has to be a balance between great works of literature and the books which sell. But how can I recognize, how can I succeed, at the balance if I don’t have an understanding of one of these opposing poles?

I really have no excuse for buying and subsequently reading fluffy puppies. Other than that they’re fun and fast and when I’m feeling really optimistic, I like to think I might just be learning something.

1 comment:

  1. These two posts ("Guilt Strikes..." and this one) are going to be SO. STINKIN'. FAMOUS. one day! You are an unbelievably excellent writer and I have absolutely no doubt that you will strike that happy medium, right down the center!!! So never fear... and when reading the fluffy puppies? Just think of it as extensive research towards your goal. ;D

    p.s. I couldn't agree more about the Great Works. Actually, I couldn't agree more about any of this!


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